#AskLS: What is water baptism?
Q: What is the purpose of water baptism and is it important?
A:Water baptism is fondly known as a “baptism of repentance” (Acts 19:4) because it is a public show of a person’s repentance from their sins. It originated with John the Baptist and is actually what earned him the title “the baptist”. John was widely known for baptising people in the river Jordan and Jesus Himself was water baptised by John at the beginning of his ministry (Luke 3:21).
Water baptism is NOT a requirement of salvation.
There is no official scripture on water baptism but one of the principal passages, which establishes it as a doctrine is Matthew 28:19-20:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [NASB]
This passage establishes water baptism as a commandment from Jesus himself and it is the principal reason why water baptism remains important for us today.
First off, water baptism is not a requirement of salvation. True faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross is sufficient for salvation and doesn’t require any additional “works” by us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Not being baptised, does not mean you will not make heaven, the prime example of this is the thief on the cross with Jesus, he was promised paradise even without baptism (Luke 23:39-43).
However, his circumstances were quite exceptional, and they exist to illustrate that one who truly gives their heart to Jesus on a deathbed, will not be kept out of heaven because they failed to be baptised.
Since Jesus left a final command for us to be baptised (as disciples) and to baptise others (to make them disciples), there is nothing stopping us who are not on our deathbeds from doing the right thing and obeying his wishes for us on this matter. Baptisim demonstrates our love for Jesus, if you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).
The apostles and the early church made sure to keep the commandment of water baptism. Several passages in Acts describe the apostles immediately baptising nearly everyone who accepted the gospel. (See 8:5-13, 9:10-18, 10:34-48, 16:13-15, 16:30-33, 18:8).
Water baptism is the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart to Jesus Christ, which has to be followed through and lived out daily.
Purpose of Baptism
Baptism connects us to the body of Christ, and gives us a real sense of being joined with other believers in a communal journey towards the goal of perfection in Christ Jesus. “we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Water baptism is a practical demonstration of a spiritual reality that has already taken place in your life (Romans 6:1-5). Going into the water, we are united with Christ in His death and coming out of it, we are resurrected into newness of life!
A common illustration that demonstrates the purpose of baptism is the wearing of a wedding ring – “with this ring, I thee wed”.
Water baptism is like a ring of identification. It is the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart, a commitment that has to be followed through and lived out on a daily basis.
We continue the practice of water baptism today as a symbol of our personal and public identification and union with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 2:12 [MSG] –’Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ’.
When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.
Water baptism is a way to visually preach the gospel. Standing in the water symbolises Jesus dying on the cross, immersion in water symbolises Jesus being buried in the tomb and being raised from the water symbolises Jesus rising from the dead. We bury the ‘old life’ and we rise to walk in a ‘new life’.
- Water baptism is a demonstration of our obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Water baptism is a symbol to identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
- Water baptism is a public declaration of our promise not to continue walking in sin.
- Water baptism is a practical demonstration of our spiritual reality our personal testimony that we have passed from the old life of sin to the new life in Christ.
- Baptism connects us to the wider Body of Christ.
We must be careful not to let the significance of baptism be lost on us or simply consider it a mere tradition of Christianity. There is a deep symbolism to the core tenets of our faith embedded in water baptism and everyone who engages in it must be first made aware of its purpose and importance in scripture because many other religions have similar rituals and purification rites.
Baptism is not a rite of purification for Christians. For spiritual cleansing, we look to Jesus alone. Instead, baptism is a way to demonstrate the spiritual reality that Jesus has already accomplished through his work at the cross.
This week’s answer was provided by Jola J Atoki . Jola runs a faith blog titled The Gossip 4 Jesus Initiative. She is currently undertaking an LL.M in International Dispute Resolution at King’s College London. She loves to sing, is very passionate about creating Christian media and engaging with new cultures and languages.
If you have any questions about God, faith, university or career, send it to us on social media or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll find a Christian leader to provide an answer.