Baptism is one of the two great symbols of our faith that Jesus gave us. The other symbol is Communion or The Lord’s Supper. Both are symbols with sacred significance to the follower of Christ. Yet, as a symbol neither has saving power in them. Only Christ can save us from our sins. The symbol of baptism is like the symbol of my wedding ring. It represents a personal commitment of faith and love that I willingly gave to Chris when we were married. It symbolizes the relationship that we share of love for one another. But just wearing a ring doesn’t make you married anymore than just getting wet washes away your sins. The Bible says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and our identification with Christ by faith. When we are immersed into the water we identify with Jesus death for our sins and when we are raised up out of the water we are identifying with His resurrection power that imparts His life in us enabling us to live the Christian life by virtue of His indwelling presence. Romans 6:4 says “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”
Baptism is a first step of obedience for those who have been saved, not an essential to be saved. The Ethiopian in Acts 8 illustrates this. When Philip shared the gospel with him on his way back to Ethiopia and he received Christ he asked Philip if he would baptize him right then since they were by a body of water. Philip responded, Acts 8:37-38, “‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”
Just being baptized will not save you. Only Jesus can save us from our sins. He saves us when we acknowledge our need for Him, turn from our sin and receive Him into our hearts by faith. Romans 10:9-10, 13 put it like this:
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that Godvraised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. … Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
One of the dangerous mistakes we make in the church today is to assume salvation based on anything other than faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Baptism is an expression of faith showing on the outside what Christ has done by faith already on the inside. It is an important step of obedience that also identifies us with fellow believers in the church. Yet, like the dying thief on the cross who was saved without being baptized, there may be occasions where someone has put their faith in Christ and for whatever reason was unable to be baptized before they died. The promise of heaven is theirs not because of baptism but because of Christ.
//Theological Thursday: Questions are welcome. Asking them makes our faith personal and real. On Thursdays I will be answering theological questions. Enter yours in the comment box below and I will select one each week to answer on our blog.