Baptism - Symbolic, Significant and Sanctifying

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Baptism is one of the great sacraments given to the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ. No one can read the New Testament, even in a casual manner, and not clearly see that Baptism is an important element of the Christian faith. Therefore for those that take their faith seriously, baptism must also be taken seriously. While there are different views within the church around the mode and meaning of baptism it cannot be understated that baptism is symbolic, it is significant, and it is sanctifying.

IT IS SYMBOLIC

At LCC we believe that within the New Testament Baptism always followed faith. The 1689 London Baptist Confession reflects well our view of Baptism.

LBCF — Chapter XXIX: Of Baptism

1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.

As seen above we do it first because Christ commanded it, but that’s not the only reason. Baptism also symbolizes our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection as noted by Paul in Romans and Colossians.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3–4)

You were buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:12).

Baptism is clearly symbolic. Going down into the water is a picture of going into the grave and being buried. Coming out of the water is a picture of being raised with Christ to live and walk in newness of life. Baptism is the physical outward symbol of beginning the Christian life given to those that show evidence of an inward spiritual reality of beginning the Christian life.

IT IS SIGNIFICANT

R.C Sproul states in, ‘What is Baptism?’ that baptism “… conveys the sign of the promise of God of salvation by faith and all of the benefits that flow from that” (Pg. 7). Baptism is the sign of the new covenant, it signifies all of the benefits that God gives to His people under that covenant, all of the fruits we gain when we embrace the gospel of salvation through Christ alone. It’s important to note that God does not promise any of the benefits of salvation to those that do not believe. The promises are only to those who believe and his promises are sure showing that baptism is immeasurably valuable.

Baptism is certainly a significant act by which repentant sinners make a public profession of faith. There is something special about publically professing faith in Christ. However what makes baptism truly significant is in fact what God says and does through it. Baptism is our response to God’s covenantal love towards us. In baptism, God is marking and sealing us as his children in such a way that God speaks through it saying ‘this one belongs to me. I have rescued them’.

God’s sovereign saving act is critically important for understanding the significance of baptism. The integrity of baptism rests in God and his promise to save not in our commitment to follow. The failure to lead an exemplary Christian life on the part of the one baptized does not undermine the sign of baptism. It stands upon God’s faithful promise to love, forgive and save us eternally. So while one is publically saying through baptism – I Love God – they are saying so because God has said first that he loved them (1 Jn. 4:19).

IT IS SANCTIFYING

As with all God’s good commands, baptism is a means of God’s grace and connects us to his great blessing. The mere act of baptism doesn’t save (justify) yet it certainly can and does sanctify. As seen earlier Paul said to the Colossians,

You were buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:12).

Paul teaches that it is not some magical power that immediately changes a person in baptism, rather it is ‘through faith in the working God’. When baptism is genuinely accompanied by faith we can expect God the Holy Spirit to use it to our benefit and joy (Acts 8:39; 16:34). As a pastor, I have the great privilege of baptizing many people. Before baptism, I encourage a person that while there is no magical or mystical power in baptism, they can and should believe for God to use it in a sanctifying way. Their problems may still be there when they rise out of the water; their wrestle against sin may remain, but we join with them in prayer asking God to empower them in a unique way that allows them to live more in their newness of life in Christ.

Baptism not only sanctifies the person receiving baptism but also the wider church and even unbelievers that are witnesses. Baptism is a sign pointing to a greater reality of God’s kingdom. Like a neon light flashing ‘good news, good news, good news!!! I have personally seen numerous unbelievers be incredibly impacted by their friend or family member in baptism to the degree that they stuck around at church and eventually came to believe in Christ. This may not happen every time but it does happen. What does happen every time when the church practices baptism is the church is edified and sanctified again in the gospel proclamation and demonstration of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. The church rejoices as it is reminded of the great faithful promises of their great Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Jimmy Smith-Cottrell