What is baptism and who should be baptized? These are very important questions since the Lord Jesus Christ himself commands baptism in “Matthew 28:19” (The Great Commission). Baptism is one of two ordinances or sacraments, depending on the term you prefer, that Jesus instituted for his church. The other is what we call The Lord’s Supper or Communion. And both are for believers in Jesus Christ.
As we seek to answer the first question we will say three things about baptism: Baptism is a picture, a promise, and a profession.
First, baptism is a picture. It is a picture of what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. It is a picture of his death, burial, and resurrection ( “1 Corinthians 15:3-4” ). He has fully accomplished our redemption in his life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. It is also a picture of our union with Christ through faith. Coming to faith in Jesus by God’s grace and the Spirit’s work, we are united to Christ, so that in a very real way his death and resurrection was our death and resurrection. When he died we died, and when he was raised we were raised to new life in Him ( “1 Corinthians 12:13” ; “Romans 6:1-11” ). So, baptism is a picture of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and our death, burial, and resurrection in him. Through our saving union with Christ we have died to sin’s reign and we have been raised to new life – a life of ongoing growth in joyfully living for Jesus. In Jesus Christ we have been delivered from sin’s penalty; we are being delivered from sins power, and someday we will be fully delivered from sin’s presence, all because of and in Jesus Christ.
Second, baptism is a promise. God the Father speaks through baptism and promises to cleanse everyone who trusts in His Son from all of their sins ( “Romans 10:9-13” ). Just as the water washes dirt off of the flesh, so the blood of Christ, which is what is pictured by the water, cleanses our record before God of all of our sin. The water does not wash away sin; it points you to Jesus and his sacrifice which truly washes away sin. Justice has been fully satisfied for all who trust in Christ by God’s grace. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he [Jesus has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Full forgiveness has been accomplished by Jesus Christ! And this forgiveness is ours as a free gift through faith in Jesus ( “Romans 6:23” ). In baptism we see God’s promise of cleansing from sin for all who will trust in Jesus alone for salvation ( “John 14:6” ; “Ephesians 1:7” ).
Third, baptism is a profession. By coming forward for baptism you are saying that you are now trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation ( “Ephesians 2:8-10” ; “Acts 2:40-41” ). You are saying that you, by grace through faith, have died with Jesus and that you have been raised to newness of life in him. You are believing the good news that Christ died for your sins and was raised from the dead. You are saying that you are trusting in Him. You are saying that what is pictured in baptism, what is promised in baptism, is now yours in Jesus Christ.
Last, who should be baptized? It is easy to see that baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is for those who are already trusting in Jesus, those who are already believers. If you have not been baptized since you came to faith in Jesus, you should be baptized as soon as possible. So, if you are trusting in Christ and in Christ alone for your salvation, you should be baptized. Look back at “Acts 2:40-41” . Those who believed Peter’s preaching about Jesus were baptized that day! You don’t have to clean up your act first – you can’t anyway! You qualify for baptism by trusting in Jesus by God’s grace. Come and participate in the gospel drama of baptism. Come and be used by Jesus to be a picture of the gospel. Come and be used by God to proclaim the promise of the gospel – full, free, forgiveness. Come and publicly profess your faith in our glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.