Human traditions and theology immerse the elegant simplicity of Christ’s good news into an endless flood of noise from people’s opinions. The purpose of this post is to let God’s word simplify the meaning of baptism for us.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON, AND SPIRIT
Matthew 28:19–20 (CSB) — 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Baptism describes one of the two primary means by which the imperative to “make disciples” is accomplished: disciples are immersed into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the covenant children of God.
OUR RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL
Acts 2:37–38 (CSB) — 37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism describes the disciple’s response in faith to the powerful conviction of the gospel wherein the disciple receives the gift of God’s promised Holy Spirit by his grace.
WASH AWAY YOUR SINS
Acts 22:16 (CSB) — 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
Baptism describes the point wherein the disciple’s sins are washed away by God’s forgiving grace when they call on their Savior’s name by faith. The water symbolizes the cleansing of sin’s stain and the removal of our guilt according to the faithful love of God.
THE PLEDGE OF A CLEAN CONSCIENCE
1 Peter 3:18–22 (CSB) — 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison 20 who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
Baptism describes in metaphorical terms the new covenant by which disciples are saved as corresponding to Noah’s flood. For this reason, baptism is the pledge of our covenant with God that saves us through the resurrection of Christ just as Noah and his family were saved in the ark when the flood waters washed away the wickedness of the world.
Colossians 2:11–12 (CSB) — 11 You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Baptism describes the means by which the disciple’s heart is circumcised without human hands through the death and resurrection of Christ. For this reason, it is in baptism that the divine work of removing the body of flesh is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.
BURIED WITH CHRIST
Romans 6:3–6 (CSB) — 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,
Baptism describes the supernatural means by which the believer is spiritually joined to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection so that their old self can be put to death and buried in his death and burial, and their new-self can be raised in the power of the resurrection to new life. This is the certain guarantee that we will join him in the likeness of his resurrection because in his cross the power of sin and death has been crushed so that our souls are now set free.
PUTTING ON CHRIST
Galatians 3:26–29 (CSB) — 26 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. 27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.
Baptism describes the means by which disciples are spiritually clothed by God’s grace in the righteousness of Christ. By this grace the disciple is made fit for the wedding banquet apart from their own works and prepared to be joined together with Christ as the coheirs of his eternal Kingdom according to the faithful promises of God.
BY ONE SPIRIT INTO ONE BODY
1 Corinthians 12:13–14 (CSB) — 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 14 Indeed, the body is not one part but many.
Baptism describes the means by which the Holy Spirit brings us into the unity of Christ’s body. Every disciple is added to the body apart from their own status according to the good will of the Holy Spirit so that no one may boast. We are made one by his perfect wisdom.
WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT & FIRE
Matthew 3:11 (CSB) — 11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Accordingly, Jesus baptizes with one of two baptisms: one for believers in the Holy Spirit, and one for sinners with fire.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is performed by Christ upon God’s covenant-children as the means by which the grace of God is supernaturally imparted to the believer’s life according to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The baptism of fire will be performed by Christ upon unrepentant sinners as the means by which the wickedness of this world will be immersed in the wrath of God and the scales of justice will be ultimately balanced with perfect retribution according to each one’s own deeds.
Do you have questions about how baptism works with faith and God’s grace? Are you struggling between what you read here and the traditions that you were raised with? Please do not hesitate to leave a comment below!
~ May Christ Captivate!