Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Significance of Baptism

“Why Do You Preach So Much On Baptism?”

An all-too common complaint we regularly hear made against the church concerns the preaching of baptism.  The world and various denominations argue that the Church of Christ puts too much emphasis on baptism.  They might even go as far as to accuse us of elevating the act of baptism above God’s grace.

So why do we stress baptism so much?

The short answer:  The world doesn’t preach it enough…  If at all!

Baptism is listed some 116 times in the New Testament.  In nearly every example of conversion and salvation, baptism is mentioned.  With that much Scriptural support, how could any believer overlook the significance of baptism?

The Symbolism of Baptism

Let’s begin by examining the symbolic significance of baptism…

Baptism and the Flood

Peter likened baptism to the waters of the Flood.

1 Peter 3:21 ...Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

Notice that baptism is more than just a mere physical bathing.  It is through the resurrection of Christ, the power of God Himself that this simple physical act is imbued with its soul-saving power.  Baptism is not a work of man, but of God!

Baptism and Circumcision

Paul called baptism a sort of spiritual circumcision.

Colossians 2:11-12 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

There is a notable difference between the physical circumcision of the Old Testament and the spiritual circumcision of baptism in the New Testament.  While in the Old Testament circumcision was done shortly after birth, there is no evidence of baptizing infant in the New Testament.  Belief in the Word of God is meant to precede baptism according to New Testament examples.

Baptism and the Gospel

Consider this:  During the act of baptism we are reenacting the Gospel story.  The Bible tells us as much!

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…

Compare the synopsis of the Gospel story recorded in 1 Corinthians to what is said of baptism in Romans…

Romans 6:3-7 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

As we can see, the act of baptism is a reenactment of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection:  In baptism we “die” to sin, are “buried” in the water of salvation (the blood of Christ), and a “resurrected” free from sin!

This idea of baptism being a reenactment of a burial accounts for only one method of baptism (Ephesians 4:5)…  Baptism by immersion which is exemplified at various points in the New Testament (Mark1:10 – Jesus “came up out of the water”, Acts 8:38 – Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch “both went down into the water”).  This excludes other methods such as sprinkling.

Baptism is Endorsed by Jesus

Baptism is also significant because it was endorsed by Jesus Himself in three ways:

Jesus’ Example

One of Jesus’ first recorded acts of His earthly ministry was being baptized.  At first, John didn’t feel that He had the right to baptize the Son of God, but Jesus pointed out that it was necessary.

Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

While Jesus, being sinless, did not technically need baptism, He pointed out that it was fitting for the fulfillment of righteousness.  This account affirms that baptism is the means by which God makes men righteous.   Jesus was baptized to set an example for us!  Additionally, we see that God was so delighted with His Son’s obedient example that He commended Jesus by audibly speaking.

Sometimes I feel like this miraculous event is almost treated as a side note, but isn’t it interesting that of the two times God directly spoke in the Gospels that one of these instances was to approve of Jesus’ baptism?

Jesus’ Sacrifice

Our entire faith hinges upon Christ’s death upon the cross.  Baptism is connected to that major event as well!

Matthew 26:28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Notice that the language used here to describe the intended effect of Christ’s blood is identical to the purpose of baptism that Peter detailed on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38)!

Additionally, Jesus’ self-sacrifice also references the Old Testament account of the Passover which involved the blood of lambs as a signal to spare the Israelites in the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:13 - "When I see the blood, I will pass over you").

1 Peter 1:18-19 …Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

John pointed out a blatant parallel between baptism and Christ’s sacrifice in his description of Jesus.

1 John 5:6-8  This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.

Jesus’ Command

Jesus, the Son of God Himself, commands that believers be baptized.

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

As Jesus points out here, baptism and salvation are inexorably linked.

Why Reject Baptism?

In spite of all this evidence we have discussed so far concerning baptism, many still reject baptism as God’s means of salvation for one reason or another.

Consider the account of Naaman recounted in 2 Kings 5:1-14.

If you recall, Naaman was a commander of the Syrian army who was afflicted with leprosy.  The abridged version of the story goes like this:

The prophet Elisha was sent to heal Naaman of his leprosy.  Elisha gave Naaman some simple instructions.  He told him to “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”  (2 Kings 5:10)

However, Naaman rejected these directions…  He even “became furious”!  He didn’t agree with the method by which he was to be healed.  He questioned Elisha’s instructions:  Why couldn’t Elisha just call on the name of the Lord and wave his hand over me?  Aren’t other rivers besides the Jordan just as good if not better to be cleansed in?

One of Naaman’s wise servants came and tried to reason with him, saying “…If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  (2 Kings 5:13)

Naaman finally did as Elisha said and, sure enough, he found that “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:14).

While this account does not directly refer to baptism, it does make an important point about God’s instructions:  If God offers us a means of salvation… who are we to question or reject His terms?

Conclusion:  What is Your Condition With and Without Baptism?

I read the following in a tract during a Bible study years ago and always thought it brilliantly summed up just how vital baptism is...


Put on Christ

Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Wash Away Sins

Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

Have Remission of Sins

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…”

Are Made Free from Sin

Romans 6:17-18 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Benefit by Jesus’ Death

Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Enter the Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.


To recap and hopefully drive these final points home:  If through baptism one puts on Christ, washes away their sin, have remission of their sins, benefits by Jesus' death, and enters the Body of Christ - if Scripture tells us that baptism does all these things - then surely our condition without baptism is the opposite of these!

We cannot disregard the significance of baptism!

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