A half-century has passed but that Sunday afternoon experience is still with me. Pastor McDaniel led us into a swimming pool at a Bible Camp and one by one we professed our faith in Jesus Christ and then he plunged us into the water. What happened there made me a marked man – a declared disciple of Jesus Christ.
Baptism, like the celebration of Communion, is as old as our Christian faith, rooted in Jesus’ own direction to us. “Go, make disciples, and baptize!” In our fellowship, we celebrate baptisms. Yes, it is a holy occasion, but not one of solemnity. It is a joyful time when shouts are in order because baptism is the public statement of the newly converted to the world that says, “I’m a Believer!” It is statement of hope, one that anticipates a new way of life.
Does the water wash away our sins? No, that is not the purpose. We are washed by the work of the Spirit, made guiltless by the offering Jesus made at the Cross. Baptism identifies us a Christian. It is a reenactment, so to speak, of Jesus’ experience. In Romans we read this – “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5, NIV) The former life dominated by the sinful nature is left behind and we anticipate a new life in the Spirit.
That is why we immerse those who have made a profession of faith. Baptism without faith is an act without significance, changing nothing. Baptism of the faith-filled is a doorway into a whole new way of life, a moment when the Spirit is invited to live in that person in His fullness. Baptism calls us into a unity, not forced, but real, growing out of a shared identity and hope. “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT)
Been baptized since you believed? If not, why not?
Take the step of obedience to Christ, with full faith. Invite the Spirit to turn that act of obedience into a moment of empowerment, filling you with Resurrection Life as you leave the old land behind!
Here is a word from the Word. “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.” (Acts 2:36-41, NLT)
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,
wean it from earth, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness mighty as Thou art,
and make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Hast Thou not bid us love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own –soul, heart, and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross –there teach my heart to cling,
O let me seek Thee and O let me find.
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh,
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear —
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh:
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
Only holy passion filling all my frame.
The baptism of the heave’n descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love – the flame.
George Croly© Public Domain