Galatians 3:26-27, “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.” Paul does not say, all who are clothed with Christ have been baptized. Instead, he says, all who have been baptized have clothed themselves with Christ. In Galatians, Paul is defending the truth that we are saved by grace. But in the book and the chapter where he defends salvation by grace through faith, he endorses baptism. Why? Because baptism identifies us with Christ. Does baptism save us? No, faith saves us, but the bible says that faith is expressed in the moment of baptism. That doesn’t mean that the ceremony earns us salvation. The ceremony doesn’t put God in your debt. Because outward ritual without inward reality has no meaning. What God wants is both the ritual and the reality. The ceremony and the substance.
Colossians 2:12, “ For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Baptism is not the gospel. The gospel is the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ. But baptism is part of our response to the gospel. Do you know why Satan can’t stand the teaching of baptism? Because he knows that baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism will not let you forget the gospel. Remember: we are saved by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. But baptism doesn’t contradict that scripture. It actually endorses it. Baptism is something done to you. You are lowered into the water and lifted out of the water. But the real agent in baptism is Jesus Himself! Jesus is the actor, you are the recipient. Nothing is earned, everything is given. Jesus says, just bend your knees, and let me do the rest.
Baptism is not an addition to faith, it’s an expression of faith. Baptism is not a work, but faith in the working of God. The children of Israel marched around Jericho. No one said that the way they marched brought the walls down. No, the walls came down because of their faith. But would the walls have come down had they not acted in faith? Of course not. Does baptism save? No, God saves. But he asks us to show faith in his supernatural power.
So we’re saved by grace thru faith. But baptism is a moment where we say yes to God’s free offer of salvation. Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Baptism doesn’t have any meaning apart from grace. It doesn’t have any meaning apart from faith. It doesn’t exist in isolation. Baptism is an elevator, not a staircase. When you’re baptized, you stand on the platform of God’s grace, and that platform moves you to salvation. Baptism is grace clutching you by the throat. Baptism is your decision to throw yourself on the mercy of God.
1 Peter 3:21, “This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Peter denies that being buried in water has power in and of itself. The saving power of baptism doesn’t have anything to do with removing dirt from the body. But the power of baptism is the pledge of faith and obedience given to God. And the resurrection power that comes with that pledge. It isn’t that the pledge saves, but that resurrection power comes with that pledge. Baptism is the moment when we are met by the risen Christ. Resurrection power means I am committed to Christ and nobody else. You can be dunked under water but never be changed. Baptism assumes that you have made a faith commitment to follow Christ!
Peter says, there’s no inherent power in the doing of the act. It isn’t a matter of what water does to the body. But it’s our spiritual appeal to God: “God, I want to have a clean conscience before you. And to have a clean conscience before you, I choose to die with Christ.” Baptism not only gives us a clean conscience when we begin life in Christ, it also gives us a clean conscience as we continue life in Christ. Do you ever have days when Satan tries to say to you, “You were never saved in the first place! You’ve lied again, you’ve lusted again, you’ve coveted again.” Satan tries to convince you that you were never really a Christian. But Satan is a liar. Baptism helps us defeat his lies. We reference our baptism to erase our doubts. “I did give myself to Jesus. I did commit my life to him. I can point to a specific day when I chose to follow Christ in a public act of obedience.”
Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage a secret? Holly wouldn’t appreciate it if I refused to wear my wedding ring in public. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your heart that you’re a sinner and need a Savior. It’s another to stand in front of other people and say that Jesus is your Savior. Jesus commanded his followers to prove their faith in baptism.
QUESTIONS ABOUT BAPTISM:
How should a person be baptized? Remember, baptizo means to dip under water. It’s immersion, because it pictures a burial and a resurrection. A graphic portrayal of death, burial, and resurrection. Since baptism is a symbol of death, it means being buried in the water!
When should a person be baptized? When he believes in Christ and is ready to let Jesus be the leader of his or her life. Believers in the New Testament didn’t wait to be baptized. The Jews in Acts 2 who had come for the day of Pentecost were baptized right then. Paul was baptized as soon as Ananias told him what to do, Acts 9. Lydia and her household were baptized as soon as they believed in Christ, Acts 16:15. The Philippian jailor was baptized the same hour of the night that he believed, Acts 16:33.
What if I was sprinkled as an infant? First, be thankful you had parents who cared about your relationship with God. They wanted to commit your life to God. But now you can honor their prayer by submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. Be thankful for your heritage of concerned parents. But don’t neglect your personal responsibility as an adult to make your pledge toward God in baptism. There are a lot of members of this church who were sprinkled as infants, and then as they came to a personal faith, they were baptized as adults. In the New Testament, baptism was always a pledge made by someone old enough to recognize his sin, and mature enough to understand the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, am I ready to be baptized? Your readiness depends on being willing to make a full surrender to Christ as the leader and lord of your life. Baptism assumes an unconditional commitment to Christ. I'm not talking about perfection: we'll never get there until we reach heaven. I am talking about a decision to take up the cross every day and follow Christ. It's waving the white flag and choosing to honor Christ as best you can, with the power of His Holy Spirit working in your heart. Everyone has to learn that salvation is the result of God’s grace. Salvation doesn’t result from what I do, but from what Christ did on the cross for me. But the biblical response to what Christ did for me is baptism. Acts 22:16, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”