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What is the importance of Christian baptism?
Is baptism just about the forgiveness of sins—or is there more to it?
There are many stories of people being baptized in the Bible. But what is the purpose of Christian baptism and what is its significance for your Christian life?
What is Christian baptism?
Baptism is an act in which a Christian is immersed in water to symbolize the end of an old way of living, and a new start. When you get baptized it is a testimony to God and people that you, by faith, will live a new life as an overcomer.
The Bible first mentions Christian baptism in its accounts of John the Baptist. The baptism of John was for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance but He who is coming after me is mightier than I … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11. With the establishment of the new covenant, because of the death of Jesus on the cross, baptism is now about more than the forgiveness of sins—it is a covenant to live the life of abefore God.
Peter compares baptism to the flood in Noah’s time. “… He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ …” 1 Peter 3:18-21. The Bible says of Noah’s time: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. Just as the waters of the flood put an end to this evil in the Old Testament, baptism represents an end to living a self-centered life of doing my own will and beginning a new life of doing the will of God in the New Testament.
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Should you be baptized?
If you have made a lifetime commitment to follow Jesus, obey the Word of God and live a new life you are a candidate to be baptized. You are repentant and want to be free from their sin.
This was the case with the Jews who had crucified Jesus when they heard Peter speak. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” Acts 2:37. It was such ones that Peter exhorted to be baptized. Verse 38.
As with the Jews mentioned above, there are many people today who are sorry for their past sins and have purposed to live a life pleasing to God. Though it is evident that a certain maturity is needed to make such decisions, the proper attitude of heart is the main criterion for deciding to be baptized at any age. Jesus’ own words to His disciples confirm the needs for such ones to be baptized: “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.” Matthew 28:19. There are no references to infants being baptized in the Bible.
What does baptism mean for your life?
Though Christianity consists of a hidden life with God, Christian baptism is an outward act in which we affirm our desire to follow Jesus on this inner way.
Paul explains how we are to live this new life: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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.” Romans 6:3-4.
This “death” that Paul mentions is a death to your old life, where you choose to stop living according to your sinful human nature and tendencies. You can then begin to walk in “newness of life” by obeying God’s commandments.
Being baptized does not free you from temptations but you can, as the writer of Hebrews states, overcome in temptation as Jesus did: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16.
You can live the rest of your life for the will of God, as Jesus did: “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me … then I said, “Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.”’” Hebrews 10:5-7.
With such a purpose of heart, God will open His Word to you so that you can run on the way of His commandments. This new life will result in you reaping the blessings of God rather than the consequences of sin.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.