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What is the most important day in a person’s life?

For some, it is the day they get married. For others, it is the day they see their first child is born. For others, it is the day they leave home and start a new life on their own. For others, it might even be the day of their baptism. However, for those who were baptised, even though this is a really important day, I would suggest that the most important day in their life, the most important day in any believer’s life, is the day they trusted in Jesus, the day they had the Holy Spirit come into their heart, the day they started their journey of transformation which will end when God finishes what he has started, and makes them holy, into the image of Jesus.

This is a special day, but it signifies something which has already happened in their lives. The most important day in a person’s life is the day they trust in Jesus – that changes their life forever, literally. It is clear to anyone who knows those being baptised that they are ‘already’ followers of Jesus. They have ‘already’ experienced the joy of forgiveness for their sins, and the peace with God that only comes from having truly entrusted their lives to their Lord and Saviour.

As Peter writes;

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. (1 Peter 1:8, NLT)

They have trusted in Jesus, who took their sins for them on the cross;

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21, NLT)

Anyone who knows them can see that they already have the Holy Spirit within, changing them from what they used to be like, more and more into the image of Jesus.

The fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives:

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22–23, NLT)

As the Apostle Paul writes;

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)

For each one being baptised today, they have already placed their faith in Jesus, and have begun a new life, in Christ.

 

They are righteous by faith in Jesus, not in themselves

It is worth noting that they aren’t trusting in their own goodness to be right with God, but in the grace of God;

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8–10, NLT)

Each one has experienced the joy of the Spirit within their hearts, they have known the leading of God within them when they have struggled, they have known the peace of God when they have gone through hard times, they have known something of the power of God helping them do what they ought to do when they feel weak themselves. And they have that special peace in their hearts which only comes through faith in Jesus:

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1, NLT)

So, baptism doesn’t change them, because they have already received the blessings of their new relationship with Christ, by faith.

If they are already right with God, then why get baptised

So, if they are already justified by faith, and if baptism doesn’t make them righteous or Christians, what it the point of being baptised? Why get baptised?

Baptism is obedience to Jesus

Firstly, the simple answer is that Jesus tells us to. The end of Matthew’s Gospel are Jesus’ words to the disciples, a command that is passed on down through the centuries by the Church;

Jesus came and told his disciples, “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. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, NLT)

With the authority of Jesus, we are told to “Go and make disciples, baptising them…” They are getting baptised because Jesus tells them to be baptised, as his disciples. We get baptised because Jesus told us to. Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for obedience.

Baptism signifies a clear conscience because of what Jesus has done

Baptism, or washing with water, is a very powerful symbol of being cleansed spiritually, and it features in many religions. It isn’t surprising then, that John the Baptist took the already familiar symbol of baptism to illustrate the cleansing of sins in the heart. Baptism went hand in hand with forgiveness, and turning back to God. Peter describes baptism in this way too:

—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21, NIV)

We all know that baptism isn’t to get clean physically, but as Peter says, it represents having a clean conscience, forgiveness of sins. It is the pledge of a clear conscience before God.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a clear conscience! Isn’t it wonderful to have a large debt cleared, a debt which we could not clear ourselves because it was too big, and we were powerless to do anything about it!

Baptism is a symbol of what has happened in the heart

Some churches believe that baptism makes people Christians. Others see baptism as a symbol representing God’s promise of future salvation, like circumcision was in the Old Testament. However, like many others, we believe that it is an outward symbol of an inner change which has already occurred in the past when a person trusts in Jesus. He teaches that we just need to humbly, repentantly, place our faith in him, in order to be right with God. This is clear in one of the most famous Bible verses, that whoever simply ‘believes’ in him has eternal life;

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Knowing that their place in heaven is guaranteed, those being baptised have joyfully come today to show outwardly what has happened to them inwardly.

As an illustration, many people do what it takes to get a degree. And on the graduation day they dress up for the graduation ceremony, and walk up and receive their certificate, get photos taken, and so on. It is a great day. But that graduation ceremony does not give them their qualification – it only represents what has already happened. Their name has already appeared on the list of graduates issued by the university. If, for some reason, they can’t make it to the graduation ceremony, they still have the degree qualification, they can still put it on their C.V. So too, baptism is like the graduation ceremony – it publicly celebrates what has happened already, but the reality doesn’t depend on being baptised. Just like the thief on the cross beside Jesus wasn’t baptised, but we are told that he went to heaven that very day.

Baptism – a public testimony

Baptism is also a public event, a public way of saying that someone has trusted in Jesus.

Some people might be a little reticent to let others know what they now believe. If left to themselves, they might not tell others, for fear of what others might think. Jesus knows that it is sometimes difficult to be public about our faith in him. So, he has taken the matter out of our hands – he simply commands us to go public through being baptised. In effect, Jesus is saying to us, don’t worry about how you will tell your friends that you have trusted in me, just obey my command to get baptised, and that will tell them without you having to say a word.

Baptism – into Christ

Christian baptism is more than the baptism of John the Baptist, a baptism which symbolised forgiveness and returning to a loving and obedient life before God (Mark 1:4). Yet, Christian baptism is more than that. Paul even rebaptised people who were only baptised with the baptism of John (Acts 19:3-5). The word baptism is used of a trial or ordeal, like a baptism of fire (Mark 10:35-38), or baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Paul describes becoming a Christian as being no longer identified with the old nature, but the believer now being ‘in Christ’.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1–2, ESV)

He describes this union with Christ in terms of being immersed into Christ;

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3–4, NIV)

Spiritual baptism into Christ has already occurred, as those who know each one being baptised can see. They are not the same as they used to be. There has been a change. Baptism into water symbolises this cleansing from sin, and this union with Christ.

Baptism into the body of Christ

Paul also writes about part of the blessing of being baptised as being joined to the body of Christ, the Church of true believers throughout all time and across the world.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, ESV)

Believing in Jesus, trusting in him, being renewed spiritually in him, also involves being baptised into one body, being immersed into the people of God.

And we have been ‘made to drink of one Spirit’ too.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (Ephesians 4:4–5, ESV)

Salvation is by the grace of God the Father, the atonement of God the Son, and by the power of God the Holy Spirit, and so we baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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 28:19–20, NIV)

Baptism signifies the start of a blessed life

Baptism signifies the start of a life of obedience, listening to God’s Word and obeying Jesus in everything that he has commanded us to do, a life of joy in the Spirit, a life of perseverance through difficulties with the Good Shepherd at our side, a life of hope with eternity ahead guaranteed for all who have truly trusted Jesus. The journey doesn’t end at being baptised – it is only beginning.

 
 
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