By Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Covenant Community Church (Irvine, CA), Nov. 1987
In compliance with Christ’s command (Matt. 28:19), Christians have always practiced baptism with water into the Triune name of God, marking the incorporation of the person baptized into the church as Christ’s Body (I Cor. 12:12-13).
However, widely differing ideas about baptism exist among professing Christians. Some claim that it automatically washes away previous sin; some think that children are regenerated by it. At the other extreme, there are those who say that baptism does nothing more than symbolize a person’s own profession of faith in God’s cleansing grace.
The former views see divine power inherent in baptism – yet place it at the disposal of the church. The latter view shifts orientation to man’s action and sees God performing nothing through baptism itself.
The Reformed faith disagrees with each of these lines of thought, holding that the perspective of God’s inspired word on baptism is not only contrary to them, but also much clearer than debates over baptism sometimes pretend. So let us ask, what is the meaning of baptism? And what purpose does it serve?