Is Water Baptism a must?
Yes. The Bible says so!
Water Baptism is not an invention of a man or a Church. God the Father instituted it (Jn 1:33). God the Son commanded it (Mt 28:19). God’s servants inspired by God the Holy Spirit instructed the believers to be baptised (Acts 2:38). The early Church consistently practised it (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 9:18; 10:47; etc).
The only person who never needed to be baptised was Jesus. He had no sin to repent of or to be cleansed from. Even John the Baptist tried to prevent Him. But Jesus said it was to “fulfil all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). And when He came out of water the Father testified, “In You I am pleased” (Lk 3:22). Baptism is thus an act of obedience.
Spiritual experiences, however rich they may be, are no substitute for water baptism. Cornelius the godly military official had his prayers answered and alms approved. He was even baptised with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. But apostle Peter “ordered” that he must be baptised in water (Acts 10:1,2,45,46,48).
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward experience. It is a testimony to our death, burial and resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3-6). It is not to be thought of as a mere ceremony. It is “the answer of a good conscience towards God” (1 Pet 3:21).
One should be baptised immediately after believing on Christ as his personal Saviour. The three thousand Jews who received Christ on the Day of Pentecost were baptised the same day (Acts 2:41). The Philippian jailor was baptised the same night when he believed on Christ (Acts 16:33). After Paul’s encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus, when Ananias met him, he asked Paul, “Why delay? Get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away.” Delayed obedience amounts to disobedience.
No baptism before personal conversion is valid. Where is burial before death? After a nominal Christian or a non-Christian repents to the “One Father” and accepts the “One Lord,” he must obey in the “One Baptism” as a testimony to his “One Faith” (Eph 4:5).