The earliest record of water baptism in scripture is John the Baptist, and was described as the “baptism of repentance.” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; Acts 19:4) In other words, John the Baptist preached that people should turn from sin to a life of righteousness, and declare that choice publically by being water baptized. Jesus Christ Himself was publically baptized on the day of His formally starting His ministry, and said that it was “fitting to fulfill all righteousness.”
When we come to Christ as sinners and turn–or repent–from sin, we too should make that decision public through water baptism.
1. Water baptism is full-body immersion in water, not merely sprinking. (John baptized in the Jordan River.)
2. Water baptism is only for those who have made a choice to repent of sin. (Infant baptism is actually unscriptural. See Acts 8:36-37 [verse 37 has actually been removed in some translations like the NIV].)
3. Water baptism is not necessary for salvation. John the Baptist taught that salvation comes throughrepentance, not baptism. And even Peter says that baptism is not about the water and our body, but about Christ’s blood and our conscience. Also, Christ told the repentant thief on the cross that he would be in paradise when the man simply prayed in faith and repentance.
4. Water baptism is symbolized in the Great Flood. (1 Peter 3)
5. Water baptism is symbolized in the Exodus. The Red Sea was a point of no return for God’s people leaving Egypt, and is a symbol of water baptism. And the Cloud that led the people by day also represents water baptism (as the Pillar of Fire that led the people by night represents the Holy Spirit baptism).