The other day I was listening to the radio and I heard that there was a church looking into how it could reach more believers through the internet but also how they could include them in such things as communion, tithing and baptism. When I first heard this I was a bit confused, and to be honest, so were the radio hosts I was listening to. How can you possibly baptize someone online? For years I have heard that baptism is a public profession of faith and all the baptisms I had witnessed were done in front of the church or loved ones, including my own.
While thinking about this, I realized I would have to search the scriptures to read what they said about baptism. Of course we know that there is no mention of google in the Bible but there is many accounts of baptism that we can make reference to. The first mention is in Matthew 3 and this seems like a fitting place to begin seeing as the person being baptized is Jesus himself.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”
Well I don’t know about you but my baptism didn’t go that way. The skies didn’t part, the room only held a few close friends and family members, and it was pretty much the norm for what I have seen of other baptisms. The moment, although very meaningful in my spiritual walk, was not made more or less meaningful by the details. Who was in attendance or where the baptism was held did not contribute to the “effectiveness” of my baptism.
So because my baptism was done in person and so was Jesus’ I can’t tell you from personal experience what it would look like to be baptized online but here are a few things that I have learned from scripture. You don’t need to be Jesus to baptize people. In fact according to John 4:2 Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples and in Acts 19 we see that Paul is actually baptizing again the people who had first been baptized by John the baptist.
Acts 19:1-7: And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
So according to these verses the only prerequisite for baptism is that you need to believe that Jesus is God and He died and rose again to pay the price of our sins.
Second, despite popular opinion, baptism is not a ‘public profession of faith.’ This is something that the church has adapted baptism to be but nowhere in the Bible does it make reference to that. In fact you don’t need to have a crowd of people. As we learn in Acts chapter 8 Phillip baptizes the Eunuch basically in the middle of nowhere. There was nobody around and they just happened to come across a body of water. Due to this, there was no planning, no ceremony afterwards and no time to invite the “church” to celebrate this moment with them.
My final thoughts bring me to two parts of scripture. First in Acts chapter 8 verse 36 when the Eunuch says to Phillip, “What can stand in the way of me being baptized?” and second in 1 Peter 3:21 it says 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers having been subjected to him. For both the Eunuch and in the words of Peter, the most important thing to happen was for the focus to be on the salvation offered through Jesus’ death.
So in perspective of baptism via the internet I think there is some serious thought to be had before we write it off because, although the Bible does not mention the internet, it does give us some good reference points that the purpose is the decision to be baptized and in doing so recognizing the salvation Jesus’ resurrection has offered us, not how, when or where the baptism occurs. The glorifying moment is that another person has come to realize the glorious gift of the Savior Jesus Christ and has made the decision to follow Him.
I do want to add that although I can see how it could work, I don’t understand why we would need to. My first point of baptism is that any believer is qualified to baptize another person so why do we look to our pastors, ministers or priests to do the traditional baptism in the baptismal tank in front of a crowd of people. So repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins… Acts 2:38 says it all.