It has been said, a picture paints a thousand words. One of those pictures that caught my eye while living in the US, not too far from the Delaware River, was of George Washington standing at the head of a boat laden with soldiers crossing an ice filled Delaware on Christmas evening 1776. That night Washington routed the Hessian forces 10 miles away.
While a picture paints a thousand words, a full dramatisation much more. Each Christmas Day they reenact Washington’s crossing with costumes and canons. What gives the event significance is not the costumes or the canons but what they represent. They represent the main turning point in the American War of Independence against Britain and the ongoing effect that has on their lives.
How is this related to Baptism? We must realise that the act of believer’s Baptism by immersion gets its importance by what it represents. It dramatises the most significant event in all human history; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our entry into Him. This is the drama that Christ has commanded us to obey, in Matt 28:18-20, as our first act of identification with Him when we come to saving faith.
Not so remarkably the disciples immediately obeyed Jesus’ command. Peter preached the gospel in Acts 2 and told the penitent to “repent and be baptized … in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Philip preached the gospel throughout Samaria and “when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God … they were baptized” (Acts 8:12). The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 believed as Philip preached the gospel and responded saying “what prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Immediately the Eunuch was baptised. We could continue with Paul’s baptism which occurred immediately after saving faith (Acts 9:18) or Cornelius and his believing household’s (Acts 10:48) or Lydia and her believing household’s (Acts 16:15) or the Philippian jailer and his believing household’s (Acts 16:33) and so on. All these heard the word preached, believed the word preached, and immediately displayed their faith through the drama of baptism.
Baptism is the first and crucial act of discipleship and should not be unnecessarily separated from the time of saving faith. We all understand that while it is the taking of vows at a wedding that actually weds a couple, the exchange of rings as a display of the couple’s love and faithfulness is not insignificant and should not be carried out days or years later. While the ring ceremony does nothing to marry them, like baptism does nothing to save a person, we would never say it is therefore unnecessary. Neither should we relegate the command of baptism to an optional act we do if or when we get around to it or feel ready.
As a pastor I get the immense privilege of seeing people come to saving faith in Christ and baptising many of them. But sometimes, for whatever reason, others hold back from being baptised. It maybe through a lack of understanding of the importance or purpose of baptism.
But, could you imagine a bride during the wedding ceremony saying,
I am happy to take the vows of commitment, but I don’t want to wear the ring. Just not now. Perhaps until I feel really connected to you.”
This may sound a little extreme, but we can inadvertently give such a message by holding back from baptism.
Remember, baptism is an outward declaration of Christ’s saving work. It is not a sign of your goodness or worthiness. Rather, baptism is a sign that you were dead in your sins and now Christ has redeemed you and made you alive in Him. It is not a result of your obedience, good works, feelings of being loved, but the sure knowledge that Christ died for your sins, and you have received His forgiveness by faith.
Believer, dramatise the gospel to the world and be baptised out of obedience to Christ. You can register for our next baptism class here being held at 8:15 am on Sunday 29 Oct. Also, you can gain further understanding on the importance of baptism by listening to, The Drama of Baptism.