by Matt Slick
Baptism is a public ceremony conducted by Christians where one person either dunks another person in water or, as some denominations practice, sprinkles or pours water on a person's head. There are several reasons to be baptized.
- We get baptized because Jesus commanded it
- Baptism is a public identification with Christ
- Baptism symbolizes our death to sin
- Baptism is a sign of being a disciple
- Baptism as a covenant sign
We get baptized because Jesus commanded it
Matthew 28:18–20, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”"
Notice, that baptism is not simply a symbol or religious ceremony. It is something that Jesus commanded Christians to do as they go and make disciples. The word "baptizing" is a participle which means that it is an ongoing action like eating, walking, talking, etc. Baptizing people as we make disciples means that we are carrying out Christ's command throughout our lives and history.
Baptism is a public identification with Christ
Baptism is a religious ceremony where one person baptizes another usually by immersion in water (some Christian denominations sprinkle). Baptism is equated with dying with Christ (Romans 6:8), and so the symbolism of being buried is a public declaration of our dying with Christ as well as our identification with him. Therefore, when someone is publicly baptized, he is proclaiming his allegiance to and trust in Christ.
Acts 10:44–48, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 'Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?' 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days."
Baptism symbolizes our death to sin
Romans 6:3-4, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
When we are baptized, we are identifying with Christ's death. This is why immersion is such a great symbol because it brings to mind the idea of having died and being buried in the ground. Baptism is a visible representation of our symbolic death to sin (Rom. 6:2, 11; 7:4). After all, Christians have died with Christ (Rom. 6:8; Col. 2:20) and were crucified with him (Rom. 6:6). Since Romans 7:4 says that those who have died are no longer under obligation to keep the law, and since breaking the law is sin (1John 3:4), then our death with Christ is declaring our freedom from sin and its power to separate us from God. This is one of the things baptism represents.
Baptism is a sign of being a disciple
At the beginning of this article I quoted scripture where Jesus commanded that we get baptized as we make disciples. Therefore, baptism is a sign of being a disciple of Jesus. But, what is a disciple? Basically, a disciple of Jesus is someone who is his pupil, his student. As Christians we are to follow the example of Christ, to bear our crosses daily (Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23), to love (John 13:35), and even die for him if necessary (Matt. 16:25; John 15:13). It means we seek to be more like Jesus, to be more honest, dependable, righteous, faithful, and holy in our intent (1 Peter 1:16).
Baptism and covenant
A covenant is a pact or an agreement between two or more parties. Covenants have signs. The covenant sign of Noah was the rainbow. The covenant sign for Abraham was circumcision. Jesus made a new covenant in his blood (Matt. 26:28; Luke 22:20). Some Christians relate baptism to a New Testament covenant sign that replaces Old Testament circumcision.
Colossians 2:11–12, "and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."
Paul speaks of baptism and circumcision together. Exactly what that relationship is has been debated by Christians for many years. Nevertheless, it is possible that baptism is also a covenant sign of our public declaration to serve and honor Jesus. It is a physical symbol of a promise that relates to the death of Christ and our commitment to him.