This morning is an exciting time of celebration as we learn what water baptism is and, more importantly, as we put what we learn into action!  For those getting baptized, I would like to congratulate you. You’ve not only accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation, but are also being obedient through this act by declaring death to your old self and embrace the new life that Jesus has given you as you are led by His Spirit!

What is baptism?

The word for baptize in the Greek is the word baptizo, which literally means to immerse or submerge.
There are two different baptisms that we find in scripture;

baptism in water by another individual and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This morning our focus, of course, is on water baptism.  We first find people being baptized in the scriptures when John the Baptist, the first cousin of Jesus, water baptizing people in the Jordan river.  He proclaimed that he was preparing the way for the coming savior by calling all to repent and to be forgiven of their sins.

Mark 1:4 (NLT) John the Baptist was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
We find in Luke 3 that Jesus, Himself, as an example for us, came to be water baptized by John.  Here we also first learn of the second type of baptism that we find in the scriptures; the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus received them both simultaneously, and you may as well.

Luke 3:15-16;21-22 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

As John the Baptist explained, water baptism is an outward sign of an inward change.  It is a way to publicly show others the change that has happened inside of us.  As we fall back in submersion into the water, we symbolize the death of our flesh and our old selves and we rise out of submersion to symbolize that we have risen to life by His Spirit as a new creation – cleansed and righteous in God’s sight.

We normally immerse or submerge our bodies into water for the purpose of bathing; washing the dirt off so that we are clean.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3 that we water baptize not for the removal of the dirt from our bodies, but as a pledge of a clear conscience toward God.  Again, it is a pledge showing to others of our salvation – that our sins have been forgiven and our conscience is now cleared.

Since baptism is symbolic of a conscious decision that one has made to place their faith in Christ’s salvation, we choose to baptize only those old enough to make this decision and do not baptize infants.  We do, however, encourage parents to have their children dedicated as we see in scripture, which is a commitment on behalf of the parents to raise their children in the Lord.

Why do we baptize?

Jesus not only was baptized Himself, but also commanded that we do it! Jesus commanded that we be baptized and also baptize others.  We also see baptism occurring on a regular basis throughout the early church as soon as individuals gave their lives to Christ.

Matthew 28:19-20 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Baptism is not some kind of magical assurance of our eternity, it is an act of obedience that we do after we have made the choice to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. We do not earn acceptance into Heaven by good works, including water baptism. We do good works out of a heart of gratitude that Jesus has already saved us. Our salvation is gained through our faith alone in the work that Jesus has already completed.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

When we put our faith in Jesus, a miracle takes place. We are given eternal life. We literally are raised from death to life spiritually. God places His Holy Spirit within us and we become a new person inwardly. Though not much may change from appearances, we know the change that has taken place within us, we’re simply not who we used to be! Paul explained this change this way:

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Jesus has done a miracle in our lives. We have been made new!

Although we know that we are a new person and not the same as we once were, our old ways have a way of hanging on to us. We know that we ought to think and act better, but it is a struggle as the new person that we are inside tries to overcome and put to death the old person that we used to be.

Don’t think that there is something wrong with you or that your salvation wasn’t genuine! This is a life-long process that we all go through. We use the churchy word sanctification to describe this process. It just takes time as we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit within us as He does a work to transform us from the inside out.

Colossians 3:1-17
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Not one of us live this out perfectly, but every day, we strive toward it and to become a better person as we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work within us.

What should we expect to have happen when being baptized?
The experience of each individual’s baptism varies.  Some may feel nothing different than being wet, some feel the strong presence of the Lord around them, some feel a sense of refreshing and newness, some physically feel the weight and burden of their sins being washed away.  No matter what emotions you may experience, know that by your faith in the blood shed by Jesus and His resurrection back to life, that you have been cleansed of your sins and you are a new creation in Him.