Is Water Baptism more than Just a Symbolic Act?


In my two articles “Is water baptism necessary for salvation” part 1 and 2, I argue that water baptism is not necessary for salvation but that it is faith alone that saves (John 3:14-18, 5:24, 20:31, Acts 10:43, 15:7-11, 16:31, 26:18, Romans 1:16-17,10: 9-17, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:9, 1 John 5:13).

Even though many believers argue that water baptism is not necessary for salvation they are still advocating that something more than a symbolic act is taking place. But to state that water baptism is more than a symbolic act is in fact the same as saying that water baptism is necessary for salvation.

A valid question to ask here is what scripture these people use to verify their claim? Where does it say that water baptism is more than a symbolic act? You can`t use any of the following verses; Romans 6, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:5, Colossians 2:11, 1 Corinthians 6:11,10:2, and 1 Corinthians 12:13.

If you do use them, you will end up with the same doctrine as the people claiming that water baptism is necessary for salvation.

What is important to grip is that neither of these verses are referring to water baptism, but are rather talking about the baptism that occurs when you receive Christ (For further information, read my article “The the three different baptisms”).

If you use those scriptures as if they were referring to water baptism, it will actually replace what is said to happen during salvation.

In water baptism you will not die to sin. You will not get baptized into His death and resurrection. Your old you will not get crucified with Christ. You will not enter in to the new covenant, neither do you get circumcised in the heart. You will not become a part of Christ Body. The list can go on. These things only take place at our born again experience when we receive Christ – not in the water baptism (1 Cor. 12:13, Eph 4:5, Gal. 3:26-27, 4:6, 1 Cor. 6:11, Col. 2:12, Phil. 3:9-10, Rom. 2:29, 8:15-17).

The question if water baptism is more than a symbolic act is not really a question about different views on baptism, but rather a question about different views on salvation. This is why it is important to clear things up. The teaching about salvation must be pure and protected against these kinds of doctrine!

The reason why people sometimes want to get rebaptized is because they believed that they in some way did their baptism wrong, for examples;

  • They were not baptized in the name of Jesus but in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit – or the other way around.
  • They are still dealing with some sin in their life.
  • They are not speaking in tongues.
  • They do not walk in the spirit as they should ect.

What they mean is that they did not get the “power of the resurrection” in the water baptism. All these reasons above are fundamentally wrong. The center of all of this is still salvation. See Phil 3:9-10.

People go by experience and not by the Word of God.
It is common that people use their own experience as an argument that water baptism is more than just a symbolic act.
They say for example, ”If water baptism is only a symbolic act, then why is it being such a big struggle for some people to get baptized? Why do people get healed, freed from demonic oppression, and start speaking in tongues when being water baptized?”
What they actually mean by this is that it must be something spiritual taking place. How come otherwise the water baptism having such an impact?
To answer this;

1. Water baptism is a strong symbolic act for your decision to follow Jesus. In that decision it will of course be a battle between darkness and the light (Act 26:18).

2. The power of God is manifested through faith (Matt. 8:13, 9:29b, 15:28),(Matt 9:22, Mark 5:34, Luke 8:45-48 same occasion) (Matt. 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43 same occasion) (Mark 10,52, Luke 18:42-43 same occasion) Luke 8:50, 17:6, 11-19, John 11:40, Acts 3:16, 14:8-10, Gal. 3:5, James 5:15). Meaning if you believe that something will happen/manifest during the water baptism, it will. That is in the exact same way when you’re outside the water baptism having faith – people will be speaking in tongues, getting healed ect.

If water baptism is only a symbolic act why is it so important?
We can find that symbolic acts are important in the bible. As an example let’s look at the communion. (Acts 2:46, 1 Cor. 11:24-26). Just like the communion is an important symbolic act for the remembrance of the new covenant (Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:24-26), the water baptism is an important symbolic act of the new creation (1 Peter 3:21).

In 2 Peter 3:5-6 Peter is saying that the Word of God/His promise and water symbolizes something new God create. Specifically dealing with the creation of the world and the ark of Noah. Which Peter is using an example of water baptism in 1 Peter 3:20b-21. So water baptism is a great symbolic act of your new creation which occurred through faith in His death and resurrection.

Aly-Sam Botros

Read all our articles about water baptism here.

2 thoughts on “Is Water Baptism more than Just a Symbolic Act?

  1. Milad Botros says:

    By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and of our purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour, become His people, and are received as members by His church. Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our reception of the Holy Spirit.
    Baptism is very important for salvation, it is a Symbol of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. As covering by waters symbolized overwhelming trouble and afflictions (Ps. 42:7; 69:2; 124:4, 5), so Jesus’ water baptism represented a prophetic enactment of His suffering, death, and burial (Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50) and His emergence from the water spoke of His subsequent resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).
    Water Baptizm is Symbol of Being Dead to Sin and Alive to God. In baptism believers enter into the passion experience of our Lord. Paul said, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead. we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3,  In baptism believers “have been united together in the likeness of His death” (Rom. 6:5) and “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). This means “our old man was crucified with Him, that the old body of sin might be done away with, we are dead to sin and confirm that the “old things have passed away” (2 Cor. 5:17), their lives being hid with Christ in God. Baptism, is the sign of a saving relationship with Jesus, buried with Him in baptism, in which we also were raised with Him through faith (Col. 2:11, 12).baptism also marks that person’s entrance into Christ’s spiritual kingdom. Since it unites the new believer to Christ, it always functions as the door to the church. Through baptism the Lord adds the new disciples to the body of believers—His body, the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13). Then they are members of God’s family. One cannot be baptized without joining the church family.

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