Category: Baptism/Lord’s Supper

Why should I get baptized?

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.

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#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.

 

 

[1] Taylor McBride “Baptism” (CC BY-NC 2.0) flickr

When should I get baptized?

A couple of things have instigated this post:

1) Not so long ago I had a chat with some guys at church about baptism. They hadn’t been baptized yet, so we chatted about things like the thinking behind baptism; why they should consider it for themselves etc; So it got me thinking that some of these questions might be worth tackling for the potential benefit of a wider audience.

2) Over my years as a Christian and in gospel ministry I’ve encountered a number of people (some have been fairly close friends) who have professed Christ for a number of years – but have never undergone baptism. While I’m sure some of these brothers and sisters may have had better reasons than others – much of what I’ve encountered seems to boil down to a subjective feeling of “unreadiness” for baptism and/or an unclear or unhelpful idea about what baptism is and where it fits into the Christian life.

So I’m writing with potentially both sets of people in mind. When and why should anyone get baptized?

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What is baptism all about?

First things first, I probably ought to say something about the “what” of baptism. [Since I plan to cover my detailed thoughts on baptism in future posts, I’ll keep things brief here].

Baptism is a visible symbol of the gospel. Specifically, the immersion of a person in water, in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19-20), depicts their union with Jesus Christ in His death (going down into the water) and resurrection (coming up out of the water) (see Romans 6). Baptism is also a statement of entry into the community of people that confess Jesus as Lord and trust Him for the forgiveness of sins. In summary, baptism is a visual, elemental declaration – first and foremost about Jesus – but also about the person being baptized and the community they’re identifying with through baptism.

When should I get baptized?

Short answer (stated positively): You should get baptized as soon as possible once a) you’re confident that you’ve become a Christian (through genuine repentance from sin and personal trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord) &
b) your church is willing to baptize you based on what they’ve assessed to be your genuine profession of faith in Christ.

Short answer (stated negatively): If you know you’re a Christian and your church has been treating you as such for some time – you definitely shouldn’t be delaying getting baptized.

Explanation: In the early days of Christianity, baptism took place very soon after conversion and confession of faith in Christ (often immediately after, see Acts 2:41; 8:36-39; 9:18; 10:47-48). Why they did it so early on seems to be because baptism functioned as a visible symbol of conversion to Christianity and an entry marker into the church community. Baptized people were distinct from everyone else in the sense that they had identified with Jesus and the gospel in a very public way and the church had recognised and received them into her ranks.

While not everyone needs to be baptized the day, or day after, they profess faith in Christ – the faith and practice of the early church suggests earlier is better than later. I have no problems with churches taking the possibility of false conversions seriously and wanting to be duly accountable to God that the person they’re baptizing has become a genuine disciple of Jesus.** But in principle, I’d say it’s a credible profession of faith that forms the basis for baptizing someone and that neither a believer or church should be mucking around too much if that’s present.

If your church has a short baptism course that runs for a few weeks or a program for new believers to make sure every Christian is grounded in the essentials of the faith, there’s nothing wrong with that – and it has potential to be of great benefit to both the new Christian and the church community they’re joining.

But delaying baptism indefinitely, as though it is not a matter of importance, is an unhelpful practice. One which the New Testament would not commend.

I’ll have a follow-up post in a few days time, considering some motivations and incentives as to “why” someone should get baptized.

NOTES:

*I’ve deliberately left aside questions of infant baptism and “rebaptism”, as my concern and focus here is those who have never participated in anything they’d call a Christian baptism.

**I’d say this is a good idea, proportionally to how much nominal Christianity has been an issue in the culture a church is operating in. If there have been historical, social benefits associated with outward affiliation with Christianity, it probably pays to have a method of instruction and examination of the person’s understanding of the faith before baptizing them. If there is little or no social advantage (or immediate risk of persecution) connected to Christianity in a society, I see no problem with immediate baptism upon profession of faith, as per the New Testament.

Picture Credit

[1] Wilderness Kev Baptism (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) flickr