“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (1 Peter 3:21–22 ESV)
Baptism’s Importance – Too Low
While I run into people who think baptism is too important (that it’s salvific), my observation is that too many don’t think it important enough. We have somehow disconnected baptism from salvation in ways that contradict baptism’s role in Scripture.
- “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38)
- “So those who received his word were baptized.” (Acts 2:41)
- “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
- “And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’” (Acts 8:36)
- “And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)
- “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” (Acts 10:48)
- “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
- “On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:5)
Let’s look at The Great Commission a moment: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) The action verb of importance there is “make disciples.” The rest explains how. Baptize them and teach them. Right there in the summary of what being a Christian is all about we have the important role of baptism and teaching.
You might say, Why didn’t Peter address the issue of professing Christians living for years and NOT being baptized? I suspect there are two reasons. The first is that this is mostly a problem with second and third generation Christians who make a profession of faith but for some reason don’t get around to being baptized. The second reason is that New Testament Christianity didn’t conceive of professing Christians refusing to be baptized.
“There is presently probably the largest unbaptized population of professing Christians in the history of the church. And for most of them it isn’t really something they are too concerned about.” (John MacArthur, “The Case for Believer’s Baptism: The Credo Baptist Position,” www.gty.org/Resources/Print/articles/a360) MacArthur goes on to give five frank reasons professing Christians are not baptized:
- Ignorant – not taught or wrongly taught
- Proud – refuse to be humbly obedient
- Indifferent – not considering obedience important
- Defiant – unwilling to obey
- Unregenerate – no concern to honor Christ in this way
All of these reveal too low a concern for the priority of baptism as identification with Jesus and the first act of obedience.
I am not hiding my point here, am I? I don’t want anyone to trust in their baptism for salvation and there should not be any professing Jesus without being baptized. Are you a professing Christian? Have you been baptized? If not, why not? I want everyone to profess Jesus as Savior and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what is baptism exactly?
We practice what is known as believer’s baptism or Credo-baptism. We believe the teaching and example of the New Testament is a baptism following a profession of faith. It is an initiation into the Christian life. The mode we practice is immersion in water. We baptize in water because the New Testament church baptized in water. We immerse because the Greek word for baptism means, “To dip; to immerse.” The language of the New Testament indicates water sufficient for baptism, like the Jordan River or the Eunuch with Phillip who said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’” (Acts 8:36) They went down into it. Even 1 Peter 3:21 suggests this as he says people mistake it for washing dirt off the body. Immersion as a mode is the only mode to do that.
The big thing in baptism is identifying with the saving work of Jesus in his death and burial (pictured in going under the water) and resurrection to new life (pictured by coming out of the water). This is known doctrinally as union with Christ. When he died, I died with him. When he was buried I was buried with him. When he was resurrected, I was resurrected with him. I am in a spiritual union with Jesus that connects me with the saving work of Jesus for me.
If I could illustrate it this way, now that we have another daughter, the BabyBjörn Baby Carrier becomes a part of my life again. It allows me to carry her around with me and it leaves my hands free. Where I go, she goes. Where I sit, she sits. The carrier unites her with me and me with her (see example of the dad modeling it in the picture below).
Baptism, by God’s design, symbolically does the same. It spiritually symbolizes my union by faith with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection. This is where the classic definition of baptism comes from—an outward sign of an inward change. Jesus commanded it. The Apostles modeled it. We follow their words and example.
We see baptism as celebration of what God has done in your life. Over the years we have baptized people from many backgrounds, many journeys. Here’s where I’m at. I just want people to profess Jesus as Savior and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So I want to ask you, if you have not been baptized, why not? Are you a professing believer in Jesus Christ? Have you “Björned” by faith in his death, burial, and resurrection?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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