12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:12-16 (ESV)
“Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on his name.” “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21(ESV)
A person can learn a lot from Acts regarding baptism and what it is, that is if one is willing to read it carefully. Ananias tells Paul to be baptized, and then he explains what baptism is and does, it washes away your sins by calling on the name of Jesus. Or as Peter says it saves you by appealing to God for a good conscience. God gives a good conscience through baptism, so when we make use of it, we are appealing to him, in the manner he has given us for the appeal. In this then we can be certain that he hears our appeal and gives us what we ask for a clean and good conscience washed of sin. It is not the water alone that does these things as it washes dirt from our bodies apart from God’s word, but because this water is now joined with God’s word it now washes our sin. Neither the water apart from God’s word, or the word apart from the water. The appeal separated from the water is actually no longer God’s word.
This is the problem with certain baptist theologies that want to separate the water from the word in one manner or another. They want to say that you don’t actually need baptism for the washing away of sin. They do this in order to maintain baptism as an act of obedience, something you do for God, rather than something in which you are a passive recipient of God’s grace. The problem with this is that it despises the word of God even as it gives lip service to the word of God. God says baptism saves you. God says baptism washes away your sin. God says it is through baptism that you make the appeal to him for a clean conscience, But then man comes along and says, not God couldn’t work that way. We want God to work in a different manner. But it isn’t for us to tell God how he should do what he does. He isn’t our servant, we are his. Sure we can speculate all day long about what God in all his majestic glory can do. He could have ordered us to walk barefoot through a bed of burning coals. He could have told us to just pray the sinner’s prayer. But he tells us to be baptized. And he assures us that through baptism we make the proper appeal to him, and he washes our sins away. And if we just trusted this, then there would not be the tendency to keep making up ceremonies that have no grounding in scripture. For instance, God doesn’t tell us to dedicate our children to him. I understand the desire behind these dedication ceremonies. But I find them a bit ironic. He tells us baptism is for our children. (Acts 2:38-39) No where in the New Testament is there anything about us dedicating our children. And in the Old Testament there is only the first born that is to be dedicated and only if the first born is a son. This is why Mary and Joseph as parents under the Old Testament dedicate Jesus. But us baby sprinklers are told the opposite by Baptists. We are told that there is no command to baptize infants in scripture. Though there clearly is, “This promise is for you and for your children”. See God does that because he actually cares a great deal about your children, much more than even you do. So he wants them to be saved even as he wants you to be saved and so he gives us all baptism through which to be saved. This is a sure and certain promise, a command from God. But to spurn this and dedicate your children instead is to go against God’s word, and despise it. It is the opposite of faith that saves, because faith hears God’s word and trusts it, even when it sounds so simple that it seems beneath the glory of God, still faith thankfully accepts this simple word, and trusts that through it God saves even our children.