What is baptism? The word means “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge” (Thayer). Scripture defines and illustrates the action for us. In Romans 6:3-7 Paul says that in baptism we reenact the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The old man dies and is “buried with him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Colossians 2:12 says we are “buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God.” Baptism is a burial with Christ in water–not a dipping or sprinkling.
Why is baptism important? Consider Colossians 2:12. The larger context of this passage, verses 11-13, tells us clearly that the purpose of baptism is the forgiveness of sins. Verse 11 speaks of “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” and verse 13 concludes the thought by stating, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” See also Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, and Mark 16:16. Baptism is not necessary because there is any particular power in water. Rather, it is necessary because it is in the water of baptism that we come into contact with the blood of Christ, which alone has the power to wash away sins (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5; etc).
Who can be baptized? First, a person must be of an accountable age in order to be baptized. Baptism is for the purpose of washing away sins (Acts 22:16). Sin is a transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4)–it is committed, not inherited. So, a child cannot be baptized because they have not yet reached an age where they can comprehend the magnitude of right and wrong. Second, a person must have met the prerequisites of baptism which include hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), believing in Christ, repenting of sins (Acts 3:19), and confessing faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10). When a person is willing to submit him or herself to everything that God says in reference to salvation, then that person is ready to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.