The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3:21-22)
Each time you enter our parking lot for services, you will pass our sign which denotes this house of worship as a meeting place for people called Baptists. Unlike many churches that are baptistic in doctrine and polity, we have not chosen to drop the name Baptist from our title. We believe the name identifies us doctrinally so there is no confusion as to the main tenets of faith that are taught to this congregation. We realize that many Baptist churches are not like us although we still hold to the same doctrines as those that were originally given this name. There are many doctrines we believe that have been abandoned by some Baptists, yet there is one doctrine that is common among almost all Baptist congregations. This is our belief concerning the doctrine of baptism. Baptists derive their name from this doctrine so it would hardly be fitting to maintain the name unless you also maintain the doctrine.
There are many that do not know our doctrine and they erroneously assume that since our name is derived from baptism we must believe that baptism is essential for salvation. In my experience, however, the Baptist church is more in danger of teaching that baptism is not essential for anything much less essential for salvation. I believe we need to emphasize strongly that baptism has its place among New Testament doctrines. It is commanded by Christ and is the first duty of believers upon reception of Jesus Christ as Saviour. To refuse baptism is to refuse to be obedient to Christ. If a person willfully rejects this command after having been taught properly concerning it, it is hard to see how that person has really understood what saving faith and real commitment to Christ means.
With this said, there is confusion about the doctrine, and some of it comes from 1 Peter 3:21. Some have used this verse to teach that baptism is a requirement for salvation. After all, Peter does say “even baptism doth also now save us.” If you lift this one phrase out of the context, it is easy to see how an erroneous doctrine can be built. Peter’s point is not that water baptism is a means of salvation. His reference is a comparison to the ark built by Noah, in which God saved Noah and his family from destruction (see vv. 18-20). The ark was a type of Christ and how that a believer comes into Christ for safety from the wrath of God and the destruction of hell.
Peter is also teaching that baptism is a picture (figure) of what actually does save us. We are saved by the gospel which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Baptism profoundly presents the gospel of Christ in a living demonstration. When the believer is immersed in water, this pictures the burial of Christ. When he arises from the water, it pictures the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is also an expression of the change in the person’s heart. We have died to our old way of life and are raised to walk in the new life of Christ. Every believer is commanded to be baptized to show that he has publically identified with Christ in his belief of the gospel.
The Berean Baptist Church stands by this doctrine. We do not believe it is optional for those that have trusted Christ. No one is received into our membership without baptism from this church or another of like faith and order. Above all, we believe membership in the church requires commitment. If the first command given by Christ for believers is not obeyed, it is difficult to see how a person would be consistent in any other command, especially that of church membership.
If you are a believer and you have not been baptized, I hope you now have better understanding of how important it is to obey this command. We are commanded to be baptized and to be a part of the church. One cannot be had without the other. Consider carefully what Christ would have you to do!
Pastor V. Mark Smith