The Importance of Baptism
By Allison De Meulder
Baptism is an integral part of Christianity, making it vital that we understand the meaning of baptism and its place in Christian history. Learn about the baptism of Jesus Christ's early followers, what the Bible teaches us about baptism, meaning and reason for baptism, and why we must obey God's commandments in order to spend eternity in the kingdom of God.
The Baptism of Christ's Early Followers
Jesus said those who love him should obey his commands (John 14:15), and believers of the good news of his gospel and teachings who "receive baptism will be saved" (Mark 16:16). A soldier must believe and follow his commander's orders for acceptance, and the first followers of Jesus Christ accepted his command and were baptized. Accepting his most important commandment proved that they were true believers of Christ's teachings.
These distinguished early followers became his disciples who spread the teachings of Jesus Christ and waited for his return. Philip spread the word that baptism was a command of salvation from Christ. According to Acts 8:12, men and women in Samara sought baptism because Philip so successfully spread the good news and teachings of Jesus. This belief and the life-saving nature of baptism form the core of the New Testament.
The Bible on Baptism
Baptism in biblical times was very different from the baptism of today. While modern churches often lightly sprinkle baptismal water on infants, the bible speaks of adults making a conscious decision. These men and women believed in Jesus Christ and wanted to obey his command. They affirmed this by being completely submerged like the Ethiopian eunuch who encountered Philip in Acts 8. When he learned of the good news from Philip (verse 35), he wanted to be baptized. Rather than use the water they were each likely carrying in their travels, the eunuch heeded the words of Jesus Christ and asked Philip to baptize him when they came upon water. The bible is very clear that they both "went down into the water" and "came up from the water" before the eunuch left rejoicing (verse 36). The eunuch, who truly understood and wanted to obey the teachings shared by Philip, was baptized fully covered in water.
The meaning of Baptism
This full immersion is vital to God's command for baptism. This gesture is a forceful illustration that our sins and transgressions must be forgiven by God. Full immersion helped the faithful see that God's grace is needed for salvation from sin-dying in their old way of life going under and rising from the water to a new life of salvation.
Baptism gives the faithful a parallel to Jesus's death for man. Like His resurrection, they rise from the waters after baptism to journey in their new life (Romans 6:4). After this rebirth as God's Children, believers wish to please him. Jesus so strongly commanded the importance of baptism because his believers will receive His true gift of everlasting Life in the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns (Luke 1:32-33).
The Importance of Being Baptized
All men are dying, because, in the words of Paul, all men have earned the wage of sin: death (Romans 6:23). Death is final without salvation and we must come to terms with death no matter how much we don't like to think about unpleasant ideas. But the good news teaches us that if we accept His terms, we can have everlasting Life through God. Those are understandable conditions considering that He is the giver of life. We can find these five parts to salvation, as told by Peter in Acts 2 and 3:
- Have faith in Jesus Christ and believe his gospel
- Repent your sins and realize that you need His forgiveness
- Convert and turn to God in faith
- Follow Jesus's command and wash away your sins through baptism
- Live by God's way faithfully
- God will not let us down from His promise. According to Jesus, we are safe in God's care.
Obeying God's Commands
We must trust in God's word and the Bible makes it clear that God is true to his word. As followers, we must remember that while following his word brings life, disobedience is death. In Genesis, when Noah received a message from God, he tried to spread to news to his people. These wicked people chose to ignore Noah's pleas to repent and receive salvation or face death. God was true to his word and they perished while Noah, who chose to build the Ark and obediently follow all of His commands, was saved (verse 22).
Like the people of Noah's day, if we chose to ignore God's command of baptism, we are choosing death over salvation. Remember that Paul and Silas told the jailer at Philippi that if you put your trust in Jesus you will be saved (Acts 16:30). Just as the jailer obeyed and was saved, so must we. Even Jesus chose baptism because God required it of us all (Matthew 3:13). If Jesus who was without sin underwent baptism, we who are all sinners surely cannot ignore it. We must follow his example, here as we do elsewhere in life.
Reaching God's Kingdom
You must follow all five steps toward salvation in order to live forever in God's Kingdom. It's not enough to simply live a good life. As Peter told Cornelius, even a good life is incomplete unless you are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:48).
Your rebirth through baptism will bring you renewed joy and purpose, while God brings peace to your life. If you have enough wisdom to obey Jesus Christ's command of baptism, you will be blessed. Jesus will return to begin God's Kingdom and you will have eternal life because though the wage of sin for man is death, God gives the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).