Continuing the Importance of Water Baptism
The importance of water baptism increases after the resurrection. Here is what changed. The older Hebrew ritual of water baptism reflects the candidate’s response to a call to repentance and reflects alignment with the Jewish priestly leader who does the baptizing. This is why John the Baptist is known by that name. Many of his followers adhered to a strict regimen of fasting and prayer as a part of this commitment. After Jesus raises from the dead, the same ritual takes on a new and better meaning. Those being baptized in the name of Jesus are testifying to being in Christ, and in a new and better covenant relationship with God.
Jesus changes the meaning of Passover and Baptism
It is the same thing that Jesus did with the seder. The seder, the Passover meal, had meaning when observed for hundreds of years. It is done to remember the old covenant and deliverance from slavery in Egypt. But Jesus changes it forever the night before his crucifixion. When eating the PassoverJesus introduces the New Covenant. While following the script of the old observance, as they are eating its symbolic bread and drinking wine, Jesus adds these words “This is my body, and this is my blood.”
Jesus is also changing the meaning and observance of the ritual of baptism. It retains making the candidate identified with the name of the baptizer. But He adds far greater significance and importance to water baptism. This is because it fulfills the prophetic promise of being baptized into the Messiah, His covenant, and His Kingdom. John’s baptism candidate goes into the water vowing to change and comes out intending to do better, but not spiritually changed. John tells them, You do good to be baptized by me. But you must still be looking for the coming of the Messiah.
Now that the Messiah has come
Messiah has come, but not everyone is aware of this. Here is what Paul finds in Ephesus many years after Jesus returns to heaven:
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
In addition to baptism in water, they have hands laid on by Paul, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This message is only focusing on water baptism.
Romans 6:3-4, 11
— Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Same baptism ritual, very different importance
What an amazing symbol of death and resurrection always potentially present in baptism. But, it is only possible by baptism into Jesus. In baptism, we go down into the water to identify with Jesus going down into death and the grave. If we remain there, we will die. Yet we rise out of the water just as He rises out of the grave. The chief importance of water baptism is that it is testifying to being in a blood covenant with Jesus Christ.
Why get baptized?
Are you saved if you do not get baptized? That very much depends on why you have not chosen to be baptized after believing in Jesus. If you have accepted Jesus as Lord, you are saved. If unexpected death prevents the ceremony, you are still saved. Baptism comes after belief, not before. However, if you are just putting it off, or ignoring it, you are not obeying Jesus. Your obedience must be deeper than any fear or rebellion that would cause you to ignore it. Properly done baptism into Jesus Christ it is not joining you to a human or a religious organization. Baptism as we have seen, done properly, joins you to Christ Jesus.
This must be done in public, with witnesses, exactly like any sacred blood covenant ceremony. You are declaring you are now a follower of the covenant Lord Jesus Christ. It may make you unpopular with those who live in the darkness, but it makes you popular in heaven. You now have the promises of the love of Father God, grace, peace, and reconciliation.
What are the benefits of water baptism?
What other benefits to your spiritual life come with this public testimony? It may encourage others to make the same confession of faith you have made, bringing salvation to others. One of the greatest benefits for young believers (of any age) is what I call the line in the sand. You are likely to have ups and downs in your walk of faith. You may even become discouraged or wonder if you are saved. Preachers in some well-meaning churches may even try to convict you to come forward again to be saved again.
You may need prayer, we all do. You may need help to overcome an addiction or sin. However, when you have your baptism to look back on, as I did at sixteen, you know you are saved. You never have to wonder whether you really accepted Jesus as Lord. When the enemy brings doubt, you can remind the devil that he is talking to the wrong person. You must be looking for the guy who died that day. I am not that person; I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 3:21
21 And baptism, which is a figure [of their deliverance], does now also save you [from inward questionings and fears], not by the removing of outward body filth [bathing], but by [providing you with] the answer of a good and clear conscience (inward cleanness and peace) before God [because you are demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Jordan River Baptism Photo by Shoresidelady1 on Unsplash