Today, I had the privilege of spending the majority of my morning having pre-marital counseling with a young couple at our church. The husband-to-be is not only going to be a new husband, he is a new believer in Christ. So, after their session, I took him into our auditorium.
He hasn’t grown up in church, so a lot of what we do and say are all new to him. I asked him, “Has the question come across your mind as to why we we have you do this?” He said, “Well, I was wondering, to be honest.”
And maybe that’s you right now! Why do we tell new believers to follow in this sign? What does this sign actually signify? Is this mandatory?
Our Baptist Faith & Message 2000 says this about baptism:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
Let me answer the last question first. Yes, this is mandatory. We hold that baptism is not the last step of salvation, but the first step of obedience. Jesus commands us to follow through with what He ordained. This is why it is a sign of belief by the one being baptized and none other, which is why we baptize non-infants. There has to be a cognitive, willing response to the Spirit’s regenerative work.
Baptism is a sign, signifying on the outside what Christ has accomplished on the inside. The word ‘baptism’ is a transliteration of the word ‘baptizo’ in the Greek, which means to immerse or to dip. And as Jesus came up out of the water (Mark 1:8-11), so we immerse those following in believer’s baptism.
So, in our tradition, I introduce the candidate for baptism and ask two questions:
- Have you surrendered to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
- Do you promise to follow Him all the days of your life?
I then respond: “Upon this profession of faith, I baptize you, my brother/sister, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Buried in likeness with His death, raised to walk in newness of life.”
So, in reality, the profession of faith is not simply walking the aisle and being presented to the family of faith there. That is merely a step for the church to accept you as a candidate for baptism. It is the baptism that is the profession of faith. It is one of the first significant acts of obedience. It is one of the first significant acts of witnessing for Christ in the Christian life. It is one of the first significant acts of encouragement given to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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 (Romans 6:1-4).