Wilson Kenerly writes from S. Paulo, Brazil where he serves the local congregation as an elder.

Many elders hesitate to perform the rite of baptism because they know little or nothing about the technique or the significance of the ordinance of baptism by immersion.

This article is written to aid elders who have had no instruction in the performance of this ordinance so that they may observe it with grace, dignity, and beauty. It also suggests to elders who practice baptism how to improve their method of observing the ordinance so as more perfectly to "demonstrate the gospel" as commanded by our risen Lord (Matt. 28:19-20).


• Call the congregation to worship and preparation for the service of this ordinance with the singing of a hymn, such as "Faith of Our Fathers," whether the baptism is to be performed at the beginning of the service or after the sermon has been preached.
• After the singing of the hymn, the elder's voice is heard from behind the baptistry, clearly and plainly saying:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight (Matt. 3:3).

The elder moves slowly toward the front of the baptistry until he faces the congregation, still speaking:

Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2).

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, "I have need to be baptized ofthee, and earnest thou to me?" And Jesus answering said unto him, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:13-17).

Baptism was evidently in deep water, because John, recording the baptisms by John the Baptist, said,

John was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there (John 3:23).

Paul the Apostle gives a picture of the significance of baptism in the Christian's experience when, in Romans 6:3-5, he declares:

Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.

This ordinance is to be observed until Christ comes again. For Jesus says,

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into 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' (Matt. 28:19-20).

Furthermore, brethren, Jesus would not have us consider this to be a military command, with penalties attached. It is, rather, a loving appeal from our loving Lord asking us to willingly, voluntarily, and enthusiastically give Him our full allegiance. The Lord Jesus Christ asks for our obedience through the impelling and propelling and compelling power of love. He says:

If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).

Beloved friends, this ordinance preaches the complete gospel in one act. Notice how much of the Gospel it covers:

When Jesus was baptized He declared, by His burial in the watery grave and His rising there from, that He would die and rise again. For "Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification." The death of Christ and His resurrection are the heart of the atonement, which is the center of the gospel of salvation. Thus at the beginning of His ministry He proclaimed the purpose of His coming to the world. Moreover, the Scriptures state that before the New Birth man is "dead in trespasses and in sin." After conversion he "passes from death unto life." Of this also baptism is a symbol.

Baptism also symbolizes the union of the believer with Christ in His death and resurrection experience. It also programs the sinner's death to the "old life" and his resurrection to the "new life" in Christ. Brethren, we should, therefore, listen again to the appealing word of our Lord and Master:

If ye love me ye will do the things I say, for ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you (Rom. 6:3a).

  • Prayer—This prayer should be for the candidates, that they may have a growing Christian experience and have courage to witness for Christ and become faithful and loyal members of Christ's body on earth.
  • Hymn—The congregation or the choir will then sing some familiar and appropriate hymn, such as "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow."
  • In the Water— The elder turns to the candidate entering the baptismal waters and holds out his hand to receive the candidate and guide him to the proper position in the baptistry.

The candidate, on reaching the appointed place, gives a handkerchief to the minister, who places it in his robe in readiness to wipe the water from the candidate's face after the immersion.

The candidate clasps his hands across his breast.

The elder, standing just behind the candidate, asks: My brother (sister), do you believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior?

The candidate answers: I do.

The elder (raising his right hand in blessing) says: Brother John Smith (Sister Mary Jones), on the profession of your faith in the Lord Jesus and in obedience to His divine command, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Lord Jesus the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The congregation or the choir sings softly as the elder steadily lowers the candidate into the water and raises him from the water. If this song is carefully synchronized with the movements of the minister, there will be no noise of splashing water, which so often detracts from the beauty of this service.

When the candidate stands erect, take the handkerchief from your robe and wipe his face. Present the candidate with a rosebud, carnation, or whatever flower is provided.

The elder moves between the candidate and the audience as he helps the candidate to the steps leading from the baptistry.

After having accomplished the first baptism, turn around slowly and deliberately to receive the next candidate, and follow the same procedure until all the candidates are immersed.

  • The Last Hymn— When the last candidate has been baptized, ask the congregation to stand and sing "My Jesus, I Love Thee" or some other appropriate hymn.
  • The Call and Blessing— The elder follows with a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing. He closes the service of baptism somewhat as follows:

Lord, it has been done as thou hast commanded; yet there is room. If there are any here who would follow Christ in baptism we extend to you our heartiest and most earnest invitation to do so. After the sermon we shall give you an opportunity to come forward to express your willingness to follow Christ through the waters of baptism. I shall gladly meet you at the altar.

  • The Sermon— The elder will then conclude the service with the sermon and invitation and benediction.

There is an advantage in having the baptism at the beginning of the service. It is unnecessary to duplicate the Scripture reading and prayers, since they have been covered in the introductory remarks of the baptismal service.

Moreover, the elder can give an invitation at the close of the sermon without being unduly hurried. Also, the candidates can return to the auditorium in time for the sermon.

When the people know there is to be a baptismal service at the beginning of the service they usually are present at that time.

There is no more beautiful or meaningful ordinance of the church when baptism is properly observed. Therefore, plan every detail of the service with the utmost care and perform the ordinance unhurriedly and determine to "demonstrate the gospel" with beauty, precision, and spiritual dignity.

Wilson Kenerly writes from S. Paulo, Brazil where he serves the local congregation as an elder.