Can you explain what baptism means?
I am convinced that more than not, do not have a full understanding of this foundational truth as evidence of the lukewarm church becomes the majority today. I will go further to say that our baptism has been reduced to an empty doing in the list of requirements we obey in the Christian faith. The act has become the sacred rather then a symbol it represents. What is sacred is all who live by their profession of faith in Christ, and no longer live for themselves but for Him.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is something that has been commanded by Jesus Himself to the Church:
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16
Baptism is the manifest act we proclaim publicly stating basically that ‘we are all in’. We come to this not by an emotional whim, or by obligation, but by making a conscious decision with the understanding that there are costs involved that will be painful but nevertheless worth it. This decision will no longer allow us to sit upon any fence as some spectator to the faith, but to become a participator. It will not accommodate or permit us to keep some hidden area of our lives (of sin) either. It is the place where we come to complete surrender to Jesus Christ and willingly and happily forsake our old life and give it up – in fact purpose to die to it for in order for us to obtain the new life.
Upon making this decision we follow through by the act and are immersed completely under water to testify our death to the old life, and come up from the water to signify the new life (birth) we have been given through Christ’s resurrection by His Spirit.
Jesus gave us insight into a life that is baptized looks like when He says this:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24
Paul speaks of the baptized life on many occasions – in particular he explains it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Gal 2:20
The baptized life is a purposeful life, where we are making decisions daily in setting aside our (selfish) desires so we would seek and do that of God’s will and desire. If our lives remain unchanged after we have been dunked – than we are part of the vast group who has participated in an empty and meaningless religious ordinance. As it is dead, so we remain dead.
The act of baptism is our testimony that we will no longer live to serve our flesh, continue in our friendship with the world or for all the pride of life brings. We set out to discover what this means by walking the life Jesus died to give us.
Shame on the men and women out there who make the numbers of ‘souls saved’ and baptisms they have conducted as some kind of boast. They make THIS the measure of Spiritual success and do their congregations a great disservice and are those who are the perpetrators who spread and make this into an empty and dead ordinance.
I would have to conclude that we must be careful in taking this very necessary ordinance out of context and encourage us to gain the understanding for ourselves of what baptism means, first for us personally that we apply it to our own lives and then begin to share with those around us this very neglected and needed truth.