The Importance of BaptismPublished by josh mulvihill on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 6:30am
By Josh Mulvihill
This post is the first of four on baptism. Grace Church holds to a believer’s baptism (credobaptism) position which asserts that a person must believe in Jesus before being baptized. These posts will help parents apply the important biblical teaching of baptism to their children and will focus on four areas: the importance of baptism, common mistakes, criteria, and resources.
Baptism is important. Most believers would agree with this statement. Yet, in practice baptism is often viewed as an optional choice as evidenced by the fact that many believing adults wait years, possibly decades, before being baptized. Long wait times between belief and baptism is evidence that a sense of baptism’s importance has been lost on the person. Biblically, there is no recognized state of “unbaptized believer.” To believe in Jesus is to be baptized into his name. The biblical expectation is that if you believe in Jesus, baptism will soon follow. Understanding the importance of baptism will lead a person directly to the waters of baptism.
Why is baptism important? Four reasons:
1. Baptism connects to the gospel. Baptism summarizes faith. It’s Christianity on display. It is a picture of the gospel. Every time an individual is baptized those watching are reminded of the death, resurrection, and life of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:1-5). Baptism is a mini-play. It’s a short drama. It’s Calvary brought to the sanctuary. It points to the cross and to the empty tomb.
2. Baptism provides the opportunity to test a candidate’s beliefs. Who can join a church? How does the church monitor doctrinal beliefs and maintain a strong theological foundation? Done right, baptism maintains the doctrinal purity of a church as individuals who do not believe the core tenants of the faith are not permitted to be baptized. Belief is to precede baptism, so it is a wise church that tests those beliefs, as they apply to Christ, to make sure they are biblical. For the baptism candidate, it can be a clarifying experience to verbalize and defend beliefs. It can also provide assurance of salvation as the church only baptizes those whom they believe are Christians.
3. Baptism is public. It is too easy for young people to be undercover Christians. Baptism is meant to be public. It is meant to be a proclamation of belief on the behalf of the person being baptized. It is putting a stake in the ground that a person has accepted Jesus invitation to “follow me” and seeks to be holy as God is holy. Accountability becomes possible when a person goes public with their relationship with Jesus. Christianity was never meant to be a private, individualized religion. Baptism reminds us this. Yet, accountability is only possible in the presence of other believers, which leads us to number four.
4. Baptism is an initiation into the body of the church. Historically, baptism has been both a gate (keeping non-believing individuals out) and the doorway bringing believer’s into the church. To be part of the body means that all individuals have an important role to play. Every part of our physical body (hand, foot, eye) serves a purpose and so every member of the church is expected to play an important role in the life of the church (Rom. 12:4-8). Baptism is an invitation to get off the bench and into the game. The expectation is that all those who have been baptized are serving and contribute to the life of the church and do so until their dying day.