What Does Baptism Mean (and why is it important)?

I didn’t get baptized until I was a Sophomore in college even though I started taking my faith seriously as a teenager. I just didn’t think baptism mattered. At the time, most of the people I knew who were getting baptized were either babies or other peers in youth group who I knew weren’t actively following Jesus outside of Youth Group. So I concluded baptism really wasn’t that important. I was baptized when I was in college after I learned more about the meaning and importance of baptism.

Baptism doesn’t “save” you and you can be a Christian without having ever been baptized. However, the Bible’s pretty clear that we who claim to live for Jesus should be baptized. Time and time again throughout the book of Acts people are getting baptized when they place their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36; 10:48; and tons more). Even Jesus got baptized to set the example for his disciples.

Baptism

What Does Baptism Mean?
First, baptism symbolizes what has happened between us and God. The Apostle Paul writes, “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). Baptism symbolically represents that we “died with Christ” (going under the water is like burying our old way of life without Christ) and we have been “reborn/resurrected in Christ” (coming up from the water is like being born again with Christ). It is a visible demonstration of the new life we have in Jesus Christ.

Second, baptism foreshadows the Christian’s hope that we will be resurrected from the grave when Jesus Christ returns as judge. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again” (Romans 6:8-9). The Christian’s eternal security comes from their union with Christ, which is made visible through baptism. 

Third, baptism identifies you as a member of the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 makes it clear that every Christian is a member of the Church, the “Body of Christ.” Christians throughout history have seen baptism as the rite of entrance into the Church. It is a way to clearly say, “I am a Christian, and my life isn’t all about me anymore. Instead, I want my life to build up the Church for the glory of God.” This is also why baptism and membership in the local church where you attend naturally go hand-in-hand.

Why Baptism Matters
In the Bible (and in many places today) it was a very dangerous thing to be publicly baptized and identify yourself with Jesus Christ. This act of faith took guts and often brought serious opposition. Sadly, many Americans take their freedom and comfort for granted, and since baptism doesn’t “cost” them anything, they treat getting baptized as a casual and unimportant option.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9

Baptism should not be a matter of convenience. Instead, it is a wonderful opportunity to publicly declare your faith to your nonChristian friends and family. Sometimes people put off getting baptized because they don’t like people looking at them or being the center of attention. When we know the sin and judgment from which we have been rescued because of the truth that baptism represents, then we should take the opportunity to put ourselves aside and confess what God has done through Jesus Christ.

If we are too timid to stand for Christ in a church full of people who believe as we do and before our friends and family (even if they aren’t Christians, they still care for us), then I wonder how we will boldly stand for Christ in the midst of persecution.

Baptism is a biblical and meaningful expression of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Whether you grew up attending church or not, being baptized is a turning point you can look to in seasons of doubt or temptation in order to reaffirm, “I have been buried with Christ, and I have risen to new life with him. He is my life and my hope. I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

A Final Word of Caution
Prayerfully consider getting baptized, but please do not get baptized because you feel pressured by people to do so. If you are not compelled to give your life to worship and obey Jesus Christ then you should not be baptized… even if your parents or friends or youth pastor is encouraging you to be baptized. Simply tell them “I’m not ready yet” and trust them to respect your decision.

Two articles I have found helpful regarding children and baptism: 

2 thoughts on “What Does Baptism Mean (and why is it important)?

  1. Pingback: Why Church Membership? Living Theologically

Leave a Reply