Some people close their eyes and get sprinkled. Others hold their noses and get dunked. Some people receive it as infants while others as adults. But however it’s done, most Christians view baptism as a sign of religious purification and consecration. Specifically, that the act represents the forgiveness of sin that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, God the Son. It’s symbolic of moving from the darkness of our sinful nature into the light of truth.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:18–20
Now this is where everything gets a bit more muddled. While some Christians practice a believers baptism where the rite is received upon a declaration of faith, others view it as an act of receiving God’s gift of grace without any necessary proactive human action, and will baptize infants and underage children of Christian parents. Depending on in which camp you’re entrenched, chances are you’re not going to agree with the other on the process. But the end result is the same.
Many think baptisms began with that first-century, wild-haired prophet, John the Baptist, who ran around baptizing people in the Jordan River. But that would be a total misunderstanding. The Old Testament has plenty of examples of using water to move from darkness into the light… a sign of cleansing and regeneration. Take, for example:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. ~Genesis 1:1–3
From darkness to light…with water in-between. Awesome.
I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under Heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. ~Genesis 6:17–18
Water cleansed everything wicked but, because Noah was a righteous man, he and his family were granted a do-over.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. ~Exodus 21–22
So even though the Israelites didn’t get their sandals wet, water is definitely an important part of this story. When Moses let his hand fall, water (literally) washed away the slavish chains of all the men, women and children following God’ guy. Again, water plays a part in cleansing the past of all these families on their journey to freedom.
So, getting back to our current topic…once baptized (as an infant or adult), as Christians, we should remember and practice the significance of our baptism every day by repenting (dying to our old ways) and rising up to walk in new direction.
God’s saving grace is free for those who believe, but let’s also remember we’re all people in progress. Every. Single. Day.