What Does Baptism Mean?
Our sins are forgiven through Christ's crucifixion. Baptism is the public display and symbolic act of spiritual cleansing and rebirth through the blood of Christ.
With the exception of Christ, the rest of mankind lives in sin. It is our sin that separates us from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, - Romans 3:23
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. - Isaiah 59:2
When we seek God’s guidance through prayer and Scriptures, we should be learning to identify and make honest attempts to avoid sin. Some may ask… What is sin? And how do we identify it?
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. - James 4:17
Aside from the Ten Commandments, Chapter 7 in the Book of Mark gives us a good reference as to what sin includes:
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” - Mark 7:20-23
The Bible says that when we sin we should confess and ask for God’s forgiveness.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. - 1 John 1:8-10
This notion is also addressed in the book of Romans:
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. - Romans 10:9-10
The term "to be saved" (as mentioned in the previous verse) is quite common in the Protestant church community to identify one's acceptance of Christ as their savior. After an individual accepts this reality, they will normally make a "public profession of faith" by walking down the aisle during the "invitation" time near the end of a Sunday church service. The invitation call is an opportunity for the individual to announce their decision to the pastor and often for the pastor to then announce the decision to the congregation. A baptism is normally planned for the individual at this juncture.
WHY WE SHOULD BE BAPTIZED
The ritual act of submersion in water by Baptism is a personal decision meant to be made by the individual. Baptism acknowledges one's personal acceptance of the eternal salvation of their soul from sin through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
For most Protestants, baptism is not meant to be made as a symbolic gesture by someone else as in the case of a “christening” of a child. A christening should be seen as an event called for by parents as a naming ceremony for an infant.
It is also common for protestant Christians to have a "dedication" ceremony for a child as a way to proclaim that they are committed to raising their infant with Christian instructions and traditions.
The personal identification of our sin and our own personal need to confess and ask for forgiveness is the root cause for the honest need and inspiration to be baptized.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism represents a symbolic gesture as well as a public profession of one’s personal belief in the salvation of Christ. This is important because if a person truly believes in something, shouldn’t they be willing to admit it in the public realm? As a Christian, one of our first public professions should be to “represent” the Lord by being baptized.
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, - Matthew 28:19
The submersion into water also represents a symbolic washing away and cleansing of the sin that separates us from God. It is a spiritual experience as a reorientation that our eternal souls (made in the image of God) are now redeemed through the sacrifice made by Christ.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. - John 3:5
Baptism also symbolically represents the celebration of God’s important endowment of the Holy Spirit into our conscience for the benefit of acquiring wisdom and guidance during our lifetime.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” - John 14:26
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” - Galatians 5:22-23
Although baptism is normally administered by a pastor (minister), priest or deacon, in reality, baptism can be administered by anyone (especially in an emergency situation, i.e., in danger of death) so long as proper meaning, form (words) and matter (water) are used.
Since baptism is a symbolic ritual to proclaim our acceptance of Christ's love and God's forgiveness of our sins. This gift by the Grace of God provides everlasting life. So what does the Bible actually say about God's judgment for mankind?
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