By Jay Cavaiani- Written 6/18/2008 updated 7-2022
Nearly every scripture that mentions baptism was examined during research for this report. The goal of this summary report and our ministry is to have an accurate understanding of biblical baptism and then to be obedient to its instruction.
Summary Position on Baptism
Why get baptized?
Baptism is a frequently demonstrated event modeled by the early church and followers of Jesus. It is God’s prescribed way of one expressing one’s faith and commitment to Jesus. It is a great act of obedience to Jesus and a physical way to reveal one is trusting in Jesus as Savior
and Lord. It is also a special way of identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection for the believer and symbolizes your acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice and victory over sin and death for you. It also could be described as a special ceremony, where one comes before God to make their commitment of faith to him. In baptism you are celebrating what Christ has done for you on the cross, thereby forgiving you of your sin, and committing to a death to your former way of life and making a pledge to live a new life for Christ’s Kingdom purposes.
Personal Baptism Testimony of Reverend Jay.
I was personally raised in a traditional church and was baptized as an infant. I never really understood the Gospel and stopped going to church in my late teens. I became a believer in Christ in my mid 20’s (1996) and afterwards learned about believer baptism. I was baptized as a believer then I was about 30. Since that time, I have felt that there was not much merit for infant baptism. Although I think the bible supports very clearly the decisions I made regarding baptism, I was surprised to find some support for household baptism, which potentially could include infants. Baptism can be a sensitive topic and my goal is to handle it sensitively and yet follow his Word accurately. I hope you check out the report and the Bible for yourself.
A couple quick questions and answers
Is baptism required for salvation? Although there is scripture that could be interpreted in this fashion there are multitudes of scriptures that refer to salvation coming to those who believe with no mention of baptism.
Is baptism necessary for receiving the Holy Spirit? Although the Holy Spirit many times was manifested in the lives of people who were baptized, there are many other occasions where the Holy Spirit came upon believers without baptism. Additionally, baptism was done so often
immediately after someone believed and was saved, that it in those instances, it would be hard to differentiate the time of belief from baptism.
What is the way baptism is most frequently demonstrated? In the Bible, baptism is repeatedly and frequently referenced as response and action that immediately follows someone’s decision to believe in Jesus. Today we do altar calls, when if water is available it would be more biblically accurate to baptize immediately.
Are infants baptized in the bible? There are not any occasions in the Old and New testaments where infants are mentioned as being baptized. There is some mention in scripture of households being baptized which are referenced in this report. It could be theorized that infants or children took part in this baptism, but there is no mention of this taking place.
Why are you calling it a ceremony? In the process of doing this research I also read a commentary that referred to baptism as a ceremony. When you read scripture on baptism, ceremony seems to describe it well. It appears in scripture several times where the believer, in
obedience, follows through with an action that reflects their faith decision. Many times it has a feeling of being ceremonial, as it was even in Jesus’ baptism. Similar to marriage, we could just sign a paper and be married and yet we typically and perhaps more appropriately do it in the
context of a ceremony. Ceremony is not mentioned in the Bible, but I think after reading what the bible has to say most would agree that baptism could be accurately described as a ceremony celebrating, demonstrating, symbolizing, and acting upon one’s faith decision.
Is it a public declaration of faith? It can be, but the most important declaration is an act of obedience to Jesus. I have heard public declaration given as the reason people get baptized. I think it is just as special if you simply met with the person baptizing you in the presence of the almighty Father and out of obedience, reverence, and love for Him, got baptized to identify with Him and his death and resurrection for you. It was demonstrated this way in the bible (Philip and the Eunich, Paul and Annanias). Baptism, when I read scripture, is more about your relationship to Jesus and a personal commitment to Him. Now if you keep that focus of doing it for Jesus in mind, and it is done in the presence of family, friends, and others, that is awesome, and also biblical. It may be a great evangelism tool, and I am all for that, but keep in mind your own dedicated life to Jesus.
Some References to Baptism in Scripture
Baptism as a symbol and pledge:
1 Peter 3:13-22= In verse 21, “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also”— In this passage Peter uses symbolism from Noah’s family who were saved from the rising waters and that water baptism is a symbol of being saved by God. He also says that it is a pledge of a
good conscious towards God. Lastly, in this passage, Peter says we are saved because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When read in relation to other baptism passages, we can learn from this that baptism is a symbol of our acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us and in it we make a pledge to God.
Jesus was baptized as an adult:
Matthew 3:15= Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist at the start of his ministry at the age of around 30. The fact that Jesus got baptized is a good example to his followers.
The immediacy of Baptism in the early church:
Acts 2:38-41= After Peter finished preaching a message very soon after Jesus’ ascension, Peter said the following. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for
you and for your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Some of the things we can learn here is that those who accepted the Gospel message were
baptized, and even baptized the same day. We also see a note regarding children being
baptized which I will comment on later. No where does the bible ever mention an infant being
baptized but it could be argued that it did occur here or within some households that got
baptized together. Clearly in the early church (as recorded in the Book of Acts) baptism is
predominantly mentioned for people who believe and there is no reference to a common
practice of baptizing infants. (More on this later.)
An example of the Holy Spirit being evident prior to baptism:
Acts 10= To get the full flavor it would be good to read the whole chapter. In summary, God comes to a family of Gentile's who as a people group were generally looked down upon because they were not from God’s original chosen people. But when this man, Cornelius, and others hear the message of Christ they received the Holy Spirit. Then after this happened in verses 47 and 48 Peter says, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
We can see from this that one can have the Holy Spirit, which is a mark of being saved, without baptism. Yet, even though they already had the Holy Spirit, Peter felt it was important that they get baptized.
Support for getting rebaptized and as an act of obedience to your decision to believe in Christ:
Acts 18:24-19:7= This is a very rich passage and has much that could be inferred from it in regards to getting baptized as a believer even if you were baptized earlier. Please read the story for yourself.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s Baptism,” they replied. (Referring to John the Baptists baptism) Paul said, “John’s baptism was
a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is in Jesus.” On hearing this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
After they were baptized, Paul then laid his hands on them they received the Holy Spirit.
There is much to discern from this passage. First these people who were trying to follow Jesus did not yet have the Holy Spirit. In fact the verse just prior called these men disciples. Additionally, these men were baptized prior to this baptism they still had not received the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist’s baptism was one of repentance and his baptism referred to a time prior to Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. In a very similar way, there are those that have been baptized in their past but when they were baptized they did not understand the Gospel or even know of the Holy Spirit. In those instances, just like these men, a strong argument can be made to be baptized again with a proper understanding of the meaning of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, and baptism.
Household Baptisms (infants?):
Acts 18:7, 8 and Acts 16:13-34= In these two sets of passages there are three households that are baptized together. Although there is no mention of children or infants, someone could make the case that children or even infants were baptized. All of the stories are very similar. Someone believed in the message of Jesus and immediately those in their household were baptized. When combining all of these passages, it could be argued that if the leader of a family either male or female (you will understand if you read the passages) accepts the gospel
message of Jesus by faith, they then could have their whole family baptized, even potentially infants, and that that baptism could be a once and for all baptism, sufficient baptism. I believe scripturally based on these household baptism passages a pretty good affirming argument towards this position could be made. However, there are some prerequisites. First it could be argued that this should only be considered when the leader of the family places their trust in Christ and gets baptized with the family as was the case in all of these circumstances. Putting that point aside, I think the bigger questions are, was the leader of the family a believer in Jesus Christ at the time of the baptism and was the baptizer a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? In all of these instances, this would be true. As an example, if I was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who was saved and had children who I wanted to get baptized and the person who baptized them I also in good conscious believed was a saved believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then I think an argument could be made that that baptism could be a once and for all, sufficient baptism. If however, I myself was not even a saved believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and simply had my children or an infant baptized without myself having saving faith, I would question more so the validity of that baptism, because in all of these biblical cases the household leader had placed their trust in Christ and out of response of that took the lead in having their whole household baptized. In addition, what if that child when they got to an age (and no one knows the exact age we are responsible for our own faith) of 13 and does not show any evidence of a saving faith or walk of faith with Jesus, but now at the age of 15 accepts Jesus has his or her Savior.
Should they get baptized? Arguments could be made both ways, however at that point, I think the young man or young woman could make their own decision as to how they were feeling lead in regards to baptism. After all, in the early church baptism following acceptance of Jesus was common practice. If those men in Acts 19 were baptized twice in the bible, why not others who may have been baptized prior to their full understanding of the Gospel be baptized again, if they feel prompted to do so. If this is done in honor of Jesus, it seems that his name would be
being glorified in the process. For a young person and even old person who never got to experience a ceremony of their own personal baptism I think it is good and right and healthy for them to get get water baptized as both a commitment to Christ and a special memory for them of their commitment.
The Apostle Paul was immediately baptized after he believed.
Acts 9: Paul was a Jew, who followed the scriptures intently. Once he heard about Jesus he was baptized by a believer named Ananias. Paul then went on to write over half the New Testament.
Baptism as your identification of Christ’s death for you:
In these two passages it is shown that when you get baptized it is a symbol of your dying two your old life and a rising to new life in Jesus. We can’t live under water so baptism identifies with Jesus death and a death to our old way of living and then a rising to new life in Jesus name. In this way it is also a symbol of rising to eternal life one day.
Romans 6:3, 4: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised for the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live new life.
Colossians 2:12 … having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Jesus commanded us to go make disciples, baptize, and teach others:
The Great Commission: Matthew 28: 16-21
This is one of the core verses of our ministry. It is one of the last occasions Jesus had with his disciples, prior to ascending to heaven. This is where he told them what He wanted them to go and do. It is clear here that if you want to be a disciple of Jesus you should get baptized.
Then Jesus came and said to them. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
How does the bible demonstrate doing baptism:
Acts 8: 26-40 Philip and the Ethiopian. Philip hears someone reading scripture and goes to explain the scripture and the Gospel to the person. Philip must have also likely shared with the man about baptism, because when Philip finishes the man says, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
Matthew 3:16: Jesus Baptism
As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
In both of these scriptures, it appears the person who was being baptized came in and out of the water. That is why many churches including our ministry believe that the demonstrated method of baptism is submersion, simply meaning that the person being baptized in one motion goes down and up again in and out of the water. Is this a critical issue? Likely not, but why not try to perform baptism as closely as demonstrated.
For your reference here are some other scriptures that mention baptism:
1 Cor. 1:10-16, Acts 18:8, John 4:2 (the disciples baptizing early on), Mark 10:38
This topic is more controversial and can be a bit confusing, but in doing a report and
thorough research on baptism I felt it should be addressed.
What is baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Baptism of the Holy Spirit happens when a person genuinely believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior and then receives the Holy Spirit. Let me first say biblically it is shown that Holy Spirit Baptism (spiritual baptism) comes upon people that believe regardless of water baptism. Sometimes
Holy Spirit Baptism and water baptism come at the same time because for that person their first true faith decision came when they were getting water baptized. Sometimes the bible indicates that Holy Spirit baptism happening prior to water baptism. This is simply because the Holy Spirit enters a man or woman at the time of their genuine faith decision/conversion. However, as this report will indicate, the bible is still clear that water baptism prescribed and important, even if someone already has already believed and has received the Holy Spirit.
Some people and churches believe that the evidence of Holy Spirit Baptism is shown by the gift of speaking in tongues. This is not shown to be consistent in the scriptures or in our experience today. Many people in the Bible and today are given the Holy Spirit when they believe without
the gift of speaking in tongues. There are some scriptures that could be interpreted that there is a Holy Spirit Baptism where someone places their hands on you and prays for you to receive the gifts of the Spirit. Two of the scriptures used to support this are Acts 18:24-19:7 and Acts
8:9-25. In the first, mentioned earlier, some men were referred to as disciples, but did not yet have the Spirit. Then when Paul baptized and placed his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues and prophecy. Some churches and people believe that
speaking in tongues is an outward sign that you have had the special baptism of the Holy Spirit that they claim is different from the normal water baptism that took place when people believed. Although the Bible can be shown to support this, when looking at the whole counsel of God’s Word there is ample evidence to refute this.
In the case of men from Acts 19, prior to their second water baptism, they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to see how they could have previously had a proper understanding of the Gospel without ever hearing of the Holy Spirit. With that being said, it could be argued strongly that these men were not yet saved until they understood the Gospel more adequately, and that is why the Spirit was not given to them earlier, but now was given with Paul.
In another example, in Acts 8, there was a man named Simon and other who were said to have believed and were water baptized. Yet, when other disciples showed up, they found these men to be without the Holy Spirit. They then laid hands on these believers and they received the
Holy Spirit. In this passage there is no mention of speaking of tongues, but they did receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. When reading scripture, it does need to be looked at as a whole. If everyone was to speak in tongues through the Baptism of the Spirit and laying on of hands then these people too would have received this gift. Those reading this report, especially those fond of speaking in tongues might find it interesting to know that I was prayed over and had hands laid upon me by several people who claim to speak in tongues. Many years later, I do not have the gift of speaking in tongues. If you read 1 Cor. 12 you will see that Paul clearly indicates that we all have different gifts from God and what gift you receive is up to his will.
1Co 12:11 NASB95 - But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
It is also clear in 1 Cor. that not everyone who is baptized in the Spirit will speak in tongues. The answer to each of these questions is clearly, no.
1Co 12:28-31 NASB95 - And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, [various] kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not [workers of] miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
With that said we should be open to whatever God chooses to give us.
1Co 14:1a NASB95 - Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual [gifts,]…
In the end, I will summarize this by saying, I think it is appropriate for someone to place their hands on you and pray for you that God may grant any special gift that God may have for you. When I baptize with water I also lay a hand on those being water baptized and pray for them to receive not only the Holy Spirit, but whatever gift God may give. This is the best Biblical example.
I do believe spiritual gifts are real, as evidenced in the Bible, and that spiritual gifts exist today. Meaning, we believe, at our church, that God can still do whatever he desires. Unfortunately, some can emphasize spiritual gifts in a way where they are pressured or manipulated, instead of received as a gift from God. That is inappropriate and something we do not do.
There is a website called Got Questions that does a really great job on many topics. The issue being discussed here is called Continuationism or Cessationism. Continuationism states any gift mentioned in the Bible can still exist today. Cessationism is the believe that specific sign gifts have ceased. At our church we lean toward Continuationism, but we do this cautiously and with reverence. We simply don’t believe we should state that God cannot do something today.
Summary Position on Baptism
Why get baptized?
Baptism is a frequently demonstrated event modeled by the early church and followers of Jesus. It is God’s prescribed way of one expressing one’s faith and commitment to Jesus. It is a great act of obedience to Jesus and a physical way to reveal one is trusting in Jesus as Savior and Lord. It is also a special way of identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection for the believer and symbolizes your acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice and victory over sin and death for you. It also could be described as a special ceremony, where one comes before God to make their commitment of faith to him. In baptism you are celebrating what Christ has done for you on the cross, thereby forgiving you of your sin, and committing to a death to your former way of life and making a pledge to live a new life for Christ’s Kingdom purposes.