The Meaning of Baptism
Preached at Main Street Church on June 30th, 2019
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
One summer when I was ten years old I went to visit my grandparents in Vicksburg Mississippi. It was hot and sticky, and there was no question that we were in the South. I learned while I was there that Vicksburg was instrumental in the civil war. All over the place were relics and monuments memorializing the battles that happened in those places.
The thing most etched upon my mind were the reenactments. A few times a day men dressed in authentic wool confederacy and union military garb would act out some of the battles, firing off blanks from their rifles, and my favorite was the loud explosions that you could feel deep in your chest when they would set off gunpowder in real civil war era canons.
The sight of bayonets and men pretending to be wounded, the sound of the canon blasts, the smell of the spent gunpowder, the feel of the Southern heat, and the taste of genuine Mississippi sweet tea all left a lasting impression of my mind of the reality and significance of the civil war. It wasn’t primarily reading the monument plaques, or hearing the tour guide speak that left its mark. It was the reenactment.
Baptism is like that. It is a reenactment of our redemption. It is a reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it represents our identification with him in it. Baptism is a reenactment of redemption.
The reason we baptize people is because Jesus commanded us to in Matthew 28:18-19. He said, “All authority and heaven and on earth has been given to me. God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
Redemption can be summed up as “Going out, and coming in,” and baptism reenacts that. It is not just deliverance out of sin, and out of death, and out of the curse. It is also access into the presence of God, into the people of God, and into the power of God.
Baptism reenacts the going out and coming in of redemption.
- Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
- When someone goes down into the water, that represents their identification with the death and burial of Jesus Christ. It represents the death of their sin nature, the death of their old desires, the death of their idolatry and separation from God.
- And verse 4 says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
- And when they come up out of the water that signifies their identification with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It signifies their new life in God’s presence, new life with God’s people, and new life in God’s power.
- Today, Aly, Lauren, and Tami are publicly identifying themselves with Jesus, through the symbolism of their baptism.
One of my favorite parts of a wedding is the exchanging of the rings. The couples look each other in the eye, vow to love each other, and then place a ring on the other’s finger. The ring symbolizes their covenant love for each other.
Everyone knows that simply slipping a ring on your finger doesn’t make you married. A couple can’t just buy rings for each other and say that they’re married. The ring doesn’t make the marriage, it simply represents it.
In the same way, baptism doesn’t make someone a Christian. Baptism doesn’t save anyone. Baptism doesn’t redeem anyone. Baptism is simply a reenactment of the redemption accomplished by Jesus. Baptism reenacts the going out and coming in of redemption.
That means that baptism is only for people who have put their faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
- So if you have put your faith in Christ, Scripture commands us to identify ourselves with him through the act of baptism.
- If you have never been baptized, here are some questions you must ask yourself: have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he died for your sins and that God raised him from the dead? Do you put your trust in him as your Lord and Master? Have you repented of your sins and continuing to repent today? Is there evidence of the purifying work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you experience answered prayer? Do you find an increased love for the things of God and a hatred for the sin in your life? Do you have love in your heart for God’s people? Do you experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit?
- If you answer yes to these questions, then you’re ready for baptism!
- If you answer no to any of these questions, then you’re not ready, and you need to be born again. You need to seek God in his word and in prayer and put your life at his feet and throw yourself in surrender to his will. You need to repent of of your sins in humility. And you need to look to Jesus, who stands ready to save you.
- And let me say something to you friend, just because you prayed a prayer one time, or nodded your head when someone asked if you believe in Jesus, that does not make you a Christian. Making a decision doesn’t make you a Christian, it takes the power of God to remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
- If you don’t know Christ, ask him to save you. And friend, seek him until he does it!
- Baptism is an act for those who have been supernaturally saved by the power of God.
- Baptism does not grant redemption, but it is a reenactment of the redemption that has already occurred in our lives—not because of our own doing—but through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Water Theme
Throughout the Bible God shows us his pattern of redemption, and one element of it is deliverance through water.
- First, God delivered Noah and his family through the judgment of the flood waters in the safety of the Ark.
- Then baby Moses, who was placed in the dangerous waters of the Nile River in a mini ark, was delivered from impending death, and brought into life in the King’s palace.
- Then there was the Exodus, the redemptive event that set the pattern. God’s people were delivered safely through the Red Sea, while the enemies of God’s people were swept away.
The Pattern of Redemption
God’s rescue of his people in the book of Exodus set the pattern of redemption for us of going out and coming in.
- God brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land
- He brought them out of a land of idolatry, and into true worship
- He brought them out of oppression, and into freedom
- As 1 Peter 2:9 says, God calls his people “out of darkness, into his marvelous light.”
Baptism is a reenactment of redemption – It is the reenactment of going out and coming in.
In 1954 a girl was born in Korea shortly after the Korean war ended. She was the offspring of an American soldier who had an affair with a young Korean woman. He went back to the United states and she stayed in Korea and gave birth to this girl. And from the very beginning of her life she looked different. You see in that culture children of mixed races were shunned, they were ostracized, they were considered unlovable. And this single mom tried her very best but after 7 difficult years she did something that we find unimaginable: she abandoned her girl to the streets. She abandoned her daughter to the streets and this girl was ruthlessly tormented by the people on the streets. She was called terrible names the ugliest word imaginable in that culture; “Tuki,” which literally means alien, or worse, it means devil. After 2 years of living on the streets a nurse by the name of Iris Ericson found this girl living in a garbage dump, and placed her in an orphanage which really wasn’t much better. Word got out that an American couple was coming to that orphanage to select a little boy from that orphanage to adopt and take back to the states. So this abandoned girl helped along with all the others to clean up all the little boys, giving them baths and combing their hair, all the while wondering, who would get out of this darkness? Who would be claimed?
The next day an American couple came to the oprhanage, and this is how the girl described it: “I saw this man, with these huge hands lift up every baby. I saw tears running down his face and I knew that if they could they would have taken the entire lot home with them. And then she said, “And then he saw me out of the corner of his eye. You have to understand that I was 9 years old but I barely weighed thirty pounds. I was this scrawny kid, I had worms in my body, so many worms that when they got really hungry they would crawl out of my mouth in search of something else to eat. My hair was white with lice, I had boils all over me, I was full of scars, I was not a pretty sight. But the man came over to me, and he began talking, rattling away in some other language that I didn’t know; it was English. And I just looked at him. And then he took his huge hand and he put it on my face. That hand on my face it felt so good and on the inside I kept saying, “Oh keep that up! Don’t take your hand away!” But you see no one had ever shown me that kind of love, that kind of affection before. I didn’t know how to respond so I yanked his hand off my face and I looked up at him and I spit on him. Then I turned around and I ran way.” What this unwanted, unlovable girl didn’t know is what that man had said to her in English, you see his exact words were, “I want this child.” This is the child for me. Did she miss her opportunity? Did she blow her only chance? Amazingly, the couple came back to the orphanage the next day and they found her, and he said “I want to adopt her.” And adopt her they did. They brought her out of Korea and into the United States. They brought her out of the oprhanage, and into their family. And they gave her a new name: Stephanie. She took on their name and was identified with them. They set her free to live life. No more living in garbage dumps lost to a destitute life of abuse and pain. Instead, because of the love of a father, Stephanie could live in a new family. She had been redeemed—She had been brought out, and brought in.
Baptism is a reenactment of our redemption. It is a reenactment of being brought out of sin, out of death, and out of the curse, and being brought into God’s presence, into God’s people, and into God’s power. It is the mark of a new identity. It is identification with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Friends, what defines your identity today? Are you still living in the slavery of Egypt? Do you feel stuck as an orphan with no hope? God has parted the waters for you to cross into the blessing of his presence. He has given everyone who calls on his name the right to become his children. John 1 says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
So ask yourself today: have you identified yourself with the Son of God in his death, burial, and resurrection, in such a way that you can call God your Father?