In the early church, new believers were baptized immediately upon their confession of faith. However, these days some are not baptized until years after their conversion. Perhaps this is the reason there are many extremes of how baptism is interpreted.
Another reason is taking a verse like this one as the only verse for understanding baptism: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16) These words sound as if baptism is essential for salvation.
Others spiritualize this practice by saying it is a mere symbol and not at all necessary. For this interpretation, they might rely on this passage:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:1–5)
As today’s devotional reading says, we tend to extremes. Some consider baptism a means of salvation and others make baptism an insignificant thing, even neglecting it entirely. The problem is that both extremes are not taking into consideration all that the Scriptures say about this matter.
I agree with Fortner that baptism does not save anyone. Salvation is through the blood of Christ shed for our sin; forgiveness is a gift by grace through faith, not because of anything we do or any ritual we perform. I also agree that baptism is important. It demonstrates that I am obeying Jesus and have yielded my life to Him. It also proclaims to the world that I have died with Christ, have been buried with Him, and have risen to newness of life. It is a public confession of faith and “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”
Baptism is a good thing to ponder and remember as well. When I was baptized, I not only declared my faith in Jesus, but also that I had turned from a life of sin and self, from living in the world and from the devil’s hold on me. Baptism declared that I would now be living as a forgiven person with a life made new by the presence of the Living Christ in my heart. From that time on, I would live in the power of His righteousness, rejecting my old life, the ways of the world, and the lies of my enemy. In that declaration, I also knew that this new life was possible only because of the One who died to save me. Because of Jesus Christ, the old had passed away and all things became new.
Jesus, I was baptized many years ago. However, this devotional reading reminded me of that day and of Your amazing grace. I AM a new creation because of You. Thinking about it and what You have done eases the stresses of each day and strengthens me for the challenges of both the tasks and the temptations that will be thrown at me. Thank You. I bless Your holy name!