I suppose the issue of baptism has been so divisive within the church because of man’s proclivity toward tradition. We hear this most often in the phrase, “Well, that’s just how I was raised.” As if that is an authoritative argument. I propose that we ask with Paul, “What saith the Scripture?” (Rom. 4:3)
There are 4 views of baptism within Christendom that have been debated for hundreds of years.
Baptismal Regeneration (baptism washes away sin and saves the soul) is the common doctrine of the Roman Catholic tradition as well as the Lutheran Church though there are slight differences even among these two. While the Lutheran believes that the act of baptism is ineffectual unless the person already has faith the Catholic church teaches that baptism confers grace (ex opera operato) and is sufficient in itself to save the soul. Robert Kolb, ordained Lutheran minister and professor Concordia College, very clearly outlines the Lutheran view. “’Baptism…saves’ (I Pet. 3:21). The apostle Peter was direct an simple…(baptism) gives salvation, that is, new life in Christ…” Therefore, this is a need in these churches for infant baptism to wash away original sin and regenerate the soul for entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.
Covenantal Baptism (baptism is a Sign and Seal of the New Covenant) is the common doctrine of Reformed & Presbyterian churches. Just as God set up the covenant of circumcision with Abraham to be a sign and seal of God’s people during the Old Testament age, so Go has set up the covenant of baptism with the church to be a sign and seal of God’s people during the church age. (Col. 2:11-12) This gives way to the proliferation of infant baptism, not as salvific act, but as a sign of being in a Christian home and a seal of eventual saving faith.
Salvation Occasion Baptism (baptism as the culminating act of salvation) is the common doctrine of Church of Christ and Christian churches. According to John D. Castelein, professor of contemporary Christian theology at Lincoln Christian College, “In (baptism), God enters into a covenantal relationship with an individual, and, in turn, that individual knowingly and willingly accepts God’s offer of restored fellowship.” Baptism is not merely a symbol of your faith but is the act of faith that saves the soul. Salvation is baptism and baptism is salvation. This is why when asking many Christians if they have ever been saved, they will reply with, “Oh yes, I was baptized on…” There is no distinction between salvation (receiving Christ as Savior) and baptism for they have been taught that they are one in the same. Therefore, in many of these churches people are asked to come forward to be baptized and very little emphasis is given on repentance and receiving Christ by faith through prayer for repentance and receiving Christ is baptism.
Believer’s Baptism (baptism is an outward symbol of personal faith in Christ) is the common doctrine of Baptist churches. Baptism is neither sacramental nor covenantal but purely symbolic. Baptism is done out of obedience to Christ (Matt. 28-19-20), identification with Christ (Rom. 6:4) and symbolic of our repentance and faith in Christ (Matt. 3:2, 6). It is believed that baptism is only offered to those who have personally come to Christ by faith, repented of unbelief and received Christ as seen in the pattern of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41). Therefore, someone must be first saved and then baptized as a symbol of that salvation. Baptism must be by immersion only keeping with the symbolism of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection as well as the examples given in the New Testament seem to indicate immersion. (Acts 8:38-39; Matt. 3:16) Obviously, I would side with those who teach Believer’s Baptism.
 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 1998), 1100.
 John H. Armstrong, Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 91.
 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 1998), 1103-4.
 John H. Armstrong, Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 130.