I have done some research on the history of Christianity and baptism wanting to understand what was taking place after Acts and the Epistles of Paul (third century church) :
NOTE: Remember in the book of Acts, we read that converts were being baptized immediately.
According to the History of Christianity written by Justo Gonzalez, many people who were converted at this time were either those who lived Judiasm all their life and had some basic framework of living for God, or others that were from the Gentile population that had some background in worshipping many gods. The Gentile population grew quickly in churches as they were starting across the land. It was vital that as people were converted, a period of preparation, instruction, and trial took place before baptism.
Baptism took place once a year. It took place on Easter Sunday. The "catechumans" were the baptismal, newly converted, candidates that went through intensive training and shortly before their baptism they were to be examined to see if there were signs of deep conviction of the Christian life. (What a difference from what we do today????)
On Good Friday and Saturday, the candidates were to fast and pray, and then be baptized on the morning of Resurrection Sunday around the same time as the Ressurection of Jesus. Interesting enough, the candidates were completely naked. They seperated the men from the women. I wonder if this was embarassing for the elders of the church.
After the immersion, they came up out of the water to receieve a white robe symbolizing their cleanliness. They were given water to drink to as a sign of being thoroughly cleansed inside and out. They were anointed as being part of a royal priesthood, and given milk and honey symbolizing a sign of the Promised Land, which they were entering. The church along with the candidates proceeded to the meeting place to partake of the Lord's Supper.
According to the Training of the Twelve, baptism was to be done in "living" running water. If there none to be found or in an area where water was scarce, water was poured over the candidate's head three times in the name fo the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Compare what we do today with the Third Century Church. Why only once a year? What is different from today? Should there be more symbolism or leave most symbolism out? Should the church train and test candidates before the baptism as this church did?
I'll be back to show you more if you will follow...thanks, Sleepy Disciple