What is Baptism?

893097297_ebjtz-xl-1Beliefs are marked by things.  We show that we believe something by the way we live and often by specific symbols.  For example, our belief in marriage is shown in the way we live in marriage and by the symbol of the wedding ring.  In the case of the Christian, our beliefs are shown in the way we live obeying God and specifically in the symbol of baptism.  Baptism is the wedding ring of the Christian life. 

The word baptism comes from a Greek word (baptize), which means, “to immerse.”  Baptism is a ceremony in which a Christian is immersed in water before the church to publically symbolize their belief in Christ.  The water is a symbol of sin being washed away.  The immersion in the water is a symbol of being brought from death into new life by faith in Christ.  The fact that Christians throughout history have practiced this rite of passage, symbolizes that the one baptized is now joined to the church.  Baptism is really a powerful symbol of great theological significance. 


Whenever someone asks, “Why should I be baptized?”  The answer should always be in the form of the question, “Do you love Jesus?”  If you have put your faith in Christ to be the Savior of your soul then you should be baptized because you love Him.  Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  Baptism is a command from our Lord Himself (Matthew 28: 19-20).

 Baptism is about displaying our love and commitment to God.  It is the commitment to follow what He has commanded us to do.  Baptism is not for the socialite Christian who basically sees Christianity as a moralistic way to be nice or a superficial creed for those who want to have some abstract encounter with the “man upstairs” or “mother nature.”  We must clearly understand that baptism is not for those whose lives have not been changed by the power and presence of Christ.  Baptism is for believers.  Just as a wedding ring is for a married person, so too, the symbol of baptism is the mark of the believer. 


 The Bible records an account in Acts 8:35-39 that makes the meaning of baptism very clear.  In this narrative, Philip shares his faith to an Ethiopian man and then baptizes him.  Read the account:  

 “And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.  And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"  And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."  And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.” 

Notice from this account that the Ethiopian man first believed in Jesus and then he was baptized.  He asks Philip essentially, “What do I have to do to get baptized?”  This was the practice of the day, that is, believe in Jesus and then show that publicly by being baptized and living in obedience to God.


This passage in Acts not only explains the truth of baptism to us, but it also shows the way that is was carried out.  Philip baptized by immersing the man in water.  This is clear because it says “when they came up out of the water.”  What a great symbol!  Just as the water washes the body, so too Christ has washed our soul.  Just as we have risen out of the water, so too the risen Christ has given us new life and the hope of resurrection. 

The whole symbol of baptism is about you and Jesus.  Further, the symbol is about you belonging to and being welcomed into His church.   You see, anything that is immersed in another substance is overwhelmed by that substance, engulfed in it, and sometimes identified with it.  As a piece of white cloth would be identified with the dye in which it is dipped.   And the freshly dipped cloth is no longer white and no longer alone, for it belongs to a community of dye cloth.  You see, Christ is building His church and we are the cloths that have been dipped in His grace and together we display His glory to the world as His baptized community sharing the good news of Jesus.