Baptism is a solemn ritual which involves the application of water or even the complete submersion of one into water. Its purpose, since Jesus, is to symbolize our belief in Him and to express symbolically a sincere profession of faith in the gospel and one's willingness to subject themselves to all that applies to the sanctification and salvation of one's soul. Baptism of itself does not have a purifying and saving power. We must discard this misconception. No outward washing, no matter how solemnly done, will purify our heart or save our soul. Rather, baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. There is a necessary condition of one's heart and an understanding of what one's faith must embrace prior to an outward expression of commitment through baptism. This can only occur after we hear and understand the principles of the gospel and sincerely wish to become part of the kingdom of God. Therefore, sequentially, one must believe in the gospel of Christ, then repent of his sins, and finally commit in his heart to properly serve God. After all these things take place in the mind and heart of the new believer he can be baptized.
Baptism was authorized by Jesus and then performed by the apostles. Their commission was to baptize all in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19): "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Whether we must always baptize by these words or not should not be an issue. Jesus' purpose here was not to outline a method of baptism but rather to impart to us the encompassing testimony and understanding necessary to our faith. Prior to baptism we should have an understanding of what each name represents in the plan of salvation. This is necessary so we can know what our faith involves. When we are baptized into each name as Jesus prescribed, we are acknowledging and professing an understanding and an acceptance of what each represents. Therefore, when we are baptized in the name of the Father we are professing His authority as the only true God and also His grace which provided us with the opportunity for salvation. By the name of the Son we testify of the sacrifice of Jesus' life and the justification He provided upon our lives; we have been freed from our own penalty of eternal death and we have a means by which sins are forgiven. By the name of the Holy Spirit, we accept and subject ourselves to His influence for guidance in life and for the sanctification of our life. After understanding these things correctly and committing our life to God we can knowledgeably and more justly enter into the rite of baptism before God and man. A basic but somewhat thorough wording for the rite of baptism would be as follows:
"Baptism is a sign of the covenant between you and God of your belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, in the gospel of His truth, and the desire to follow God's commandments. You are now baptized into the authority and grace of the Father, into justification and forgiveness through the blood of the Son, and into the guidance and sanctification of the Holy Spirit."
Baptism, as mentioned before, is a symbolism of our initial faith in the gospel and the plan of salvation. Its symbolism is similar to that of circumcision which was performed by the Israelites under their covenant with God. Under this covenant God made a promise to Abraham of giving him many descendants and an inheritance. His inheritance was a land flowing with milk and honey. The conditions for Abraham and his descendants to receive these blessings was to serve God as their only true God and to walk in righteousness before Him. Circumcision was instituted by God and became the emblem of the covenant between He and Israel. Since Jesus though, a new covenant has been created between man and God. This covenant is similar to the covenant with Israel. It too involves promises, an inheritance, and conditions to the covenant. However, our promises are more spiritual in nature involving the forgiveness of sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit for spiritual guidance. Our inheritance is the salvation of our souls for eternal life with God in heaven. The conditions for this covenant reiterate the conditions of the covenant with Israel. We are still required to love God as the only true God and we must still walk in righteousness before Him. Our commitment to this covenant is now symbolized, however, not by circumcision but by water baptism.
Baptism is the initial act that one can perform that is evidence of a heart that sincerely wants to serve God and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. A new convert should have adequate knowledge of the principles of the gospel, the powers that be, and a sincere desire to live righteously under God before he is baptized. After one's initial commitment he should frequently be exhorted, taught, and be diligent to grow in the way of righteousness for sanctification of his soul. One must conform and transform his life to meet the requirements of a righteous life in God, renewing and regenerating himself as necessary under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is an ever enduring and active effort on our part for the whole of one's life. It is a work that we begin right away but one that we should continue in our whole life as we purpose ourselves for higher levels of righteousness, as we seek to gain light within us, and as we establish ourselves as a lamp to those around us. Therefore, understand what our faith involves. Be baptized with understanding and commitment. Exercise any righteousness without any doubt or hesitation, for this will put us on the road toward habitation with God in heaven.
The following is a table of reference verses which compares the institution and symbolism of baptism to the symbolization of circumcision.
|Gen 17:1,2 - When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the
LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before
Me and be blameless. "And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and
will multiply you exceedingly."
Gen 17:8 - "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
|"You must walk blameless before God and you will receive the inheritance."|
|Gen 17:11 - "and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your s, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you."||"Circumcision became the sign of Israel's agreement to God's covenant. They would serve Him and obey His commandments."|
|Heb 8:7 - For if that first covenant had been faultless,
then no place would have been sought for a second.
Heb 10:9 - He takes away the first that He may establish the second.
Heb 8:6 - But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
|"A new covenant is established."|
|Heb 8:10 - "For this is the covenant that I will make with
the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws
in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God,
and they shall be My people."
|"God gives us His Spirit so we can know His expectations. We are to keep His laws in our hearts and minds."|
|Heb 9:15 - And for this reason He is the Mediator of the
new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions
under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise
of the eternal inheritance.
|"Jesus' death pays for our sins and we have an opportunity for eternal life."|
|Rom 6:4,6 - Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism
into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. . . .knowing
this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might
be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
|"We buried our old man and put to death the sins of the flesh to walk in newness of life. We must turn away from sin and seek to walk in righteousness."|
|Acts 2:41 - Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.||"After hearing the gospel of the new covenant, the people believed in it and were baptized."|
|1 Pet 3:21 - There is also an antitype which now saves us-- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.||"Baptism by water is paralleled with Noah being saved through the flood. He believed God and committed to obeying Him by building the ark. Today, we believe the word of God, trust Him, and accept His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Initially, we symbolize our acceptance of the gospel covenant through water baptism. Afterwards, our lives will continue to symbolize our faith in the gospel."|
|Acts 8:30-38 ---- Phillip and the Ethiopian
Acts 10:34-48 --- Peter and Cornelius
Acts 16:11-15 --- Paul and Lydia
|"After hearing the gospel of Jesus, believing it, and committing to be faithful to the Lord, we should be baptized."|