Letting Christ Transform You From The Inside Out

Foundations of the Christian Faith: Baptism

What is Christian Baptism and how does it relate to salvation?

God invented baptism and clearly designed for it to occur in harmony with our conversion - our faith in the blood of Christ and our turning back to God and being reconciled to Him. Baptism was invented by God for our good. In Mark 2:27 Jesus stated that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." This meant that the Sabbath was created for us because "we" needed it; it wasn't because God needed it.

Baptism, in a similar way, was also created for us because "we" need it.

God knows us best (the bible says he knows every thought in our mind and every hair on our head). God knows what we need. He knows we need to experience things with our senses in order for them to stick. He knows we need validation. God uses baptism as a means of validating our new identity and empowering us for our new mission.

What do different churches believe about Baptism and why?

Churches of Christ: Mainline (COC) and International (ICOC)

1. General View: Baptism is the actual point in time when you, as an adult who has come to faith in Christ, becomes a born-again Christian (forgiven of your sins and filled with the Holy Spirit). Infants and very small children are not able to come to that faith and therefore are not baptized until later. They are considered "saved" until they reach the age of accountability.

2. New Perspectives from current and former COC & ICOC ministers/members:

Edward Fudge:Eleven Outline Studies on Baptism

Edward Fudge: Baptizing Children - summation of articles from his gracEmail.

Max Lucado:Oak Hills Church Baptism Explanation

Charlie Fordham: The 9.5 Theses of Salvation

James Fowler: www.christinyou.net/pages/baptism.html

The Catholic, OrthodoxChurch

1. General View: Baptism is a ritual which actually has the power to save you. You don't have to have faith or an understanding of anything related to Christ. Your parents' faith on your behalf is sufficient.

The Reformed Church, Many Baptists & Evangelicals

1. General View: Baptism paints a picture of what Christ has done for you on the cross and in his resurrection. It is a ritual that has no saving power. It is not necessary for salvation. It is a nice thing to do as you follow Christ, since Christ was baptized. Many in the Reformed Church (Lutherans, Episcopalians) baptize babies. Others wait until they are old enough to decide for themselves.

2. Many of these churches are changing their perspective on baptism and are seeing the importance of water baptism for every believer.

John Piper: A Celebration of Baptism
John MacArthur is another minister who also has shed new light on baptism.


What Happened at Jesus' Baptism?

Here are the accounts of Jesus' baptism in the bible:

Matthew 3:13-17 - The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11 - The Baptism of Jesus

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22 - The Baptism of Jesus

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;with you I am well pleased.”

How Does Jesus' Baptism Relate to My Baptism Into Christ?

1. God validated Jesus at his baptism in water:

God encouraged Jesus at his baptism. He validated the fact that Jesus was his beloved Son and told him that He was pleased with him.

God does the same for us too! For us, our baptism is like an adoption ceremony. We were already adopted by God in His heart. However, baptism is what makes it "real" for us. With our senses we get to "experience" a removal of our old identity and a new birth into our new identity. We get to smell the water, hear ourselves splash down into it and feel it cover us. We get to hear our baptizer validate the fact that we are being baptized "into the essence/name of Jesus" and that our sins will no longer define us or be associated with us. We get to hear ourselves confess that "Jesus is now our Lord".

2. God announced to John the Baptist and all the forces in the heavenly realms that Jesus was (and is) His Beloved Son.

Just like Jesus' baptism is where God announced Jesus' true identity as His Beloved Son, God does the same for us! God announces that we have become his adopted children at our baptism. All the spiritual forces witnessed Jesus' baptism. Just like at Jesus' birth, I believe the forces of good celebrated with Jesus and were eager to see him begin his official ministry. To the forces of evil in the spiritual realm, I believe God says, "this person is now my adopted child and you will be sorry if you try to touch him/her".

3. God empowered Jesus with a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit to equip him to now begin his official ministry, which first included being led by the Holy Spirit to fight the spiritual forces of darkness.

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. This passage explains where he went after that.

In Luke 4:1-2 the bible says,

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

Jesus already had the fullness of the Spirit of God living inside him from his conception in the womb. Yet, at his baptism I believe he was empowered by the Holy Spirit in a new way to begin his ministry. In a similar way, I believe that baptism is where we are empowered/gifted by a special rendering of the Holy Spirit to begin our official ministry (in the name/essence of Jesus). We are empowered to fight Satan and demonic forces, to overcome temptation, and to minister to others.

What Does Baptism "For the Forgiveness of Sins" Mean?

In Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This word "for" is translated from "eis" in Greek. It is used interchangeably throughout the bible to mean either "in order to" or "because of".

For example: Telling someone to take their medicine for a cold could also be phrased in the following manner, "take medicine because of your cold".

Both views of "for" can be correct in this passage of scripture. It's not wrong if someone believes that baptism is where their sins are actually washed away. It's also not wrong if they believe that baptism is where God is declaring that their sins have been washed away.

How Does Baptism Save Us?

This was the first sermon preached after Jesus ascended to heaven. Here is where the Apostle Peter gets up and tells the people how to respond to their new understanding that Jesus is their awaited for Messiah and King:

Acts 2:38-42 - (NIV)

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

I believe that we are restored to God, and receive the Holy Spirit (He and Jesus' indwelling Holy Spirit mentioned in John 16), the moment we turn to Him, acknowledge the truth of our brokenness and deliberate sinfulness, and accept Jesus' payment of our sins with his precious blood. I don't believe water baptism is part of THAT process.

However, I believe that baptism "saves us" or "keeps us safe" in the sense that it sets us apart from the corruption in the world. God's validation of his love for us and our new identity in Christ keeps us "safe" from the lies of Satan regarding our identity. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit that we receive at our water baptism also "keeps us safe from the corruption in this world" by empowering us to both live a "holy life" and "fight the evil forces in the spiritual realms."

Reframing the Church of Christ View of Baptism

If you come from a Church of Christ background and really have wondered about that view of baptism, it might be helpful to reference the links above to two Max Lucado and Edward Fudge's perspectives on baptism. However, here are a few quotes regarding baptism from Edward Fudge (a senior member of the Church of Christ and former Church of Christ minister):


Baptism is a visible manifestation of trust in Jesus Christ as Savior:
-- a declaration of, commitment to, and reliance on the perfect work which Jesus accomplished and by which alone sinners are set right with God (Col. 2:12).
-- a silent declaration that the believer died and rose again when Jesus died and rose, for he was our representative who acted in our stead (Rom. 6:1-11). 

Baptism is a formal request to God for a good conscience, based on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Pet. 3:21).
It is the means for subjective cleansing, as one calls on the name of the Lord for salvation (Acts 22:16). By it, one is saved or delivered from identification with this crooked generation, inasmuch as baptism marks off one as a believer over against the unbelieving world (1 Pet. 3:21).

We are saved from sin by grace (not by baptism) through faith (not through baptism). Baptism is a visible, tangible confession of that faith, an act of obedient trust in Jesus Christ who only is the Savior of the world.

Baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) -- for (in the sense that) it expresses the faith by which one obtains remission of sins (Acts 10:43), faith in Christ's blood which was shed for remission of sins (Matt. 26:28).