Contrary to what you may have heard, baptism is crucial for salvation. Baptism is not a symbol. It is not an “outward sign of an inward decision”. Baptism saves; and in this blog post, I hope to show you – by scripture – how baptism is the crucial entry point for all believers into the Kingdom of God.
…and this water symbolises 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.1 Peter 3:21
In this Good News series so far I have shared how the bad news is that we all have a problem that keeps us separated from God. That problem is sin; and no one is immune to it. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). I have also shared how there is ‘good news’ or ‘gospel’ about freedom from sin and reconciliation with God; and how the first step to receiving this freedom is repentance.
In this post, I discuss how baptism is the second crucial step in receiving freedom (or salvation) from sin and death. I know there are many doctrines about baptism – from the sprinkling of children with water, to confirmation, to baptism as a symbol or for admittance to an institutional church. As you read, I pray you read with an open heart and an open bible, with a willingness to throw off any doctrine you have received that does not align with scripture.
So let’s get to it.
What is baptism?
Baptism is derived from the greek word baptisma which literally means: immersion, submersion, to be overwhelmed. The New Testament chiefly uses baptism to describe when a person is immersed under water. When Jesus was baptised – the bible describes that he ‘went up out of the water’ (Mark 1:10 / Matthew 3:16) – describing an entrance into and out of water.
In the bible, we are first introduced to baptism when we read about John “the baptist” – a prophet whose assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. In Matthew 3:3 we are told that John was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophesy about the one that would come to prepare the way of the Lord:
For this is he [John] who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’Matthew 3:3
John’s ministry was known as the ‘baptism of repentance’:
…the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;”Luke 3:2b-3
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.Mark 1:4
Many people came to be baptised by John in a baptism of “repentance” (a word I discussed in my last post here.) Even Jesus was baptised by John “to fulfil all righteousness” (more on this later). If we take these scriptures together, it becomes clear that John’s baptism of repentance was important because it was the way he was instructed by God to prepare people’s hearts for Jesus. Repentance was and remains the first step for us to be part of the Kingdom of God; but John’s baptism of repentance was not enough. Repentance alone was not enough. We learn in Acts 19, that some time after Jesus’s death and resurrection, Paul visited believers in Ephesus who had received “John’s baptism” and we see that those believers still needed to be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19: 1-7).
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to the crowd saying:
Repent and be baptised, 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
We see that after repentance there was/is a need to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
But why? Why is baptism so important?
To answer this we have to understand God’s plan of reconciliation by creating a new man. I discussed this in my first post on the gospel and will now focus on how baptism is where believers are actually ‘born again’.
Baptism according to Jesus Christ
When Jesus lived on earth, God’s plan to save humanity through Jesus’ death and resurrection was hidden. Jesus spoke in parables – keeping the plan a great mystery.
Speaking about the mystery of the gospel Paul writes:
…But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age [demons] knew; for had they known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…1 Corinthians 2:7,8
You see, God kept His plan secret because what Jesus did – in His death and resurrection – opened up a way for us, as people born into slavery to sin , to also ‘die’ and be ‘born again’.
When Jesus met with Nicodemus, the Pharisee who would later become a disciple of Jesus, Jesus could only reveal in part what He was able to make plain after His resurrection.
Jesus told Nicodemus that for a person to be saved they needed to be ‘born again’. Jesus explained further:
…Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.John 3:5
Jesus explained that anything born of flesh is flesh – and what is born of Spirit is Spirit. As human beings we are all born of flesh – born because our parents decided to come together, but to be a part of God’s kingdom – to be a child of God we have to be born again – spiritually; or as John puts it:
…to all who did receive [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God….John 1:12, 13
Many people dispute whether Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus was referring to baptism in water and the Holy Spirit ; and that is understandable. The gospel was still a mystery. However, when Jesus resurrected, He made God’s plan clear to His disciples. He spent time with them after His resurrection and wasn’t speaking in parables anymore. Before His ascension, Jesus said to His disciples:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned….Mark 16:15b-16
…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…Matthew 28:18b-20a
Jesus makes it clear: baptism is necessary for salvation.
To be continued…
To keep this post nice and bite-sized, I’ll stop here for now.
In my next post I hope to show how the disciples actually lived out this command, and why baptism is spiritually significant.
If this post made you stop and think; if you have never experienced true repentance or baptism in water or receiving the Holy Spirit – we can talk about it more! Please feel free reach out to me here.
Tell next time. Stay Blessed. x