“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
1 Peter 3:21-22
Christians have, throughout the history of the church, disagreed on certain aspects of baptism. Much of what I write here is agreeable to all, but I am writing this from a theologically baptist perspective. This means there are points where my Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican sisters will disagree with me. I love my sisters from other denominations (and non-denominational churches), and simply want to encourage everyone to take baptism seriously.
During my junior high years my dad was a pastor at a church downtown Frankfurt, Germany. The building we lived in had 5 floors. The church was located on the first 2 floors and we lived on the 5th floor. Every now and then my sisters and I would put on our bathing suits and take a swim in the baptismal. It was like our own little swimming pool.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I entered that same baptismal for a completely different reason. I was finally ready to take that step of obedience and make my love for Christ and my faith in him public.
Baptism is often a misunderstood ordinance; a command that is easily pushed to the side and ignored. Since Peter brings up the topic of baptism in our text I thought it would be good for us to take some time to discuss and think a little more about it.
What Is Baptism?
Post Tenebras Lux – “After darkness, light” is engraved on the Reformation Memorial in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the beautiful truth of the gospel. The shadow of sin has been overcome by the light of the Gospel, the darkness of death has been beaten by the Son of God. By the glorious life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the old has been made new. All of this is what we celebrate in baptism.
The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo meaning “ to dip repeatedly, to immerse or submerge; to overwhelm.” Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist himself, said that in baptism, “the element must encompass its object.” So, as Christ was immersed in the wrath of God, encompassed by death, and buried in the tomb; so we, as a sign that we have been united with Christ (Rom 6:3), are encompassed, overwhelmed, and buried in water. And as Christ was raised from the grave so we are raised out of the water as a sign of us being raised with Christ into a new life. (Rom. 6:4). When Peter says, “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” he is not saying the rite of baptism (removal of dirt from the flesh) saves, but that what it represents (union with Jesus leading to a “clear conscience toward God”) saves us.
Why get baptized?
Baptism typically marks the public aspect of a Christian’s faith. Many view their Christian life as a private affair. While your conversion was a very private experience, it was not meant to remain private. We are called into the body of Christ, the church, which becomes to us a new family. Baptism is a public acknowledgement that you belong body and soul to Jesus and to this family of believers.
We also get baptized out of obedience (Matt. 28:18-20; Matt. 10:32-33). In the mind of a Christian baptism should not be optional. It is a way in which we follow Christ’s example and command.
What amazing grace that Jesus took on our sin so we could stand pure and without shame before God. Who would not want to proclaim this from the mountain top! Baptism is a way for us to proclaim our unbreakable alliance with God. His death has sealed our life, and we are now his.
Who should be baptized?
Baptism is for all who believe. It is for everyone who understands the depth and ugliness of their sin and can say, “By faith I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins.” (Acts 8:26-38).
What keeps some from getting baptized?
In the Bible we see, over and over again, stories of people believing in Jesus and immediately being baptized. But today many are lackadaisical about baptism. Why are so many indifferent about this sacred ordinance?
For some it is a false understanding of baptism. There are many who think it is just a nice suggestion instead of an important ordinance to participate in.
For some it is the fear of man. This is what kept me from getting baptized. I felt awkward standing in front of people. What were they thinking of me? Did I look silly? I was overly concerned about the opinion of others instead of the pleasure of God. I was too focused on myself instead of focusing on what Jesus did for me.
But here is the thing: it is never too late!
If you have not yet been baptized as a follower of Jesus, you can and should follow the Lord through the baptismal waters. No, baptism does not save. Jesus Christ alone saves. But baptism is a picture that we have been buried with Christ and have been raised up into a new life; a life of forgiveness and peace, a life of righteousness and joy, a life of love to God and neighbor. The old has gone, the new has come ( 2 Cor. 2:17). All praise be to Jesus Christ, our redeemer and our God.
Looking To Jesus,