Sometimes people ask me, “How do I know when I’m ready to be baptized?” Where baptism is concerned, your readiness depends on a couple of things:
1. Do you understand that you are a sinner and that Christ is the Savior? You don't have to have a detailed theological understanding to be ready for baptism. But you do need to realize that Christ is the only Savior. We are saved by grace through faith, not because of works, Ephesians 2:8-9. So baptism is not a work which is done to earn favor with God. Nothing but the cross of Christ can save us. It is our faith in the finished work of Jesus that saves us, John 3:16. At the same time, the Bible teaches that when we come to faith in Christ, we're called to repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38. This means a willingness to turn from sin and give your life fully to Christ. Jesus himself was baptized, he commanded his followers to be baptized, Matthew 28:19-20, and every example of conversion in the New Testament points to baptism. This was not done to merit salvation, but as a public act of obedience to Christ. Baptism is the moment in which we claim Christ's power to die to ourselves and to receive the resurrection power of Christ, Romans 6:4. When we are baptized, we receive forgiveness of sins and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We can do nothing to earn salvation. But baptism is our decision to say yes to God's free offer of salvation by grace. In baptism we are clothed with Christ, Galatians 3:26-27. So, you don't need a sophisticated understanding of baptism, but you do need to be prepared to claim Christ as your only Savior.
2. Your readiness also depends on being willing to make a full surrender to Christ as the leader and lord of your life. Baptism assumes an unconditional commitment to Christ. I'm not talking about perfection: we'll never get there until we reach heaven. I am talking about a decision to take up the cross every day and follow Christ. This joyful surrender of your will to His will leads to peace and excitement in following Him. It's waving the white flag and choosing to honor Christ as best you can, with the power of His Holy Spirit working in your heart.
There are two extremes to avoid where baptism is concerned: one is to make a premature commitment, not really having counted the cost of following Christ. The other is to think that to be baptized you have to have all of your ducks in a row: in other words, to think that you have to have everything 'just right' in terms of your theological understanding and your level of spiritual maturity. Baptism is not for people who have it all together spiritually: it is for people who understand their helplessness without Christ and want to experience His strength. In baptism we are passive: someone else lowers us into the water and we concede that only God can save us. We rely on His power alone to accomplish what needs to be done in our lives.
So, I urge you to pray over your decision to be baptized. If you understand that you are a sinner and Christ is the only Savior, and you are ready to make a sincere commitment to Christ, then you are ready to be baptized! Don’t wait! Take this important step of obedience to Christ!