Often, as we extend an invitation at the conclusion of a lesson, we always includes encouragement to come forward and be baptized. Do we, however, understand the significance of that invitation? We know the New Testament has much to say about baptism, but why does He require the ceremony of baptism when He knows our hearts?
The Significance of Baptism in the New Testament
We place an emphasis on baptism because it is commanded by God. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commands the apostles to baptize those who would be His followers, and Mark 16:15-16 records Jesus calling baptism an essential component of salvation. During Pentecost in Acts 2, the apostles put this command into practice when, in verse 38, Peter commands those believers to be baptized. Baptism is repeated time and again in the book of Acts as individuals come to believe on the name of Jesus and obediently submit to Him.
Baptism is important because of the event it symbolizes. In Romans 6:3-11, Paul discussion immersion in water as a burial, symbolizing a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection. Symbolically, we join Jesus’ sacrifice, and we raise up a new person after this death to sin. Colossians 2:12 uses similar language of burial into and raising up from water. It is an act of faith in which we cover ourselves with Christ’s sacrifice. It is a reenactment on His death, burial, and resurrection. It is a spiritual rebirth as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3, and Titus 3:4-6 calls baptism a washing of regeneration or rebirth. When we are baptized, we die to sin and rise up in a newness of life.
We emphasize baptism because of the job it accomplishes. It washes away sin according to Acts 2:38 and 22:16. Colossians 2:12 and Galatians 3:27 claim baptism clothes us in Christ. We are put into Christ when we enter into baptism, and God then adds us to His kingdom based on Acts 2:47. Finally, baptism saves. I Peter 3:20-22 draws a parallel between the souls on the ark being saved through water and the salvation found in the water of baptism. Baptism is a washing of our souls resulting from our conscientious obedience to God.
Peter, Paul, Jesus – all these proclaim the saving power of baptism. As grace, faith, and love all play roles in our salvation, so does obedience. James 2 encourages us to be willing to act upon the faith we have. In verse 19, James commends his audience for believing in God and affirms that even demons hold a belief in God. The difference comes through obedience. Romans 6 reminds us that baptism is significant t our lives as Christians. Once we die to sin, we should no longer live in it. We should let it change us into someone new, someone who now follows the footsteps of Christ. Instead of sin reigning in our bodies, Christ now reigns in us.
lesson by Tim Smelser