The Promise of NEW

Yesterday, I met with 3 people who will be baptized in a couple of weeks to talk about that decision. At the table was a young girl of 11, a middle-aged Mom, and a teenage boy. My heart overflowed with joy knowing my privilege to stand as a representative of Jesus Christ in a significant moment of their Christian life.  Our church practices ‘believer’s baptism’ fully immersing that person who is confessing faith in water in a large baptismal tank built into the front of the sanctuary. But why?

The New Testament word that is translated as “baptism” in our Bible, was not a ‘religious’ word. It was a word used about ordinary tasks.  A piece of cloth that was to be dyed was plunged into the dye solution (baptized!) and the process changed the cloth’s appearance forever.  A piece of iron that was to become a tool was heated to a red-hot malleable state, then shaped into that useful implement. The final step was to drop the hot iron into a bucket of water (baptized!) to make it strong.  A sponge was plunged into water with cleaning properties (baptized!) where it absorbs the cleaning solution, filled and useful for household purposes. 

The new Believer will be baptized in the hope that she will be forever marked by her public witness to faith.  She will be baptized with the prayer that the act will temper her faith, a moment to remember, strengthened  by this outward choice that reflects her inner reality. Finally, as she is plunged into the water, there is the prayer for the fullness of the Spirit to be released in her life as Peter promised those who received the Gospel at Pentecost. He told the crowd that gathered that day to “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, NIV)

Baptism was never meant to be a quiet ritual of little note. It is a BIG deal, a major announcement, the initiatory moment of faith. “Hey, world, I’m a Believer. My life belongs to Christ Jesus!” 

Paul teaches us that by faith we enter fully into the experience of Christ Jesus in baptism.  The one baptized gets more than dripping wet! He identifies with his Savior,  reenacting the signature moments of faith. “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)   

Yes, when I baptize those three there will be death and life, a burial and a resurrection. They are already ‘in Christ’ through faith, given new life by the Spirit. I know this and so do they, and yet, there is a powerful moment in their discipleship which they can know as they are obedient to Christ’s example and command of baptism. Do I understand it all logically? No, it is the mystery of faith, God’s revealed will. But, I do know that those who enter into this act in faith with expectation of the Spirit’s touch, find great joy.  It can be an unforgettable moment.  In my own life, I still remember that July Sunday in 1966 when my pastor asked me of my confession of faith and plunged me into the water of baptism. I was only 11 years old but the memory endures and I am a ‘marked man’ for it!

Have you been baptized since YOU believed? Our word from the Word: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)



I can still see the steeple
A little church on the hill
There was a line at the alter
Every pew had been filled
I remember the water
The choir singing old hymns
There was a peace in the valley
As the preacher man he said

In the name of the Father
The name of the Son
The name of the Spirit
You’re washed by the blood
I’m buried with Christ
Raised in new life

I can still hear the sermon
All the people said Amen
There was a gift of salvation
And you could be born again
I remember the power
The Holy Spirit rushing in
There was a peace like a river
When the preacher man said

All those old stained glass windows
And the stories they tell
All the memories as clear
As the day I was there
All those years I spent running
You’ve given me back
Now I’m stepping in
Oh I’m stepping in
Oh I’m stepping in

I can still see the steeple
A little church on the hill

Jonathan Smith | Tim Nichols | Zach Williams© 2019 Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (Admin. by CURB | Word Music Publishing)

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