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What is the importance of Christian baptism?

by | Aug 1, 2020 | Blog | 1 comment

Christian baptism is one of two ordinances that Jesus instituted for the church. Just before His ascension, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). These instructions specify that the church is responsible to teach Jesus’ word, make disciples, and baptize those disciples. These things are to be done everywhere (“all nations”) until “the very end of the age.” So, if for no other reason, baptism has importance because Jesus commanded it.

The Purpose of Baptism in the Christian Life

Baptism was practiced before the founding of the church. The Jews of ancient times would baptize proselytes to signify the converts’ “cleansed” nature. John the Baptist used baptism to prepare the way of the Lord, requiring everyone, not just Gentiles, to be baptized because everyone needs repentance. John’s baptism signified repentance.

Baptism is to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit—this is what makes it “Christian” baptism. It is through this ordinance that a person is admitted into the fellowship of the church. When we are saved, we are “baptized” by the Spirit into the Body of Christ, which is the church. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Baptism by water is a “reenactment” of the baptism by the Spirit.

Christian baptism is the means by which a person makes a public profession of faith and discipleship. In the waters of baptism, a person says, wordlessly, “I confess faith in Christ; Jesus has cleansed my soul from sin, and I now have a new life of sanctification.” I believe it’s also important to repent of our old lifestyle, sin, and unrighteousness and commit to serving the Lord Jesus in accordance with His word.

Christian baptism illustrates, in dramatic style, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, it also illustrates our death to sin and new life in Christ. As the sinner confesses the Lord Jesus, he dies to sin (Romans 6:11) and is raised to a brand-new life (Colossians 2:12). Being submerged in the water represents death to sin, and emerging from the water represents the cleansed, holy life that follows salvation. Romans 6:4 puts it this way: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Very simply, baptism is an outward testimony of the inward change in a believer’s life. I recently talked with a close friend about how this act is done, especially in the age of COVID-19. Do we have to physically dunk someone? Do we have to touch them as they go down underwater? He and I agree…we looked at the scripture and we don’t believe we do. Its the act itself which God cares about. Not the logistics. So, there is no reason why during this “pandemic” we still can’t baptize people. We should continue this practice always as this is a commandment of the Lord.

Christian baptism is an act of obedience to the Lord after salvation; although baptism is closely associated with salvation, it is not a requirement to be saved. The Bible shows in many places that the order of events is 1) a person believes in the Lord Jesus and 2) he is baptized. This sequence is seen in Acts 2:41, “Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized” (see also Acts 16:14–15).

A new believer in Jesus Christ should desire to be baptized as soon as possible. In Acts 8 Philip speaks “the good news about Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch, and, “as they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’” (verses 35–36). Right away, they stopped the chariot, and Philip baptized the man.

Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Everywhere the gospel is preached and people are drawn to faith in Christ, they are to be baptized.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel G Bernard

    In dealing with people from churches that do not practice baptism in the manner of dipping, plunging or immersing. As you said I simply say Jesus commanded it. He also said the test of love for Him is to obey his commands. It’s really a matter of the heart. If you love Jesus then follow what He commanded. He commanded baptism Mark 16:16

    Reply

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