The last post was really an introduction to this discussion. In this post, we begin to get into more of the meat of the matter. And what I want to do is lay out for you 8 truths about the symbolic nature of Baptism. In doing this, I hope to persuade you to be a Baptist. And if you already are a Baptist, I hope to encourage you to take this ordinance all the more seriously and to glory in our great God who has given us this blessed symbol.
Water Baptism is a symbol of resurrection. Just as Christ was dead and buried and raised again, so too does the Christian die to sin & self and is baptized into Christ by the Spirit including His death, burial, and resurrection.
Romans 6:3-4 says, “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.”
James Bannerman writes, “The immersion in water of the persons of those who are baptized is set fort as their burial with Christ in His grave because of sin; and their being raised again out of the water is their resurrection with Christ in His rising again from the dead because of their justification.”
How beautiful a picture the water baptism is when a believer is submerged underneath the waters into his or her tomb if you will and brought back up showing forth the sign of a new man or woman.
Have you died to sin? Has the Holy Spirit taken you and placed you into Christ? Are you raised with Christ? Our Baptism is a symbol of this great truth.
John Dagg writes, “Water baptism, as a Christian rite, is not administered to cleanse the flesh, either literally or ceremonially. It figuratively represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, on which the believer relies for salvation.”
Do you stake your hope on the resurrection of Christ? Baptism indicates that you do. Baptism is a sign of resurrection. This is why it is for the believer.
John MacArthur writes, “Water baptism is…an external demonstration of what has already occurred in the heart thought the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.”
Martyn Lloyd Jones said it this way,
I would say, especially, baptism is a sign and seal of regeneration, of our union with Christ and of our receiving the Holy Spirit. Now, again, I say it is a sign and a seal. I do not become regenerate as I am baptised; I only have a right to be baptised because I am regenerate. Baptism tells me that I am regenerate; it certifies to me that I am born again, that I am united to Christ and that the Holy Spirit dwells in me. It is the sealing of that to me. It is God’s way of giving me a pledge.
Titus 3:5 says, “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
The washing of regeneration is not something we accomplish by committing ourselves to Baptism. It’s not that I give myself to Baptism and in exchange, God gives me regeneration. No. We are not saved because of works done by us. Rather, the Holy Spirit washes us internally in the renewal of the inner man.
Those who think baptism regenerates us are unaware of the reality of our human depravity. What we need is a new heart, and this is what God gives us in His grace.
Look for example at what Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-5.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
Do you suppose one enters the baptistry dead in their trespasses and sins and then because they have decided to be plunged in water that at some point in that transaction God gives them a new heart? Absolutely not. God makes us alive by His grace, not because we made some decision. God moves first and we respond. That’s how salvation works.
1 Peter 1:3 says, “According to his great mercy, [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
Our hope for regeneration is the grace of God in the gospel. It’s not through water Baptism. And yet, we see water Baptism as a sign of our regeneration. That old heart is removed and forever buried in the tomb, while the new heart is given to us that as we are resurrected with Christ we are a new man or woman and have new attitudes, affections, and actions.
We are not baptized, then, to be regenerated or in hopes that we will one day be regenerated, but we are baptized b/c we have been born again and seek to walk in newness of life and be obedient to our Lord’s commands.
Baptism is a sign of resurrection, regeneration, 3rdly:
1 John 1:7 says, “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” It is not the waters of baptism that cleanse us but the blood of Jesus. Only Christ can cleanse us from our sins. His blood can make the foulest sinner clean. Yet, there is a close connection between the cleansing of our souls by the blood of Christ and then the physical symbol of that reality in Baptism.
A 17th century Baptist catechism by Hercules Collins asks:
Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
Answer: In the institution of baptism where he says: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism the washing of rebirth (c) and the washing away of sins.
The follow-up question asks:
Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
Answer: No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.
Are you washed in the blood? By the way, it’s why we sing the old classic Hymn, Are You Washed in the Blood? Not, “Are You Washed in the Baptistry?”
Baptism is a symbol of our washing and renewal in the blood of Christ.
Resurrection, Regeneration, Renewal. What glorious realities does our Baptism point us to! Christ is our Home. And Baptism is our House if you will. Christ is our Citizenship and Baptism is our Flag (see previous post).
What a picture the Lord has given us in this precious ordinance. And these things simply cannot by signified by anything other than the immersion of a believer in the water.
So, I close today with this:
Are you appreciating this ordinance of believer’s baptism?
You appreciate it first of all by following the Lord in Baptism. This requires first that you are a believer. Have you come to know the Lord? Those who know the Lord are in the New Covenant. Have you turned from your sins and your rebellion and trusted our good and gracious Lord Jesus by faith? Have you looked to His life, death, burial, and resurrection as your only hope of salvation?
And then have you followed that with believer’s baptism? That is Baptism by immersion not for salvation but because of it. Have you done this? You should not delay. This is symbol is God’s gift to you and it is your obedience to Him.
Next, you appreciate this ordinance by living out your Baptism as it were. That is, are you raised with Christ? Live for King Jesus today.
We will talk more about this ordinance in the next post...