One of the most important FIRST STEPS following your commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is to follow that commitment with baptism. To help you understand what baptism is why it is important, keep reading the notes below.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is the outward act that symbolizes the inward phenomenon of coming to and accepting Jesus Christ as real, as God incarnate, as the sacrificial means by which those who believe in him can be forever reconciled to God. The purpose of baptism is to give visual testimony of our commitment to Christ. It is the first step of discipleship (Acts 8:26-39).
The Greek word for “baptism” is “βαπτιζω”. The English letters look like this: “baptidzo.” The Greek word “baptidzo” literally means to “dip” or to “immerse”.
The symbolism of baptism is that, just as Christ died and was buried, so the baptized person is submerged (whether physically or symbolically) under water. And just as Christ rose again from beneath the earth, so the baptized person rises again from beneath the water. Under the water is the believer’s old, dead, heavy, suffocating life. Out of the water, cleansed by the blood of Christ, is the believer’s new, fresh, purposeful life.
Baptism is like a wedding ring. We put on a wedding ring as a symbol of our commitment and devotion. In the same way, baptism is a picture of devotion and commitment to Christ. A wedding ring reminds us and tells others that we belong to someone special. In the same way, baptism reminds us and others that we are devoted to Christ and belong to Him.
Infant Baptism vs Adult Baptism
What is the difference between infant and adult baptism? Let’s take a look at how infant baptism began and why it’s important for adults to take the symbolic step of baptism.
Infant baptism arose from the teachings of some early second and third-century church fathers that baptism washed away sin. This meant that if you died without being baptized then you died with your sins unforgiven and thus went to Hell (or purgatory as that concept developed over time). With the high infant mortality rate in the early centuries, the concept of baptizing babies as soon as possible came into vogue. Since it is not necessarily good to push baby heads underwater, the idea of sprinkling took hold.
Again, the word baptism does not mean “sprinkle or “pour”. The Greek word “baptidzo” literally means to “dip” or to “immerse”.
Throughout the years of the Church, baptism by immersion has taken several forms. Some baptize by dipping three times in the “Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. Others use the Jewish model for baptizing Gentile converts into Judaism. The initiates wear white robes and are dipped three times forward and three times backward. The most common mode of baptism is once backward to portray the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
According to Romans 6:1-10, baptism pictures at least three things:
- First, baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As we stand in the water we are representing Christ on the cross. As we are dipped underwater we illustrate the burial of Christ. As we come out of the water we demonstrate the resurrection of Christ.
- Second, baptism is a personal testimony to us of the washing away of our sins. As we go under the water we reconfirm that our sins are forgiven and as we come out of the water we are resurrected to live a new life in Christ.
- Third, baptism represents our personal identification with Christ. Paul declared in Romans 6:3-4 “We were buried with Christ in baptism and we are raised to walk in a new life” as forgiven followers of Christ empowered by the Spirit of God.
Being sprinkled or having water poured over your head when you were an infant, or too young to understand, missed the point of baptism on all three levels.
The Bible teaches that commitment to Christ always precedes baptism. In fact, baptism is your testimony of surrendering your life to Christ. The New Testament order is not be baptized and then receive Christ. It is always first you receive Christ and then you get baptized. If you were not aware of submitting to the Lordship of Christ then it is impossible to think of your baptism as a personal commitment to Christ.
Matthew 3:13-17 – “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
If John was baptizing for repentance and Jesus was without sin, why would he have to be baptized? Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 3:15 was not a statement that baptism is necessary for salvation, nor that he needed to repent of anything. The intent of the Jewish people regarding baptism was to signify their readiness to follow the will of God. So by engaging in this action, by including himself in this tradition of his people, Jesus “fulfills all righteousness,” not merely by the physical act, but by the spiritual implications of it.
There was no written legal requirement for Jesus to be baptized in order to inaugurate his ministry. Jesus followed the law, but he also followed the traditions in line with the heart of the law. By this act, Jesus proclaims the beginning of his ministry.
Are You Ready?
Now that you understand more fully what baptism is and its significance to those who commit to following Jesus Christ, the NEXT STEP is to follow in baptism. If you have any further questions or would like to talk with the pastor about scheduling your baptism, drop him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the church office (636-433-2077).