What Is Baptism and Why Does It Matter?

by Bibles.net
Time: 10 Minutes

Genuine excitement seldom goes unannounced. If something significant happens in your life, you tell someone.

Often our greatest announcements in life are tied to our identity. Birthdays, engagements, marriages, promotions, baby announcements, all say something about who we are. We’re a teen now, or an adult, or a fiancé, or a wife, or a dad, and the list goes on.

In our age more than ever, it seems like everyone waves one flag or another—sometimes literally. We’re great at proclaiming who we are. We trumpet what’s important to us. And what we choose to identify with says something about what we value.

Something really exciting has happened to every believer in Jesus. So God commands that every believer in Jesus announce it to the world through baptism, because baptism tells a story and serves as a blessing to God’s people.

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You’re a New Person

When God saves you from your sin, the most significant thing in your life happens. Jesus does something incredible for you: he gives you a new identity.

The Bible calls it “new birth” (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3; James 1:18). God now identifies you as a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:7), names you a “child of God” (John 1:12), and tells you that you “belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6; Galatians 5:24). You have a new heart, a renewed mind, and God’s companionship through the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 1:13).

You are considered a citizen of the kingdom of light, rescued from the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13). This kingdom is now your eternal destiny, the King your greatest delight, and his kingdom goals your sole pursuit.

If this change truly happened in your life, you will be excited. Fundamentally, your entire identity has changed. You are a whole new person according to God’s Word—the old you is considered dead and gone. The new you is the you that will exist forever.

It would be absolutely unnatural to leave this unannounced.

2

Jesus Commands You To Announce Your New Identity

Jesus knows this, and he commanded that we tell the world what he has done for us in a symbolic act—baptism.

Baptism is being totally immersed under water and coming out of it again, in the name of the God of the Bible: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Baptism is the very first thing Jesus asks us to do when we begin following him. So for genuine Christians, baptism isn’t an option. It’s also not a light matter.

In places around the world, followers of Jesus are often put to death shortly after this public act. Even in safer places, such spiritual flag-waving may bring on ridicule, cause loss of relationships, or hatred by people who don’t believe in Jesus.

But friend, the safest place you could be is soaking wet, identifying with Jesus, because Jesus says, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32 ESV).

To belong to Jesus Christ is the greatest identity anyone could ask for, because Jesus is the greatest treasure worth the loudest trumpeting.

What better thing to get excited about? What better thing to proclaim?

3

Baptism Tells a Story

You may still be wondering, why baptism? Why not put on a T-shirt, or wear a cross-necklace, or just tell your friends? Why do you have to get soaking wet? Because symbols have meaning, and the symbol of baptism, though it may seem strange, comes from a rich biblical history.

Baptism tells the church and the world a message. It’s a picture through which God speaks. Let’s discover where this imagery came from, and what God wants to say through it.

Baptism Symbolizes God’s Judgment

Baptism requires water, which is a huge theme all throughout the Bible. We actually get hints of baptism in the Old Testament like the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), the Flood (Genesis 6), or when Jonah is in the belly of the big fish and gets spit out again (Jonah 1-2).

From these passages and more we understand that water in the Bible symbolizes the judgment of God.

Baptism demonstrates how the old you died with Jesus at the cross, because by believing in him, you are united with him (Romans 6:4). You are falling totally under the waters of judgment. But praise God—it’s only a symbol! Because you believe that 2000 years ago on the cross, Jesus fell under God’s judgment for your sins.

Coming out of water symbolizes coming through God’s judgment safely, or being delivered by him (1 Peter 3:20-21). Through baptism, God declares that you are no longer under his judgment for your sin.

Baptism Symbolizes Cleansing

Water in the Bible also symbolizes cleansing, as water was often used in the Old Testament to make people or objects ceremonially clean. Washing with water was often understood as moral cleansing (Ezekiel 36:25).

Baptism also signifies that you’ve been cleansed from the power and punishment of your sin for all time by faith in Jesus. Though you will wrestle with sin in this life until God removes its presence in eternity, you have been totally forgiven now and into eternity. Through baptism, God declares that you are clean in his sight.

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Baptism Is a Blessing to You

Baptism is not just a choice you make in obedience; it’s not just a flare you light for the world. It’s God’s gift to you. Let’s think of it this way: it’s like a wedding ring. It helps you know you belong to Jesus. And it helps the church know that you belong to Jesus.

God gave you baptism as a symbol of his love for you. Baptism is like God’s wedding ring to you, reminding you that yes, the covenant between you and God is sealed. There will come times when, in our dark world, you doubt. There will come times when you forget who you are in Christ, and wonder if he still loves you. But, you can look back on your baptism and remember the truth: that you are united to Jesus.

God gave you baptism as proof to his church that you belong to him, so God’s people would know who are truly God’s people. You may be a true Christian, but not have been baptized. In this case, according to God’s Word, there’s no proof for his church that you’re really saved. Similarly, you may really be married, but without a ring on your left hand, people may doubt you. Baptism is the ring to prove to the church that you belong to the family of God.

Experience the Joy of Being Baptized

Have you been baptized?

Talk to your local church pastor if you have not been baptized, or if you have further questions. If you don’t have a fellow believer nearby, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help you pursue obedience to Jesus’ command and experience the joy of baptism.

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