The Christian practice of baptism is confusing for a lot of people. They wonder, “What does it accomplish? Does it wash away my sin? If not, then why should I do it? Will I go to hell if I don’t? How should it be done? Some churches sprinkle, others pour, and still others immerse. Who is right?” For those who didn’t grow up in church, it can all seem pretty mysterious. Even for those who did, its true significance is not always recognized. So what is baptism good for, anyway?
Here it is in a sentence: Baptism is public identification with Christ. It’s standing up in front of a group of people and saying, “Do you know what? I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I am in Him, and He is in me. I am not my own; I have been bought with a price. I am a card-carrying, flag-flying member of the family of God. I don’t care who knows it! He is my Savior!”
It is essential for every new believer to go public like this. If you see a person walking around with a badge on, you think to yourself, “Wow, he must be the sheriff.” Or if you see a woman wearing a wedding ring, you think, “Oh, she must be married.” The ring on her hand says, “I belong to someone else.” In the same way, by being baptized you are saying to the world, “I am a Christian; I belong to Jesus.” Baptism is the biblical way to profess your faith in Christ.
Now we live in a very private culture. “Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong” and “Mind your own business” are the words that we use to build our protective walls. This attitude carries over into Christianity, “Well my faith is a private matter. I really wish you wouldn’t talk to me about it. It’s just my own personal thing with God.” That’s not biblical Christianity.
Biblical Christianity emphasizes the importance of public confession. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” This shows that holding it privately in your heart isn’t good enough; you also have to confess it with your mouth. It’s not just some personal I-went-away-on-a-private-retreat-and-received-Jesus thing. You’re supposed to testify publicly. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33? “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus is saying, “If you live your life as though we’re not plugged in together, either by verbally denying Me or failing to confess Me before men, then I will deny you before My Father.” This matter of confessing Christ publicly is very serious.
Do you know how they used to profess faith in Christ when I was a kid? My church would give an invitation to walk forward at the end of the service. The minister would stand at the front and say, “Come forward and publicly profess your faith in Christ.” Maybe you’ve been in a service like that. While it is a great thing to get people to publicly acknowledge Christ, that’s not the biblical way to do it. The biblical way is to step into the water, publicly state your faith in Christ, and then be plunged beneath the water and raised up again as a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Does this mean that baptism saves a person? No. Not everyone who wears a badge is a sheriff and not everyone who wears a ring is married. Some people go through the motions, but without faith in their heart. Such people were unbelievers when they got into the water, and they were still unbelievers when they got out. The only difference is that now they’re wet. Salvation occurs when a person believes in their heart and confesses with their mouth (Romans 10:9).
So how about you? Have you taken this important first step as a Christian? Have you stood before a group of people and made known to them that you belong to Jesus? If not, I encourage you to get that done. It is the most basic step in the Christian life. If you have been baptized, I encourage to think back on that day. Do you remember the love that you had for Christ then? Is it burning just as strong today? If not, maybe you need to reaffirm your commitment to walk with Him and to let the world know that you are His.
Reprinted by permission of Walk in the Word, Copyright 2002, all rights reserved.