Baptism is a symbol
it represents something about your spiritual life. The Bible is full of symbols, such as the cross, the bread and the wine. Some Christian symbols don’t have their origin in the Bible, but are inspired by our beliefs – like bowing your head and folding your hands during prayer, or the “Jesus fish.” Symbols are everywhere in our culture. You who are married – would you ever intentionally go out without your wedding ring on? Or, you teenagers – what does a pink whale represent? Answer: Vineyard Vines. Symbols are important and we should not be surprised to find them in the Scriptures.
Your baptism is an outward sign, or a symbol – like the proverbial stake in the ground – where you publicly recognize what is real inside of you (an inward reality). That is to say, Jesus is your only hope in life and death. He has provided pardon for your sins and has given you a new, whole life, free from sin’s power over you. In contrast to your old life, which you lived for yourself – doing your own thing, being your own god – in your new life, you now live only for Him.
WHY SHOULD YOU BE BAPTIZED?
First, because the Bible commands us to practice this symbol of baptism, and the New Testament demonstrates its use. Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus practiced baptism as part of His earthly ministry: “Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John” (John 4:1). The apostles commanded baptism: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ’” (Acts 2:38). They also practiced it as part of their ministry.
Second, you should be baptized because you will receive spiritual blessings when you obey. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)
Third, you should be baptized for the unity of the body: “Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:3-5). When you are baptized, your act of faith and your public testimony encourage and serve to unify the church (Paul refers to the church as “one body” in the above Ephesians passage).
WHAT DOES BAPTISM SYMBOLIZE?
Baptism symbolizes spiritual rebirth (regeneration is the theological term). Baptism does not accomplish anything salvific (it does not save you); it just points to the fact that you are saved. If you put a ring on the fourth finger of your left hand, does it make you married? No. Of course not! In the same manner, neither does baptism regenerate you (i.e. baptism does not make you “saved”). Salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus alone, apart from any merit or work, and apart from any ceremonies.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9; see also Romans 3:28; Romans 1:16; Titus 3:5-7).
Baptism has a deeper, more specific symbolism within each part of our spiritual rebirth according to Romans 6:3-7.
WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?
The one who, convicted by God’s Spirit that he is spiritually dead apart from Jesus Christ, recognizes and decidedly affirms his faith in Jesus. That is to say, only believers should be baptized.
WHEN SHOULD A BELIEVER BE BAPTIZED?
A believer should be baptized as soon as possible after they have placed their trust in Jesus. There was no long waiting period in the early church between the time when a person became a believer and when he/she was baptized. If you are a believer and have never been baptized, then you should be baptized. If you were baptized as an infant before you became a believer, or in a church that taught that baptism was necessary for salvation, you should consider being baptized again.