Text: Romans 6:1-11
A diploma, even it is just a paper, is valuable. It symbolizes a person’s education and academic journey. Operating in this idea, baptism is also a symbolical act, a representation of something valuable. Like my diploma, it was the seminary in Kentucky that signified that little piece of paper, also, it was God who signified the ordinance of baptism. It represents something meaningful, something important about Christianity.
Nowadays, the church delays baptism because of the pandemic, social distancing, and the lack of a place to perform the ordinance. Sadly, we do not see it as a significant, or essential part of the church. Looking back, in Matt 28:19-20, we are not only called to go and make disciples but to also baptize the followers of Christ incorporating them into the body of the new covenant family, the church.
First, Christ told them His disciples to preach the gospel; next, Baptize them; before, Teaching them all God’s commands. But it seems different to our understanding, we put the teaching first, assuming that those who have not put their faith in Christ have the same privilege as the believers. First, preach; then baptize; finally, teach them. With this thought, take note of this, baptism is not optional.
By studying baptism, to those who have been baptized, this will be a reminder to all of you about the summary of the gospel of Christ; to those who have not been baptized, this is a call for you that if you follow Christ, you need to be baptized; lastly, to the entirety of the church, this is a reminder for us that baptism is a significant act of the church as a whole to do this duty of Christ’s ordinance.
Baptism, in a simple word, is a representation of your death and resurrection in Christ and that you are Christ-follower who willingly submits to His will (Matt 28:19-20). It is a confession, a communion, a profession, and a proclamation of a person who has put faith in Christ.
- Confession. You are confessing that you were once a sinner saved by Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore, this act is a commitment or a pledge that you will follow Christ, especially starting the day of your baptism.
- Communion. In baptism, it signifies both vertical and horizontal communion. Vertically, communion with God in Christ, and horizontally, in the body of Christ the regenerated church.
- Profession. Baptism is an open declaration that you belong to Jesus. You are publicly declaring that “JESUS IS LORD.” In Jamieson’s illustration, it is as if you are wearing a jersey showing that you are part of “Team Jesus.”
- Proclamation. You are publicly expressing the gospel of Christ to all the witnesses of your baptism. It symbolizes the death and resurrection of Christ—the very core of the gospel of Christ’s redemptive story.
The biblical mode of baptism is immersion. Other denominations practice sprinkling, pouring over the head, and partial dipping. These are all grounded in their covenant theology. But for us, as Baptists, the people of the Book, we practice what the New Testament church practiced.
Furthermore, in Greek, the literal translation of baptism is “baptizo.” Technically, it was more of a transliteration than translation, but the literal meaning of baptizo is immersion or to [fully] dip. Both in practice and in word study, the biblical mode of baptism is immersion.
Baptism, as noted a while ago, is administrated by the church or a church activity. Who can baptize? There is no explicit verse or any prescription to who will baptize. But since this is an act of the church, it is logically true that a representative of the body will be the one who will administer the baptism. This representative can be the pastor, the elders, or even a deacon, or any church leader appointed by the church. This is not solely a pastoral work, but rather church work. That is why, we need to choose or elect our elders, deacons, and other necessary church leaders.
“Baptism is the divinely instituted ‘point of entry’ into the covenant community” (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12:27; Cf. R. Stanton Norman 134). Meaningfully, baptism is a requirement to be part of the local family—the covenanted body of Christ with one another.
What is next after baptism? Church membership, discipleship (teaching), service in the ministry (nourishing one another), and missions (proclaiming Jesus). Let me also add, the parents need to talk to their children. Last Friday, after we reviewed the gospel hand, we briefly tackled baptism. In which I also asked if they understood the meaning of baptism. Even though most of them said yes, some are still hesitant to follow the ordinance of baptism.
by Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
March 28, 2021
*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript above.
- John S. Hammett, “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” in The Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination, eds. Douglas Blount and Joseph Wooddell (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 71-75.
- Bobby Jamieson, Understanding Baptism (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2016).
- R. Stanton Norman, The Baptist Way: Distinctives of a Baptist Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2005).
- Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2006).