This area is important but also quite controversial with believers everywhere having different convictions on this subject. Two denominations in the USA (the Quakers and the Salvation Army) do not practice this sacrament. Other denominations insist on it as being an important part of salvation. Most see it as an important requirement for a disciple of Christ. The usual teaching is that it is an outward sign of an inward work and in most denominations it is a requirement for church membership and also to partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
There is also considerable argument about the mode of baptism (sprinkling, immersion, pouring, etc.) and also when it is performed. Some see it must be done as soon as possible after salvation. Other believers require that extensive teaching of the doctrines of their denomination need to be understood before the act of baptism. And then there are arguments over whether the act of sacrament is done in the name of Jesus only or in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some denominations see it as a parallel to circumcision in the OT and therefore practice infant baptism taken on behalf of the baby by god-parents and then the individual takes the sacrament for himself/herself at confirmation. However most denominations practice believer’s baptism as an adult.
It seems to me that this is a disputable matter where Paul’s advise is to accept one another and not quarrel about it. He illustrates with the cultural issue of vegetarian verses non-vegetarian. Then he takes a religious issue concerning the Lord’s Day where some feel Sunday is a sacred day but others consider every day the same.
What about Muslims?
In light of this confusion what should we do with respect to our Muslim friends? It would appear that believers can marshal all kinds of scripture to defend their position. But in the case of the mainstream non-Christian religions, it is not necessary for new Muslim believers in particular to perform Christian acts (similar to Gentiles having to go through circumcision in Acts 15) in order for them to enter the kingdom of God. In fact we do not want to insist on any action that will block the gospel. We want to keep the gospel pure and not Christianized. Note 1 Cor 1:17, 2:2, and Eph 4:5.
The kingdom of God as revealed more fully in the New Covenant does not have any physical markers and is 24⁄7 compared with the Old Covenant that was marked by law and specific ceremonies.
The sacraments lock a new Muslim believer into Christianity, including a certain denomination and particular local church whereas the pure gospel enables the new believer to enter into the kingdom of God directly. Therefore we want to present to you a biblical view that enables you to NOT be under compulsion to baptize new Muslim believers who want to remain inside their community. Their changed life is their witness to Christ rather than a physical ceremony.
However there are always exceptions to this line of thinking and a new Muslim believer may on his own request baptism. My approach is to help the new believer understand what the consequences are including the gospel may become bad news to his family and relatives if they perceive that they have to become Christians (change their first birth religious identity) in order to enter the kingdom. But if the new believer still wants to proceed then I will arrange for their baptism.
Since this is such a controversial issue even between believers, I do not present my biblical line of thinking of only one baptism (spiritual) in the Christian community at all. This is so that I can display an acceptance to other believers and their convictions. I will however resist people who do not accept the above position but who rather will seek to baptize our fruit so that they can claim these people as either belonging to their denomination or Christian group.
It is interesting that both the commands to obey both baptism and the Lord’s Supper as sacraments are based on one verse (Matthew 28:19 and 1 Cor 11:26). Generally speaking a primary aspect of the gospel is repeated many times and occurs in most of the letters written to the various churches. People often refer to the water baptisms that were practiced in the book of Acts but none of those baptisms were done in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as is the practice today. Also we note that Paul performed no water baptisms on his first missionary journey. On his second journey there were some baptisms but sometimes not. Paul had to clarify this subject with the Corinthians who were bickering over baptism as seen in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. On Paul’s third journey there was again confusion with 3 baptisms taking place in Ephesus. This led Paul to again clarify in Ephesians 4:5 that there was in fact only one baptism and that was a key to unity in their midst along with 6 other important factors listed in Ephesians 4:4-6.
This practice is held so strongly by most believers that it really requires a deep sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to handle this area well especially as we are all part of the body of Christ but at the same time we do not want to put a stumbling block of any nature for the new Muslim believers who are seeking to come to faith and to follow Christ in his own religious community.
The following passages refer to baptisms outlined in scripture:
- Jewish Baptisms: (Mark 7:1-23)
- John the Baptist: Water Baptism (Matthew 3:4-12)
- Jesus’ Water Baptism: (Matthew 3:13-15)
- Water Baptisms in the name of Jesus (Acts 10:47ff)
- Spirit Baptisms (Ephesians 4:5)
- Peter: Acts 11:16 and 1 Peter 3:21
- Paul: 1 Corinthians 1:17, 2:2, Ephesians 4; 5
- Christian Baptisms
- Matthew 28:18-20 c.f. Matthew 20:22-23
- Mark 10:38
- 1 Corinthians 10:2
- Matthew 28:19
- baptized = water (assumption). Only command - one verse.
- all water baptisms in Acts only in name of Jesus
- baptizing = present continuous tense, not a one time event.
- All references in the epistles to baptism are in past perfect tense referring to the new birth.
- Jesus never talked about water baptism. Jesus is the only one who baptizes and he baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
- Hebrews 9:10 “ceremonial washings/baptisms” until the time of the new order
- Constantine introduced Christian names at baptism. Control factor. Today the church has many baptisms: infant, adult, believer, sprinkling, pouring, immersion, in the name of Jesus only, in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, etc.