Shall We Gather At the River
Each year my church family gathers at the Jumping Pound River for what has become our yearly summer picnic and Baptismal service. Several of our church family are baptised and although every baptism is celebrated, being baptised in a clear-running, icy, mountain stream makes the experience even more exhilarating…especially for those being baptised!
For Baptists, this special ordinance defines us as believers in Christ. In the New Testament, John the Baptist, (Jesus’ cousin), came to spread the news of the coming Messiah – Jesus Christ. (John 1:33) John the Baptist urged the people to repent of their sins (Mark 1:4) and those whom John baptised acknowledged their sins and professed their faith so that they could be forgiven of their sins. This idea of forgiveness demanded repentance, cleansing of sin and putting their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Purpose of Baptism:
Water Baptism identifies the believer with the Godhead– (The Trinity) – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
Water Baptism identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him (in new life) through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12) “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
Water Baptism is an act of obedience for the believer. Baptism itself does not guarantee our salvation, it should be preceded by repentance first, which simply means to turn from our sin and to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. It is giving complete control of our lives over to Him. It requires change. Baptism doesn’t make you a believer – it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that.
I read somewhere that Baptism is likened to the symbol of a wedding ring – it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you make in your heart. Salvation followed by baptism requires we leave our selfish, worldly ways behind to following Jesus Christ wholeheartedly and seeking His will for our lives instead. “Peter replied, ‘Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church–about three thousand in all.” (Acts 2:38, 41 (NLT)
Water Baptism is a public testimony of faith. It is the outward confession of an inward experience. Believers stand before witnesses to share personal testimonies and thereby confessing their identification with the Lord. (I have found that sometimes those brief words shared by those about to be baptised, have become like mini-sermons in themselves, convicting and powerful to family and friends who have come to observe the baptism.)
Water Baptism is a beautiful picture representing profound spiritual truth: Baptism is the picture of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and as followers of Christ, we identify with Him through baptism. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” (Romans 6:4-5)
Salvation followed by baptism, marks a sincere turning point for all believers; the beginning of a “New Life” in Christ. “He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.” (Romans 6:10-13) “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 3:21) “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:11)
Want to learn more about Becoming a Follower of Christ, and joining Him in Believer’s Baptism? Click on: The Gospel Message.