What is Baptism?

04.21.17 | by Brad Lotz

    What is Baptism?

    At Hill City, we never want to assume anything. When discussing baptism, it is too often assumed that people understand it in its entirety. Not surprisingly, it’s often assumed that people know and understand the gospel, too. That, too, is an incorrect assumption.

    So, let's knock out what baptism is NOT.

    Baptism is not salvation. Baptism is not the act of imputing (ascribing) righteousness to you. Baptism does not wash away your sins. Jesus’ blood does that.

    So what is baptism?

    We often hear that it is “the first step of obedience in the new life of a born again believer,” and that is true, but it is much more than that.

    Baptism is a public profession of faith in Jesus. It is also a picture of what happened to you when God invaded your heart and called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Baptism is a testimony of the good news of Jesus, and YES, baptism is obedience to God.

    Baptism is a public profession of faith in Jesus:

    When I was growing up in a few small town churches, there was a certain process involved in salvation. If someone would come to faith in Jesus on any other day than Sunday, it was asked of them to come to church on Sunday and “walk the aisle” in order to make it public. Then on a later date or even maybe on that very day they would again make it public by being baptized. The problem is that “walking the aisle” and “coming down to an altar” was an added step that wasn’t commanded in Scripture. The public profession mandated in Scripture is to be baptized. You may ask, what is it that I am professing? You are, of course, professing that you are a Christian. But more than that, you are professing that you have drawn a line in the sand and that you stand on the side with Jesus, you don’t care what it cost you, and you will follow Him. This profession would have possibly been more heavily weighted for the first and second century Christians who upon their public profession became disowned and marked for death by Nero. Many history resources will back this claim.

    Baptism is a picture:

    Let’s elaborate here with a definition. The word for baptize in Greek is ‘baptizó’ which literally means “to immerse.” At Hill City, we believe that baptism should be done by immersion. Examples we find in Scripture (including Jesus’ baptism) show a person going down into water and/or coming up out of water.

    This creates a picture of a life that was dead to sin being buried, and a new life being raised up in Jesus Christ. The physical body going below the water is a picture of an old life being put to death. The physical body come up out of the water is a picture of a new life rising up. 

    Baptism is a testimony of the good news, the Gospel:

    Baptism is the ultimate celebration of God’s grace. Jesus died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, and three days later he rose from the dead. He came up out of the grave and He is alive today. Baptism is symbolic of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Many people throughout history have had blinders removed from their eyes and come to faith in Jesus when they witness a baptism. Why? Because they witness a testimony of the good news of Jesus, that He redeems and gives grace.

    Baptism is also, indeed, obedience to God:

    Christ followers are commanded to be baptized. Any Christ follower who refuses to be baptized reveals a heart issue. True obedience is immediately, exactly, and with a right heart attitude. We teach our kids this truth. We expect our kids to obey when we tell them to do something. God expects the same from His kids.

    So, If baptism is all of those things previously described, when should it happen?

    In short, NOW, if you have trusted Christ and Christ alone for your salvation. Baptism is to be done post-conversion, and very soon after.

    We are not saying that people should be pulling over on Highway 65 and jumping in the James River. We are not saying that a person can’t wait a few days or weeks for a time when God’s people can gather corporately to celebrate baptism.

    Remember, with God it is always about the HEART. If a person is waiting to be baptized, why is he waiting?

    Our fear is that some people are being led in a direction that the Bible doesn’t call them to be led. We can’t find anywhere in the Bible where people who trusted Jesus to save them and repented from their sins were then put into a “baptism class” so they could “understand” what baptism was before they were baptized.

    Here are some biblical examples of how baptism went down:

    Acts 8:12 “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

    So when they believed, they were baptized.

    Acts 8:36  “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:36, 38).

    So immediately, he was baptized.

    Acts 9:18. This is Saul becoming Paul right here, a new man, once he encounters Christ, it says, “Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).

    Acts 16:15. [Lydia],When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house’” (Acts 16:15).

    Acts 16:33 “At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds;” – talking about Paul and Silas – it says, “then immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33).

    Acts 18:8 “Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).

    Acts 19:5 “On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus”.

    The common thread was that none of the people who believed waited. Why would they? They had just heard the greatest news of their lives, they believed in Jesus, and there was no logical reason to not proclaim it to anyone and everyone who was around.

    At Hill City we celebrated 11 baptisms on Easter (Click to read their stories). We will have a few more on May 7.

    We invite you to come witness them. If you have never been baptized (post-conversion) and you call yourself a Christ-follower, I want to challenge you to take a long look inside and ask yourself, why?

    Could it be that you don’t understand the gospel?

    Could it be that you have never been told, in love, that you have been living in disobedience?

    Could it be that today you are ready to shout it from the roof top that Jesus is your King and that you will follow him no matter the cost?