Baptism is a word which means to wash with or apply water. Christ directed His followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). We call this Christ’s Great Commission.
Clothed In Christ’s Righteousness
From little on we learn to put on our own clothing. Except for those who are incapacitated, getting dressed is taken for granted. We would not think of putting on only one shoe or going out wearing just one sleeve. While the sacrament of Baptism is applied only once, the children of God are dressed completely in the Lord Jesus Christ. His righteousness becomes our own through faith in His name, just as the apostle Paul has written: “For you are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).
Those who are baptized do not need to play at dressing up, for in Christ they are clothed perfectly for the occasion. The occasion is, of course, to be one of God’s children. They have the divine promise to appear with Christ in His heavenly glory. Baptism is the sacred act instituted by the Lord Himself in order to clothe us with His righteousness and eternal salvation.
The Baptism instituted by Christ is a sacred act by which God brings His grace to work on the soul of the sinner. We are all sinners against God’s holy will. The Word of God clearly reveals: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All people, regardless of age, gender, or race, are in desperate need of Christ’s sacrament of Baptism.
Man needs water to live. Without the Word of God the water remains merely water. But to live before God as one of His own requires the power of His holy Word with the water applied according to Christ’s institution. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Word of God which makes this use of water capable of saving us, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
In our society people dress differently for certain occasions. They are accustomed to wearing casual clothing at home, uniforms for work, and specialized clothing for other activities. A swimming suit would be inappropriate at the business office. A parka would be most uncomfortable in the heat of summer. In the parable of the marriage of the king’s son (Mt. 22:2-13), Jesus described the tragic results of attempting to appear before God wearing the wrong type of clothing. Someone believed he could enter on his own, just as he was. Without the proper wedding garment he was locked out forever!
Jesus told Nicodemus: “Most assuredly, I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). We would never think of appearing in rags at a function filled with very important people. Yet this is precisely how we appear by nature before holy God. The prophet Isaiah leads us to confess: “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Left to ourselves we would naturally choose to wear whatever we please without even knowing what God had so freely offered us. God in His infinite grace had to clothe us with the robe of Christ’s righteousness if we were to have any hope of appearing before God clothed completely and perfectly.
The Effects Of Baptism
Sadly, however, many suppose that Baptism is a one-time event, without including God’s eternal and changeless promises. Jesus announced God’s gracious promise: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). The Spirit inspired Peter to proclaim: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins … for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off” (Acts 2:38-39).
The sacrament of Holy Baptism is God’s act of saving grace. The covenant promise of God is that He will be our God and we will be His people forever. “Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!'” (Hos. 2:23) Baptism is how the Spirit of God creates saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Baptism, then, is much more than a one-time event. Its effect is to continue for the rest of our lives! “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
In Baptism death no longer rules over us. We have been raised to life before God in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit creates in us both the power and the desire to live the new life before God. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Php. 2:13).
Baptism is the power of God to live this new life. “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts . . . and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 2:22-24).
Baptism should be a daily return to the throne of God’s grace for strength and comfort. Faith needs strength from above to believe that all our sins and guilt are washed away in Christ Jesus alone.
As long as we live we are going to put on clothes for whatever occasion in this life. The sacrament of Baptism should be just as familiar and comfortable for us that we might live as the Baptized of God! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
–Pastor Rick Grams