By Ryan Bridgeo
The practice of water baptism goes back thousands of years to the days of John the Baptist when our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River. “Baptism” in Greek is the word baptizo, which means to immerse, submerge, to make overwhelmed (ex. fully wet).1 When a believer is baptized, they are submerged in water and brought back up out of the water. This is an outward sign (or action) of their faith. It also indicates an inner work of grace that was accomplished for us and in us, when we put our faith in Christ. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not a work of water.
Some people believe that we are not saved unless we are baptized, but this is not accurate. Was the criminal on the cross baptized? No, he was not. Water baptism does not save our souls from hell; only the blood of Jesus does that. But water baptism does carry a more significant meaning than we may have fully understood. We can look at two illustrations from Old Testament stories.
Look at 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NIV): “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
This is where people get the idea that baptism saves you. Verse 20 says that eight people were saved through water. Another translation says “by means of water.” If you think about it, water is not what saved them. Water is what actually killed everyone who was not in the ark. The ark is what saved them. If it had not been for the ark, Noah and his family would have died, too. The ark is a picture of Jesus. The end of verse 21 says: “It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” If there was no resurrection of Christ from the dead, we could not be saved. Baptism is therefore a picture of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. This is what saves us, and baptism is symbolic of this.
The second example is found in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea …”
When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, all of their enemies were literally cut off by the water. One online source said,“… the Red Sea crossing was nine miles long and 300 feet deep.3 All of their enemies either drowned in the sea or were back on land on the other side. Either death or nine miles of water separated them from all of their enemies.
In both of these stories, we see death by water. Death to everyone outside of the ark, and death to the soldiers who chased the Israelites into the Red Sea. We can imagine many dead bodies floating on the water. We can also see in both stories a direct connection to water baptism. These stories are types and shadows of the work of the Holy Spirit Who now separates us from our enemies.
Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life [emphasis added].”
When we were buried with Christ in water baptism, our old sinful nature was buried with Him. When this happened, Holy Spirit cut off all of our enemies, the attractions, snares, and powers that the World has to offer us. This is just like when the water fell at the Red Sea and cut them off from the World’s system and its power to try and draw them back. In the same way that God wanted His sons and daughters free from slavery to Pharaoh, God wants his sons and daughters free from slavery to sin and Satan. In the same way that God wanted to show Pharaoh and Egypt who the One True God was, today He wants to show the world who the One True God is through us. Praise God, when we came up out of the water, we were symbolically resurrected from the dead to walk in this newness of life, which we actually received when we made Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Baptism is where we bury our sin nature. This is something that has to be done by faith. If we expect nothing, nothing will happen. If we believe that we still have our sin nature, we will carry around that old rotten, stinky corpse. But if we believe by faith that our old man was crucified with Christ, that it was buried with Christ in baptism so we can now walk in the newness of the Spirit, we will truly live.
Also, Colossians 2:11-12 (NIV) says: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
This tells us that when we are born again, we encounter a spiritual circumcision where our sinful nature is cut off, much like when the flesh is cut away in circumcision. Verse 12 goes on to say that baptism symbolically shows this process of death, burial, and resurrection to new life. Let’s walk by faith in the baptism that Jesus provided so we can experience the full, true life that God intended.
Ryan Bridgeo is the Pastor of Plumtree Church in Avery County, NC. If you would like to know more or how you might become involved in this ministry please reach out to Pastor Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-765-6919.
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