By Carol R. Lumpkin
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). There was order, meaning, and beauty. Everything was good for God made it so. Some 4029 years after the creation, Jesus authorized baptism as an act which would bring salvation to man. He gave it order, meaning, and beauty. Everything about it was and is good.
There is no religious act in the New Testament which is described with so rich and varied symbols. Baptism is a birth into the new life. Baptism is God’s way of washing away sins. Baptism is the exodus out of bondage to sin into Christ. Baptism is the act through which one enters the church and begins his journey toward heaven.
The apostle Paul described baptism as the re-enaction of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. “We were bured therefore with him through baptism into death that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Just as Jesus died, man must die to sin. Just as Jesus was buried, man must be buried in water. Just as Jesus was raised, man must come forth from the grave of the water. The new life is experienced not before but after baptism.
Jesus speaks of baptism as a new birth. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except one be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). The new birth consists of both water and Spirit. The Holy Spirit begets us through the revealed word. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). The physical birth brings one into the family of man while the spiritual birth brings one into the family of God. “In one spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).
The apostle Peter compared our baptism to Noah’s salvation from the flood. “Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away. of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). Even as Noah and his family were saved by water, so we are saved after receiving water baptism. The new life in Christ cannot be realized until the old man of sin has been removed. Peter certainly makes this rather plain, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). There is no remission of sins without water baptism. Salvation always follows scriptural baptism. Jesus makes this shine forth when He gave the Great Commission; He, said, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. . . ” (Mk. 16:16).
It is certain from each case of conversion recorded in Acts, that baptism was the final act commanded to be saved. The eunuch requested baptism after Philip had preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35-39). Peter commanded Cornelius to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48). The only way Paul could remove his sins was through baptism (Acts 22:16).
That baptism is commanded to have salvation from past sins in no sense means that it must. not be preceded by faith, repentance, and confession of Christ. Each of these commands are imposed on the sinner before he becomes a saved person. Why not give baptism the place that God gives it? Baptism is indeed a beautiful act since it betrays the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The saved will and must obey Jesus in baptism.
Truth Magazine XXII: 32, pp. 520-521
August 17, 1978