In Matthew 3, is the story of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus arrives at the Jordan River where John the Baptist is performing baptisms and presents Himself to be baptized. Matthew tells us John tried to talk him out of it. “‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’ But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy’” (Matthew 3:14-17). Then, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us what has come to be known as “The Great Commission” saying, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19). Mark recorded it this way in his gospel. Jesus tells the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15-16).
Did you notice that “believes” comes first, then baptism? It happens that way every single time throughout the New Testament. From Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, to Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. A person comes to faith in Christ – first. They understand who Jesus is and what He did on the cross for them. A light bulb goes off in their head and heart and completely changes them inside and out. Then they are baptized. However, the baptism does not save them any more than it saves us. Our faith in Jesus is what saves us. For instance, when Jesus was on the cross, one of the thieves hanging next to Him came to believe who He was. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Do you remember how Jesus replied to him? “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Moments away from his death, he confesses faith in Jesus and is saved. There was no opportunity for him to be baptized. It’s okay, because it is our faith that saves us. There is no magic in the water. Romans 10:9, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Nonetheless, although baptism is not necessary for salvation, Jesus does tell us to do it. Why? Baptism is a public declaration – an opportunity to tell the world who Christ is, what He did, and of our faith in Him. Baptism is the day when we publicly celebrate being “born again!” It really is a birthday party or perhaps a “re-birthday party.”
Why all of this talk about baptism? A couple of Sunday’s back, I was blessed to do three full immersion baptisms in our baptistery. Marielise, Erica, and Miracle all went under the water that symbolizes our sin being put under the ground (in the tomb), and then they came up out of the water symbolizing coming back to life again (as Jesus did on that first Easter morning)! They now have a new life in Christ!
Hands down, baptism is my most favorite sacrament. It is a day of great celebration! A day we recognized three more people who fully understand who Jesus is and what He did for them. Even more so than our earthly birthday, I believe we should celebrate our baptism day every year. The day we recognize we celebrate our free gift from God – salvation.
Like many of you perhaps, I was baptized as an infant. It was the tradition of my faith at the time. I was re-baptized at church summer camp in 1997, because it was then that I fully understood. It is never too late to openly declare your transformation. That your old life is gone and a new life in Christ has begun. If you were never fully immersed in the waters of baptism, I highly recommend it. It is an amazing experience! Think about it. Pray about it. Talk to your pastor. Call me. I’ll be happy to dunk you!
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