This coming Sunday afternoon I have the privilege of baptizing some people into Christ. This is an interesting experience for me as over the years I have baptized people as an entranceway into membership into a specific denomination. After the baptism usually the person is accepted as a member of the congregation, but Sunday we are simply baptizing people who have identified with Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:3-4 reads, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
There is a great deal being said in these two short verses. We are “baptized into Christ,” and “baptized into His death.” We are also, “buried with Him in baptism,” that, “we too may live a new life.”
Baptism doesn’t save a person since salvation comes from faith alone. Baptism is an outward personal identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism is pronouncing to others that you have turned your back on the old life of sin and now have put your confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ who cleanses you of all sins. It is a public confession that you believe through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus your sins have been carried to the cross and you stand forgiven of past, present and future sins.
Baptism has a powerful message attached to it that I believe is more powerful than any sermon. When you stand in the water you are symbolizing Jesus on the cross and when you are lowered into the water you symbolize Jesus going into the tomb and as you are raised up out of the water you are participating with Jesus resurrection.
Baptism doesn’t make you born again but because you are born again you are baptized. For many years I had this all mixed up and believed baptism was the great cleanser of sins, but over the years I have come to the Biblical conclusion that Jesus is the great cleanser of sins and baptism is simply the outward identification and acknowledgement of an individual in that forgiving power found at the cross.
Baptism isn’t about taking months and months of Bible studies in order to prove you know enough to be accepted by Jesus. In all eleven-baptism passages in Acts baptism was spontaneous with the power of the Holy Spirit that convicted of sin and the need for forgiveness. Baptism in the New Testament is always an outward expression of an inward change of heart that puts Jesus foremost in the life of an individual.
Of course it is important for people being baptized to have an understanding of the great teachings of the Bible, but baptism shouldn’t be seen as the final reward for passing an exam or fulfilling all the requirements of a test. Baptism is a personal decision to follow Jesus and proclaim publicly that we have turned our back on rebellion and indifference towards God. It is a personal statement of belief and conviction that Jesus now reigns in the heart.
Will we be some sort of super Christian after our baptism? No, we will continue to be a sinner, but also a forgiven sinner. Our lives will have ups and downs and discouragements but something will have changed. We know we have forgiveness and acceptance and that our commitment to Jesus is real and carry us through.
1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” We all receive the Holy Spirit upon our conversion and in this sense have all been baptized into the Holy Spirit. Our baptism is also a statement of willingness to be led and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to understand our sin and gives strength to walk away from them. Just as importantly the Spirit gives desire and joy in living the Christian life and sharing our faith with others.
Baptism is both a surrendering of our sins and a giving of our life over to Jesus to guide and lead us as He determines best. It is a casting off of the old selfish way of living with all its baggage and a taking on the peace and assurance of God’s great salvation. Luke 3:16 states, “John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John of course was talking about Jesus and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon all who would be followers of Jesus. Just as fire purges dross from metal (Malachi 3:3) so God purges the junk from our hearts through the fire of the Holy Spirit burning with in us.
I am looking forward to Sunday afternoon and the baptism of my friends because it is the visible work of God working upon the heart of believers that lead us all into the hands of God. In a sense as we participate and watch the baptism we all enter anew into the relationship that the people being baptized are experiencing. It is a time for us all to recommit to Jesus as the Spirit passes over.
* Many people around the globe are currently experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death, for the love of their God. These people know pain and suffering. They need our support and prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…