Baptism is quite simply a physical demonstration of a spiritual victory. It is a testimony of what has taken place in the person being baptized, as well as a testimony of what Jesus did that enabled this victory to take place. After Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the grave, and before He ascended to be with His Father in Heaven, He left these instructions to His disciples:
….“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 NIV)
This passage is commonly referred to as “The Great Commission.” Part of the Great Commission Jesus gave His disciples is to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The word “baptize” means “to immerse or submerge.” So obviously water baptism is to immerse under water; this is what “baptism” means. But why do we do it? Many people want to know if baptism is really necessary. Let’s take a look at these two questions: First, why are Christians baptized? And second, is water baptism necessary?
Why Are Christians Baptized?
I suppose this is a deep enough subject for a doctoral thesis, but let’s focus on three reasons for Christian baptism:
- Baptism identifies believers with Christ. The book of Romans speaks to this new identity with Jesus:Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus 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. (Romans 6:3-4 NIV)
Jesus died for our us. His burial and victorious resurrection enable us to die to the old self that is captive to the power of sin, and rise to a new life, connected to God and free from the bondage of sin and its eternal consequences. The act of being buried under water and raised up again identifies us with Jesus. It also identifies us with other Christians, forming the “Body of Christ,” the church, which is made up of believing followers.
- Being baptized is a public profession of faith. Standing up in public, being immersed under water, and raised up again, tells a story without the storyteller saying a word. It is announcing to the physical and spiritual world, “I belong to Jesus.”Baptism reenacts Jesus’s death, burial (being immersed) and resurrection (being raised back up). It also tells the story of what has already occurred in the life of the one being baptized, since baptism occurs after salvation. The old person, the one separated from God by sin, the one enslaved to sin, is gone. That person has died and been buried (immersion under water), only to be raised again to a new life (raised out of the water), in which the debt for all sins has been paid.
Jesus’s payment for your sins enables a relationship with the Lord, and it’s also a statement to the devil and his minions that you are no longer up for grabs. In essence, being baptized is preaching a sermon without saying a word.
- Being baptized is an act of obedience or submission. The clear instruction in the Bible is to be baptized after salvation. Jesus modeled baptism by receiving water baptism Himself just prior to His public ministry. And then , we see the pattern of salvation then baptism taught and enacted in the book of Acts, which describes the beginning of the New Covenant church. So in baptism, the believer is surrendering to God’s will for His people. If a person is saved, that means they have said “yes” to Jesus in their life as Lord and Savior.If your Lord desires you to be baptized, then by definition you are surrendering to Him when you do. God wants His children to be identified with Him and to publically profess their faith. Baptism is surrendering to the Lord’s plan.
Is Baptism Necessary?
Actually, this question has been addressed above: Baptism identifies the believer with Christ. Baptism is a public profession of faith. And, baptism is an act of submission. Perhaps a better question is “why would a believer not submit to baptism?” Baptism does not save; receiving Jesus’s payment for sin accomplishes salvation. Baptism occurs after salvation, but it is a natural act of someone who has received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. You’ll still go to heaven, and your spirit will come alive, but you might not experience many other benefits of the Christian life here on Earth.
If you are a believer who has trusted in Jesus for salvation, and haven’t been baptized, don’t delay! Talk with a church leader about doing so. You can also contact me if you have any other questions about this very important step.
If you know a Christian who hasn’t been baptized, talk with them about it, or share this post with them. When it comes to being baptized into the Body of Christ, the more the merrier!