BAPTISM - WAY BACK THEN, THEN, AND NOW
WAY BACK THEN . . .
Religious archeological study of the land of Israel indicates that the use of immersion, or baptism, began long before the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. Some Jewish Rabbis (teachers) would immerse those who came to them to be their students and followers. The immersion into the water portrayed the giving up of the student's former life on going under the water and pledging a new life to follow his Rabbi upon emerging from the water.
During the time that Jesus was living in Nazareth, his cousin, John the Baptist began his preaching in the wilderness of Judea. His message was simple: "Turn from your sins . . . turn to God . . . for the Kingdom of Heaven is coming soon." The people who came from Jerusalem, all around the Jordan Valley and from all sections of Judea and confessed their sins to John were baptized by him in the River Jordan. Now, in contrast to the immersion of the Rabbi, the going under the water portrayed the giving up of sin and the emerging was a demonstration of pledging to "turn to God." See Matthew 3 in your favorite version of the Bible.
When the time for fulfillment came, Jesus went into the wilderness to be baptized by John. On seeing the approach of Jesus and knowing the purpose of this visit by Jesus, John reacted negatively saying that it was he, John, who should be baptized by Jesus. Jesus insisted and John did baptize Christ to fulfill the scriptures.
The River Jordan as it leaves the Sea of Galilee.
The New Testament does not speak of Jesus himself performing a baptism, but he admonished his disciples to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28 - v. 19. And, in the second chapter of his letter to the Colossians, Paul told the members of that church:
"When you came to Christ he set you free from your evil desires, not by a bodily operation of circumcision but by a spiritual operation, the baptism of your souls. For in baptism you see how your old, evil nature died with him and was buried with him; and then you came up out of death with him into a new life because you trusted the Word of the mighty God who raised Christ from the dead." Lindsell Study Bible, The Living Bible Paraphrased.
Over time, those performing baptism have come to ask each believer two questions, similar to the following, immediately before the actual baptism: "Do you believe that Christ died for your sins?" and "Have you accepted this gift from God and Jesus and invited Him into your heart?"