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What Does the Bible Say About … THE REAL MEANING OF BAPTISM?

What is the REAL meaning of baptism?

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Buried to Rise

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3, NIV2)

Unlike any other religions, we Christians believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. And when we decide to publically proclaim that we are the followers of the Most High, we do so through baptism.

Does baptism procure salvation? Not at all. We cannot be saved by our own works (See Gal 2:16). We do so to follow Jesus’ example (See Matt 3: 13-17), identifying with what Jesus went through to bring us salvation.

As we are plunged into the baptismal waters, we are, figuratively, buried alive. We lay down the “I” that has dominated our lives for so long, burying it deep under, just as Jesus did when He said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39b, NIV2). Our motto then becomes the same as what Jesus uttered in his prayer: “Not as I will, but as you will.”

With the old self buried, we are raised up from the waters to experience something awesome: a reflection of the resurrection: “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, NIV2).

We have been ushered in to a new kind of living, real living!

Don’t get me wrong, any dying, figuratively or literally, hurts! Leaving behind the old lives we are used to will initially be painful, and at times that old life seems to reappear. During those times we need to remember the day we were baptized and the reason why we did so.

Unlike the life we led before, we now proclaim that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. As we experience Jesus, the Christ, more and more fully, certain aspects of our life gradually begin to disappear. Things like selfishness, greed, jealousy, unforgiveness, etc. And bit by bit we are transformed, like a butterfly, into what is called “real living”, where an unselfish and genuine kind of love, expressed towards anyone we encounter, begins to reign in our heart. We begin to live just like Jesus lived.

The former life was not real living, it was mired with ego and self-interests. We were literally “the living dead”. But now, through the transformation power provided by Jesus Himself and illustrated through baptism, we are transformed into a new kind of living.

“Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe-Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.” (Galatians 3:27, MSG)

“Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.” (Colossians 3:10, MSG)

This is why Jesus, moments before being taken into heaven, urged all of us: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19, NIV2)

Interestingly, all of nature points out these very facts. A seed cannot experience abundance without first dying. It has to be buried in the ground before it can sprout and grow and eventually provide delicious fruits, nuts or fragrant flowers. Even nature announce real living, producing for the needs of others, but before this can happen, a certain kind of death has to occur.

I once met a gentleman who refused to be baptized. In order for him to lead Sunday School, he was urged by his pastor to consider baptism. “It doesn’t make sense!” He said, and he became so upset about it that he left his church and joined another one where baptism was not a priority. Although God has continued to work on his heart, I wonder if it is really worthwhile to fight against what Jesus urged us to do? True enough, baptism does not procure salvation. But doesn’t it announce that we are tired of our old lives? We want to experience real living, where love from up high dominates our lives. Why wouldn’t we wish to proclaim this desire publically? After all, there are still many out there who are living without hope.

Let us remember that abundance (real living) can only be obtained by first going through a certain kind of death. The cross has taught us, after all, to live!

Rob Chaffart