Every Christian should have a clear understanding of water baptism because of the beautiful picture it portrays of the transformation that occurs when we trust Christ. As part of being fully devoted disciples who make disciples, we want to fulfill Christ’s command in Matthew 28:19 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…
Before we look specifically at baptism, let’s take a brief look at the question, “What is a Christian?” Simply stated, a Christian is one who is certain that, through faith, he has received eternal life through Jesus Christ. The Bible is very clear that salvation and eternal life are gifts received through no merit or effort of our own.
• “The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b)
• “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Ephesians 2:8 points to a faith and trust that involves much more than merely giving intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Bible is clear that Christians can be certain of their relationship with Jesus Christ and that eternal life is found in nothing or in no one else but Him.
• “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-13)
A Christian then is someone who is trusting in Christ alone to receive the free gift of eternal life that God offers to everyone who believes. John 1:12 promises that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.”
The first mention of baptism in the New Testament is in association with the ministry of John the Baptist (literally, John the Baptizer). As people came to John confessing their sins, be baptized them in the Jordan River. John was quick to point out, however, that there was another baptism that was far more important (the Holy Spirit’s) and that it would be given by one who was far more important than he (Jesus the Messiah).
• “I baptize you in water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I and I am not even fit to remove His sandals; He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 3:11)
Baptism with water points to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, which is the moment of introduction into the Body of Christ. Every person who has placed his trust totally in Jesus Christ and has been saved by grace through faith has also been baptized by the one Holy Spirit into this spiritual Body of Christ. The person who is baptized in the Spirit is different. God has moved in and taken up residence in his life.
Water baptism confirms that one has already been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. It also indicates and illustrates other very important truths.
1. WATER BAPTISM INDICATES OWNERSHIP.
Jesus himself commanded the church to baptize those who become his followers “…in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) The phrase can be more accurately translated “baptizing them in the Name”, indicating that the baptized person is closely bound to and actually becomes the property of the one into whose Name he is baptized. It was clearly understood by those who were baptized in the early days of the church that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) was their owner. Remember, it is not water baptism that completes this transaction for ownership. This transaction took place because Jesus died for us on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins and we then accepted his sacrifice as God’s provision for our sin. However, when we take the step of water baptism and are baptized “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” we are taking a step affirming that God is our owner and that we are His purchased possession. “You are not your own, for you have been bought with a price…” (1Corinthians 6:19-20)
2. WATER BAPTISM INDICATES CLEANSING.
God’s Word is explicitly clear that it is only the blood of Christ that can cleanse one from sin.
• “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
In fact, there is no forgiveness at all apart from the shedding of His blood.
• “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
The water used in baptism has no power at all as a cleansing agent, but does provide us with a symbol of the cleansing power of Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross. Water baptism is a picture of the fact that you have been forgiven and cleansed through Jesus’ death on the cross.
3. WATER BAPTISM INDICATES IDENTIFICATION.
Being immersed in water is a reminder that when we turn in faith to Christ we desire to be immersed in and identified with Him. Philippians 3:10 is a beautiful expression of this immersion:
• “…that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection of the fellowship of His sufferings, being confirmed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10)
We must not forget that our identification with Christ has already taken place as we were baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, resulting in a total identification with the mind and heart of God.
• “Do you not know all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized unto His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-5)
4. WATER BAPTISM INDICATES INTENTION.
Finally, water baptism is a step affirming our intention to continue to “walk in the newness of life in Christ” (Romans 6:5), which is clearly God’s intent for us. He is the One who has enables us to repent and to turn from our sins to Christ and He is the One who will continue to provide us with all that we need to continue our new way of life. Water baptism gives us a beautiful opportunity to declare our intention to follow in our Father’s footsteps.
Throughout the history of the church, new believers have declared their intention to follow Christ under a variety of circumstances. During the early days of the church new believers were often baptized in the presence of unbelievers knowing they might suffer persecution for their act of devotion. Now, new believers are often baptized in the presence of others who will rejoice with them and encourage them in their walk with Christ.
While water baptism is but a sign or symbol, as we have seen, baptism by immersion seems to be most consistent with Scripture. It also provides us with a vivid picture of our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. For these reasons, in our fellowship at Grace Community, we baptize by immersion.
Once you have a clear understanding that God wants you to take this step of water baptism and you have made it your purpose to obey Him, there is one other very important and meaningful thing you can do. You can personally invite those whom you would like to be present at your baptism. What a powerful example your baptism is to those who have not yet turned to Christ. And what an encouragement your obedience will be to those who are followers of Christ.
What an exciting time it would be to have several of your friends and family present at your baptism as you take this step indicating that you have been baptized into the Body of Christ.