If there is a subject which sorts out true converts from wishful thinkers and doubters it is this: BAPTISM
People make all sorts of excuses about this subject. From relying on the assertion that it is all by faith – not works – to saying that simple sprinkling is enough to meet the requirement.
To say it is by faith not works in answer to the requirement to be baptised is to offer a false argument. Any one with genuine God given faith will have the awareness to know that they must obey God’s teaching in the Bible. They are now under an obligation. To say that they are relying on their faith in Christ pure and simple is to say that they do not have faith from Christ. Because faith from God results in good works which God has ordained beforehand for us to carry out – see James 2, verses 14 to 26; and Ephesians 2, verses 8 to 10.
All questions and prevarications are marks of a refusal to take seriously the clear command which Jesus gave in the Great Commission [Matthew 28, verses 18 to 20].
And Jesus not only gave the clear command to his church; he actually underwent the process himself, as he says in Matthew chapter 3 and verse 15, to fulfill all righteousness.
And we have in the episode of Jesus baptism in chapter 3 of Matthew all we need to know about its mode, its importance and its consequence.
Baptism is by full immersion in water. Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan [verses 6 and 13]. In a river not a puddle or by pouring handfuls of water over his head. He was immersed – the meaning of the Greek word is that of a ship sinking beneath the waves. Immersion alone explains the symbolism of association with Christ’s death on the Cross – as Paul explains to the Romans in chapter 6 verses 3 to 5.
Buried with him by baptism into death [verse 4]
Only going down fully into the waters meets the image of burial with him in his death. And only the coming up out of the waters matches the image of his resurrection. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, chapter 2 and verse 12:
buried with him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead
Done in genuine God given faith, the act of baptism actually identifies the believer in a real and effective way with Christ’s death and resurrection. That is why it is so important. That is why it must be carried out. That is why it is not an option, but a duty – an obligation to obey.
Having come through baptism in sincere God given faith, the believer is recognised by God as a child of God. The statement by God the Father that
This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased
comes after Jesus has been baptised.
God makes clear his ownership of us at baptism. Satan certainly knows this. Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is the next event recorded by Matthew.
And by obeying the command to be baptised, we ourselves make clear our public commitment to God in Christ.
That mutual commitment is sealed by the Holy Spirit. We read here in Matthew 3 verse 16
and lo the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him.
God’s equipping power to live a whole new life is granted in the act of baptism. It is not just symbolic. It is actual and real. It is the impartation of special grace to the believer. It does not mean that the believer had nothing of the Spirit or of God’s faith before. God is clearly at work by his Spirit for anyone to even begin to come to him – dead as we are in our trespasses and sins – Ephesians 2, 5.
In baptism we are actually identified in Christ as belonging to Christ. It is literally a vital step. It is prefigured in the passage of the Isrealites through the waters of the Red Sea when they left Egypt, and when God then closed the waters over the pursuing Egyptians to destroy their enslaving power for ever.
This picture speaks volumes of the destruction of the power of the World System and its Satanic power when a person undergoes genuine believer’s baptism. And the passage of the Isrealites across Jordan into the promised land speaks volumes about the blessings of God for those who pass from the dominion of Satan into God’s kingdom via full immersion baptism.
As the apostle Paul told the Romans in chapter 6, from verse 1:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound ? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death ?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Newness of life in Christ. That is now the believer’s lifestyle. Completely different from the self seeking and self serving attitude of the world about us – demanding rights, but negligent regarding responsibilities.
Paul writes to the Colossians in chapter 3:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God….
Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. …. and let the peace of God rule in your hearts …. and be ye thankful.