By Kevin Carr
Do you remember when you were baptized? I do. It was 10 days after my 10th birthday. My dad baptized me at my church back home in Ohio. It was a moment I’ll never forget because it symbolized and celebrated my growing faith that God was my heavenly Father, that Jesus died to save me from my sins, and that the Holy Spirit would come to live inside of me. It was a beautiful experience, one upon which I regularly reflect.
Your memory might be different. Maybe you were too young to remember your christening. Perhaps you were baptized because your parents wanted you to be. Maybe you come from a church that teaches that baptism is unimportant or unnecessary. You may have not yet seriously considered trusting Jesus and experiencing baptism.
So, at PCC, why do we baptize people? In order to answer this question, we must first answer two other really important questions.
How does God save us?
The Bible answers this question clearly. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” A helpful way to describe how God saves us is:
God saves us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for his glory alone.
That means we are not saved by good works, as if there are divine scales we might somehow tip in our favor. We are not saved by our Bible knowledge. We are not saved by our resolve to do better. We are not saved by belonging to the right church, by our faithful worship attendance, or even by being sprinkled, dipped, or dunked under water.
We are saved by God’s grace, favor we cannot earn. We are saved by faith, our confident assurance that Jesus is God’s Son, our Savior. And, we are saved for God’s glory to praise him, to do good works that make his name great, and to grow his Kingdom until he sends Jesus to bring us home for eternity.
Now that we’ve looked at how God saves us, let’s ask another important question.
What is baptism?
Although many Christian churches practice it in a number of ways, there is only one biblical method for baptism. Full immersion in water is the only possible meaning for the original Greek word and it is consistent with the baptisms we read about in the New Testament. But, baptism is much more profound and symbolic than a simple, physical act.
Baptism is an outward demonstration of a faith that saves. It is a sacrament, a visible representation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. It’s a holy experience in which a believing person proclaims that they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. They confess him as their Lord and Savior. And, as they are immersed into the water, they spiritually die to their old way of life, they are symbolically buried with Jesus, and they burst forth into resurrected, new, eternal life.
Paul puts it this way: “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 6:4).
Is there a more fitting picture of what it means to identify with Jesus, to die to self, and to live for him?
Now we are ready to get to the question that prompted this article:
Why do we baptize?
There are a number of reasons we baptize people who believe in Jesus.
First, we baptize because Jesus was baptized. As the sinless Son of God, he was not baptized for forgiveness or for the gift of the Holy Spirit; in his words, he was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
Second, we baptize because Jesus instructed us to do so. He commanded his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Finally, we baptize because it was the practice of the apostles and the first century Church. On the day the Church was born, 3,000 people heard the Gospel and responded in faith. When they asked Peter what they should do, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
There’s so much more we could say about the significance and symbolism of baptism. But, a short summary will have to do.
God saves us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to his glory alone. When we are immersed, we participate in a mysterious, wonderful, ancient sacrament that is a reenactment of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. And, we baptize because of Jesus’ example, at his command, following the pattern of the Church as recorded in God’s Word.