Q99. What is Baptism?
A99. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, instituted by Jesus Christ to be to the person baptised a sign of his fellowship with Him in His death, and burial, and resurrection, of his being engrafted into Him, of remission of sins, and of his giving up himself to God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.
Matt. 28:19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”
Romans 6:3-5. “3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection…”
Colossians 2:12. “…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Galatians 3:27. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Mark 1:4. “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Acts 22:16. “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’”
Baptism is significant, first and foremost, because the Lord Jesus Christ commanded and ordained it. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands the Apostles, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The One who spoke all creation into existence and upholds it by the power of His word, the Supreme Head of the Church, commands baptism in such a way that it will be an ongoing practice in the Church until He returns at the end of the age.
Second, baptism represents union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. In Romans 6:3-5 the Apostle Paul writes, “3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection…” The believer is spiritually crucified, buried, and resurrected with Christ. Therefore, baptism is a visible representation of those inward realities in the believer.
Third, baptism is significant because it represents our engrafting into Christ.The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:27 “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” The Puritan, Thomas Vincent, explains this engrafting, saying, “By our engrafting into Christ, is meant our being cut off from our old stock of nature, and being joined unto Jesus Christ, whereby we come to draw virtue from him as our root, that we may grow up in him, and bring forth fruit unto him.” In other words, we are cut off of the stock of Adam and engrafted into the stock of Christ. Christ illustrates this spiritual reality in John 15:5, saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Fourth, baptism demonstrates the forgiveness or remission of our sins. In Acts 2:38 the Apostle Peter preaching at Pentecost says, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The forgiveness of sins can’t be earned by being baptized. There is nothing in baptism itself that can wash away sin. That can be done only by the pardoning mercy of God through the death of Christ. Therefore, we can conclude that baptism signifies the spiritual reality that our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ.
Finally, baptism shows us how to give ourselves to God through Jesus Christ and to live and walk in newness of life. In Romans 6:4 the Apostle Paul writes, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (ESV). Since believers are new creatures, and have new hearts and new spirits, and have entered into union with Christ, of which baptism is the sign, they should live a new life unto God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
May the Holy Spirit help us to meditate on the realities pictured in baptism and to treasure Christ as we do. Amen.