We gathered around the pool one evening at church camp to witness Molly baptize her friend Theresa. When Theresa came up out of the water and looked into Molly’s eyes, all at once she had the realization that she was now saved and with a shout reached out and hugged her friend with one of the biggest smiles I think I’ve ever seen.
A couple of years before that, I had the privilege of baptizing Joe. He came to my office and we began to talk. He talked about being baptized and I asked him, “Do you want to be baptized now?” He didn’t hesitate and said, “Yes.” We called a few people to share the experience and we baptized Joe that morning.
When Joe came out of the water, he looked up to heaven and reached up with his hands and thanked God that he had been saved (he started to fall on his knees but was still in the baptistery and would have gone under water again).
What did they experience? Some sensation that ran through their body, or some ecstatic revelation that they were saved? No, they were emotional expressions about receiving the most incredible promise one can have and that is when a person comes to Christ through faith and baptism, God promises to saved them.
The Bible is pretty clear that salvation is through no other person than Jesus (cf, Acts 4:12). There is only one way to heaven. Salvation is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:5). A gift is unearned but it is given and I either receive (acceptance) or reject it. So the question is, how do I receive it?
The conditions of your heart must be belief in Jesus the crucified and risen Son of God. Confession that He is the Son of God and repentance toward God about willingness to change your life. So when am I saved?
Imagine you are drowning in the ocean. You are treading water, you are gasping for air, you’re scared and you are shouting for help. If someone doesn’t come along to help you, you will soon drown. A boat comes along and whoever is on deck jumps in with a life-saver and swims to you. You let him put the life-saver over your head and swim you to the boat and lift you into the boat and take you to safety.
Help is being offered to you and you can choose to refuse it. That would be foolish, but that is an option. You are saved when you receive the gift of salvation. Baptism is that point in time when because of your faith in Christ you have submitted yourself to God’s will and are baptized.
- The purpose of baptism is to save.
- The method of baptism is to be immersed.
- The image of baptism is death and life.
- The promise of baptism is connecting your life and death with Jesus’ life and death.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death. Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death is no longer master over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:3-10
This is where life is encountered, when we are buried and brought back to life. Baptism is that moment when life is given and we have unity with Christ, eternal life with God and are separated from sin.
When a person dies, we bury them, because they are separated from this life. If they were to come back to life and come out of the grave, they’d be a different person. Since we are dead to sin, it figures that a burial needs to take place, and God chose for us to be buried in water for a moment while he does his thing on our hearts and cleanses us from sin and gives us salvation. We receive God’s gift when we are baptized.