How Much Does A Person Need To Know Before They Are Baptised?


I’ve heard many theories over the years concerning how much a person needs to know before they are baptised, some theories have been reasonable in their thinking, but others have simply taken it to the extreme and come across as the ‘church police’, to such an extent that the candidate for baptism feels like they have to pass the ‘standards’ of those who are teaching them.

I remember a few years ago in a Bible study, where the topic of baptism came up, a couple of men asked the question, how much does a person need to know before they are baptised? My reply was simply this, what did Jesus say? But it seems that they weren’t interested in what Jesus says, they were only interested in what THEY had to know before THEY became a Christian.

During the study they came up with a whole list of Scriptures which they felt, everyone must understand before they become a Christian. They believed a person must know ‘the doctrine’ of the church, ‘the organisation’ of the church, and ‘the authority’ of the church, the way worship is ‘practiced’ in the church, but the good news is that they also believed that the candidate for baptism must know about the importance of baptism. You’ll notice that the main focus was on ‘the church’ and not on Jesus.

During the study I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I started to look back at what I had learned before I became a Christian, I remember going through the Jule Miller and Texas Stevens ‘Visualised Bible Study Series’, in which I was taken through a series of lessons on, ‘The Patriarchal Age, ‘The Mosaic Age’, ‘The Christian Age,’ ‘God’s Plan For Redeeming Man’, and ‘The History Of The Lord’s Church’.

Did I fully understand it all, as I do now?

No, I didn’t! In fact, I’m still learning all about these topics, Romans 15:4 / 2 Timothy 3:15 / 2 Peter 3:18.

What Does A Person Need To Know Before Baptism?

I believe the question itself is flawed, the real question we should be asking is, what does the Bible teach about what we should know before being baptised, or even more to the point, what does Jesus say is the requirement before a person is baptised?

Candidates For Baptism Need to Know About Jesus

‘He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’ Mark 16:15-16

Jesus says, the only thing a person needs to know before baptism is belief in Him, John 8:24. Jesus says, before a person becomes a Christian, they simply need to have the ability to believe and understand the Gospel, Acts 8:35.

What is the Gospel?

‘Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’ 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Understanding the Gospel is all about understanding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Who is Jesus? Why did He come? Why was He crucified and buried and what’s the significance of His resurrection? Yes, the church is important, after all He shed His own blood for her, Acts 20:28, but it’s all about Jesus, it’s all about what He did and continues to do.

Candidates For Baptism Need to Know About Their Sinfulness

‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.’ Ephesians 2:1-3

Anyone considering baptism needs to know about Jesus and believe in Him, John 3:36, that belief in Him will move the candidate for baptism towards openly confessing who Jesus is, Romans 10:9-10, and move them to repent, when they realise that Jesus died for their sins at the cross, Luke 13:3 / 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Obviously they need to understand the importance of confessing His Name and what repentance is all about, and they also need to understand what they’re about to do in baptism before being baptised, Acts 2:38 / Romans 6:1-7 / 1 Peter 3:21.

Candidates For Baptism Need To Know the Commitment They Are Making

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20

The decision to be baptised is a serious decision, which should be based on having been taught what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, Luke 14:25-33.

Do People Need To Know ‘All The Doctrine’ Of The Church Before Being Baptised?

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20

Note that Jesus says we are to first, make disciples, how do we make disciples? By teaching the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, secondly, we baptise them, Acts 16:16-33, and thirdly, we teach them ‘all things’, in other words we teach them the doctrine, 2 Timothy 2:2.


During the Bible study I mentioned early, I told these men, if I understood anything before I was baptised, it was that Jesus was real and died to save me, I understood that I was a sinner, who needed to repent and have my many sins forgiven and the only way that was going to happen, was in the waters of baptism, Acts 2:38.

To my shock, I was then told that my baptism wasn’t legitimate and I needed to be baptised again, simply because I didn’t know enough beforehand! God help us!

Going Beyond What Is Written

It came across to me that at that study that any candidate for baptism, really had meet ‘the criteria of these men’ before they can become Christians. The problem with this kind of thinking is, who gets to set the standard concerning ‘HOW MUCH’, does each person need to know beforehand.

It wasn’t long before these men and their families left to plant a congregation of their own, and it wasn’t long after that, that they split again because they soon realised that everyone’s ‘standards’ didn’t stand up with each other’s.

I personally don’t know where these people get the authority to demand such understanding of the Scriptures of others, but they have been taught this nonsense by someone, they are clearly going way beyond what it written and demanding things of others, which Jesus never demanded of anyone before being baptised.

‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ 1 Corinthians 4:6



"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Ephesians 3:20