In a previous post, I considered the question of “when” someone should get baptized. As a complementary piece, I want to consider here a few reasons “why” someone should get baptized.
Unfortunately, some churches have a relatively low view of baptism and are quite blasé in the way they practice it. On the other hand, some churches who insist on doing it (and doing it “properly!“) often give lacklustre reasons for why Christians need to be baptized. A common one I have encountered is, “Christians get baptized in obedience to Jesus’ command to be baptized and follow His example of being baptized.” While this is certainly true, it lends to an impoverished view of baptism if mere obedience is the main or only reason given for the act.
So, based on my previous description of baptism as a symbol and declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, here are 4 reasons I would encourage any new believer (or unbaptized person who professes faith in Christ) to seek baptism.
#1 By getting baptized you are publicly declaring to the world that Jesus is Lord and that you’ve thrown your lot in with Him by trusting in Him for salvation.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:3-5, ESV
This is a powerful declaration to Christians and non-Christians alike – whether they witness your baptism personally, or hear about it afterwards. Baptism is actually a statement about your identity – about what the most significant thing in your life is. By going down into the water, you’re saying boldly that you’ve died with Christ – died to your sins, died to the world, and that all your hope for life is in the resurrection of Jesus you will share in for eternity.
We take other ceremonies that are closely associated with our identity very seriously – eg; graduation ceremony, wedding ceremony, citizenship ceremony. And yet, baptism is a much more fundamental statement about who we are. Because soon you won’t be a professional, a spouse or a citizen of your country. But if you’re united with Christ, what your baptism says about you will always be true. Throughout eternity, the reality of your union with Christ in His death and resurrection will endure, while the career you had, who you married and which flag you lived under will be comparatively minor historical details.
Getting baptized therefore serves as a powerful witness of these truths to those who already think this way about Jesus and life. It also issues a deep challenge to those who live for this world and will lose it all when it perishes.
#2 By getting baptized you are declaring to your new brothers and sisters in Christ that you have come to know Jesus just as they have and that you wish to identify with them God’s family.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28, ESV
Saying “I want to get baptized” is saying “I am a ‘Jesus person'” and that you want to be identified publicly with Christ for the rest of your life, by visibly entering the community of His people. You are recognising that all those who were obedient disciples of Christ before you believed have identified with Him through the rite of baptism and now you wish to become one of them (even one with them) through your own clear declaration of union with Christ.
Just like our citizenship ceremonies are about saying “I wish to be called an Australian now and identify with those who already are”, baptism is a positive declaration of identity and identification with God’s people.
#3 By baptizing you, your new church family is declaring to you that they recognise you as a believer in Jesus and welcome you into the Body of Christ and family of God.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)
This is of course the other side of the coin to #2. Whoever is baptizing you (which, in all but extreme cases of geographical isolation ought to be your local church) is affirming your profession of faith in Christ and declaring to you: “You’re one of us now.” Again, to use the example of a citizenship ceremony – the point of the event is not merely to hear the new citizen declare their allegiance to their new country – it’s an opportunity for official representatives of their adopted/adoptive country to welcome them into the ranks of the nation.
Baptism is not about the church saying “We’re 100% sure that you’re a genuine Christian and that you’ll spend eternity with Christ” (that’s God’s jurisdiction and prerogative not ours). But it is about saying “We accept your profession of faith as credible and you give us no reason to doubt you’re one of us or reject you from our fellowship. Welcome to the family of God.”
#4 By getting baptized you are inviting God, through the Holy Spirit to declare to you that the things which baptism symbolizes are true of you.
“Baptism…now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22, ESV
In the somewhat controversial NT passage above, Peter is not teaching that the ceremony of baptism “saves” us.
But he is teaching how it is connected to salvation and the Christian life. The water that washes us in baptism has no magical properties to affect us spiritually. But by being baptized – by acting out our profession of faith and declaring to all that we are united with Christ by faith – we are doing something that can do us immense spiritual good. We are appealing to God for a good conscience. That is to say, we are asking God to testify to us that we have actually been washed clean and spiritually renewed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Titus 3:4-7). A good conscience means our guilt and shame in relation to God has been washed away by Jesus and that we can enjoy a loving relationship with God that leads to eternal life. I believe, partly based on my personal experience in being baptized, that our appeal to God for a good conscience is essentially us asking Him to declare to us that what our baptism represents is true.
When I was baptized I had a great sense of spiritual assurance that I was a new creation and that the Holy Spirit truly had applied the work of Christ to my life and united me with Him through faith. The water didn’t do this – but going through baptism seemed to result in a powerful testimony to me from God that the promises of Jesus were really mine. It was as though God was saying, “As surely as you have gone down into the water, you have died with Jesus and your sins are washed away – your soul is clean. And as surely as you have come up from the water again, you have new life in Jesus through His resurrection and you will live eternally through His life.”
I’m not putting words in God’s mouth, this is merely me reflecting theologically (drawing heavily on the Scriptural account of what baptism means), in order to express a sense of what I felt and experienced that day. I can’t guarantee you’ll have exactly the same experience – but I’d still encourage you to approach baptism as an appeal to God: a means of assuring you that your conscience is good and you have been cleansed by Christ.
There is much more that could be said on the matter, but I hope these 4 reasons can serve as a motivator for those who are new believers thinking about baptism, or those who have professed Christ for some time without getting baptized, to make and receive these public declarations through baptism. May you bring glory to Christ not only through this public identification with the gospel, but seeking to live a life that reflects the amazing truth that you’re united with Him.
 Taylor McBride “Baptism” (CC BY-NC 2.0) flickr