What Does Baptism Do?

One of my seminary professors used to call baptism “Jesus’ altar call.” In other words, baptism is the immediate response to the gospel Jesus Himself ordained for His followers. Are you a Christian? Show it by being baptized. If you claim to be a Christian and you’ve not been baptized, you need to ask yourself why. Perhaps one of the reasons is that you don’t really understand what baptism means and why it matters. I like to sum it up in three words: burial, boundary, and bond.

First, baptism is a burial. According to Romans 6:3-4, baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as we have experienced it in our own lives. This is one reason our church practices baptism by immersion—the plunge under the water and the return to the surface aptly picture death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism demonstrates that we have died to self and our old nature and now we are alive with the new life of Christ in us.

Second, baptism is a boundary, marking off followers of Jesus from the world and identifying them as Christians (Mt 28:19). Thus, baptism obviously has no meaning for people who have not trusted Christ for themselves. That’s why we offer baptism only to people who can give a credible demonstration of their own faith—in other words, people who can explain the gospel and affirm their own embrace of it. This practice is called “believer’s baptism” or “credo baptism,” and it means we don’t baptize infants or individuals who can’t give a credible profession of their own faith.

Finally, baptism is a bond—i.e., a firm assurance, as in “My word is my bond.”  It’s true that baptism is a demonstration of our commitment to Christ and our promise to follow Him. But baptism is also a demonstration of God’s commitment to us—His promise to never forsake us, even in death! Jesus gave us baptism as a reminder that, just like His death wasn’t the end of the story, so too we will rise again to live forever and ever. Your baptism is a promise of your future resurrection!

We’re planning to hold a baptismal service on Easter Sunday morning, before our regularly scheduled worship service. If you’ve not been baptized and you’d like to be, please talk to one of the elders today.