Q 75: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is an ordinance of the
NT, instituted by Jesus Christ, to be unto the person baptized a sign of his
fellowship with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection, of his being
engrafted into Him, of remission of sins, and of his giving up himself unto God
through Jesus Christ to live and walk in newness of life.
We might make three basic observations on this
1. The Baptist
Catechism prefers to describe baptism here as an “ordinance” (stressing that
the practice of baptism comes by the order or command of Christ) rather than as
The framers of our confession and catechism had a
high view of the ordinances, but they did not want to confuse the sacrament
with “sacramentalism” (the view that baptism and Lord’s Supper are beneficial regardless
of the spiritual state of those who partake of them).
2. Baptism is
“instituted by Jesus Christ.”
First, by his person example in being submitted
to baptism (see Matthew 3:13-17).
Second, by his direct command to his disciples
(Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).
Third, by the demonstration of this as the
practice of the early church in the book of Acts, which as part of Holy Scripture,
is also the very words of Christ (see, for example, Acts 8:35-38).
3. Baptism is a
So the Catechism reads: “to be unto the person baptized a sign of his
fellowship with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection.”
Notice it prefers the word “sign” rather than
“symbol.” Sign has more weight to it
than mere symbol. When a person is
baptized an announcement or public declaration is made.
Our catechism teaches that baptism is a sign of at
least four things:
signifies our fellowship with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection
(see Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-13).
Second, it signifies our being engrafted into
Christ (John 15:1-7; Romans 11:16-24).
Third, it signifies remission of sins:
does not achieve remission of sins. That
is only done through the cross work of Christ.
But it pictures what Christ has done by calling to mind the ordinary act
of washing in water to cleanse the body.
Paul reports how he was discipled or catechized by Ananias as a new convert he
records that Ananias said to him:
Acts 22:16 And now why
tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the
name of the Lord.
did Paul mean by this that Ananias taught him that by the “work” of baptism one
had his sins washed away? Certainly not! As Peter taught, what saves is not “the
putting away of the filth of the flesh” by physical washing, but “the answer of
a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).
Fourth, it signifies our giving up ourselves “unto
God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.”
heard and believed the gospel, the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip: “See, here is water, what doth hinder me from
being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). To which
Philip responded: “If thou believest with
all thine heart, thou mayest”, and the Eunuch confessed, “I believe that Jesus
Christ is the Son of God” (v. 37).
language of giving up oneself or submitting oneself is prominent both here and
later in Question 79 (“What is the duty of such as are rightly baptized?”) when
the catechism stresses the importance of those who are baptized giving themselves
up “to some particular and orderly Church of Jesus Christ, that they may walk
in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
Grace and peace, Pastor