What I understood about water baptism was novice to say the least. My impression and understanding when I was baptized with water as a new christian was that it is just an outward expression of my commitment to Christ, a public declaration. This is true and right to say and think, however, at the time I was missing, in part, the deeper spiritual significance attached to it.
Prior to my conversion from living my will to living out the will of God for my life I never gave any consideration to baptism by water, I just knew that I was baptized as an infant and I have the document to prove it.
However, by just digging a little deeper and making some new connections in my bible reading and studies I began to see a greater and more profound meaning to what God was doing and what He was aiming for when He instituted the rite to baptism by water.
This deeper knowledge has brought to me a new realm of application in my life, in my soul, my body and my spirit. It has given me a deep appreciation that has made my relationship with the almighty closer and more intimate. As if, spraying gasoline on the fire in my heart for Jesus. Like adding coals to the furnace of my heart bringing the Spiritual water in my body to a boil and then exhaling the steam on anyone who wishes to gain the same knowledge for themselves. Igniting the fear of the Lord, reverence, and love for Him.
So what actually happens when you are baptized? I have found that It is far more than being sprinkled with or being immersed in water. Your baptism signifies something rich and deeply meaningful about your relationship with Jesus, and how you are united to Him.
I'd like to begin with water. Simply put, water is life. Where there is water, there is life; where there is no water, there is no life. Water is essential to the sustaining of life itself. Without water our human bodies (as well as animals) enter into the first stages of dehydration within three days, and no one normally lives past five or six days without it. Conversely we can go months and months without food. Up to 60% of the human body is made up of water, the brain and the heart are closer to 73%, and the lungs are an enormous 83% water.
The significance of water throughout the bible narrative is massive, extending from the Garden of Eden, (Ge 2:10) “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden.” The river separated and winds its way through the entire land; to Revelation, (Rev 22:1,2) “then the angel showed me the river of the water of life. . . flowing from the throne of God,” watering and nourishing the tree of life.
So it is not surprising that we see water having a great influence on society. From helping clean and scrape the oil off the body, to ritual cleansing yourself, immersing yourself in living water, before entering the temple, the presence of God.
In (Ex 19:10,11) God says, “Go to the people and consecrate them. . . have them wash their clothes.” In fact there are 7426 mentions of ritual washing in the bible. Ritual washing for consecration, for washing and cleansing. The methods of ritual washing, the washing of clothes, bathing, sprinkling the water of purification, and washing your hands and feet. Also in that number are the consequences of failure to perform ritual washing. It was practiced as well in the New Testament, and the Pharisees over-emphasized its importance as they used it as a means to trap when questioning Jesus. (Mt 15:2) “Why do your disciples break tradition,” (Lk 11:37) “the Pharisee was surprised. . . noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.” As we all know, Jesus Christ’s atoning work rendered it unnecessary, (Heb 9:11) “But when Christ came as high priest. . . He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands.”
Now, I say all of this to show that the use of water was very important, to say the least. Its sacred rite, and method of use was not only commanded into practice by God and used by God, but water alone is essential to life itself.
The way in which we now understand and practice baptism comes from John the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth. John was known for baptizing because he called his followers to go through a ceremony of baptism (immersion in water) to demonstrate the repentance of their sin. This ceremony of baptism was extremely significant because we see Jesus himself, (before He begins His purpose on earth and entering into public life), submitting Himself to John’s baptism. (Mt 3:15) “Let it be now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus said, “it is proper for us to do this.” He was confirming the ministry of John, the means of baptism for the repentance of sin. He was also uniting Himself with the people who were baptized by John and as well as fulfilling His Father’s will. God’s plan and purpose started with Jesus' baptism. Just as Jesus submitted to John's baptism, we submit to Christ. (Paraphr. Rom 10:9) We submit by crying out with our mouth and professing that Jesus Christ is Lord and we then believe with our heart, we are saved. Following our submission and profession of faith, I see the next step of baptism as the launching point of our walk with Christ. Akin to cleansing yourself in preparation for entering the temple, we immerse ourselves in water to come into relation with Jesus, with God. Preparing to come and do business with He who is Holy. Launching us into action, like Philip helped launch the Ethiopian eunuch in acts chapter eight. Philip, from that point in Isa 53:7-12, began to preach Jesus to him. It doesn't say if Philip had ended his sermon to the Ethiopian but just as they came by some water the Ethiopian said, (Ac 8:36b) “look, here is some water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” From the message Philip spoke to the Ethiopian he understood a great significance in being baptized, because the first body of water they come across he calls out. This shows a great sense of urgency in baptism to those who heard the gospel preached to them. He was eager, and with no hesitation he got baptized. After, (Ac 8:39b) “went on his way rejoicing.” He was launched into the newness of his life and understanding and took the gospel message back with him to Africa.
As Jesus says in (Mk 16:16-18) “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe is condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Baptism follows belief. All these things happened when Christ ascended into heaven then gave us the Holy Spirit. The scripture speaks for itself, “whoever believes and is baptized.” Baptism launches us into our new life, into our work for the Lord.
“Whoever believes,” what are we believing in? Are we solely believing that Jesus is Lord and God, that He is the messiah? In part, yes we are. However, more deeply and specifically when we are baptized, we are believing in His resurrection. (Ro 6:3) “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” It's concerning to me that whenever I read in scripture the phrase, “Or don’t you know,” how many professing Christians there are who don’t know. What Paul is saying is don’t you know what it means to be baptized? Or to put it another way, don’t you know what it means to be a Christian? It is as if Paul is saying, if you want to understand who you are as a Christian, you absolutely need to have some sense of the privilege of being united in death with the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2Co 5:17b) “The old has gone, the new is here!” We DIED to our old self, by accepting Christ into our hearts and we are saved. (Ro 6:7,8) “Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Now if we die with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” How we live for Him starts with our baptism into His resurrection.
What do you generally do with someone who has died? After a few days we go and bury a body. The dead body must be dealt with, we do not leave dead bodies around wherever they fall. (Ro 6:2) “. . . We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” If we are dead to sin , then we need to bury it in order for the new to come.
What are we buried through? We are buried through baptism into Jesus Christ's resurrection. (Ro 6:4) “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
We too may live a new life. Being baptized in water is the beginning of that new life, the new has now come. It is the launching point into everything God has for us. (Gal 3:27) “So on Christ Jesus you are all children of faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.”
Baptism in Christ is only effective through faith, and our new life is empowered by the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is now working for us. I believe baptism is the key to setting the flame of the Holy Spirit inside of us ablaze. It’s the starting gun for the race ahead of us.
In the Old Testament there are examples of the foreshadowing of the baptism we practice today. In (1Pe 3:20,21) he says, “to those who were disobedient long ago. . . in the days of Noah. . . only a few people were saved through water. . . this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also. . . It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This was the coming Judgment, and eight souls were saved. However we see that there was no other way to be saved other than in the Ark. There was only one way of escape from the judgment to come and that was in the Ark. The Ark represents Jesus. Noah and his family trusted (which is Faith) that the Ark will save them, the same way we trust that the death and resurrection of Christ will save us. In the Ark they passed safely through the waters to the other side. They came out into a new world, a totally different life had been opened to them, just as baptism does for us, it opens us up to the new life God has set for us. That new life is manifested when we follow His will and no longer our own will.
The judgment came and washed all the old away, completely separating Noah and his family from their past lives. As baptism is, for us, an outward visible separation from our sin into a new life. No longer is our sin or our past life there, we should now walk new. Like Noah we are to be separated completely from our past life. Those outside the Ark (those not in Jesus) perished, they died. The old life has been washed away and the new life has been open to us.
In (1Cor 10:1,2) we see another picture of the foreshadowing of baptism as we understand it. Paul writes, “Do not. . . be ignorant of the fact. . . that our ancestors were all under the cloud. . . all passed through the sea. . . They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” There are two very important things going on here, two baptisms. They were baptized in the cloud, and the cloud came down, and into the sea they passed through and were baptized through the water. Again when the Israelites came out on the other side they began a new life, they began with a new set of laws, and a new leader, Moses. The picture is that everything, all that they knew, all that they had, the good along with the bad was physically left behind. The physical separation from our past and walking into the glory of God. We leave everything behind when we are baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ. We become part of the new creation, we are reconciled to God, we are new creatures in Christ. But more than that, it is as though, like the Israelites, we stepped into a new world.
Also, the same water that they were baptized in when they passed through, is the same water that cut off the Egyptians. They were cut off, and could not go back without great hardship and peril, just as we cannot go back without great hardship and peril. We need to be baptized in Christ completely, cutting off every part of our past sins and our connections to it. Our lives are wholly new in Christ and we build from that point.
Do you understand what your baptism says about you? It says we were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, we are given a new name. We are baptized into the family of God. We receive through baptism, not only the forgiveness of our sins, but union with the Almighty. God uses baptism as a means of preparation for us to come in and to do business with Him, to start our relationship with Him. We come into union with Him, united with Him in His death and united in Him by being raised, with Him, into His resurrection, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in order toto walk in the newness of life.
Baptism says, we are Christians, this is who we are.
So if a Christian is who you are, Live like one!
Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in our Lord Christ Jesus!