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By Mike Riley

Many sincerely religious folks have a very narrow view about baptism and this includes, sad to say, many that claim to be members of the Lord’s church. To many people, baptism is seen only as an initiation into the church. Some think baptism is a sacrament. Others say it is not necessary for salvation. Still others only know baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

The truth is, baptism is much wider in its scope and blessings than many know or realize. It is much like the many facets of a finely cut diamond – there are many sides to it. So it is with baptism. In this article, let us consider a few of the many facets of baptism.

1) Baptism Is Like A Birth

As Jesus described through John in John 3:5, our entering into the kingdom of God is like a “birth”. A birth is a “coming forth” into a new relationship. Just as an infant comes forth from his mother into the world of light, so the obedient believer comes out of the waters of baptism a new born babe in Christ (1 Peter 2:2). This new birth places him into the kingdom or church of our Lord (Matthew 16:18-19). Only an immersion in water and a “coming forth” from the water can adequately depict a birth. Sprinkling or pouring can never properly depict the coming forth of a new life (Romans 6:3-4). The simple point is that we must come out of the water of baptism into the kingdom (Acts 8:39), even as the baby comes out of the womb into this life.

2) Baptism Is Like A Burial And Resurrection

Paul writes that sinners must die to sin, then be buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that they might be raised up to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). In this text, Paul declares the conversion experience is similar to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Everyone who is saved demonstrates his faith in the Christ who died and rose for him by his baptism “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). It is a proclamation to the world of the crucified Christ as their only hope of pardon.

3) Baptism Is Like The Purification And Preparation Of A Bride For Her Wedding

In Ephesians Chapter 5, Paul speaks of the loving relationship of Christ and His church under the figure of a man and his bride.

 

He tells us Christ gave Himself up for the church, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Among the ancient peoples, great emphasis was placed upon the cleansing and purification of the bride before being presented to her husband (cf. Esther 2:12-13). So each person who becomes a member of Christ’s bride, the church, must be “purified” by the washing of the water (baptism) and the word. Should anyone dispute the phrase, “washing of water” being baptism, we ask, is there any other use of the word “water” in the gospel (New Testament), regarding salvation, church membership and Christian worship? The answer is “No”.

4) Baptism Is Like the Ritual of Circumcision

Under the Abrahamic covenant, no male could be a member of the holy nation (Israel) unless he had been circumcised. The removal of that tad of flesh from the male infant’s body identified him as one of God’s spiritual sons (Genesis 17:9-14). Today, under the covenant of Christ, both male and female must undergo a “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:29) in order to be a child of God. This spiritual concept is explained by Paul in Colossians 2:11-13. In this text we learn that baptism is similar to the act of circumcision in that God “cuts off” and removes the old sins of the heart. God administers the “spiritual surgery” when we are baptized in order for us to “wash away our sins” (Acts 22:16).

5) Baptism Is Like the Purification Rites of the Jews

Those living under Moses’ law were continually faced with the problem of ceremonial defilement and uncleanness. Touching any dead body or having any running sore or skin disease (and a host of other things) rendered them impure and disqualified them from entering the worship assembly. A ritual of purification was set forth that included the blood of sacrifice and the washing of the body with water (Leviticus 15:13-15). In the Christian age, the unclean sinner comes before God’s great high-priest, Jesus Christ, having his “heart sprinkled from an evil conscience and having his body washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22). This writer is confident that this refers to Christian baptism for the only use of water in the New Testament concerning salvation, the church or worship is baptism (Acts 10:47-48; cf. Ephesians 4:5). When we are washed in the waters of baptism, the blood of our sacrifice, Jesus, is “applied” to our conscience, giving us a clean and good conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21).