Sacrament of Baptism Essay
The background of baptism can be traced to Old Testament times. It goes as far back as the book of Genesis when Noah and his family were saved from the flood in the judgement of God. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter pointed out that the water of the flood “symbolizes bap¬tism that now saves you”. Even the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and David also used water as a symbol for the cleansing of the internal man. (Isa. 1:l6: Ezek. 36:25ff; Ps. 51:2).
According to the Christian Research Institute, John the Baptist was the final prophet of the Old Testament covenant. When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, he was bringing in the Old Testament prophecy of the messiah. Behind the symbol of baptism is the substance of baptism, which is the blood of Jesus Christ removing our sinfulness. As water cleanses the outer man from soil and sweat, so the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses the inner man from the stain of sin. (The Importance of Baptism). This paper will cover the belief of baptism, what baptism represents, to refute a misbelief of baptism, and how baptism relates to Jesus.
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First, we as Christians believe that baptism is an ordinance of our Lord. By that, it is meant that Jesus commanded it and as such it would be an ongoing practice of the church. We find this command plainly laid out in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” “In baptism, by faith, we are united with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.” (Piper, John). To break it down even further, John Piper explains it very well, “make disciples” is the main verb: “Having gone, make disciples of all nations.” He then goes on to say that the “defining participles are “baptizing them” and “teaching” them. So the church is commanded to do this for all disciples. Making disciples of all nations includes baptizing them”.
And the time frame is defined by the promise of Christ’s help in Matthew 28: 20: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The promise of help is for as long as this age lasts. So the command he promises to help us with is as long as this age lasts. As you can see, baptism is a command, and ordinance, of the Lord Jesus to be performed in making disciples until Christ returns at the end of the age (Piper, John). I think one of the greatest stories of baptism comes from Acts 8:28-40. When Phillip is told by the Lord to go and catch up to a chariot. And in that chariot is an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading from Isaiah about baptism. Phillip ends up teaching him what the passage was about, and the eunuch had such a desire to be baptized, that they stopped as soon as a little bit of water was available and Phillip baptized him then and there.
Second, baptism is the means to show our union with Jesus in his death and resurrection. The best passage for this is found in Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death”. This passage signifies that we were buried with him by baptism into death, that we may be raised by Christ into the newness of life. According to John Piper “In baptism, by faith, we are united with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism dramatically portrays what happened spiritually when you received Christ: Your old self of unbelief and rebellion and idolatry died, and a new you of faith and submission and treasuring Christ came into being. That’s what you confess to the world and to heaven when you are baptized” (Piper, John). Kirsi Sterjna summarizes it very well, “baptism is a mystery and a matter of faith; it calls for a philosophical imagination and mystical willingness to grasp the questions of reality beyond what meets the eye.” “I study it daily,” Luther admits in his “Large Catechism.” “In baptism, therefore, every Christian has enough to study and practice all his or her life. Christians always have enough to do to believe firmly what baptism promises and brings.” (Stjerna, Kirsi). According to Gordon Jensen, “Baptism also immerses an individual in Christ and Christ’s body, the church. Thus, baptism is a place of God ’s epiphany and incarnation: an external Word of grace, forgiveness, and life is spoken by God” (Jensen, Gordon A).
A prevalent misconception one can make with regard to baptism is to believe that it is necessary for salvation. Several movements, such as the International Churches of Christ (Boston movement), teach that belief is not suffi¬cient for salvation — baptism is also required. In concert with other cultic groups, they twist passages such as Acts 2:38 to defend this deadly doctrine. Acts 2:38 says “repent and be baptized…” this was Peter’s proclamation of the gospel on the day of Pentecost. Those impacted by his message cried out, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The groups that believe baptism is necessary for salvation mistakenly regard Peter’s words, “Repent and be baptized” as evidence that belief plus baptism results in salvation. Scripture, however, does not support this view. The Book of Acts demonstrates that baptism is the sign of conversion, not the means of conversion. Acts 10:47-48, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days”. This passage describes believers who had the Holy Spirit before being baptized. Furthermore, the Bible as a whole clearly states that we are saved by faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). As Paul pointed out in Romans 1:17 , our righteous standing before God is “by faith from first to last”. In Acts 16: 30-31, When the jailer asked the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”. There is no scripture that claims in order to be saved, you must be baptized.
Although baptism is not the means by which we are saved, it is the means by which we are set apart. By baptism, we testify that we are no longer our own — we have been bought by Christ’s blood and have been brought into the community of faith. This is the significance of Peters command in Acts 2:38. He was not telling them that they could not be saved without baptism. He was telling them that their genuine repentance, which by the grace of God accompanies salvation, would be evidenced by their baptism(The Importance of Baptism).
The next question would be; how does baptism relate to Jesus Christ? In a sermon preached by Dr. Pritchard, he gives us three points on how baptism relates to Jesus Christ, 1) it means we have turned from the old life of sin to a new life in Jesus Christ, 2) it means we are publicly identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, 3) it means we are openly joining the ranks of believers in a public confession of Christ. Dr. Prichard goes on to say that when you are baptized, you are actually preaching the gospel in a visual way. As you are standing in the water, you symbolize Jesus dying on the cross, as you are lowered into the water, you symbolize Jesus buried in the tomb, and as you are raised form the water, you symbolize Jesus being raised from the dead. Baptism is a personal decision; you are saying, “Christ died for me, I was buried with him, and now I am raised with Christ to a brand new life” (Prichard, Dr. Ray
In conclusion, the sacrament of Baptism is a very personal decision that Jesus ordained for us to publicly profess our relationship with him. Just like Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven”. Martin Luther wrote many sermons on Baptism, in one of his writings, he says “Thus, we must regard baptism and put it to use in such a way that we may draw strength and comfort from it when our sins or conscience oppress us, and say: “But I am baptized! And if I have been baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body” . . . No greater jewel, therefore, can adorn our body and soul than baptism, for through it we become completely holy and blessed, which no other kind of life and no work on earth can acquire” (Martin Luther). This is a powerful proclamation and one that should be known throughout Christianity.