August 22, 2011

The Meaning of Baptism, Part 2

Last week we spent our time nailing down the fact that, important as it is, baptism is not a part of salvation. A person may be saved by the blood of Jesus without ever having gone through the waters of baptism. But having said that, we may be in danger of minimizing baptism’s importance; of treating it is though it were marginal and unimportant, which it is clearly not.

So what gives? If baptism doesn’t save us, why do we do it? And why do we require folks to undergo believer’s baptism as a precursor to membership in the church? If it doesn’t save, why do we make such a big deal of it?

The simple answer is because the New Testament makes a big deal of it! And why so? Because, while the New Testament clearly teaches that baptism does not cause us to be saved, it also teaches that baptism is a public declaration that we have been saved already!

That’s right: Baptism – not aisle walking, or card-signing, or verbal testimony sharing – is the New Testament way for a new Christian to proclaim to the world that he or she is now a follower of Jesus. Baptism is the New Testament method of making a public profession of faith. Now that is not to say it’s wrong to give verbal testimony of our faith in Jesus! Would that we all did more of that! But the fact is that baptism was the way the early believers announced their commitment to follow Jesus. And so it should be today. The way we declare our faith publically is through the ordinance of baptism!

And, you know, every believer really ought to declare his or her faith publically, oughtn’t he? Surely! And, as I said, there are other ways of doing that – some of them even good ways. But if there is a definite New Testament way of professing faith in Jesus; and if every believer ought to profess his faith publically, it stands to reason that baptism is a really big deal!

So yes, baptism is only a picture. It never has saved a single soul … and never will. It’s just a symbol. But it’s an incredibly important one … because it is the symbol which God has given us to declare our faith in Jesus! Praise God for the opportunities we have, from time to time, to see the symbol acted out in the church!

Let’s pray that we’d have even more occasions, in the months ahead, to be thanking and thinking about baptism!

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