This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to baptize a young girl. It was fantastic. The church was filled with family and friends. The water was just warm enough to not be frigid. The worship pointed to Christ. The preaching was on point! (No…really…) Seriously though, it was a celebration.
After all the hustle and the bustle, I thanked God for the ordinance and the opportunity to partake in it. As I came down from the emotional high of the moment, God began to stir something up in my heart.
I know it sounds crazy, but I actually think that we, as churches and Christians, need to reclaim baptism.
Now I’m not saying it’s been lost, but I believe many people have either lost track of the significance of it or have over-stressed its importance for the individual or the church. As my wife was preparing her children’s message for Sunday, she said something that struck me powerfully. She reminded me that what we are really celebrating is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not that our young friend had chosen to align herself with him. Because baptism is about not what we choose when we get dunked, but what Christ chose at the cross.
It was Jesus “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,”(Heb. 12:2) not man.
In some churches, baptism has become merely a tradition. It is what we tell people they are to do as a first act of obedience once they have accepted Jesus’ into their heart. People speak of its symbolism as a public display of our salvation. People refer to it as the prerequisite for church membership.
And these are true statements but they are not the whole truth.
In Romans 6, Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”(Rom 6:3-4, emphasis mine)
Baptism is about God’s mercy on man through the death of Jesus Christ.
Are we excited for the growth of the kingdom and the salvation of the individual? You bet we are!
But, brothers and sisters, when we celebrate baptism, let us focus on God’s grace which came through Christ’s work at the cross. After all, that’s what baptism is all about.
Without the cross, there’s nothing to celebrate.