Some time ago, as I was reflecting upon the Scriptures in preparation for the baptism of one of our members, I was struck by this awesome truth: Baptism is not about you—it’s all about Jesus!
Let me explain.
For years, I have observed that people in our circles very often tend to approach the matter of baptism from a subjective point of view—from the point of me:how I feel about it, and what mychurch tradition has said about it, rather than submitting to the plain teaching and command of Christ in this matter.
The imperative of baptism is trivialised when we make baptism a subjective matter. Typical language which reflects this subjective mindset are reflected by words such as these: “I feel that I need (or need not) be baptised.” The thought patterns behind these feelings are varied:
- Someone feels the pressure of baptism in accordance with the rules of the church, or even perhaps of the Scriptures themselves. Others feel that they will not be pressured by the rules of the church or even by Scripture.
- Some feel that their infant baptism is a true baptism, irrespective of what Scripture teaches, or what the Lord Jesus has commanded and practiced himself.
- Others who have been baptised as babies will feel that they will go against their parents commitment by being baptised again as adults.
- Others feel embarrassed by the thought that they should stand before a church and give testimony to their faith. On this basis a number of people have refused to be baptised.
- Some may feel since So-and-So is also not yet baptised as a believer, they also have a warrant to ignore the doctrine of baptism.
- Still others say: “Well, I have seen people baptised and a number of those I have seen baptised have fallen away and therefore I feel that baptism isn’t that significant after all.”
- Others may say the same thing in a different way: “I don’t feel that I should be baptised—just now I will fall away.” It goes without saying that baptism should never be considered lightly. It should only be considered by those that have truly been born again.
Let me stop here and point out that at every point people engage in inward conversation and it is all very feeling-centred and in the end the doctrine of baptism is “all about me.”
I challenge you to re-think your approach to the matter of baptism, by putting the Lord Jesus and his word at the centre of your thinking.
I want to show you from the Scriptures that if you are a true Christianbaptism is not about you. It is even less about how you feel about it. It is all about God and his Son Jesus and what he has commanded you concerning it!
Baptism: Essential or Non-Essential to Salvation?
Before I move on, I must settle one more matter. Many people point out that baptism is not essential to salvation. Just because it is not essential to salvation, some have concluded that it is optional, and therefore it is said (quietly to yourself) that you can make up your mind concerning it. Therefore I submit, that is not a helpful statement at all.
True, baptism in and of itself does not save. However, New Testament baptism is always connected to salvation. Those that believe are baptised! They are not saved because they are baptised. They are baptised because they are saved! So we cannot separate salvation from baptism, even though we need to be careful not to invert the order. The New Testament pattern is this: Baptism always follows salvation, and in that sense it is important that we obediently observe the pattern given us in the Scriptures.
I challenge you to stop right here and to ask yourself what you would do with the fact that Jesus himself was baptised? What do you do with the fact that he commanded all that would believe upon him to be baptised? What do you make of the fact that membership in the New Testament Church knows nothing of unbaptised believers? What about the fact that baptism is so closely connected to conversion?
Baptism is Giving Glory to God
I want you to see that baptism is not about you—it’s all about the glory of Jesus in your baptism. God receives the glory when you are baptised, because you are his work of grace.
If perchance you had decided to get converted, then it might be reasonable to expect that you might also decide to be baptised or not to be baptised. But you know better.
Just as you did not give birth to yourself, you certainly weren’t born again by your own decision. God the Fatherchose you; Jesus paid the price of your sin; the Holy Spiritmade you alive even when you were dead in your sins and transgressions.
Your salvation is all of God; therefore your baptism should be a testimony to the glory of God. Your baptism is not about you. Your baptism is not simply to provide you with a heavenly insurance policy or to satisfy the tradition or expectations of the church or to fulfil requirements for church membership.
What we in our church are saying to you is this: We require you to give glory to God for your salvation in your baptism. It is all about him!
Four Ways in Which You Will Glorify God in Your Baptism
First, you will glorify God through your obedience. Whenever you obey what he commands, you give glory to God. So when he says, “Repent and be baptised,” you not only obey his word, but you obey him. It is not just something that you feel strongly about (you may actually not feel it!) but it is a principled, outward demonstration of obedience. This brings glory to God.
Second, you will glorify God through proclaiming his forgiveness. When you are baptised, you say to the world: “God has dealt with my sin. I am forgiven. I did not forgive myself. God forgave me! All glory to God! It’s all about God.”
Third, you will glorify God through manifesting the new life which you have received! When you become a Christian, you inherit new life and a new citizenship. You have become a new creation. To this you testify in your baptism. Could there be a better outward testimony of such an inward spiritual change? The new believer goes down into the water, and rises out of the water, illustrating that the old things are dead and buried. Rising out of the water the new believer says, “Everything has become new.” Through believers baptism you praise God for your new life and the people who witness your baptism see that and they praise God for what they see. Outsiders see that and they are helped to understand the meaning of true conversion in a powerful way. Glory is brought to God in every way. Ask yourself: How could infant baptism possibly illustrate this symbolic burial and resurrection?
Fourth,you will glorify God by identifying with Christ and the body of Christ! Baptism not only means identification with Christ and with that which Christ has done for us in his death, burial and resurrection. In baptism you are also baptised into that which Jesus loves most: his body, the church. That is why in our church we will not consider baptising people without receiving them also into membership. Just as little as you can separate husband and wife, can you separate Christ and his church. By one Spirit we are baptised into one body. We consciously follow the Lamb in the fellowship of his church—our baptised brothers and sisters. It’s all about him and not about ourselves!
Therefore, let us never forget that baptism was commanded by Christ, and it is an ordinance for all his New Testament people. So if you consider yourself a true believer then you would want to obey him. It’s not about you. It is all about Jesus!