You can “dunk today!” That’s right! You can dunk. Maybe you can dunk a basketball, but I know you can dunk a donut. I’ve dunked a golf ball in the cup and I’ve dunked crackers in my clam chowder. The kind of dunking I’m talking about is more important than any dunking you’ve ever done in your life. Over the last several weeks I have been breaking down and studying baptism quite extensively. The history of baptism, the theology (study of God) attached to it, the purpose of it, etc. I found answers to questions such as “should we do it?” and “is baptism necessary for salvation?” and “what if we don’t do it?” I won’t go into all the details of my research, but I do want to talk about it briefly. The keyword here is “briefly.” I will try to be as brief as possible, while at the same time remain accurate.
What is baptism?
Baptism is the follower of Christ’s obedient response to his/her free gift of salvation. Biblically speaking (in regards to the New Testament) and linguistically (Greek language in this case) speaking, baptism is the immersing (or “dipping” fully) or submersion of a person who has decided to surrender his/her life to Jesus. Baptism has been and is still done in several ways, but I’ll only address the two most popular. The first way is “sprinkling,” where water is sprinkled on you by the priest.
Although there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling (in my opinion), there’s no biblical New Testament reference to this method. The second way is fully submerging the person under water (immersion) and raising them up.
This is the method John the Baptism used and the way Jesus, Himself, was baptized. In fact, the Greek word for baptize means to dip fully or to fully go under something (in the case of baptism, water). As you’ll see, Jesus makes baptism of great importance. And if this is something we’re commanded to do by Jesus, then I want to do it the way He was baptized. Thousands in the early church followed the model of Jesus by full submersion baptism, yet somehow over the years some have gotten away from doing baptism (among other things) the way Jesus modeled it. I don’t think sprinkling is wrong because I understand baptism is also a heart issue, but my personal preference is to have that heart experience the way my Lord had it. Moving along.
Water baptism is a sign to three audiences:
1) to God, as a sign of thanks and gratefulness and a personal recognition to God that you acknowledge the gift of His Son’s sacrifice for you. It is this act of obedience that says to God, “thank You!” and “I’m serious about following You. Your Son, Jesus, did it, He commanded it, and I’m following suit because He commanded me to.” And in response to your obedience, God is well pleased (John 3).
2) to family, friends, and other followers of Jesus as a sign of what has happened to you spiritually and supernaturally. It is a funeral and a wedding at the same time. When you are immersed in the water, you are signifying your acknowledgment that Jesus died and went “under” into the grave for you. You are also saying that you went under with Him when you surrendered your life to Him. At that time, you died, just like Jesus died. When the baptizer lifts you out of the water, it’s a sign that you were dead, but now you have been raised to life, just like Jesus. It signifies that you have left your old self behind and your new self, your new life has begun. You went under (at your surrender) in one state and was raised up (the Holy Spirit dwelling within you at surrender) into another state. The baptizer had to lift you out of the water because once you died, you could not raise yourself. You needed help. When you died to yourself at surrender, you needed God to raise you up because you couldn’t…you were spiritually dead in your sin. But God (I love those two words)…but God in His infinite mercy, love, and grace forgave your sins, granted you eternal life, and raised you from the pathetic and hopeless life you were once living and now you can live it, really live it.
3) to yourself as a personal sign that following Jesus is something you, personally, take seriously. It’s not just something you do when you surrender your life, a religious act and nothing more. It is your endorsement on personal death and a life of following Jesus always. It is the outward sign of your personal covenant with God in which you say, “this covenant I’m making to You and for Your Kingdom, will never, ever end. I am Yours!”
The interesting thing about the audiences is that it covers everyone. The sign of baptism is for all to see. It’s not exclusive to “members” of a certain church or just to followers of Jesus. The sign of baptism is for all who choose to watch and see. It serves as perhaps your first act of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Many of you may feel baptism isn’t that important because it isn’t necessary for salvation. Or maybe you are embarassed because you’ve been a Christian for a while and have never been baptized and you’re thinking, “People know I’ve been a Christian a long time. I can’t get baptized now. How embarassing would that be?” I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people haven’t gotten baptized and I understand; I get it. But let me ask you this, is obeying Jesus about what feels good to you or about loving Him? Our response to Jesus’ commands for us is a direct reflection of who comes first in our lives. In baptism, the very first thing Jesus commands you to do, will you say “thank You” the way He wants you to say it, or will you continue to rebel and have it your way. Don’t go Burger King on God. It’s rebellious and self-centered.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Pastor Jamie, that’s pretty harsh bro.” I’ll never sacrifice giving you truth in order to spare your feelings and I hope you’d do the same for me. Baptism isn’t necessary for you to be saved, no. But neither is loving your neighbor, or loving God, or loving to read your Bible, or loving your enemy, or making peace, or praying daily, or not beating up your wife, or going to church, or witnessing to the lost. I think you get my point. By saying you aren’t going to do something because “it’s not necessary for salvation” or “I’m not comfortable getting baptized,” you are attempting to justify the disobedience and sin of intentional rebellion. You are writing yourself a free pass that will cost you dearly. Sin always does, especially intentional sin.
I want to encourage you today to read this blog again and really soak in this “brief” amount of information. Believe me, I have only touched the tip of the iceberg regarding the importance of water baptism. If you’re a follower of Jesus and haven’t been baptized, purpose in your heart to honor Him. Your witness may encourage others to do the same. You will set an example for your children, other children, your spouse, family, friends, and others for the Kingdom. Some may even come to know Jesus for the first time. You never know how God will use your baptism. And you know what else? God will do a work in you. He will bless your obedience. Get baptized. You’ll be glad you did.
How do I get baptized?
If you’re in the Portland/Vancouver area, I’ll do it. Or you can contact a local Bible believing/teaching church. Ask a follower of Jesus you know. They’ll get you set-up. However you choose to set this up, be diligent and do not let this pass you by. Don’t stop until you’ve been baptized. The enemy doesn’t want you to obey God and that’s the bottom line. Don’t continue giving him what he wants for you, give God what He wants from you. Blessings!