Today’s dissertation on baptism at first seems to have little practicality for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and has already been baptized. I know the biblical teaching about this important sacrament and agree with Fortner in what he writes about it.
However, the Bible does confuse people with statements like this one made by Peter in the beginning of the early church. He said:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
For many, this sounds like baptism is just as important as or equal to repentance. For that reason, reading the entire Bible is important. Knowing the history of those times is also helpful.
For one thing, claiming to believe in Jesus Christ was not socially acceptable nor did anyone do it to gain some sort of advantage such as some do today. In those days, if you were a Christian, the temptation was to keep it to yourself. After all, it was not long before severe persecution began, including being thrown to the lions or burned at the stake. Those commands to repent and believe included baptism because it was a public declaration of faith.
Paul often clarified that those who believe are not saved by baptism nor does baptism make them more special in the eyes of God. He personally was not involved in administering this sacrament because, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
While baptism has no saving efficacy, it is important because the Lord commands it. Most would say it is the first step of obedience. It is a public declaration, yet also a visible demonstration. I have been buried with Christ — signified by going under the water, and raised to new life — typified by rising out of it.
Baptism is sometimes treated as a meaningless ritual, as is the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, but neither are meaningless. Both depict what Jesus has done and continue to do in our lives. That which baptism typifies is summed up in this verse:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus, I know the meaning of baptism and its value, yet it is good to be reminded that I died and rose to new life, and that my life now is by faith, not by works and certainly not by baptism. It is also good to be reminded that You gave Yourself for me because You love me. I sometimes chuckle that I have been ‘dunked’ because believing in You and being changed from a life of sin gives me so much joy!