#3) Were you ever baptized? [Why or why not?]

November 1, 2008

In the history of Christendom, baptism has played a significant role in the church. The purpose of this post is to not discuss the history of circumcision in the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham. Nor is it to discuss the differences between credobaptism and paedobaptism. Since I am a protestant believer and was born-again in a Baptist church, I was nevertheless personally ‘immersed in water’ after my conversion. I am not a proponent of infant baptism and will simply defend ‘believer’s baptism’ or ‘credobaptism’ based off the New Testament Scriptures on what the Apostle Paul teaches as well as Jesus Himself. Ultimately, the purpose should highlight the importance and commandment of a [new] believer to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

Although baptism reflects newness of life, it is clearly not what saves the soul. It is merely a symbol or outward reflection of the inward change of life. Water itself cannot save the soul or forgive sin as much as it cannot become a pig and fly. There is no more power in water [sprinkled or immersed] than there is in a tree or stone. Immersion is the sacrament in the New Testament that publicly displays that a believer’s heart has been circumcised and is indeed ‘putting off the sins of the body.’
“In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of 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.”
Colossians 2:11-13

In the task of baptism, the purpose and evidential power clearly lies solely in Jesus Christ. According to the whole counsel of Scripture and of God, it is only He who can forgive sins [John 1:29]. It is only Christ who laid His life down and took it back up again with His own power; so we trust and depend on that very act to ‘die’ to our flesh and this life to be raised by Him in the last day. In the process of immersion, the submersion represents our death and burial to sin and flesh in this life and the ascension out of the water represents our resurrection to a new life in Christ.
“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.” Romans 6:3-6
Just as Christ was glorified as well as the Father in His resurrection, so will we be glorified in our resurrection because of what Christ gave us access to by His death and resurrection. Baptism represents our death to sin [and its dominion] and union with Christ, just as marriage between a man and woman represents the sacrificial relationship between Christ and the church.

Perhaps the most convicting commands for baptism in the New Testament are from Jesus Himself as He correlates it with the Great Commission.
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” Mark 16:15-16
I do not want to exaggerate baptism over the importance of preaching the gospel or believing. Without the preaching of the gospel and the Holy Spirit illuminating the eyes and ears of the heart to the stark truth of its wretched and hopeless condition without the new birth, there would be no belief or repentance. There would be no cause or concern for the need of baptism. Without belief and the repentance of sins that causes regeneration, baptism may only serve to rinse the body of a little dirt. It would therefore be impossible to truly display the glory of God in the public declaration of the forgiveness of sins if you are indeed dead in them. If one is baptized without true repentance or regeneration [the indwelling of the Holy Spirit], then it merely blasphemes God by claiming a miracle that has never taken place [that you are saved when you are really not]. It does indeed represent an earthly and sensual proclamation to do what one could never do on one’s own. To publicly claim to have died to your flesh and have been in union with Christ through the act of your baptism, and truly be dead in sins, is nothing other than Judas kissing Jesus on the cheek prior to delivering him to the Romans. Unless the Grace of God in His goodness snatches the soul out of the miry clay and the pit of hell, an unregenerate baptism is simply a publicized betrayal.

On the other end of the spectrum, there may be true believers who have never been baptized. Or, they may have been baptized at one point as an unbeliever, but then were truly converted at a later date. According to God’s word, I do not believe there is justification to not be baptized again. To reiterate, if one is truly converted by the Spirit and ultimately lead to repentance, then the fact that one is baptized [again] does not affect the justification process. But consider the humbling and conscience provoking example of Jesus Christ Himself.
“When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, then heaven was opened.”
Luke 3:21
This event set the perfect example for the rest of New Testament believers. The only difference is that Jesus Christ did not need baptism. Hence, John responded to Jesus’ request to be baptized by asking, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? [Matthew 3:14]” According to the eternal decree of God for the purpose of John the Baptist, he was a righteous man. He was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb [Luke 1:15]. He baptized sinners in the Jordan daily as well as commanded them to repent. Yet, he first exclaims to Jesus that it is he who needed to be baptized by Him. John’s reverence for the Lord displayed Jesus’ true glory and power to forgive sins. For the first time among John’s many baptisms, he baptized One who has never sinned. This public act not only demonstrated Jesus’ perfect righteousness, but now John was physically reminded that he was truly not worthy of unloosing the Savior’s sandal.
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He said 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.’”
Matthew 3:16-17

In the infinitely proficient sustenance of Jesus’ baptism, His light continued to shine in the darkness. He explained in the Gospels that he did not come to be served, but to serve. Just as it is a great miracle and unfathomable gesture of Mercy for the Son of God to wash the feet of His disciples, so it is exactly what He explained His character and purpose to be. Just as Jesus physically washed the feet of His disciples as a perfect example, so we are to spiritually wash each others feet in sacrificial love and care for one another [John 13:14-15]. The same applies in the public baptism of Jesus. He justly and righteously does not need to be cleansed of any sin, for He knew no sin. Just as the King of Kings should justly and righteously have His feet washed all day by his disciples, He perfectly displays His own righteousness by the infinite kindness of His character to do as He did; to serve in such a way that fallen sinners do not naturally desire. If the eternal Son of God, who knows not sin, humbly came as a God-Man from the perfect Eternal counsel of the Trinity to be subjugated in the hands of sinners and ultimately nailed to a cross, what word do we bring against Him as infinite and justly condemned sinners? It is impossible to be changed by Him and not desire to serve and wash the feet of others. Just as the very act of the baptism of the sinless Christ weighs heavy on the conscience of those who have infinitely transgressed His name, so we should eagerly desire by the Spirit of God to perfect all righteousness by our baptism in demonstration of our union with Christ and unrelenting public gratitude for His infinite forgiveness of our sins.

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