Popular Reformed theologian and founder of DesiringGod.org John Piper recently laid out five reasons why baptism is an important practice for Christians to engage in.
Baptism is a Christian practice in which an individual, either an adult, child or baby, depending on specific theological tradition or circumstance, is either sprinkled with water or dipped into water to represent their becoming a Christian.
On an episode of the podcast “Ask Pastor John” posted to DesiringGod.org on Monday, a listener named Matthew inquired about the importance of baptism.
“I am a relatively new believer who was saved through a very faithful Bible preaching ministry on my college campus. I have since graduated and am now looking for a home church to become a member,” asked Matthew.
“In every case I have been asked if I have been baptized. I have not. I need to. And I plan to. But I was wondering if you could explain to a newer believer like me, why do I need to be baptized? What does it mean? And why is this an essential step for me to take?”
In response, Piper laid out five reasons that baptism was important, the first being that it is “an ordinance from the Lord,” with Piper citing Matthew 28:19–20 to justify that conclusion.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” reads the biblical passage.
Next, Piper said that baptism “expresses union with Christ in his death and resurrection,” noting that “in baptism, we dramatically portray what happened spiritually when we received Christ.”
Third on his list, Piper, who is himself a Baptist, said that baptism was “by immersion,” arguing that the proper definition for the original Greek term is to “dip” or “immerse,” not “sprinkle.”
“I believe that we should immerse people in water. Baptism is an immersion, as opposed to sprinkling water on the head,” he stated.
“It describes the portrayal of death and burial and resurrection through going down into water as into a grave, and then coming back up out.”
Piper also argued that baptism was important due to it being “an expression of faith” and the fact that it is done “in the name of the triune God.”
“There is a holy appeal to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit to be present in this act, and make the portrayal true and real in what it says about the work of redemption,” he continued.
“When we call upon their name — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we’re depending upon them, all of them. And we’re honoring them. And we’re saying that this act of baptism is by them and for them.”
Christian denominations outside of the Baptist tradition, such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, have taken issue with the claim that baptism means immersion.
“Those who maintain that the Greek verb bapto means ‘to dip or immerse’ are generally correct,” wrote OPC Pastor William Shishko in 2000.
“However, our word baptize translates the Greek word baptizo, not bapto. While bapto may mean ‘to dip or immerse,’ baptizo does not refer to a mode, but to a process and an effect.”