The What and Why of Baptism

What is the point and purpose of baptism?

Allow me share three points of purpose:

  • Water baptism is a public, outward testimony that indicates a personal, inward faith. It gives evidence of the inner change that has already occurred in the believer’s life when he or she was “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Baptism identifies the believer with the message of the gospel, the Person of Jesus Christ, and other believers.
  • Baptism associates the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and signifies the believer’s death to the old life and his or her resurrection as a new creation in Christ.

See, baptism isn’t some rote religious activity, but is meant to be dynamic in all that it declares!

What God did by giving us baptism was to provide us a practical means to identity our connection to Jesus and announce our relationship to Christ to the world.

Why should a person be baptized?

Unlike our friend the Ethiopian official from the previous post, a lot of us may be prone to hesitation when it comes to baptism.

And I think there are a few reasons why we might hold back rather than step forward.

FEAR

For some, the idea of getting before a crowd feels daunting and intimidating.

As much as we believe in Jesus, we struggle having numerous sets of eyes steered in our direction.

UNWORTHINESS

I believe another reason people don’t move forward in baptism is because they don’t feel like they are good enough.

It’s strange, we know we can’t save ourselves, and thus must rely upon Jesus to be our Savior. But baptism has a way of making some people feel unworthy.

The essence of salvation is the fact that we aren’t worthy, so we must go outside ourselves to be made right with God.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it so clear:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The bottom line is this: We don’t save ourselves; God saves us.

And this salvation is based on mercy, grace and faith.

It is never a result of effort, works or merit.

And baptism is simply a declaration of that truth!

Yet some people think that at the point of baptism, they need to have it all together.

One writer put it like this:

Baptism is a sacrament instituted by Jesus and a reflection of God’s glory, grace and goodness—not a benchmark of our own worthiness or deservingness. ~ Wendy Wong, YMI Blog

It’s a weird thing, but it happens way too often when I talk to people about baptism:

Even though they know that salvation comes by faith and not through works, they still somehow equate baptism with washing them clean of their sins.

But the cleansing of sins doesn’t come through baptism!

The power for washing us clean from our sins come through the blood of Christ, not the water of the baptism!

May we never come to the conclusion that baptism is a means of salvation. Baptism is a means of declaring our salvation!

PRIDE

Sometimes the real reason we hedge when it comes to being baptized simply comes down to pride.

We look at something like baptism and simply decide it’s not for us.

Which makes sense, because I do believe baptism does carry with it a sense of humility.

To be baptized, we must submit ourselves into the hands of our baptizer.

In other words, baptism demands a measure of vulnerability.

For some of us, giving up control like that does not come easy!

In a nutshell, some people balk at baptism because of:

Fear, unworthiness and pride

Those are some pretty big obstacles! So, what does it take to overcome them?

What can overcome them?

Consider these prime motivators:

LOVE FOR GOD AND HIS WORD

In my mind, these two motivators are greater than the “hesitators” of fear, unworthiness or pride. In Matthew 28:19-20, in describing the mission work for all his disciples, Jesus told his followers what types of activities they were to be involved in:

Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Simply put, Jesus wanted his followers to be involved in three primary practice: making disciples, baptizing and teaching. Lead people to the point of trusting Christ, identifying with Christ and growing in Christ.

For the person who might say that baptism is optional, or no big thing, I would have to say that Jesus holds a different opinion. Baptism is the calling for every believer!

And so, out of obedience to Jesus, we are to be baptized. And our obedience to Jesus should always stem from a deep love for Jesus!

In John 14:15, Jesus made this bold statement:

John 14:15 (ESV)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

When it comes to healthy Christianity, love and obedience always go hand in hand.

If we know what God wants us to do – and in some cases what NOT to do – out of our love for Him, we obey!

Allow me to offer another reason to become proactive when it comes to baptism:

THE ATTITUDE AND EXAMPLE OF THE EARLY CHURCH

Throughout the book of Acts, as people are coming to Christ and the church is growing, baptism is the absolute norm.

As I stated earlier, salvation and baptism were very closely related.

Though not perfect, the early church seemed to be firing well on a lot of cylinders:

  • They were a worshiping church
  • They were a learning church
  • They were a praying church
  • They were a sharing church
  • They were an evangelizing church
  • And they were a church full of people who responded to Jesus by being baptized

Who are we to say that we should not participate in a heritage and tradition so deeply entrenched in scripture?

 

 

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