Baptism 101: Why

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Baptism is a central part of our faith, but why? Growing up, I had often heard the word baptism used in sermons and invitations, but I never understood what it was or why it was important. So we’re going to spend a couple of lessons taking a practical look at baptism. What does baptism look like? When should you be baptized? Why should you be baptized? Understanding these basics will help us understand baptism’s role in our Christian walk.

Today we’re going to examine why we’re baptized. Why is it necessary to be baptized when Paul points out so clearly that we cannot be saved by works in Ephesians 2:8? Our salvation is a gift. Redemption is by God’s grace alone. I can do nothing to absolve myself of sin, nor can I earn salvation. So why be baptized? It’s a legitimate question, and I hope our study will help us all better understand the importance of baptism in God’s plan.

Remission of Sins

Baptism shows our faith in God’s ability to remove our sins. In Acts 2, when Peter is preaching to the assembly on Pentecost, and he calls on them to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.” Also, in Acts 22:16, Ananias says to Paul, “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” The earliest gospel preachers make a direct correlation between baptism and forgiveness. Even Peter in I Peter 3:21 goes as far as to say that baptism saves us from sin like the floods saved Noah and his family from the world.

It is important to understand that this is not a way to earn forgiveness. We cannot ever earn such a thing. That is God’s gift. Baptism is part of our acceptance of that great gift. As Paul puts in in Titus 3:4-5:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”

Putting On Christ

Not only do we put away sin when we are baptized, but we put on Christ as well. Romans 6:3 – 4 tells us that when we are baptized, we enter into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We put Him on in newness of life. Furthermore, Galatians 3:27 says as many of us as have been baptized have put on Christ, and it identifies us as a member of His body.

Also, when we get baptized, we’re following the example our Savior set before beginning His ministry. Jesus’ ministry begins with baptism for sins He has never and will never commit, and that ministry comes full circle when He’s crucified for sins he did not have. Our life is to emulate Jesus, and baptism is one way we follow after Him. We follow His example to show His presence in our lives.

Wearing Our Faith

I Peter 3:21 calls baptism the answer of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is how we outwardly wear our inward faith. Think of a wedding ring and why we wear them. We know we love our spouses. We know we will be faithful to them, but that wedding band shows others we are promised to another. When we’re baptized, it is an outward testimony that we no longer belong to the world. Rather, we now belong to our Heavenly Father.

Returning to Galatians 3, Paul says that we clothe ourselves in Christ when we are baptized. It is a way that we wear our faith, and Paul goes on to say that our new identity covers anything we previously were. All secular identifiers — race, gender, class — are cast off when we put on Christ in faith through baptism. It’s an outward sign of an inward transformation and renewal. When we are baptized, we show that we are willing to let God’s plan change us.

Humbling Obedience

Finally, if I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, then I’m going to be obedient to Him and be baptized. We can’t get past the fact that Christ commands baptism in the great commission. Again, this is not earning salvation. Rather it’s humbling yourself and submitting to Christ’s plan for you. God makes His grace freely available to us. The avenue through which we humbly accept that gift is baptism.

I Peter 5 tells us that God gives grace to the humble. Baptism is an act of total humility. It makes no sense from a worldly perspective. It’s nothing to boast about. You can’t even get baptized by yourself. You have to rely on someone else. We are baptized from a contrite and humble heart, not because we want to earn salvation but rather because we are thankful for it. Obedience through baptism is how we say to God, “I accept your gift of grace. Thank you for your forgiveness and mercy.”

lesson by Robert Smelser