The Importance of Baptism

The Importance of Water Baptism

It is common for an organization or church to have a vision statement. It is used to guide every activity and expenditure towards the purpose of accomplishing the vision.

What is our vision statement? Do we even have one? Yes, we do, and we didn’t have to be creative to come up with something catchy or memorable, because Jesus already gave His Church its vision statement and commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 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."

We must not get distracted from this vision statement. Everything we do must be for the ultimate purpose of fulfilling the commission Jesus gave us. We are to make disciples. We understand that requires teaching; therefore, we do a lot of teaching. However, we may not understand why Jesus commanded us to baptize them.

Baptism is not a dedication service. Baptism is for those old enough to believe, repent of their sin, and make a freewill decision to follow Jesus. Baptism is our act of faith, declaring that we believe Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. We are acknowledging we are sinners and we believe Jesus atoned for our sin on the cross. Therefore, we are willing to repent of our sins, to die to ourselves in a watery grave, and to be born again of the Holy Spirit.

Consequently, baptism is not for infants, who cannot believe or make any of these decisions. Children who are old enough to believe, dedicate their lives to Christ, and repent, can be baptized for the forgiveness of sin and receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-39 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Baptism initiates a washing away of sin—a cleansing and new birth from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God abiding in us. He enables us to be witnesses, convicts us of sin, empowers us to overcome temptation, sin, and the devil. He also gives gifts to the Body as He wills and He continually transforms us to become like Jesus.

Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Pride can prevent someone from being saved and submitting to baptism. Baptism is humbling, but Jesus, who did not need salvation, identified with us and submitted to baptism out of obedience to the Father. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon Him and the Father was pleased.

Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, believers are to identify with Christ and be united with Him by being born again through the act of baptism. Then we are in Him and He is in us.

Galatians 3:26-27 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

If Jesus, who did not need to be baptized for the remission of sin, submitted to baptism to obey the Father and fulfill all righteousness, then shouldn’t we be obedient to Him and submit to baptism? We surely are in need of any benefit we can receive from it.

So what are some of those benefits?

Baptism brings a good conscious towards God. We, too, will know the Father is pleased after we submit to baptism and feel the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism not only identifies and unites us with Christ, it identifies and unites us with believers all over the world. In some countries, baptism requires immense courage. In Communist and Muslim countries, for example, Christian baptism ensures persecution, hardship, rejection, imprisonment, and sometimes death.

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Water baptism identifies us with the burial and resurrection of Christ. It is an act of faith in which we testify, both to God and to the world that we are dying to our old life and burying it in a watery grave, and we desire to be resurrected, born again, as a new creation in Christ.

This is beautifully illustrated in Romans 6:1-14 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 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. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

In summary, baptism is our identification with Christ, who broke the hold sin had on us. Baptism initiates our death to sin, and resurrection unto a new life where we walk by the Holy Spirit—not by the desires of our flesh.

That does not mean we are perfect. We will always struggle with sin. We also have to be taught what Jesus said and how to obey Him. Nevertheless, after baptism, we have power not to follow our sin nature any longer. We have a new master, Jesus and His Spirit.

We live our lives as “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We do not continue our old way of living. Living in Christ means sin is not the ruler of our lives. We are free from power of sin. Therefore, we don’t have to sin. We can live our lives as sacrifices to God. We become instruments of righteousness—people though whom the righteousness of Christ flows.

Baptism is the beginning of a new life of faith and obedience to Christ! It is an act of obedience that God requires of every believer.

Jesus said in Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Think about that for a moment. Jesus’ very call to believe on Him includes a call to be baptized. Therefore, the disciples took Jesus’ commission to baptize new believers seriously. It was the first thing they told new believers to do after they believed in Jesus Christ and repented of sin.

As we already read in Acts 2:38, when the people responded to Peter’s initial sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter instructs them to "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

Acts 8:26-40 is the account of Phillip leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ. As they finish their discussion, the eunuch enthusiastically asks "What is hindering me from being baptized?" to which Phillip replies "If you believe with all your heart, you may." Then they come to a body of water, and Philip promptly baptizes him.

The first thing Saul, who became the apostle Paul, is told to do after his conversion was to be baptized. Acts 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'

There are a number of other instances we could look at as well:

Acts 10:46-48, the believers were baptized with water after receiving the Holy Spirit;

Acts 16 Lydia and her whole household were baptized; as were the jailer and his entire household.

Acts 18:8 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.

In each of these cases, there was the sense of urgency attached to baptism. These people all responded to Jesus in simple faith. However, they didn’t see their faith as complete until they had repented and identified with Jesus by being baptized.

Keep in mind that faith without works (corresponding actions) is dead (James 2:17.) A living faith produces an obedient heart, and water baptism is to be our first act of obedience. Genuine faith strongly desires to follow Jesus in baptism.

1 John 2:3-6 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, "I know him," but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

“Believers”, who do not follow Jesus in water baptism, do not really believe Jesus and are not walking as He did. If they fail to follow Him in baptism, they will lack the power of the Holy Spirit to walk obediently in other things. Therefore, they will fall away.

Are you struggling with sin and guilt over your past? It may be because you haven’t yet given the person you once were a proper burial!

In baptism, the person we were before is declared dead, and we are raised with Jesus as a totally new creation. We no longer identify with who we were or what we did. We identify with Christ and live for Him!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come!

As you can see, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain by following Jesus in water baptism. If you have not yet taken this step, I strongly encourage you to do so as soon as possible.

Baptism is a simple, but profound act of faith and obedience that you will remember for the rest of your life. Don’t let fear prevent you from dying to self and being born again of the Spirit in baptism. For both of these conditions are necessary to enter the Kingdom of God.

John 3:5 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

Of course, baptism will not benefit us without first embracing the reality that it represents: A living faith in Jesus Christ and a death to self through repentance. Without this, baptism is simply getting wet. You must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and be willing to publicly profess your faith. You must confess to God that you are a sinner and repent of living that way anymore. Then you are ready to submit to baptism, which is putting that old life to death, so you may be raised to live eternally in the power of the Holy Spirit, who takes residence in you.