Summary: Why be Baptized?

Baptism January 10, 2010

A few years ago we gained some new neighbours on our street – a great couple named Bev & Laird. On a warm summer Saturday, a bunch of us we having coffee on the front porch – Linda was talking about the wedding dress that she was sewing for a niece & it came out that Bev & laird weren’t married. Being good neighbours, we gave them a hard time. Linda volunteered to sew the dress, I volunteered to perform the ceremony, others were happy to cook the food etc…

We all had a good laugh, but I’m not sure Bev. & Laird were laughing as hard as we were! Last summer, Laird told me over the back fence, “hey, I’ve got some great news! Bev. & I are engaged!” On New Years eve past, the whole street turned out to see Bev. in here beautiful dress, and Laird in his … (I mean kilt) and to see them off as they went off to the ceremony.

I never asked them why they decided to actually get married – they had been together for years, the had bought a house together, they had all the trappings of a marriage minus the ceremony. I would guess that beyond family (and neighbourhood) pressure, they saw the need for a deeper commitment to each other than just financial and social ties. There really is something about the vow, the promise that we make to each other to love each other and be faithful for the rest of our lives. It is a beautiful thing to know that in good times and bad, you have someone who has vowed to stay with you.

I think that there are some Christians out there who are much like Bev & Laird before new years – you’ve made a commitment to God, you’ve accepted Jesus’ death and resurrection to forgive your sins and give you new life,

The meaning of Baptism

There is a great about of symbolism around weddings – there is even more in the single act of Baptism!

Baptism is a sign and commitment to new life

Matthew 3:1-6

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

"A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

'Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.' "

John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Baptism is a picture of starting a new life, of turning over a new leaf. The people who were baptized by John were making a commitment to live differently that they had before.

Baptism is a sign that we want to get a restart in life. We are saying that the person that we once were is not who we want to be, the way that we used to live is not the way that we want to live now.

Baptism is a powerful image of this new start because it is an image of death, burial, and resurrection. We are saying that our old way of living is dead, and we are leaving it in the watery grave as we come back out into a new life. This is what the people we saying as they came to John to be baptized – “we want to start again, we have not been living for God, and now we want to live for him.”

Baptism is an act of obedience/ righteousness

The funny thing is that Jesus comes to John to be baptized!

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 alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

We believe that Jesus is the sinless Son of God; he is the only one who did not need to repent, because he had never done anything wrong! And yet he says that he should be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. This account reminds me that righteousness is not just about what we don’t do. It is also about what we do. There are things that God calls us to do to be righteous. He doesn’t just say, don’t murder or hate, don’t steal or covet lustfully. He says that there are things that we need to actively do – symbolic things like baptism, and very earthy practical things like serving the poor, loving the people he has given us, and caring for his creation. God cares about what we do as much as he does about what we don’t do.

Jesus goes and does what he doesn’t need to do, just to please his Father – it is like when one of my kids does something I’d like them to do without me asking, except greater. And God responds to Jesus in the same way as I do, except greater. The whole trinity comes together, the Spirit comes visibly on Jesus, and the Father shouts out, “THIS IS MY SON, WHOM I LOVE! WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED!

Often we step into the waters of baptism out of obedience to God we will feel the pleasure of God’s love for you.

Baptism was not the only thing that Jesus did that he did not have to do. Infinitely greater, Jesus died for things he did not do.

Isaiah says it this way 700 years before Jesus died:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:5-6

In baptism, we are saying that we will accept Jesus’ payment for the harm that our sins have caused. We are symbolically saying, that when Jesus died, our sins are on the cross with him.

Christian Baptism is a picture of unity with Jesus’ death and resurrection

This is how the apostle Paul puts it: “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 in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” Romans 6:3-7

In baptism, we are saying that when Jesus died, we died; when he was buried, we were buried; when he was raised again, we were raised again into new life.

This is amazing rich imagery, but it is not all!

Baptism is a picture of washing

Just as we use water to wash the grime of our bodies, God uses the water of baptism as a symbol that he is washing us clean of everything that we have ever done wrong!

When Paul starts to serve Jesus, Annanias says to him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” - Acts 22:16 (TNIV)

Peter writes to the early Christians:

“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” - 1 Peter 3:21-22

God takes us and cleans us up enough that we can enter into his presence – the presence of the creator and king of the universe! Our baptism is a symbol of that washing.

The amazing thing is that when we wash the dirt from our bodies, the dirt goes down the drain and we forget that we were ever that dirty. God is the same way, once he washes us clean, he treats us as if we had never been dirty before!

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22

Baptism is an immersion into Christ

Baptism is a transliterated word from the Greek word that means immerse. It was the word used when a ship sank in the sea and the waters flooded every part of the ship. Baptism is a symbol that our whole life, our whole being is “in Christ.” Being “in Christ” means that what ever has happened to Jesus has happened to us. It also means that when God the Father sees us, he sees his own son first – we are in him.

Although we don’t remain under the water, we remain immersed, or clothed in Christ.

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

We are also immersed in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:13

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Baptism is a sign that you have joined the community of faith

As baptism is a symbol of new birth, it is also the initiation rite into a new family: the family of believers. Architecturally, this is why the baptismal tank is often outside the walls of the worship space – you go through the waters to “enter” the church.

1 Corinthians 12:13

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Baptism is a public witness of your faith.

Just as the marriage ceremony is a public witness to the love and unity between two people, baptism is a public witness to the love and unity between God and us. We often ask the baptismal candidate to share their testimony before being baptized, but even if they only answer the set questions, they are proclaiming their faith to all present. Jesus promises us, "Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32

I’ve had people ask, “Why should I have to be baptized? Isn’t it enough to believe?” But with this understanding of the depth and beauty of the act of baptism, how could you not want to be baptized? In fact, the apostles came at it from a different angle, they talked not about requiring people to be baptized, but being sure not to withhold baptism from new believers!

Ethiopian – here’s water, what hinders me from being baptized?

- It seems to be the opposite today – there’s lots of water, it’s not externals that’s stopping you from being baptized, it’s internal – what’s stopping you?

If you have come to faith in Christ, and have never been baptized, I want to invite you into this beautiful, deep and powerful symbol of our faith. Don’t hold yourself back from such an experience of salvation, obedience and love for, and from God.