In Matthew 3:1, John the Baptist says,
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John the Baptist mentions three different types of baptism here :
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit
- Baptism of fire
Of these three baptisms, water baptism is the only one that can be done by humans.
Baptism comes from the Greek word ‘baptizo’ which means to dip or immerse. In Hebrew such immersion is referred to as a MIKVEH.
Why Baptism In Water Is Performed?
A lot of Christians baptize newborns or undergo baptism themselves without really knowing what water baptism means.
In Romans 6:3-4 Paul says,
Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? 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.
Notice that the above passage states we were baptized into Christ’s death? Here’s your first hint to understanding what water baptism means.
When Jesus died at the cross, He didn’t die alone. God placed us in Jesus at the cross, so we died along with Him! Note that we are dead in Christ and not by ourselves. Don’t go seeking the feeling of being dead within yourself. Spiritual life is more than relying on mere feelings. It’s about trusting God’s word to be true and above our feelings or circumstances.
God does not expect us to persecute ourselves in order to experience this ‘death’. We died when Christ was crucified because God put us at the cross in Him. Why God had to ensure our death at the cross? Click here to know this mystery.
In Romans 6:4 Paul explains that water baptism means burial: “We were buried therefore with him through baptism”. The MSG explains it better, “When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.”
When we get down into the water, our old nature goes down with us. As we come up in Christ, we are a new creation with our old nature dead. Unless we accept that we have died in Christ, being baptized makes no sense because only the dead can be buried. The reason we step down into the water is to testify that in God’s sight we have already died and by giving our assent to be baptized, we are actually saying yes to our burial.
Buried Only to Rise Again
While baptism is mainly about our burial, as we learned earlier, it also paints a picture of resurrection when we rise out of the water.
In Romans 6:3-4 the Apostle Paul states that we are buried but we are not to remain dead. The verse describes us as buried in order to rise again. “Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism to death,” — for what purpose? — “that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life.”
We are to “walk in newness of life.” It is a life in which we are not under the law or under the control of sin.
God wants us for Himself, but for us to enter into His kingdom, God had to do something new in us. He had to make us new creatures. Unless we’re created anew, we can never fit into God’s Holy Kingdom.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor can corruption inherit incorruption.
However holy lives we try to lead, the flesh is still flesh which we inherited from Adam. Our fitness for the new kingdom is determined by whether we belong to the old creation (flesh) or new creation (Spirit). The question is not if we are `good’ or evil’ but if we are born of the `flesh’ or ‘Spirit?’
Anything from the old creation can never cross over to God’s kingdom. So, through Christ’s death on the cross, God put away our old self and then by resurrection provided a new life for us. When we were born of Adam, we had his Adamic sin nature. Now, being born-again in Christ, we have Christ’s nature operating in us, making us able to inherit God’s kingdom.
Please note that to be reborn of the Spirit, we don’t have to do any ‘work’ other than accepting Christ as our savior. Being born-again is not a result of our good works but is a Gift of Grace.
Summarising Baptism: A Symbol of Death, Burial, and Resurrection.
What baptism is symbolic of is that, just as Christ died and was buried, so are we immersed into the water, and just as He rose from the earth, we are raised out of the water into the newness of life. Here Baptism is of course associated with both death and resurrection but by itself, it is neither death nor resurrection: it is burial.
Why Baptism In Water Is Recommended?
By choosing to undergo water baptism, we publicly testify to these facts :
1. When Christ died a physical death for our sins, God placed us in Him on the cross, and we died in Christ. Since we consider ourselves dead and all dead must be buried. By submitting to be baptized, we give our consent to our burial in a watery grave.
2. Through water baptism, we identify with our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection, and thus proclaim that we can partake in all the blessings of His perfect work. In Jesus Christ, we are completely forgiven and made righteous before God. We have His new life—a life that offers freedom from the clutches of sin, and a life of fulfillment in Him.
Thus, we celebrate His love in everything He did for us through His death, burial, and resurrection by declaring what happened inside us when we accepted Christ as our Lord through water baptism.