“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)
“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.” (Romans 6:4)
As a minister of God’s Word for a half-dozen years, I have had numerous occasions to teach on the significance of believer’s baptism. The question comes up quite often during Bible studies where babes-in-Christ are present, and I find that many older Christians are unable to intelligently communicate their faith regarding the same. It seems there has been a laxity on the part of pastors who, though dutifully baptizing those professing faith in Christ, nevertheless have failed to teach the significance of this Church ordinance.
I do not profess myself to be anything akin to an expert on the subject of baptism. There are many great men of God who, without question, could exposit the foregoing text with superiority. But I am moved to write on the subject at hand, being all-the-more emboldened to speak on baptism as I have both experienced the same, in obedience to Christ, and also have sought out the significance of baptism within the context of being able to understand it myself and to communicate it to others.
This writing does not intend to be a doctrinal treatise on the baptism ordinance – an endeavor too voluminous for this venue. But I do think it important to make a couple of preliminary notes that address the origin and the effect of baptism; that is, the foundation of the practice and its relation to salvation. After these notes, the remainder of these devotions will pertain to an exposition of our text, in order to ascertain the significance of baptism in the life of the believer.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20)
For most, baptism is viewed as an act of obedience to the express Command of God. And truly, obedience to our Lord is sufficient reason enough to baptize and to be baptized. But our Lord is ever-so gracious to His Children to give us ample instruction in His Word, so that we may understand His plan and purpose for our good. Spiritual maturity – just like emotional maturity – entails the instilling of certain principles, whereby the individual’s actions are, in a sense, guided by their trained conscience. Hence, the Child of God has been given “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), so that we may know the mysteries of God (Matthew 13:11).
We see that Jesus Himself was baptized by John the Baptist to “fulfil all righteousness””
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.” (Matthew 3:13)
“But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” (Matthew 3:14)
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (Matthew 3:15)
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 3:21)
There are those who teach the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, using this verse of Scripture to buttress their claim. It is true the Apostle Peter wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that “baptism doth also now save us”; but let us not overlook the reference to baptism as a “figure” to depict salvation. Also note the parenthetical statement, that clarifies his meaning, that baptism does not remove the “the filth of the flesh, but [testifies to] … a good conscience toward God.” Furthermore, the means of salvation to be viewed by the figure is given: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
If we are saved, it is according to the Sovereign Grace of God, and not according to any works we may do (Ephesians 2:8-9) – including baptism. It has to be evident to anyone who has ever gone swimming, water immersion itself only gets you wet. Repeated immersions in a baptistry have likewise proven to effect only one’s wetness, and that not connected to God’s Grace. The Apostle Peter avows the Resurrection of Christ as the saving of the saints; which we testify to our participation in, by the ordinance of water baptism.
Having very briefly addressed the baptism ordinance as to its origin, and its relation to the saints as a figure, or demonstration, of their participation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; our next look will focus on the different aspects of baptism’s significance. In doing so, we will revisit these two points as necessary to our understanding the great Truth that is shown by the believers’ baptism. As the Lord intends our spiritual growth and maturity, it behooves us to search the Scriptures and prepare to communicate our faith to others (1 Peter 3:15).