Water Baptism and the Laying on of Hands

We believe in the ordinance of water baptism by immersion after repentance. Through the laying on of hands, with prayer, the believer receives the Holy Spirit and becomes a part of the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ.

After repentance and faith in Hebrews 6:1, verse 2 lists "the doctrine of baptisms" and "laying on of hands" as two of the elementary principles of Christ.

John the Baptist introduced a baptism of repentance, tied to the concept of forgiveness of sins (Matthew 3:1-6; Mark 1:4-5). Jesus Himself was baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17), not because He needed to repent of sin or be forgiven, but as an example for His disciples throughout all ages.

The English word baptize is derived from the Greek word baptizo, which means "to immerse." By definition, then, the only biblical form of baptism is a complete immersion in water. John the Baptist chose a particular location in the Jordan River for baptizing because sufficient water was available there to completely submerge individuals (John 3:23).

For the Christian, the ordinance of baptism is profoundly important. In one action, Christ's death, burial and resurrection are called to mind for the believer and linked to his or her own symbolic "death" and "resurrection" from the "watery grave" to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:12-13).

Also inherent in the symbolism is the promise of the believer's future resurrection into the Kingdom of God. The forgiven sinner emerges from the waters of baptism to live a new life in Christ, free from the death penalty incurred by sin. The waters of baptism have symbolically washed away all sins. In this regard, baptism is an outward acknowledgment of the believer's inward intent to yield and submit his or her life to God and His way (Ephesians 4:20-24).

Baptism, which is commanded in Scripture, must be preceded by faith and repentance (Acts 2:37-38; Mark 16:16). The very symbolism of baptism itself shows a willingness to "bury" the old sinful life (Romans 6:11). Our acknowledgment of guilt and the need for Jesus Christ to save us from the consequences of sin is of paramount importance. This repentance is characterized by a change of heart and action and is based on personal faith in, and a total commitment to, Jesus Christ and God the Father (Luke 14:25-33; Colossians 2:12). (See the chapter titled Repentance and Faith.)

Baptism should be entered into only by someone who is mature enough to fully grasp and appreciate the lifelong commitment required. The Bible gives no indication that baptism is appropriate for children.

The commission Jesus gave His disciples includes the authority to baptize believers (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism is followed by prayer and the laying on of hands by one or more of God's duly ordained servants. This demonstrates that God acts through human servants and that we are to cooperate with the faithful ministry He has established in His Church. (See the chapter titled The Church.)

This is all part of the process by which we receive the gift of God's Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:14-18; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:1-2). It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that Christ lives within the Christian (John 14:16-17, 23; Galatians 2:20). And through this process, the believer is placed into the spiritual Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), bringing rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:7).

Again, those who have come to repentance through the calling of God (John 6:44) are to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, following the example and instruction of Jesus Christ. And with the laying on of hands, they will receive the Holy Spirit, empowering them to start living a transformed life led by that Spirit.

For more details, read The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.


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