Some of the baptisms you do as a pastor stick with you more so than others. I baptized one kid a while back that asked me if the water was going to burn his eyes. After being assured that it would not, he told me, “that’s good because if it does, I’d probably freak out.” Another stuck with me because I spent years cultivating the relationship before leading this student to Christ and then doing the baptism. Sometimes its the event, other times its the relationship that makes them stick in your mind.
Regardless though, baptism is a special event. It is a milestone so to speak. But you can get wet in the bathtub. I believe there is nothing special about the water and that baptism does not itself save you. So why do it? Baptism is a symbol of our “new birth” into our life as a Christian. Being born again does not mean that you have been baptized, it means that you have been born of the Spirit. John 3:1-15 is where Jesus explains this to Nicodemus and he immediately follows this explanation with John:3:16-18 (ESV):
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Last night the students and I talked learned about the “Epic Proposal.” We looked at some pictures of guys who went all out for their marriage proposal. One guy rented a helicopter, another somehow involved parachuting, one video we watched had about 30 people choreographed to a song, but the most epic proposal of all time was Jesus’ proposal to us. He died on the cross for us, so that through him, “the world might be saved.” Epic.
Baptism is a symbol of your acceptance of his proposal. It’s like putting on the ring. It doesn’t make the engagement any more official, it’s just an outward symbol. This life that we live here and now, it’s like the engagement. When we die, we get to show up to the wedding. Using that analogy, life here is about getting ready for the wedding, making sure that everyone is invited. You should be living for Christ even more than a bride-to-be lives for her wedding day. When people accept a brides invitation, they get some cake. When you share the proposal of Jesus, they get to be brides themselves.
Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “to die is gain.” Have you considered why he would say that when every time we talk about death we talk about loss? If you have accepted Jesus’ proposal, when you die, you get to stand before Jesus face to face. You won’t need to pray anymore, you won’t need to read the Bible any more…because you will be standing face-to-face with God. That is truly “gain.”
The challenge for you and I from day-to-day is to live like we actually believe. Too often, we do nothing to demonstrate our acceptance of Jesus’ proposal on a daily basis. Baptism is the closest too many church goers ever get to public proclaiming their faith. That’s like a bride putting on her ring when he pops the question and then hiding it in the closet until the wedding.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 3:16–18.