The Face of Grace
Pencil sketch by JC Chambers
Part twenty in a study of God's grace from the book of John.
What is the significance of baptism?
“After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’” John 3:22-26
In the sacred realm, baptism is a well-known and oft-used religious ritual. While the manner and mode may vary, baptism signifies a believer’s entrance into relationship with God and with the believing community.
Both Jesus and John the Baptist used baptism as a rite of initiation. John’s baptism “with water for repentance” prepared Jewish believers to be baptized by Jesus “with the Holy Spirit.” “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11
Even though these baptisms had complementary purposes, a “turf war” of sorts developed. John’s disciples “came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’”
Not much has changed over the past millennia. To this day, baptism is still a source of contention among followers of Christ. It might be surprising to learn that, properly understood, Christian baptism is intended to have a unifying rather than a divisive influence; the message of baptism is, “you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
The key to understanding baptism is to understand what it means to be “baptized into Christ.” The Greek word translated “baptize” literally means to dip or immerse something or someone. It can be applied to dying a garment or to submerging a person.
Think about the process of dying (baptizing) a garment. That which is baptized takes on the qualities of that into which it is immersed. In the case of dying cloth, what’s true of the tinted water (its color) becomes true of the cloth that’s immersed into the water.
Applied spiritually, baptism suggests that, through faith in Christ, what’s true of Jesus is true of the one who is baptized into Him. Is there anything Jesus could do to have a closer relationship with the Father? Anything He could do to be more loved by the Father?
Baptism suggests that what is true of Jesus is also true of those who are baptized into Him.
Can a believer in Christ be closer to God? The answer is “No” because what is true of Jesus is true of the one who is baptized into Him. Can a believer be more loved by God? Same answer. “No!” What’s true of Jesus is true of those baptized into Him
Baptism is a public profession of the personal commitment that marks a man or woman as a follower of Christ. It is a ritual that followed hearing and believing the message Jesus came to proclaim.