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Baptism: God's Perfect Symbol
Is baptism a sign or symbol?
I used to get a little annoyed, when folks would tell me that baptism was merely a sign or symbol. Of course it is; but it is God’s symbol that He choose to represent a number of great spiritual things that were taking place in the individual.
Is baptism a “mere” symbol?
The suggestion or implication that baptism was a “mere” symbol was what irked me. The idea is that baptism is merely a symbol suggest that it is not important to salvation. Nothing real or authentic is taking place. It’s OK if you want to be baptized, but it’s OK if you are not.
Is baptism the ground or basis of salvation?
Certainly not! The grace of God is the ground or basis of salvation. Grace is the “why” of salvation. (Ephesians 2: 8, 9)
Again, certainly not! Faith in God is the “how” of salvation? Faith is reckoned for righteous. But it is a “perfected faith”, a faith combined with love which draws to God and produces the obedience of faith. (James 2: 21- 26)
Baptism is neither the “why” nor the “how” of salvation; baptism is the “when” of salvation. No thinking person believes that God washes away our sins by baptism itself; the blood of Christ washes away our sins. No thinking person believes that being immersed in water makes us righteous in itself, before God.
We know that God has graciously determined to recognize faith in God and our Lord as righteousness. Baptism is God’s perfect sign so that we may know when God acts in our lives.
Faith in God when combined with love for God will draw us to God and produce the obedience of faith. This needs to be repeated. Faith in God when combined with love will draw us to God and produce the obedience of faith.
The obedience of faith are those factors that Jesus said are essential to entering the kingdom, having life and being confessed before the Father. They include:
How does baptism symbolize the factors above?
Faith- The core of the gospel of Christ is the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. When we through baptism in water, replicate those truths in our life, we are demonstrating our faith in the gospel of Christ
Cleansing- When we are baptized, our sins are washed away in reality by the blood of Christ, but symbolically by the water. (Acts 22: 16)
Birth- When we are baptized, we by faith are born of God; symbolically we are born again as we come forth from the water and the Spirit. (Galatians 3 : 26, 27; John 3: 5)
Partaking of Christ- Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ is a metaphor for partaking of Christ. When we are baptized we partake of the death burial and resurrection of Christ. (John 6: 53; Romans 6: 1-7)
Obedience to the gospel- The gospel of Christ is death burial and resurrection of Christ. When we are baptized we are baptized into his death, buried in the water and arise in the likeness of his resurrection we have not only demonstrated faith in the gospel but we have also obeyed the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4; Romans 6: 1-7; 10: 16; 2 Thessalonians 1: 8; 1 Peter 4: 17)
Repentance- Even with John the Baptist, baptism was the sign of repentance.
When we are baptized we die to the old self; the body of sin is done away. (Romans 6: 6; Colossians 2: 11, 12)
Confession- When we are baptized we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We demonstrate our faith in and confess the three Persons of the Godhead. (Matthew 28: 19)
Conversion- Jesus said we must be converted, becoming like a little child. Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Likewise when we through faith obey Christ in baptism, we demonstrate that we have humbled ourselves by submitting to the will of another. (Matthew 18: 3; Philippians 2: 8)
Justification- Our faith is reckoned for righteousness when we by faith are baptized. We put on or are clothed with Christ at baptism. (Galatians 3: 26, 27; 1 Corinthians 1: 30; 2 Corinthians 5: 21)
Love- By keeping the command to be baptized, we demonstrate our love for God. Faith is activated by love, producing the obedience of faith. (John 14: 15; 15: 14)
Some (F. F. Bruce, The Book of The Acts, pg 69) have wondered why the disciples did not discontinue water baptism when the baptism in the Spirit was made available. This kind of thinking has several flaws:
a. We are baptized into Christ, united with Him
b. We are baptized into His death
c . We are buried with Him
d. We arise with Him in the likeness of His resurrection
e. Our old self was crucified with Him
f. We are freed from sin
g. We are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3: 27)
Small wonder that the Lord would choose the symbol of baptism to represent so many great spiritual blessings.
post script- To be fair to F. F. Bruce, he acknowledges that baptism in water was not discontinued.
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Last Update 09/26/12