I am preparing to teach this Sunday during children’s church. I am excited about the topic although it is not an easy one to explain to children, because, quite frankly, there are many adults who do not understand the purpose of Christian baptism. I have written several articles on the subject of baptism and will draw from them in order to write this one. On a lighter side, here is how I picture the perfect baptism. (fast forward 19 seconds)
I. Jesus was baptized and commands us to be baptized
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then He is your example, the person to whom you look up and imitate. He did not need to be baptized but He was, in order to set an example for us to follow (see Matthew 3). In fact, this is the first command that Jesus gives to us once we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior and been born again. If a person does not have a desire to be baptized, I really wonder if his salvation experience were genuine or not. How can I call Jesus Lord (Master) and then not desperately desire to obey His first commandment?
II. Baptism does not bring about salvation
When Jesus speaks of salvation and baptism, there is a specific order that is very important to understand. Water baptism does not save us. Peter explains this:
21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (I Peter 3:21)
Let’s take a look at the order that Jesus gives when speaking of baptism and salvation.
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved ; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16)
Did you catch the order?
- Hear the Word of God
- Believe the Word of God
I have to hear the Word, understand the Word, and then believe the Word before baptism takes place. Baptism is just the proof that salvation has already taken place, that I have already believed and put that belief into practice.
III. Baptism is a physical example of a spiritual reality
Baptism is a physical act that helps explain a spiritual truth. When a person accepts the Gospel, he is baptized into Christ (spiritually speaking). Baptism means immersed in something (not always water). When we believe the Gospel and repent, we are immersed into Christ permanently. He is now in us and we are in Him, spiritually speaking. Also, when we accept the Gospel, our old way of life, with its slavery to sin and disobedience, is crucified with Christ and buried with Him, and we resurrect (in a spiritual sense) to a new way of life (obedience to God). This all takes place in the spiritual realm and therefore it cannot be seen (although the changed life will be seen through acts of obedience to God). In order for us to understand this spiritual transformation, God has established the act of physical, water baptism. When a person is physically baptized, he makes a public declaration to what has already happened to him spiritually. His old way of life has been put to death and buried (being immersed in the water) and he is resurrected to a new way of life (coming up out of the water). If you look at the teachings of Christ, you will notice that He uses physical things that people understand in order to explain spiritual things (that cannot be seen and are difficult to understand). Therefore, water baptism is a public declaration of a spiritual truth that has already taken place in your life. If God has transformed you spiritually, why would you not want to make it known publicly through the act of water baptism? (see Romans 6)
Have you been saved? Did you make that internal, spiritual truth know publicly through water baptism? Which came first, your baptism or your salvation experience? How was your life transformed before baptism took place? If your life has never been transformed, does it matter if you are baptized or not? May the Lord help us understand the reason why we are baptized and live accordingly.