This past week at Ephesus, I finished up our series on “What is the Church.” I had originally intended to take some time on a Sunday and preach about the ordinance of water baptism, but did not have the opportunity to dig in. I said I would put more info on the blog, so here it is…
Water baptism is the second ordinance prescribed by Jesus to be regularly practiced by the church and Christ-followers. The other is the Lord’s Supper which we looked at in part 4 of “What is the Church.” First and foremost, Jesus modeled full immersion baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3. John’s baptism was a sign of full repentance of sin before God. Something that happens between the individual and God, when the individual comes to a full complete acknowledgment of our innate sinfulness, accepts the forgiveness only available through Jesus’ death on the cross and desires for those around him or her to know the change that has happened. Jesus directs us in Matthew 28.19-20 to baptize and we then see it carried out throughout the book of Acts as the early church was getting it’s start. Therefore, because it was exemplified in Jesus, declared by Jesus, and lived out in the life of the early church, we continue to practice it today. At Ephesus, we conduct baptism through the full immersion in water of the individual. This is due to the examples we see in the bible and the original Greek word from which baptism is derived being defined as placing someone fully in water. It’s that simple. Baptism takes on several forms of symbolism as does the Lord’s Supper. I’ll examine a few.
- Forgiveness of sins-water is naturally seen as a cleansing agent, we bathe in it, wash dishes in, clean off dead bugs from our windshield with it. So as we are outwardly expressing our cleansing of sin through Jesus, it makes sense that water would physically symbolize a spiritual house-cleaning
- Regeneration-Water brings life and baptism again symbolizes this. Jesus told Nicodemus one must be “born of water and spirit” in John 3.
- Resurrection-Traditionally, when baptized one goes down into the water (careful to hold the nose for obvious reasons!) and comes up again. This symbolizes our connection with the resurrection of Jesus and is spoken of by Paul in Romans 6 and Colossians 2.
- Unity of the church-Baptism is (at least it should be) a common experience for Christians, a sort-of “rite of passage” that is a jointly shared experience in several ways. First, we all, as followers of Jesus, have most likely been baptized at some point and see it as a shared milestone in our growth. Secondly, baptism is designed to be a public event where a shared joy and excitement occurs between friends and family. In these things we are further unified as the body of Christ.
- Commitment to God-Baptism on a certain level also holds a degree of accountability. You have publicly declared your acceptance of Jesus’ death on the cross and folks around you now have no doubt about where you stand. You now have no excuse when you flip someone off in traffic for cutting you off and then being right next to you at the next light anyway…not that I’m bitter.
Water baptism is a powerful, personal experience as you seal in your own life what God is doing in you. It’s also a powerful public experience that allows Christians to celebrate with you and others around you to get a glimpse of what is happening in your life. I look forward to many opportunities to get wet with the folks of Ephesus as we journey together loving Jesus, loving people and loving the city!