The word “baptise” has its roots in the Greek word baptizo, which means to immerse or to cleanse by submerging with water.
While that’s literally what happens during a baptism ceremony, there’s also deep spiritual significance in the act; baptism can be described as an outward proclamation of one’s inward transformation and conversion.
And contrary to popular belief, baptism is a practice that had been established well before the time of John the Baptist and Jesus.
Although it was not explicitly named “baptism”, the priests mentioned in Leviticus were required to bathe themselves in water before putting on the sacred garments (Leviticus 16:4). This was a ceremonial cleansing before entering the Holy Place.
So with the historical stuff out of the way, we now look to today’s questions: why should believers be baptised and are we obligated to? Let’s dive in!
Is baptism required for my salvation?
Based on the Bible, we know that salvation is based on faith in Jesus alone.
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
We were saved by grace and through faith. We were saved by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection. Jesus Christ alone is responsible for our salvation.
As such, baptism should never be seen as a ticket to salvation. It is, instead, a believer’s step of faith and obedience before God and men.
God commands us to be baptised
If you read the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), you’ll find it essentially consists of three commands by Jesus:
- Make disciples of all nations
- Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
- Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you
Baptism is therefore a command from God, and children of God do not ignore their Father’s commands.
In Jesus’ own baptism, there is also precious insight to be had.
He was baptised by John the Baptist (Matthew 3). The Son of God chose to be baptised despite being completely blameless.
According to Pastor Tim Lucas of Liquid Church, Jesus chose to be baptised for our need — not His own: “By going into the waters of baptism, He was identifying with all of sinful humanity. He went into the water with you and for you… He was humble and did it out of love.”
When we get baptised today, we are identifying ourselves with Jesus who saved us and sanctifies us.
There’s more — baptism is a vital part of our discipleship journey in Christ.
It is a public act that signifies us as being set us apart from the rest of the world, not that we are better than anyone but that we belong to Christ and follow Him.
Galatians 3:26-27 tells us this: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
It is a beautiful privilege to be baptised into Jesus and into His Body, being united together with His fellow children (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Baptism is also required in most churches before one can partake of the Holy Communion (we’ll have more on that in our next article!).
It’s impossible to encapsulate why this is the case in one sentence, but the gist of it is: baptism is a one-time declaration of faith in Jesus, and it’s undergone before one can take the Lord’s Supper which is an ongoing renewal of faith for believers.
Our personal response
Baptism is our response to God’s invitation to a new life after salvation.
It’s not about publicly declaring membership of a club you’ve joined.
Instead, it is a celebration of faith and a public testimony that you’ve received Jesus into your life.
Baptism is a one-time, powerful moment in the life of a Christian because of the two things it symbolises.
First, being submerged in water represents the death of Jesus. It also represents the death of our old, sinful lives.
Second, emerging from the water represents Jesus’ resurrection. It also represents our rebirth into the new life we are called to.
Baptism thus unites us with Christ by identifying with His death and resurrection!
It’s a relationship, not a ritual
It is vital that we understand baptism as an act of love for God rather than as a ceremonial ritual to a distant God. After all, shouldn’t we be proud to be a part of His Kingdom?
Baptism is a celebration and a declaration. Above all, it’s our personal and public response to a Father who has saved us and wants us to commit to Him just as He has committed to us.
Will you make that declaration?
In our next article, we’ll be taking a look at communion (and what baptism has to do with it). Keep a look out for it!
- Are you baptised?
- What’s holding you back from being baptised?
- What stirred or challenged you from the article?
- What is God saying to you today?