Published: 18 October 2021

Baptism Matters

Baptism matters

Baptism matters because we humans need something visible and tangible to cement in our minds that God’s promises are true. Consider Abram in Genesis 15. God had promised him a child and in Abram’s extreme old age God speaks to Abram to reconfirm His intentions. He also reiterated the land promise, but Abram asked, “LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (Gen. 15:8 NIV)  In response, God made a blood covenant with Abram (vv. 15-18) to reassure him. 

Humans need assurance

You see, we humans need assurance. We believe the gospel and repent, but God knows that like Abram, we need a sign or rite to solidify the promises in our minds. And, the rite changes everything; people need rituals. The following illustration by Jay Guin helps to understand the process of becoming a Christian.

“Consider a young couple. The young man embraces his girlfriend and for the first time says, “I love you.” She hugs him, smiles, kisses him passionately, and the evening ends.

Later he discusses the evening with a friend over coffee. The friend says, “Wow, it’s great that you have a girlfriend who is so affectionate! Can’t you see in her eyes how much she loves you?”

“Yes, I know she loves me,” the young man says, “but I need her to say that she loves me. In fact, if she won’t say it, I don’t think I can continue in this relationship.”

Is he right to consider her reluctance to express her feelings a barrier to their relationship? Why not travel on her body language and behavior? Why are the words so important?

And, you know, the words really are important — not because of tradition or his inability to perceive her emotions. They are important because his girlfriend has to make a decision. She may feel love for him very much, but saying that she loves him changes their relationship and it changes her. It forces her to admit to herself that this is how she feels — and once she admits that, it changes her life. As soon as she admits her love, she has to make a commitment and be willing to make sacrifices.

Moreover, once he hears her words, he’ll behave differently. He’ll see her as a companion. No more will they just be dating. They’ll be bound to one another in a way that’s radically different from before. The words matter. And if she never says the words, their relationship will not progress much at all. In fact, it will end.

So when did she fall in love her boyfriend? When she first felt those feelings? When she started imagining what it would be like to be married? When she found her dreams filled with him? When she says the words?

Well, she fell in love over time. For some, it takes a few weeks. For others, it takes years. But true love is never at first sight. It always takes some time.

When did their relationship change? Well, it changed incrementally, a bit here and a bit there. They were strangers, and then two people on a date, and then they were a couple, and then they were a couple in love.

When do they become a couple in love? Well, not until they admit it to themselves and then to each other. The words matter. The words change everything. The words change both lives forever.

But, of course, many couples say, “I love you” and don’t mean it. The words only matter between honest people. Lies happen.

And then there are some couples, not many, who fall in love, get married, have children, and grow old together never having said “I love you.”

Is it essential that you tell your boyfriend that you love him if you want to one day be married? Yes. Well, almost. Relationships don’t always follow the rules, but the rules are the rules for a reason. They matter.”[1]Jay Guin, http://oneinjesus.info/2011/01/baptism-an-exploration-the-need-for-a-rite/.

Like the young couple who acknowledge and verbalize their love and commitment to each other, immersion is the result of deciding to make a commitment to God. It changes us, and it changes the way other people see us because the initial evidence of our commitment is our immersion. 

Ultimate purification

The washings for purification were the Old Testament shadow of that which was to come (Heb 10:1). The substance is found in the waters of baptism during which the Holy Spirit performs the ultimate purification: the removal of our sins.