Recently I had two experiences that caused me to wonder if we have lost the significance of baptism in some of our churches.
The first experience was a baptismal service in which anyone and everyone who wanted to be baptized was invited to come and be baptized. People came forward for the celebration of baptism and made statements like: “The rest of my family was being baptized, so I decided to get baptized again;” “I have never been baptized and have always thought that I should;” “I’ve been baptized before, but I was so excited to see others being baptized, that I decided to join them.”
All the statements had left out the reason I was looking for, one that said, “I’ve repented of my sins and have surrendered my life to become a Christ follower.”
The second event was much different. It involved two men who looked to be around 30 years old. One after the other stood in the baptismal waters and shared their testimonies. Both men observed the Muslim faith and knew that leaving their religion and becoming a Christ follower would place them and their family in jeopardy. They confidently stood in the baptismal waters and shared their journey to faith in Christ.
A friend of mine baptized a young lady, in another state, who also renounced the Muslim religion and became a Christ follower. Not long after she was baptized she told her brother about becoming a Christian, and he killed her for what he called shaming their family.
Baptists believe that baptism is a symbol representing one’s covenant with Christ. It symbolizes the death of Jesus by one being immersed under the water; the burial of Jesus by one being totally laid under the water; and resurrection of Jesus Christ by one coming up out of the water demonstrating their new life with Christ.
We observe baptism as a symbol of the covenant relationship between Christ and His follower in the same way a husband and wife wear a wedding ring to symbolize their commitment to each other. Neither the ring nor the baptism are necessary for the covenant relationship to exist. However, I can’t imagine a ring being offered in a wedding and it being rejected. In like manner, Jesus submitted to baptism to signify His relationship with us, and baptism was instituted as the symbol that signifies our relationship with Jesus.
We run a risk today of leaning to the extremes on the doctrine of baptism. Some make it an essential part of the conversion experience, to the extent that without the observance, one’s salvation is questioned if not outright discounted.
Others have lessened the experience by offering it without question or counsel. Both leave the impression that baptism precedes conversion/discipleship. Baptism should follow conversion.
Let’s be reminded that baptism is a symbol, and that symbol has significance! “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” (Matt. 28:19).