Summary: When we are baptized with the water we are also baptized with the Holy Spirit and, as a result, receive a full measure of the same grace and love Jesus received when He showed us the way with His baptism.
Do any of you remember your baptism? I remember mine. You see, I can remember
mine because I was 17 at the time. I was baptized and brought into membership in a
Baptist church. Now, it wasn’t because I was a Baptist that I was older when I had
this experience of baptism and I’m not here to debate the theology of this passage of
scripture. For those of you who might not know what I mean, Baptists believe in
total immersion as the only acceptable method of baptism. Verse 16, where it says
Jesus came “up from” or “up out of” the water is interpreted by Baptists to mean
Jesus was baptized by total immersion, which may be how it happened. Other
interpretations say that maybe Jesus was standing waist deep in the water, was
sprinkled, and then walked up to shore “out of” or “from” the water. We, as
Presbyterians, believe the latter interpretation.
No, I was older when I was baptized because I never went to church until I was 15.
Now, you might think that, being older, I would understand or, at least, have a clue
as to what my baptism meant. Wrong! I wanted to be a member of this church and
to do that I had to be baptized. And, as a Baptist, I had to be baptized by immersion.
Now, Wendy will verify this, I won’t put my head under water in the pool, so it’s
hard to believe that I would allow myself to be “dunked”. Well, I wasn’t thrilled
about it, but I did it.
I remember it well. The baptistery was located behind a wall in back of the pulpit.
There were steps down into it from both sides, I came from the left side, along with
the other men. The women came from the other side. The water was warm and
came up to right here on me. I remember turning to my left to turn back toward the
steps I had just come down, seeing the blurred faces of the congregation as I turned
(no glasses). I stood there in my white robe, as the Pastor said his words, dreading
what was coming next. When the Pastor finished, he put his right hand on my back
(the signal from our practice sessions to lean back toward the water). The moment I
had been dreading was about to happen. My head was about to go under water.
If you swim, you know the sound when your head goes under the surface of the
water. I remember that sound so well. I can still hear it and feel it. He guided my
body backwards, then I was completely underwater. I was in a watergrave.
After being under for like, 5-6 minutes (actually, only a few seconds) I was brought
back up out of the water to an upright position. Water was in my eyes, I couldn’t
see, water was dripping off my (much longer) hair. I had done it! Now if I could
only tell you just what it meant. I didn’t really have a clue. I remember everything
about my baptism except the most important thing. What it meant. The significance
of baptism. Clueless.
It is only in the past few years that I have come to realize the significance of that
event on that day, the magnitude of the statement I was making to the world when I
was “buried alive” in my watergrave.
When a person is baptized, that person is making a statement to the world, that they
are a changed person. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and
spiritual grace. In the song you just heard (The Baptism of Jesse Taylor by the
Gaither Vocal Band), Jesse was an alcoholic, a cheater, and a gambler, spending his
money on liquor, women, and gambling without regard for the welfare of his family.
But when he was baptized, he changed. He got back on the right track. He gained
respect from his wife, he got his family back. The baptism changed Jesse, turned
him around, because when he went under, he went under for the Lord.
You all know that a grave is where a person is buried. That’s kind of like what
baptism symbolizes. When a person is baptized, the person they were is dead,
buried in a grave of water. They have gone to their “watergrave”. And the person
that comes out of that watergrave is like a new person. All of that filth, all of that
dirt has been washed away and they have a new beginning. They have repented of
their sins. The order for The Sacrament of Baptism in our Book of Common
Worship acknowledges this.
(Read questions from pg. 407 in BOCW.) That’s what “repent” means, to turn