Luke 3: 21-22
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
While it is not critical to salvation, water baptism is an important first step in the Christian walk. All throughout the New Testament, there are instances of baptism after one comes to a saving knowledge in Christ. Jesus gave us His perfect example of this in Luke chapter 3. Immediately, God responds with His pleasure for His son.
Baptism is one of two ordinances that Jesus instituted for the church. Just before His ascension, Jesus said,
“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” (Matthew 28:19–20).
These instructions specify that the church is responsible to teach Jesus’ word, make disciples, and baptize those disciples. These things are to be done everywhere until “the very end of the age.” So, if for no other reason, baptism has importance because Jesus commanded it.
Believer’s baptism is also clearly taught in Acts 2. In this chapter, Peter is preaching the gospel message on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly proclaims Jesus’ death and resurrection and commands the crowd to repent and believe in Christ. The response to Peter’s gospel presentation is recorded in verse 41:
“Those who accepted his message were baptized.”
Note the order of events—they accepted the message (the gospel of Christ), and then they were baptized. Only those who believed were baptized. The practice of the apostles was to baptize believers, not unbelievers.
Baptism by water is a “reenactment” of the baptism by the Spirit. Christian baptism is the means by which a person makes a public profession of their faith. In the waters of baptism, a person says, wordlessly, “I confess faith in Christ; Jesus has cleansed my soul from sin, and I now have a new life of sanctification.”