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Why Should I Be Baptized? Answers to 10 Questions About Baptism

Written by Bjorn Carlson on

I almost always cry at baptisms.

As I watch men, women, and young people walk out in front of the church to tell their story about how they were a mess but Jesus rescued them, I can’t help but get emotional. Especially after seeing a pastor pray with them, plunge them under the water, and raise them back up. They beam, and it makes me remember what that water really means.

So, what does baptism mean?

Baptism is one of the most beautiful moments you get to live out as a Christian. But if you haven’t yet taken that step, you might be confused as to what it is and why you should do it or maybe you’re afraid to stand up in front of people.

Hopefully a quick tour of baptism will resolve your concerns. And, ultimately, it will remind you: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Here are answers to 10 questions most of us have about baptism.

1. What Is Baptism?

Baptism, being one of the two physical ordinances within the church that Jesus commanded, is the outward sign of an inward reality.

The Inward Reality

Let’s start first with what the inward reality is. Peter said in Acts 2:38-39:

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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

Although the act of baptism itself does not save a person, it is a public proclamation saying “The gospel of Jesus Christ has saved me.” A person getting baptized is proclaiming that:

  • I could not merit salvation on my own, but God has called me to himself from death to life (Eph. 2:1, 5).
  • I have repented of my sin and put my faith and trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of my sins.
  • I am now living out what it means to have the gift of the Holy Spirit within me, changing my desires.
  • And I am committing to live out the promise of the gospel to those around me.

The Outward Sign

The outward sign is the washing of water which signifies our sins being washed away by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7).

In its most basic essence, baptism is the personal, but public, proclamation of an individual that he or she has turned from pursuing their own desires and is now following Jesus.

Baptism is the moment when a believer puts a stake in the ground about the change that Jesus has had in his or her life. They are forsaking the past and following Jesus going forward.

In many cultures around the world, this public proclamation is even more significant than the personal confession of faith because the world around them will likely disown them or even persecute or kill them once their faith in Christ is known publicly.

2. At What Age Can I Be Baptized?

We encourage parents to discern when their child has really understood the gospel and put their faith in Jesus. And we want to support parents as they do this.

At College Park Church, we generally baptize believing children no earlier than 11 years old in order to give them and their parents time to see evidence that their profession of faith is real–that they truly understand and believe the gospel—and to ensure they understand the significance of their commitment to follow Jesus.

For more details on children being baptized at College Park, read this helpful article: Student Baptism: Questions & Answers.

3. What if I Was Baptized as an Infant or Before I Received Jesus?

While good Christians disagree on this aspect of baptism, at College Park our conviction of what we see in the Bible regarding baptism is that of “believer’s baptism”–or baptism of those who have a credible testimony of faith in Christ.

Here’s a short story of an individual who was baptized as an infant and wrestled with getting “re-baptized” through believer’s baptism at our church.

Andrew’s Story of Getting “Re-baptized”

Andrew[1] had been coming to College Park with his wife and two little kids for about a year. They quickly connected with the worship team, but they knew that they needed to become members and be “all in” at their church.

There was only one hitch: the church asks every member to be baptized after they received Jesus.

Andrew grew up Presbyterian, and his parents baptized him when he was a young child before he accepted salvation “for himself.” But he put his personal faith in Jesus in his later childhood (after he was baptized). Because of his background, he didn’t see any need to be “re-baptized.”

Andrew really wanted to be a member of College Park, but he wrestled with whether to get “re-baptized” or not. 

What did he do? He met up with a few College Park pastors to help him understand what they believed the Bible taught about baptism, and then he wrestled through those passages.

But he still wasn’t fully convinced about this view of what the Bible teaches. So he decided to call his Presbyterian pastor from growing up.

“Hey, Andrew, how’s it going?”

“Really well. I’m loving my new church here in Indianapolis. The only issue is I’m wrestling with whether I should get ‘re-baptized.’”

“Do you trust the elders and the direction of the church and want to submit to their leadership as a part of that body?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think you’d be sinning if you were to be baptized now as a professing believer?”

“No.”

“Then I don’t see why you wouldn’t be baptized.”

“Oh. Well . . . I guess you have a good point. Thanks for your help.”

The actual conversation was a bit longer than that, but the result was the same.

Andrew felt the freedom to take his step forward to get baptized at the church. He not only wouldn’t be sinning by doing it, but it would also give him the opportunity to confess before the whole church that he was a follower of Jesus. And on his baptism day, friends and family showed up and rejoiced at God’s work in his life.

4. How Do I Tell My Family That I’m Being “Baptized Again”?

As we discussed above, baptism is an act that Christians do. So when infants (or others who aren’t yet trusting in Jesus) get “baptized,” it isn’t actually New Testament baptism. It may be a wonderful sort of dedication, but it isn’t the kind of baptism that Jesus or Paul talks about.

Having said that, good Christians from different traditions disagree on this point. And if you were baptized before you trusted Christ for yourself, taking this step of believer’s baptism may inevitably feel like you are getting “baptized again” to some family and friends. How can you explain your decision to them?

It may not be most productive to have a heated theological discussion. Instead, this can be an opportunity to insert your beliefs about baptism into a larger picture of appreciation for what they’ve done to help you in your spiritual life.

“Mom and Dad, I am so thankful that you wanted me to believe in Jesus from an early age. And it is a special gift to have been dedicated and baptized at our church when I was young. I wanted to let you know that I’m really excited to have you celebrate with me the culmination of your desire for me as I now get publicly baptized as a born-again Christian in my church. I am putting my full trust in Jesus, and so I feel like it’s really good for me to take this step on my own to tell others that I follow Jesus. I’d love for you to come and be a part of this special day.”

5. Why Is Baptism Required For Membership at College Park Church?

There are just two requirements for membership at College Park Church: salvation and baptism.

Salvation means that you have a personal relationship with Jesus and are trusting him for eternal life. This is everyone’s first, and most important, step in their spiritual lives.

Obviously, it doesn’t make much sense for someone to become a member of “Christ’s body” (Eph. 1:23) if they aren’t yet a part of Christ! But once they are a follower of Jesus, they should be a member in a local church where they can fully belong, grow, and multiply for his kingdom.

Baptism is the outward display of that inward faith. So we want anyone who is a Christian to publicly identify with Jesus through baptism in obedience to his command (Matt. 28:19). Baptism is the act handed down throughout the church’s history for how the watching world knows you are a Christian.

If you have been baptized as a believer already (in another church, at a camp, etc.), that is acceptable for membership at College Park Church.

6. Does It Matter Whether I’m Immersed or Sprinkled?

The New Testament Greek word for “baptize” (baptizo) literally means to “immerse in water,” so it seems that the standard for a public Christian baptism is to have the Christian be immersed in water.

This mode also makes sense because baptism pictures our participation in Jesus’s death (going under the water), being cleansed from our sin (symbolically, see 1 John 1:7), and resurrection (coming up from the water)—which sprinkling doesn’t quite capture.

Immersion is also consistent with how Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3:16. In saying he “went up from the water” it also signifies that he would have had to go down, or immersed, into the water.

However, good Christians throughout church history have differed on which mode to practice, and our church doesn’t discount someone’s sprinkling baptism if it was done after they put their faith in Jesus.

We do practice immersion in our services, and we love getting to see individuals physically picture the death and new life of Christ at every baptism.

7. What Do I Include in My Testimony That I Share Before My Baptism?

At College Park Church, someone’s baptism has three moments:

  • They share their personal testimony of following Jesus.
  • They answer two questions about their faith in Jesus and intention to follow him.
  • They are baptized in front of the church body.

It’s important to share a public, verbal “testimony” or summary of following Jesus so that the community of Christians and the watching world can hear that you truly have put your faith in Jesus for eternal life.

Being able to tell others is important. As the apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

So, what should you share when you share your testimony?

  1. What were you like before believing in Jesus? Whether you were stuck in life-dominating sin or simply a child who didn’t have a relationship with God, all of us have a time when we weren’t trusting God to forgive us through Jesus. What was that season of life like for you?
  2. How did you come to trust in Jesus? Be clear that you stopped trusting in yourself or anything else to make you right with God. Instead you are trusting in Jesus to forgive you and change your life, and now you’re following him.
  3. What are you like now with Jesus? You can share about how God has transformed areas of your life or the hope or peace you now have in him. This is a great moment to share a Bible verse that is meaningful to you—perhaps one that directly talks about salvation and what Jesus has done for you (like Rom. 6:23 or John 14:6).

8. What if I Feel Nervous to Do This Up on Stage in Front of People?

It is completely understandable that someone who doesn’t get up in front of a large group of people on a regular basis might have some trepidation about getting up on stage in front of the congregation on Sunday morning! Here are five points to encourage you:

  1. By nature, baptism is a public proclamation of faith in Christ, so it should be done publicly before the congregation that the believer is seeking to become a part of.
  2. It is such a great joy and encouragement to the congregation to hear the verbal witness of faith in Christ and how Jesus has changed someone’s life. It is a time of celebration, and the congregation loves to celebrate these stories. There is no judgment from other members: instead, most often, there are many tears of joy shed on a baptism Sunday.
  3. A pastor and team (as well as potentially a friend or parent if they are involved) will be right there to help all the way through it!
  4.  It is a step of faith to walk in obedience to Jesus through baptism, and there will be many more times in the Christian walk where a hard step of obedience in faith is required. But that’s what trusting Jesus is all about. And the reward is great! Baptism is a beautiful way to show your devotion to Jesus and you will get joy from taking this step of faith.
  5. Pray! The Bible says to cast all your cares on him because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Jesus says he cares for you, and he asks you to give your nervousness to him. If you are walking in obedience to his command to be baptized, then he will help you. He has to! And we’ve seen him prove faithful time and time again when nervous people step up to that microphone and boldly proclaim their testimony. You are walking in the footsteps of many who have gone before with the same nervousness. And it’s been worth it every time.

9. Can I Have Someone Help Baptize Me?

Generally, yes!

If you have someone in your life who has been instrumental in your faith journey, they are more than welcome to be in the baptism tank and assist with your baptism. We ask that the number be limited to two people due to the size of the tank.

Also, at College Park Church, we generally only allow pastors or elders to perform the ceremony of baptism itself as an official recognition and acceptance of the person’s testimony of faith into the body of believers by an officer of the church.

10. How Do I Sign Up to Get Baptized at College Park Church?

We would love to help you take this important step to tell the world that you follow Jesus.

Sign up to be baptized on the College Park Church baptism page, and our team will help you take your next step.

Last Thing…Someone Else Needs to See You Get Baptized!

Almost every time we have baptisms, I find myself talking to people after the worship service and someone says to me, “Wow, I really needed to see that person get baptized today. My story really resonates with theirs and that meant a lot to me.”

After all, we all have the same story as Christians. I was a wreck. Jesus rescued me. Now I am “dead” to sin and “alive” in Christ (Rom. 6:11). That was my story. And that’s your story too if you’re a Christian. And that’s the picture that baptism paints for others who may need to see that story from you too.


[1] Not his real name.

Bjorn Carlson

Bjorn joined staff as a pastor at College Park after serving as a lay elder for two years. Through a journey of suffering, God prepared Bjorn to come on staff where he oversees the care functions of the church as the Pastor of Congregational Care and Compassion. He is passionate about helping people see that Jesus is better no matter what circumstances life brings. When he’s not at church or visiting people in the hospital, you’ll probably find him enjoying time with his family and friends, enjoying the outdoors, or building something.

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