August 29, 2011

The Meaning of Baptism, Part 3

In the last two weeks we have established two biblical facts:

1. Baptism does not, and cannot, save a person … nor add even an ounce to what Jesus has already done. Repentance and faith in Christ alone are what save a person.
2. Yet baptism is vitally important … because it is the New Testament way of making public profession of our faith. And, thus, every believer ought to go through the waters.

But now a third question: Why has God chosen baptism as the means by which we should make known our faith in His Son? Why is baptism the New Testament way to make a profession of faith?

Answer: Because baptism is a perfect picture of what Jesus has done for the believer. And what has He done? What has happened to us, if our faith is in Christ? Well, yes, our sins have been washed away. But that’s not really what baptism pictures. Rather, according to Romans 6, baptism symbolizes death and resurrection – both Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our own! Think it out.

First, Paul says in Romans 6.4 that we have been “buried with Christ through baptism into death.” In other words, Jesus died … and carried our sins to the grave with Him. So, if we belong to Jesus, our old sinful selves have been buried with Him! Sin no longer has mastery over us – it’s dead! And baptism symbolizes that. We are “buried with Christ through baptism!” In other words, when the believer is submerged under the water, it is a picture of burial – both Jesus’ burial, and the burial of our old sinful selves with Him! “We have been buried with Him through baptism.” What a marvelous picture!

And when we come out of the water? Well, that symbolic resurrection is a picture of an actual resurrection – both Jesus’ and ours. In verse 5, Paul says it like this, in the context of his description of baptism: “As Christ was raised from the dead … so we too might walk in newness of life.” Christ was buried, and rose … and, because He did, we rose, too! Because Christ rose, we have new life, both here and now, and in heaven forever! And we see this, in picture form, in baptism. We are buried under the water, symbolizing our death, and that of Jesus; and then we are raised back out of the water, picturing Jesus’ resurrection, and our corresponding new life of faith, hope, and love in Him!

Summary? Baptism does not save you. Baptism is a symbol and declaration of what happened to you (past tense) when you were saved by Jesus. And what happened to you? If you truly belong to Jesus, your old sinful self was buried with Him, and God created new life in your soul through Christ’s resurrection from the dead. And what better way to picture such a miracle than by having the new believer come before his fellow Christians and be symbolically buried and raised in front of them? That’s baptism! Praise God we got to see it again, recently. Let us pray that we have more and more opportunities to do so!

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