It’s a joy to watch new believers be baptized. It’s an important step, It’s a celebration, a public acknowledgement that they are now following Jesus. I’m concerned, though, that even among us Baptists—whose very name Baptist points to our emphasis on believer’s baptism—we have many who give too much importance to baptism. They see it as somehow a necessary part of being saved.
I hear it in their testimonies: an emphasis on when they were baptized, rather than an emphasis of their confession, repentance, and trust in Christ. Baptism is not The Ultimate Event; it is a public and symbolic recognition of an event—trust in Christ—that has already taken place. Baptism is an outward expression of what Christ has already done inwardly.
What I love about baptism is what it symbolizes. Baptism symbolizes full on, total immersion into Christ. (Baptism comes from the Greek work that literally means immersion.) It’s not just part of me that is to be immersed and surrounded by Jesus; it’s all of me.
The story goes that when the Knights Templar were preparing to fight in the Crusades, they would be baptized. They would march together through a river. They wanted to consecrate themselves to God, and they embraced this act of getting immersed in water to show they were dedicated to God.
Wait. Let’s back up minute. They were not fully immersed. As they went into the waters, the knights held their swords over their heads. These men dedicated everything to God except their swords. Their lives belonged to God—except for that part that had to do with killing the enemy.
Because baptism is such a powerful symbol, the actions of these Knights Templar is symbolic of their partial commitment to God. I wonder how many of us who have chosen to follow Christ had things we held over our heads as we were baptized.
- God, I’m all yours, but my free time doesn’t count.
- God, I’m all yours, but my Internet browsing doesn’t count.
- God, I’m all yours, including my income, savings, and investments—but only up to the 10 percent I give to the church.
- God, I’m all yours, but you know how it is at my work. There are certain things expected of me, so those don’t count.
Let me just say that if you are not fully immersed in Christ—every single aspect of your life—you are not immersed in Christ.
“If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Taking up a cross means to die. Baptism is a symbol of that. Even as we are immersed in Christ, we are immersed in His death. We die to our plans, our possessions, our … everything!
But that “total death to everything” is not the end of the story. With that death also comes a new life—a life far better than the one we were holding on to. And when I look at all I have in Christ, why would I want to hold on to anything of the old life?
“Are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
Jesus, I want to be totally immersed in You—in Your death and in Your life!
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