Original Research

Water baptism as church membership identity in Nigeria

Solomon O. Ademiluka
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 56, No 1 | a2842 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v56i1.2842 | © 2022 Solomon O. Ademiluka | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2022 | Published: 29 June 2022

About the author(s)

Solomon O. Ademiluka, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, Faculty of Human Resources, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria


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Abstract

In the New Testament (NT), water baptism symbolises forgiveness of sins for the baptised, and their identification with Jesus Christ and the church as a body, but not the means of salvation. Most Nigerian churches involve baptism in certain practices, which apparently treat baptism as proof of salvation. This article examined such practices and assessed the extent to which they conform to the NT purpose of baptism. Employing the historical and descriptive methods, this research found that in the NT baptism was the means of public confession of Jesus as one’s Lord. Although several passages in the gospels and Acts give the impression that salvation is tied to baptism, there are many NT passages which make salvation absolutely God’s grace. This article discovered some church practices in Nigeria that suggest that water baptism is necessary for salvation. This attitude is seen in individual denominations making baptism their membership identity. Some other practices treat baptism as proof of salvation and holiness, which include denial of baptism and full membership to polygamists and making baptism a prerequisite for certain privileges. This article concluded that these practices contradict the NT purpose of baptism in that it was intended for identification with Christ and the universal church, not as membership identity of local church groups, or evidence of holiness.

Contribution: This research is a contribution in New Testament theology. It argues that the adoption of water baptism as church membership identity in Nigeria, contradicts the original purpose of the sacrament.


Keywords

water baptism; John the Baptist; New Testament baptism; membership identity; Nigerian churches

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