What is Baptism?

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Baptism today can mean a variety of things to a variety of people. Some people are baptized as a baby, some are sprinkled with water, and some are fully immersed. Some people believe baptism is what saves you and others say it’s an outward sign of an inward transformation. Today, we are going to look at what the Bible says, and look at Jesus’ baptism, in order to see the truth. The baptism of Jesus is so important it is recorded in all four gospels (Matt. 3, Mk. 1, Lk. 3, Jn 1). As we look at His baptism, we’ll see:

The Action of Jesus
“It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Mk. 1:9-11). Mark uses the word “baptize” six times in the first nine verses of this chapter. “Baptizo” means to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge. Notice the verse above says that Jesus came up from the water, meaning that He had to go down in it. The account in John 3 says, “there was much water there.” Baptism is a picture of death, burial, and resurrection, and you can’t get that picture out of sprinkling a few drops of water.

Who should be baptized? When we read about baptism in the New Testament, however old each person was, they were old enough to believe. It was not something their parents or families did for them. In Acts, they believed and were baptized. Baptism is only for believers. It comes after repentance. If your baptism did not mark death to the old life and the beginning of a new life then it was not New Testament, believer’s baptism.

Jesus was baptized to set an example and identify with us. Jesus died for us, was buried for us, and rose from the dead for us. If only one word described baptism it is “identification.” We are baptized to identify with Jesus. Jesus was baptized and He commanded all His followers to be baptized.

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove” (Lk. 3:21-22). Some translations will say the heavens were torn open. The word occurs only one other time in Mark’s Gospel when the temple curtain was torn open from top to bottom at the crucifixion of Jesus. It was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah, “If only you would (rend) tear the heavens open and come down…” (Is. 64:1). He did!!! God came to earth as Jesus, and we now have access to the Father through Jesus. John the Baptist said in Mark 1:8, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” When you put your trust in Jesus, God puts the Holy Spirit inside of you. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not reserved for a select few. In Acts 10:47, Peter was about to baptize the first Gentile, Cornelius. He said, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Baptism is an outward sign of an inward experience.

The Approval of the Father
Matthew 3:17 tells us, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Jesus is the Son of God. In the gospels He forgives sin, heals the sick, casts out demons, raises the dead, and Himself rises from the dead. He is the second Adam who came to restore what the first Adam lost (Rom. 5:12-15). Baptism is central to our message and mission. In Matthew 28:18-19, we read, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is not optional. It is a command of Christ for every believer. If you want to please God, you will be baptized. You want the Father to look down and say, “This is my son/daughter with whom I am well pleased.” The pattern of baptism in the New Testament is also immediate. When we look at Acts 2, people repented and were baptized the same day.

Salvation is in Jesus alone. It’s not in Jesus plus religion, baptism, communion, or good works. It is in Jesus alone. Baptism does not save a person, but every saved person should be baptized.

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