Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water.
It is a New Testament practice, but it has roots in the Old Testament. Baptism has deep symbolism for all Christians.
So why do Christians get baptized?
Getting baptized is an act of obedience for the Christian.
Baptism is commanded in the Great Commission, and it was widely practiced in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ himself was baptized by John the Baptist –who proclaimed Jesus by saying;
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”John 1:29, ESV
There had been a Jewish history of ritual washing in mikvahs for a long time. But Christian baptism goes even deeper and further than that.
What is Christian Baptism?
Christians are called to obey the Word of God. A big thing that differentiates the followers of Christ from others is obedience.
Christians obey Christ because they love Him.
One of the ways we obey his word is by getting baptized. Baptism is an outward sign of our faith in Christ and obedience to God.
It is a public declaration that we have chosen to follow Jesus and His commands.
John the Baptist -the forerunner of Jesus Christ- introduced the message of baptism in the New Testament.
He told the people that they need to repent of their sins and be baptized as a sign that they have been forgiven.
Many that came to him among the Jews were baptized in the river Jordan.
Jesus too subjected Himself to the baptism of John.
He did so not because He had sins that needed to be repented of, but because He came to fulfill all righteousness as the perfect Passover Lamb of God without spot or blemish.
He came to be a perfect example of obedience unto God which we can all see and follow.
John told the people he was not the Christ, but that “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” (John 1:27, NKJV).
He was referring to Jesus the Savior of mankind.
And John the Baptist was specially qualified to know. Read my article about why Jesus Christ said there was no greater prophet than John the Baptist plus the amazing back story about him you seldom learn about in church.
When Jesus started His ministry, He built upon the foundation John laid. He told the people “repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2, KJV).
There was no record of Jesus baptizing people in the three years of His ministry.
This is because baptism should follow salvation which could only come from His death and resurrection.
When He died on the cross He took away the sins of humanity and opened the door of salvation for all.
As Jesus Christ was departing the earth to go back to the Father, He gave the all-important command:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus tied baptism to the work of evangelism He gave to the disciples.
This tells us that it is a very crucial step that we must all take to make our salvation complete and to make us receive its full benefits!
A baptism is a powerful act of obedience that shows our commitment to God.
Why is Baptism With Water Important to Christians?
When we are baptized, we are identifying ourselves with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
We are proclaiming that we have been forgiven and cleansed from our sins.
The death and resurrection of Christ is the central theme of the Bible.
After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden God said,
“The seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent.” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).
This means Jesus Christ has permanently defeated Satan and put an end to his authority over mankind.
God waited till the appointed time to fulfill the prophecy.
When Jesus came He told His disciples, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”(John 3:14, NIV).
Here’s where you can read my article about the special prophetic significance of Moses and the Bronze Snake in the wilderness and how this amazing Old Testament story points to Jesus Christ!
That signified the type of death He had to die.
When His time came, He was arrested, cruelly beaten, and nailed to the cross together with two condemned criminals.
His judgment and death shook all of Jerusalem but that was nothing compared to what it brought to humanity.
God ordained Christ to be the Savior of mankind.
This was foretold by many Old Testament prophets long before He was born.
He is to take our place in judgment and die for us. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death.
The death of Jesus was substitutional.
This means he died in our place. His death was our death. His burial was our burial. His resurrection was our resurrection.
And baptism is a picture of death, burial and resurrection. His… and ours!
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:3-4 ESV
On the cross, He carried the sins of humanity and took them away forever.
For us to be beneficiaries of this grace we must identify with His death in a way God had ordained.
God wants us to confess our sins, and believe that we have been forgiven because Christ shed His blood for the remission of our sins and our justification.
What’s the Difference between God and Jesus? See the mind-blowing answer here.
God also wants us to fully identify with the great sacrifice made by Jesus, so He ordained that everyone who repents of their sins be baptized by water immersion.
A new convert who had received Christ must be dipped in water during baptism. The water must cover the person completely, signifying that he had been buried with Christ.
The person is lifted from the water to signify that he has resurrected with Christ.
When Jesus was resurrected from the grave, He had a new body different from the body that was nailed to the cross and died.
He rose in power and glory such that no one can arrest or hold him anymore.
In the same way, baptism allows us to live a new life through the power of the resurrected Christ.
Why Baptize with Water?
Baptism is a ceremonial washing with water. But it is also much more than that.
The earth was formed by water during the creation. We are giving witness of the new creation when we get baptized.
Our first birth was from our mother where we were inside the womb in water. Our new birth is also from water, but now it is from water and the Spirit!
God does not want us to make our conversion from darkness to light a secret. He wants us to make it as public as possible.
The reason is that He wants us to encourage others who will hear or see what He has done in our lives to also surrender to Christ.
Baptism is an activity that is carried out in a public place.
We have means of washing ourselves clean in our houses, but God wants us to partake in a public “washing” so that everyone can testify to it that we have been cleansed.
But it’s more than just washing. It’s also immersion into a new life. Consider the following.
The River Jordan in the Bible is noted for two major events:
First, Elisha told Naaman the leprous Syrian army general to go and dip himself there seven times so that his leprosy can be healed. (See 2Kings 5:10).
Naaman was reluctant at first because he saw the water as dirty and unfit for a man of his status.
His servants persuaded him and he later obeyed.
After he dipped himself in the river the seventh time, the Bible recorded that his leprosy was healed.
Not only that, but his skin became as smooth as that of a young child!
The second event that made the river Jordan famous was when Jesus surrendered Himself to be baptized there by John.
No one would have noticed anything special about this event because many people were coming for the same thing.
But the Bible says as Jesus was coming out of the water after John had baptized Him, the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and alighted on Him, then God spoke from heaven.
"This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17, NIV).
The whole thing happened in public and John and others who were present saw it and testified to it.
There was nothing special about the river Jordan, it is not different from any other river.
God could just as easily use any other river if He had wanted to.
All He wants us to learn is that any river or anything can be used as means of tapping into miracles or supernatural occurrences when we obey Him.
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22b, ESV
Like Naaman, anyone might look at washing in a public river as something trivial but in it, the power of God is made manifest and our salvation is complete.
In the book of Acts (see Acts 10:34-43), when Peter was preaching in the house of Cornelius the Centurion, the Holy Ghost fell upon them even though they were gentiles and had not been properly discipled.
Peter thought they were not qualified to receive the Holy Spirit.
But God released His Spirit upon them and they began to speak in other tongues to the great surprise of the Jews who followed Peter.
I thought I could have leaped from earth to heaven at one spring when I first saw my sins drowned in the Redeemer’s blood.Charles Spurgeon
Peter did not allow this great and unexpected miracle to make him overlook the need for baptism. He said:
“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47, NIV).
The arrest and death of Jesus Christ were public events.
Even after He was resurrected God used all the means He had chosen to make it public.
If we claim to belong to Christ, if we hope to share in His glory we must be willing to show it to the world through baptism.
Baptism is the Means of Entering God’s Family
God loves us so much that He never hides his feeling that He wants to be not only our Creator but also our Father.
The book of Romans 8:15 says He has given us the spirit of adoption wherein we can call Abba, Father.
God wants a strong and cordial father-son relationship with us so that He can perfect His eternal plan in our lives.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
How do we become children of God? The answer is we must be born again.
That is, we must confess our sins, repent of them, and obtain forgiveness from God, thereafter we must be baptized.
Mark 16:16, (ESV) says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Also, Acts 2:38, (NIV) says “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Baptism does not only symbolize the washing away of our sins because water is involved, it also means we are now dead to the old sinful life we used to live before we met Christ.
It also means that we were raised from “death with Christ” to a new “life with Christ” that makes us partake of His glory.
This often brings unexplained joy and peace to people after they have willingly surrendered to be baptized.
The Ethiopian eunuch in the Bible had the same experience.
He was confused in his stately chariot as he read the book of Isaiah. (Acts 8: 26-40).
God directed Philip to him, who preached the gospel of Christ to him using the scriptures he was reading.
The man got the message and repented, and as they drove past a river he requested to be baptized. Philip obliged and baptized him right then and there.
The man went back to his country saved and filled with indescribable joy!
God’s family is for everyone, but baptism is one of the necessary steps we have to take to become members of this great family.
Baptism is not to be taken lightly. It is a very joyful -yet important matter.
It is the outward sign of the greatest thing that could ever happen in the heart of a human being –the passage from darkness to light, from rebellion to obedience, from chaos to order, from death to life.
It is a sign of the power that has transformed the lives of hardened criminals and delivered many that were demon-possessed out of the shackles of Satan.
This is the same power that the Holy Spirit has used in so many to perform diverse miracles, signs, and wonders across the ages.
As people repent of their sins and are baptized for the remission of their sins, they become joined to the family of God.
They become empowered by the Holy Spirit as the disciples demonstrated in the book of Acts in the Bible.
Baptism is a blessing that opens up the next chapter in our lives to do exploits for God in our generation.