A Baptist is a Christian who believes that the only fit subjects for Christian baptism are professing Christians. This is in contrast to the belief in infant baptism which intentionally allows those who are not Christians into the membership of the church. It is also in contrast to the belief that a person cannot be a Christian until he or she has been baptized. Rather, Baptists believe that it is only those who are already professing believers in Christ who are allowed to be baptized. This conclusion flows from the New Testament’s teaching on the nature of the church as a body of regenerate believers. Since the infant children of believers are not regenerate or members of the new covenant, they cannot receive the sign of the new covenant. Only those who are members of the new covenant may receive the signs of the new covenant. This excludes all of those who are unregenerate.
Baptism is the immersion of the believer in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is how Christians publicly profess their faith in Christ to the world. It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and affirms that we were united with him in his death and resurrection. Baptism pictures the death of our old self and the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit who has made us new creations in Christ. It is the sign of the new covenant and the public proclamation of our allegiance to King Jesus. When we are baptized, we are made members of the local church and enter into all the benefits of membership in a church including the Lord’s supper (Acts 2:41-42). Baptism is also a public act of repentance signifying our turning from sin to Christ. Only believers may partake of the ordinances of Christ because the signs of the new covenant are limited to those who are in the new covenant (Heb 8:6-13; 9:15; 10:15-18; 12:24). Since Christ intercedes on behalf of all those in the new covenant, all of them must be saved.
In contrast to credobaptism, the practice of infant baptism is without biblical warrant. It has neither command nor example in Scripture to support it. The English word “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma instead of an actual translation. This Greek word is always used to refer to dipping or immersion when used literally and never to describe the act of pouring or sprinkling. The practice of baptism as pouring or sprinkling developed over time in response to the need to baptize those who converted to Christ on their deathbed. It is also much easier to pour or sprinkle water on an infant instead of immersing them. Pragmatism eventually triumphed over fidelity to Scripture in Latin Christianity.
The most cited verse of Scripture to argue for the necessity of baptism in order to be saved is Acts 2:38: “And Peter said to them, ‘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.’” Peter demanded that they be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins because baptism itself is an act of repentance. If those Peter was speaking to had refused to be baptized, it would have demonstrated that their repentance was not genuine. Baptism would have meant being kicked out of the synagogue (John 9:22). The costliness of baptism in the first century decreased the likelihood of false converts. There are no “secret agent” Christians who do not profess their faith publicly. Repentance and baptism are not two different requirements for salvation any more than repentance and turning are two different requirements for forgiveness in Acts 3:19. Baptism is the outward expression of repentance, not something separate from it. Repentance can only come from a heart that has been regenerated by God through the gospel (Jam 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23). The gospel, not the act of baptism, is the instrument of regeneration. Those who are in the flesh cannot do anything pleasing to God (Rom 8:7-9). But faith, repentance, and baptism are pleasing to God which means regeneration must occur before them (1 John 5:1).