Let's start at the last book of the Bible (Revelation) and work our way back to the Old Testament.
Rev 9:4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
You are sealed as God's when you are baptized. Without this seal you are not recognized as belonging to God.
John 3:33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
Another verse about the seal. Receiving the testimony is believing what the Bible tells us the gospel is. And as the many verses below will show, baptism is a must.
Matt 22:17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way.
The story above on asking Jesus about paying tax to Caesar shows this truth. This also refers back to the verse above about 'putting on Christ'. We have the image of Christ once baptized. This is an archetype for being sealed.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Some versions read 'clothed with Christ', instead of 'put on Christ'. If we are clothed with Christ that is how we appear to God, Christlike. Thus belonging to God and part of the body of Christ.
Matt 22:12-14 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
This story above again shows how you must be 'clothed with Christ'. The 'wedding garment' comes from being water baptized into Faith in Christ.
Acts 19:2-5 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Above we see Paul asking some new believers about their faith. Again, must be baptized into faith in Christ.
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
We see how you are not part of the 'family' of God until you are baptized into Faith in Christ.
Acts 8:36-38 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Baptism is not about a public profession of your faith, that would be self-righteousness or self-justification which we know is wrong. In the below verse a eunuch was baptized and the only witness who was a believer was Philip, the one who baptized him. It was not done in front of the church body but in the middle of nowhere on the side of a road.
1Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
This verse tells us why we are baptized. It is to walk in Truth before God. It does not mean you are/will be perfect in all you do though we strive to do well and be pleasing to God by rejecting wrong/sin in our lives.
The Great Commission
Twice we have Jesus telling the disciples to go and preach the gospel, baptizing those who believe.
Matt 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Mark 16:14-18 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.*Jesus own words tell us to be baptized. And multiple places in the bible. Also Jesus was baptized to show us 'The Way'.
Archetypes of baptism in the Old Testament
Archetypes of baptism in the Old Testament
Before I relate these we must establish one of the things that is taking place during baptism. The old life (flesh) is being buried when we go under the water and upon coming out we are rising into new life (Spirit) in Christ.
1. Noah's ark
The old life (the world Noah lived in) was totally sinful according to Gods Word. It had to be destroyed and was by the flood.
Those who were saved (Noah's family) passed through the water, and entered into new life.
We see how the old life was buried in water, those who were saved passed through it safely due to Faith and then entered into new life once the flood was over.*The ark represents Faith, as Noah had to build a huge boat on dry ground no where near water. How absurd from a human viewpoint and what great faith in God!!!
2. Release from bondage in Egypt
The old life is slavery in Egypt, which Israel was in due to disobedience to God.
The water to be passed through this time is the Red Sea. The Israelite's showed faith in God when He miraculously parted the waters and they safely passed through.
Then they entered into new life on the other shore to inherit the promised land.
In both stories above we see:
old life being left behind/buried
passing through water
entering into new life
This clearly shows how passing through water is needed to enter into new life. That is what the Old Testament is always doing; pointing to Christ and His coming, and how it is to take place.
Faith and works
These verses from James show part of the essential need for water baptism. The belief, and an act that followed in each case. Water baptism has many facets and one is that it is the first step of obedience in the flesh for any believer in the Gospel of Christ.
James 2:20-26 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
This verse below talks about different works, works of self-righteousness. This is directed at the Pharisees and others who create their own doctrines and think they are saved by 'being good'.
Eph 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Also, we also have the story of Nicodemus:
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
He goes on to upbraid Nicodemus on being a 'master of Israel' and not understanding the born again process.
John 3:10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
Now why would Jesus bring up being a master of Israel?
A master of Israel implies Nicodemus knows Gods Word inside and out. This would only be the OT at this point in time. Yet, there are no baptisms in the OT. However, there are two archetypes I know of in the OT mentioned above and Nicodemus should have recognized them also.
What is related here is that water baptism must happen. It is part of Faith in Christ. Baptism alone, in and of itself, does not save you. Likewise, without repentence you have nothing.
We are saved by grace through faith, but faith without repentance and water baptism is dead and isn't true faith at all.
Baptism is part of the foundation of faith in Christ. And without a true foundation we know nothing stands. We must stand on The Rock, not shifting sands of self-righteousness and intellectually 'thinking' ourselves to salvation. Houses of worship are filled with 'nice' people who think Jesus is wonderful but don't truly know Him. Faith/salvation demands obedience and action in the form of repentance and water baptism by immersion. Every translation of the original text using the word baptize/baptism in the Bible translates out to submerge/immerse/dip. Trust and obey. Believe and be baptized.
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Infant baptism is dubious as the babe is not immersed in water or able to understand and confess. (see below verse) It only serves as a way for parents to say they will raise the child in knowledge of God, the Bible and faith in Christ. The child will need to make their own profession of faith at a later time when they are able and willing. Hopefully they will.
Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Please see the section on Know Jesus to learn more about coming into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.