Our church recently baptized four believers, and here are the thoughts about what baptism is that I shared with those who were present.
Baptism is about obedience.
Baptism is about obedience. In Matt. 28:18-20, Jesus gives three commands: go/make disciples, baptize them, and teach them. The mission Jesus left his disciples with was to share the good news about him with all sorts of people in such a way that some will respond by believing and following Jesus as his disciples. Baptism is linked to being a disciple (or follower) of Jesus.
God designed baptism as a first formal act of discipleship, an opportunity to visibly and publicly obey Jesus. Then the current disciples were supposed to form and train the new disciples in the ways of Jesus. Our mission as Christians is not to get people to come to church. Or to turn dirty people into clean people. Or to get people to vote the way we do.
Our mission is to make disciples who will in turn make disciples. Does this seem difficult or even impossible? There’s good news: right in Matt. 28, Jesus reminded his disciples of his authority and power (vs. 18) through which they would minister and he also reminded them of his presence with them (vs. 20).
Baptism is about identity.
Baptism is about identity. In Rom. 6, there is a great description of what baptism means. Here Paul describes baptism as identification with Christ in his death and in his resurrection. If we have died to sin and death with Christ, then sin and death are no longer in control of our hearts, our lives, or our destiny. If we have risen from the dead with Christ, there is grace and freedom to serve and obey the Lord. When we are baptized, this theological picture of death and resurrection is vividly acted out for the world to see. In baptism, it is like God is shouting out to anyone who will listen: this is my child who has died to sin and death and who will love and serve and live for me forevermore.
Baptism is about unity.
Baptism is about unity. In Eph. 4, there is an amazing Scripture that talks about the unity of the church. This passage says there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, and one God and Father. I left one thing out! Eph. 4 lumps “one baptism” right in there. This teaching highlights that baptism is not nearly so much about your decision or my decision as it is about the gospel. The good news of Jesus is that all who believe can be united into the church on the basis of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. There is no true foundation for the unity of the church outside of Jesus Christ.