Why Water Baptism Matters


     Whatever confusion may arise in a person’s life regarding the ordinance of water baptism, we should never, ever interpret this commandment as something that leads to salvation. Water baptism does not remove sin any more than the Lord’s Supper or any other act of obedience. Let any who teach it as a requirement for salvation be anathema. It is an external symbol of the invisible spiritual baptism that Christians have in Christ. Water baptism is a work of righteousness. Christians should be scrupulously marked by such deeds, Titus 3:5, but Christians are not saved by works, Ephesians 2:8-9.


     Why should we do it then? Why be baptized? I could list many reasons. I'll quickly mention just three, such as that it’s commanded of us. Believers do it, Mark 16:16. Christ Himself was baptized and we follow His model of obedience, Matthew 3:15. Water baptism symbolizes the washing of purification promised by God, Ezekiel 36:25. Jesus evoked such truths Himself with Nicodemus when He spoke of the birthing of water that was necessary for us all in our lives, John 3:5.


     One reason for doing it that I wish to briefly now highlight is that it fortifies our own renewing mind and conscience in the faith we profess. We need this. 1 Peter 3:21 (NKJV) speaks of our invisible immersion into Christ as an, “…Answer of a good conscience toward God.” Our water ceremony symbolizes this reality for us. As our minds are conformed more and more into the perfection that awaits us, we need things set up as monuments in our faith. This is partly why I do not believe it’s Biblical to baptize infants. We are blessed to look back at the day we stood before witnesses and were baptized in obedience to the command as an anchor for our consciences. We should know why we did it, and treasure it as a work we were led to do by God the Holy Spirit in obedience to Christ's command. We (the living) get baptized in water because we know that we (the once dead) have been made alive by God having already been raised up in Christ, Ephesians 2:4-6. We also symbolize our faith in a coming physical resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:49. All of this is a part of renewing our mind, Romans 12:2. Water baptism, by virtue of the fact that it's commanded of us only once (unlike the Lord's Supper which may be observed daily) seems to be set up by the Lord as a true monument of remembrance to what God has done in His elect. 


     It’s really quite simple. As I consider my career in the military and at times wonder what my profession may mean I think back to three deployments and the services rendered. I have strength to move on in looking at all the works done. When I feel like I’m failing as a father I am blessed at the reminder of all the walks in the woods, the daddy-daughter days out and the sleepless nights spent in my child’s service. When I consider my marriage I think of all the sanctification and things done to grow together that we’ve worked at. It’s the things done that I remember. In my faith I look back to works like evangelism, giving my money, people baptized, sermons preached, classes I’ve taught, etc. My water baptism stands as sentinel witness among all these things as evidence (both to others and to myself) of a life lived in the pursuit of holiness. God knows that this is good for us. This is why we have the constant visible reminder of the Lord's Supper as well. All of the visible works should remind me of that which they symbolize. The danger is when men confuse works of righteousness with righteousness. My righteousness is Christ’s; my works are not my righteousness.


     Works, if done in right motivation are blessings. Obedience literally purifies us, 1 Peter 1:22. They purify the mind. Works, in theology, are rightly called, “Means of grace.” Again, this is not as things which lead to salvation, but as things that accompany salvation. They are means of grace because we move what's in us in Christ into our lives thereby. Our fruit is made available to others and evident only by our works. Our works are therefore the "Working out" of an invisibly implanted salvation, Philippians 2:12. Water baptism is one of the best works we can do.


     If you have not been baptized in water then please talk to your pastor about it. It is a means of grace that God has given to us that symbolizes and solidifies in our ever-wondering hearts a confirmation of how we can stand before God in the faith with the sure and fixed resolve of a, “Good conscience.” We are baptized both because our Lord has raised us and will raise us again. Set up your monuments. Obey God.

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