Baptism — a Crucial Ritual
All the gospel writers wrote of baptism as an initial public step in a long spiritual process. Matthew and Mark gave evidence to the fact that John the Baptist came as a forerunner of Jesus. His mission was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” So, John offered a baptism of repentance to all who were anticipating the coming of the Messiah. As the Lord’s messenger, John was calling the people to repent: to confess their sins, change their minds, and commit themselves to God. So when the Pharisees came to request baptism, John was amazed. He knew that they were a ‘brood of vipers’ and had not humbled themselves to repent. Rather they were making a pretence of submission to God, while living lives of disobedience. They were not bearing good fruit. So he counselled them to change their heart and their ways.
Fruit of Repentance
God says that a tree is known by its fruit. And the fruit of repentance is a changed heart, a humble heart. The religious leaders however, thought that it was sufficient to be Abraham’s literal descendants. They did not understand the nature of their society and the destruction that was on the horizon. For the Roman axe was already poised to chop down the temple state in which the religious leaders were putting their trust. They did not understand the temporary nature of human civilization, and the need for a Messiah to offer eternal life. They thought they were already inscribed in the book of life, and did not understand the process that would make them true heirs of the Father of life.
Baptism of Jesus Christ — Our Example
So to set the example for all believers, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, went to John to be baptized. And it is clear that we who believe in Jesus should follow in his footsteps. Though Jesus had not sinned and already had God’s spirit without measure, he set an example for all who would follow him. For our baptism is a sign of our willingness to yield to God. Being immersed in the water of baptism is symbolic of having our sins washed away. So we can now live in a cleansed state of perpetual repentance before God. And having been baptized in faith, we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. At baptism we are redeemed from death, by the power of Christ’s sacrifice, and are now the purchased possession of our Lord. So what does this mean to the believer?
A New Life as God’s Children
It is only through baptism that we become the true heirs of the Father, and co-heirs of eternal life with Jesus Christ, our elder brother. We die to our old life, in the waters of baptism, and are raised to a new life. In effect we have been moved spiritually from the kingdom of darkness, the human civilization, into the kingdom of light, God’s realm. Baptism is a sign of our full commitment to Christ our Saviour, and to our calling as disciples. So baptism is that all-important initial step that is symbolic of our dedication to God and our willingness to serve him, as his children. And God has work for us to accomplish.
Having been made holy, and having received the spirit of sonship, we are now prepared to dedicate our lives to accomplishing God’s will. God’s spirit will both empower and motivate us, so we can yield the kind of fruit that will truly please our Father, and our Lord. We, like our Saviour, are called to give full expression to God’s way of life, the path taught in the scriptures. And we have a mission to reach out to others, the spiritually hungry and thirsty, who need to know God’s ways. So baptism is that door to a new life in God’s service now, and the hope of a glorious future as the eternal children of God.
Learn more about the path to Everlasting Life: