|“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4|
It is recorded for us in the Gospels (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22) that Jesus was baptized by immersion in the Jordan River at the very beginning of His public ministry. At the very end of His public ministry, just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus gave His last command to the gathered disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). At that time, He brought to bear His authority and sent them out to preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. They were to (1) make disciples – or teach people to believe in Jesus and follow Him with their lives, (2) baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the Trinity), (3) teach the new disciples to obey the teachings of Jesus. Jesus did not remind the disciples that “all authority had been given to him” so that He could suggest to them a direction for living. Instead, Jesus sent them out as His disciples to do His will – part of which was to baptize.
There is a constant pattern in the book of Acts demonstrating the faithfulness of the early church to obey the command of Jesus to baptize new Christians. At the first coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41), when 3,000 souls were saved, they were baptized. When Philip helped the Ethiopian understand Jesus, he also explained to him what I am explaining to you now – the imperative of baptism. As the two men went along in his chariot, they came to water (Acts 8:36-38), and the Ethiopian said, “See here is water! Whatprevents me from being baptized?” The answer was nothing! In accordance with the command of Jesus, he was baptized by Philip. When Saul (later called Paul) came to salvation after being struck blind by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was baptized (Acts 9:18).
When Jesus by angels and visions brought the first gentiles (non-Jews) into the church, they were immediately baptized (household of Cornelius – Acts 10:47). Even in the middle of the night after an earthquake, when the Philippian jailer came to faith – he was baptized (Acts 16:33). And so, Christians have continued to follow the command of Jesus, down through the ages and around the world, to be baptized after believing Jesus is Lord!
What is baptism? Baptism is both a symbolic and a public proclamation. As stated above in Romans 6:4, Paul clearly teaches about the symbolic nature of baptism after believing in Jesus as your Savior. When we are submersed below the water it is a symbolic action of joining Christ in His death. But when we are raised up out of the water, we are joining with Jesus in His resurrection! We are symbolically raised with Jesus to walk in “newness of life!” This points to the second important aspect of baptism. It’s a public affair. Jesus requiresthat His followers not be ashamed of Him. Being publically baptized does not changed the state of your soul – faith does – but it does change how people view you. Being publically baptized makes a statement that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ!
Through the ages groups of Christians have changed the biblical teaching of baptism by immersion to serve various ends. The reason that Jesus calls for us to be baptized after making a decision of faith, rather than as an unbelieving infant, is so the decision made privately in the heart is made public to the watching world. This act of obedience takes boldness and courage, but part of what the Holy Spirit will give you as a new disciple of Jesus is boldness to do things you would never have done before.
If you believe in Jesus as Savior, but have never been baptized, I encourage you to obeyJesus in this important step. It will be an unforgettable day of joy to associate yourself with Jesus publically, but it will also greatly encourage other Christians to see how the Lord is working in our midst. If you are interested, let an elder know Sunday and be baptized Sunday, Sep 29.
Blog post by Vic Carpenter, Teaching Pastor (Sep 12, 2019)