What does Baptism Symbolize?
Baptism is a way of showing others that a person has entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an outward symbol of the inward commitment that takes place in the heart at the time of salvation.
1. A Sign of Identification – Baptism is an outward, public declaration of our inward commitment to Christ. Much like a wedding ring symbolizes a commitment between a husband and a wife, baptism makes a visual statement that says, “I’m following Jesus Christ and I want everyone to know it.”
2. A Symbol of Death, Burial and Resurrection – It is a picture of what takes place at the time of salvation – being cleansed and having our sins washed away. It says, “I have died to my old life (going under the water) and I am alive to new life in Christ (coming out of the water).
Romans 6:4-5 says:
We were buried therefore with him (Christ) 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
3. An Important Step of Obedience to the Scripture – In the Bible, as people came to faith in Christ they were baptized. The sequence of events is the same throughout the scriptures; first people profess faith in Jesus Christ and then they are baptized. It is called Believer’s baptism, a baptism that happens after one becomes a believer in Jesus Christ.
Matthew 28:18-20 says:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Because Jesus instructed us to be baptized, baptism is an act of obedience to him. While it is not necessary for salvation, it demonstrates submission to God. At First Baptist Church, we practice baptism by immersion (putting under the water) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the way that Jesus instructed in Matthew 28:19) because we believe that it is the best picture of spiritual death, burial and resurrection and because it is the type of baptism that Jesus modeled for us when he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:13-17 and Mark 1:9-11).
What about infant Baptism?
In some denominations, infant baptism or christening is used to represent a commitment made by parents to dedicate their child to Christ and to commit to raise them in accordance with the teachings of Scripture. While this is a very important part of the religious practice and tradition of many families, it is not the same as believer’s baptism. Believer’s baptism occurs after someone makes a personal decision to follow Christ for themselves once they understand what that means and if you have made a personal commitment to Christ as an older child, student, or adult then announcing that decision publicly through believer’s baptism is the next step for you. Our commitment to believer’s baptism is in no way intended to cheapen the importance of your experience as a child. We feel that believer’s baptism in many ways affirms the hope that your parents had when they dedicated you as an infant.