Has good news ever come from a grave?
Yes, mourning turned to joy when Jesus’ disciples heard the angel’s message from his tomb: He is risen! No wonder the funeral service of baptism is so exhilarating. Believing that he is risen, new disciples re-enact Jesus’ burial-and- resurrection in a watery tomb. In this simple drama they bury their old self and experience the birth of their new self – if they go about it correctly.
We baptise because Jesus commanded it
Just before he left this earth the risen Christ instructed his disciples that, because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me therefore go and make disciples [apprentices] of all nations, [by] baptising them and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ’ (Matthew 28:19-20) ‘Baptism is to discipleship what a wedding is to a marriage.” (J D Pawson)
We baptise into Christ’s ownership
Sales receipts in New Testament times often recorded the transfer of property ‘into the name of the new owner. Jesus asked that people in ‘all nations’, who would be giving up their worship of foreign gods, be baptised ‘in the name of [i.e. into association with] the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19). But Luke tells us that the first apostles baptised Jews and Samaritans and other worshippers of the living God ‘into the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 8:16, 19:5). So there’s no fixed form of words that the Bible requires us to say to make a baptism valid.
We baptise as disciples, not as ‘clergy’
In Bible times new converts did not baptise themselves. However, the baptiser did not have to be a church official – just another genuine Christian (eg Acts 9:10-18).
We only baptise believers in Christ
The blessing of babies is a practice to be encouraged. Jesus still loves to take them in his arms and lay his hands on them – through his Body, the Church (Mark 10: 16). Many godly Christians consider this practice to be baptism when water is also applied to the infant’s head – but there are no examples of this in Scripture. Even if, as some suggest, Christian baptism replaced Jewish circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12) it should not be assumed that therefore baptism is for physically new born babies, but rather for those believers who are newly born spiritually (John 3:3-5). We baptise any child who clearly trusts in the Lord. ‘All of you who were baptised into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:27-28) Soldiers enlisting in the army, whether tall or short, young or old, black or white, from university or borstal, all put on the uniform that unities them. Training follows that initiation. That’s also the correct spiritual sequence as Jesus planned it: ‘Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved.’ (Mark 16:16) First enlisting (‘believes’), then donning the uniform (‘is baptised ’) – as soon as possible. After that, basic training can begin (baptising them and teaching them to obey …’ Matthew 28:19-20).
What if my parents had me “done” as a baby?
Let them know that in your baptism as a believer you are endorsing by personal choice their original dedicating of you to the Lord – in which you had no choice.
We baptise by totally immersing
‘Baptise’ is really only a play-safe rendering into English of the Greek verb baptidzo rather than a full translation. Actually it means to dip! How appropriate a way to identify with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection. The New Testament gives us two OT parables of Christian baptism.
- Swamped by the flood
The original earth and its creatures were totally immersed in the Waters of the Flood, out of which Noah’s family and animals emerged saved ~ because the ark had taken the full brunt of the raging judgement, as Jesus did for us on Calvary. ‘In [the ark] a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ? (1 Peter 3:20-21)
- Swallowed by the Red Sea
And when the Israelites stepped out of the Red Sea ‘baptised into Moses ’ they saw that dead Pharaoh and his army had been totally immersed (1 Corinthians 10:2).
We baptise expecting something real to happen
When Naaman the leper dipped himself (enbaptisato) seven times in Jordan – the river that appropriately ends in the Dead Sea – ‘his flesh was restored and became clean like a young boy’ (2 Kings 5: 14). He must have felt rid of a corpse and born anew! He was not the last person to experience physical healing in baptism. But that, we might say, is but the overflow! Baptism primarily brings spiritual benefits. ‘He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.’ (Titus 3:5) It must be said plainly that without faith in Christ the mechanics of baptism are quite pointless. An unbeliever merely enters the water as a dry sinner to come out as a wet sinner! The Bible mentions at least four spiritual results of faith in Christ that are also outcomes of baptism -because baptism is the ideal way to focus and express one’s faith:
In baptism God:
Cleanses away sin’s mess ‘Be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:16) ‘God …. purified their hearts by faith. ’ (Acts 15:9)
Unites us with Christ as a new self
‘All of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death also united with him in his resurrection.’(Romans 6:3-5)‘I have been crucified with Christ The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God’ (Galatians 2:20)
Rescues us from society’s rat race
‘Baptism now saves you.’ (1 Peter 3:21) as through the Red Sea ‘the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians? (Exodus 14:30) ‘Repent and be baptised save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” (Acts 2:38-41)
Transfers us under God’s rule
‘Unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) ‘Change and become like little children .. [to] enter the kingdom of heaven! (Matthew 18:3)
Do I need to be baptised to get to heaven?
No. The thief crucified next to Jesus confessed his sins and made Jesus Lord of his life on his ‘death bed’. Jesus promised he’d go to Paradise with him that day (Luke 23:39-43) without any chance of being baptised. Baptism is not to prepare us for heaven but to initiate us into the life of heaven upon earth.
Baptised believers must lead a baptised life
The Wedding introduces the bride and groom to married life. Wedded to Christ we must develop our life together with him – resisting the temptation to flirt with our old sins. Read Romans 6:0 and Colossians 3:0
We do not re-baptise
Believer’s baptism should not be repeated after any lapses of faith. A couple struggling in their marriage Would find help through counselling, not by frequent visits to the register office for repeat Weddings!