What is Baptism? What does Baptism signify? Why Baptism?
A) Baptism is a sign of what the Triune God of grace did for us.
B) Baptism is also a sign of our response to God’s grace.
1) Grace of God in baptism:
Baptism requires two people: the baptist, or baptizer, let’s call the person “the minister;” the baptized persons, the candidates, let’s call them “sinners.”
The minister represents God, the sinners themselves.
The minister is active, the sinners passive.
The minister does everything; the sinners trust and submit to the minister.
The minister immerses sinners into water and lifts them up out of the water.
Likewise all of our salvation is God’s doing.
Baptism shows that sinners are saved by God’s grace through faith.
God has saved us 2,000 years ago by the blood of Christ.
Sinners heard that all their sins were washed away and believed it.
There is nothing left for sinners to do to be saved except to believe
In baptism sinners say, “I believe.”
God does the salvation, so the minister baptizes the sinner.
2) Baptism shows that salvation as the grace of God works through Jesus alone.
The act of baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus. (Col. 2:12-14; Rom. 6:3-4)
Sinners’ immersion into water points to the death of Christ on the cross. (Good Friday)
The minister’s raising them out of the water points to the resurrection. (Easter)
Jesus was crucified in the flesh, but was resurrected in a resurrection body; a body capable of eating and drinking was also capable of appearing and disappearing. Resurrection body is a new body.
3) Baptism points to cleansing from sin and the newness of life.
The baptized persons when raised up from water are no longer sinners, but new persons in Christ to live a new life set by God. (Rom. 5:8ff)
This does not mean they no longer sin, they do.
But their title is no longer “sinners.”
Sinners live for themselves. The focus of sinners is to build themselves up. Sinners life is self-centred which is the breeding ground for sin.
Jesus lived and died and is risen for us, for others.
Now we understand that all our salvation needs have been satisfied by Him. We have been set free from worrying about ourselves.
We are baptized like He was for us to live like He did by the power of the Holy Spirit in love for others. Believers’ life is Christ-centred.
Repentance of self-centred life is required prior to baptism.
Repentance is not a condition for our salvation.
Repentance is our response to the gift of salvation.
We are saved, we received salvation, let’s celebrate our salvation by repenting our old way of life and begin to live in the new way of life by the power of the Holy Spirit following the example of Jesus Christ who came and did His Father’s will and emptied Himself for others, and God raised Him from the dead. Now we are ready to be baptized.
4) Baptism shows that living a sin-free righteous life, a life of repentance is not sufficient for salvation, but a belief in the death and resurrection of Christ is essential and that is grace of God.
There are many so-called “good people” from other religions including atheists.
We do not have access to their hearts. Therefore by looking at what can be seen, we may have difficulty finding sin in their lives.
But it is not repentance or living good, clean lives that saves us.
The death and resurrection of Christ saves us.
We believe that God did all that was necessary for us to receive our salvation.
Yes, baptism shows that the baptized person has a repentant new life.
But baptism shows that this new life is only available through having faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross for us.
That’s why the immersion into water and lifting the person up is done by the minister.
If self-baptism was valid then repentance would be the essential element.
But baptism is done to us. We cannot baptize ourselves, meaning we cannot save ourselves.
Living a righteous life alone without having faith in the death and resurrection of Christ lacks the essential element of trusting God that He did all that was necessary. Salvation is by grace through faith.
It can be said that we can save ourselves by admitting that we cannot save ourselves and by believing that God has already saved us 2,000 years ago in the death and resurrection of Jesus and receive the salvation God provided.
5) Baptism points to the cross; it shows that we did not save ourselves by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Triune God of grace saved us.
We were already saved in the heart of the Father before the creation of the world.
We were saved 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the dead. Our salvation happened 2000 years ago (by grace).
We appropriated this salvation and made it our own by believing it. (Through faith.)
Now that we have received our salvation, we can be baptized.
Our faith in the death and resurrection of Christ does not save us.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross saves us.
Our salvation has already taken place 2,000 years ago.
Jesus made salvation available for us 2,000 years ago.
Our faith made the reception of this salvation possible.
We did not save ourselves. God did.
We accepted that He did, we believed and received it.
We receive this salvation when we believe that God did all that was necessary for our salvation and God saved us.
That we believe and receive the salvation God made available for us.
It is like having a gift package in the post office waiting for you.
The package is yours. It has your name on it. It is there waiting for you.
If you don’t go and don’t pick it up, you rejected the benefits of having it.
But if you go, ask and receive it, then what is inside is yours to enjoy.
The package was not prepared by you.
It was prepared by the sender; a kindness, a gift for you.
In the same way, the sender of your salvation is the Triune God of grace.
You are the recipient.
Just like, although you did not prepare the package, but by having faith you went to post office and received the gift prepared by the sender for you, by having faith we do not save ourselves but merely receive the gift of salvation prepared by God as an act of His grace. (Eph. 2:1-9)
6) Baptism also being a sign of our response to God’s grace is a sign of our submission and allegiance with Jesus. Baptism does not save us.
Jesus had no sin and did not need to be baptized. But He wanted to be baptized. Why?
The Son of God, coming from heaven took human flesh and got it baptized.
When Jesus was baptized, all humanity was baptized.
His baptism was God’s declaration of His love for all people (John 3:16).
It was a declaration of God’s desire for all people (I. Timothy 2:4).
It was a display of God’s plan of salvation for all people (Romans 10:9).
Jesus received the Holy Spirit following His baptism.
Jesus’ reception of the Holy Spirit following His baptism points to the new life for the believers after accepting Jesus as Lord.
The new life is not a life lived in the flesh.
The new life requires the presence of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live the new life in loving obedience to God.
Therefore when we were baptized we have done a most essential thing that Jesus Himself did (was baptized) and told His disciples to do to new believers (baptize them in the name of ...).
Our baptism is our heartfelt confession and outward expression of what happened to us; we belong to Jesus, we have become one with Him. Look, we did what He himself gone through (His baptism by John) and we are baptized like Jesus was baptized.
Now we are ready to begin to live the new life in Christ.
So, by our baptism we declare our allegiance with Jesus and begin to live a new life of submission in Him and for Him by loving God and others.
7) If baptism is a sign of our belief in Jesus and a declaration of our allegiance with Him and newness of life why are infants baptized when they are not capable to know, to understand, to believe, to confess?
Well, why not? Why reject God’s grace for your children?
Isn’t God’s promise to us and to our children? (Acts 2:39)
Didn’t our salvation become available 2,000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross and was raised to life?
Where were we back then?
Infant baptism points to us that our salvation took place 2,000 years ago before we knew it, before we understood it, before we believed it, before we confessed it.
Infant baptism points to us that our salvation is by grace.
Infant baptism is celebration of God’s grace.
Infant baptism shows that our confession is not what saves us but God’s saving act in and through Jesus 2,000 years ago does.
Infant baptism is our confession of our belief in God’s grace.
Just like this little child who does not know what is going on, does not even know his name, our Lord Jesus Christ died and was raised to life even when we did not exist.
When this child grows up and is taught about Christ and believes he will say, “I was saved 2,000 years ago when my Lord died on the cross for me, and that baptism my parents did for me is my baptism which shows me that God saved me when I knew nothing about it. Now, I make God’s salvation mine and that infant baptism my baptism. All that is available by grace I now make it my own through having faith.”
Infant baptism exalts grace, exalts God as loving, caring God of grace.
FRENCH REFORMED BAPTISMAL SERVICE
Little child for you Jesus Christ has come; He has fought, He has suffered.
For you He entered the shadow of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary.
For you He uttered the cry, “It is finished.”
For you He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and there for you He intercedes...
For you little child even though you do not know it.
But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true. “We love Him, because He first loved us.”
Murat Kuntel is the pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.