I was nearing high school graduation when I walked through the doors of the First Baptist Church of Killeen, Texas. My church experience was little to none and my knowledge of Jesus Christ was in even worse shape than my church attendance. It wasn’t long before I realized that the people of this church worshipped a God I did not know and spoke of a salvation I did not possess.
First Baptist Killeen demonstrated to me the glorious riches of Jesus Christ. Men and women led me in worship, preached the gospel, served out of faithfulness, and treated me with love and generosity. I began to read the Bible and words seemed to lift off the page and wrestle my desires. My desires were overmatched. God routinely show up for an intimate conversation between the two of us. My heart turned from stone to flesh through hearing and rehearing the message that Jesus bore the cross for my sins. Through the witness of the church and my personal encounter with God, I surrendered my life to Jesus as a college freshman. I confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and vowed to follow him wherever he led me. I was baptized November 11, 2001.
Why do we baptize? First, we have Jesus’ example. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the narrative of John baptizing Jesus. Second, we have Jesus’ command. At the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus commissions the church to make disciples, baptize, and teach.
How do we baptize? Baptize comes from the Greek word baptizo which means to immerse. Thus, to best live out the word and best live out the symbolism, we baptize by immersion.
Who do we baptize? Believers. We baptize those who have embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Does baptism save you? No. Jesus saves. Baptism is a symbol. My wedding ring doesn’t make me married. Rather, it is a symbol of my marriage. Likewise, baptism is a symbol. Not “just a symbol” but a powerful symbol.
Do you need to get baptized more than once? No. Romans 5:8 tells us “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” As we will see in a moment, baptism is a symbol of uniting with Jesus in his death and resurrection. While we follow Jesus each day, we only need one baptism.
Baptized into Jesus’ Death
Baptism is a powerful symbol of a believer’s death to the old way of life, death to sin, death to unforgiveness.
Baptism is the next building block for those confessing sin and repenting of sin for the first time. If you want to say goodbye to the old way of life, unite with Jesus in his death. This is the powerful symbol of baptism.
Romans 6:3-4 states very clearly: Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
We don’t merely put the old way of life in time out, we don’t give it a slap on the wrist, we don’t place it on probation. Rather, we put the old way of life to death by uniting with Jesus in his death.
Yet, this passage is not merely for those who have never been baptized before. Paul is providing a discussion on baptism in light of the question in Romans 6:1, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” His answer is “By no means!” He reminds believers of their baptism. He tells believers: You died to the old way of life! Keep the old way of life in the grave!
Baptized into Jesus’ Resurrection
Baptism is a powerful symbol of a believer’s resurrection into an abundant life, resurrection into eternal life, and resurrection into forgiveness.
Romans 6:5 states very clearly: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
I love to show how this passage is lived out during baptism celebrations. A baptismal candidate enters the water. They are lowered into the water to symbolize uniting with Jesus in his death. They are lifted from the water symbolizing uniting with Jesus in his resurrection. They then walk forward to symbolize new life in Christ. They don’t turn around and return to where they came. No! They walk in new life!
Those who are baptized have a new vocation. They are full-time proclaimers of new life in Jesus Christ. This is true if you were baptized yesterday or 10 years ago. This is true if you were baptized 10 years ago or 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.
You are Set Free
For the baptized believer, sin is not destroyed but rendered powerless. Sin no longer dictates the believer’s eternal condition. Those who have united with Jesus in death and resurrection have forgiveness of sin. Beyond that, those who have united with Jesus in death and resurrection, live with sin no longer dictating life. You no longer follow sin but your resurrected Savior.
Romans 6:6-7 states very clearly: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
By uniting with Jesus in his death and resurrection you are forgiven. Perhaps you carry a heavy burden of sin. You know where you’ve fallen short. You know the pain you’ve caused or the pain you are experiencing at this moment. No matter how big. No matter how long. You have forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.
By uniting with Jesus in his death and resurrection you access to a new way of life. It is an abundant life right now that leads to eternal life to come. You might feel trapped in the old way. Don’t follow sin. Rather, follow your resurrected Savior. He invites you, “Come follow me.”