As we have an upcoming baptism on Sunday, February 13th, I thought I’d provide a little background on what baptism is all about. Feeling a little lazy and rushed today, I offer the following explanation that comes from Starting Point materials at http://www.startingpoint.com/:
“Even before Jesus’ time, baptism was practiced among early converts to the Jewish faith. Ceremonial washing with water was symbolic in Judaism, therefore baptism indicated a convert’s willingness to wash away one’s previous ways and identify with new beliefs and a new community. Baptism was also important in the ministry of a Jewish prophet name John, who emerged about the same time as Jesus. The gospels and other ancient literature tell his fascinating story. John preached a compelling message to the Jewish people, drawing large crowds and creating quite a buzz. He claimed that God was about to do something new and thus people should repent of their sins and prepare for God’s saving work. In keeping with this message, John urged the crowds who heard him to be baptized, thereby symbolizing their willingness to identify with and embrace his message. As many came forward, John became known as the Baptizer, or John the Baptist. Jesus was even baptized by John. Though he was not repenting of sin, Jesus was aligning himself with John’s message and ministry. After all,
Jesus himself would be the fulfillment of the message John was preaching.”
“With this background, it’s no wonder that at the end of Jesus’ ministry, he told his followers: “Go 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, TNIV). In other words, as Jesus’ followers took his message of salvation around the world, other people would become disciples, or followers of Christ. When they did, Jesus wanted these new believers to publicly identify with him. So by participating in baptism, a new follower of Jesus symbolically aligns himself or herself with new beliefs and a new community. In fact, the apostle Paul underscored the symbolic picture that being immersed into water communicates. He suggested that baptism represents a person’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-8). When participants lie back in the water, it signifies the death of their sinful nature. When they come out of the water, it illustrates their new life in Christ. This tradition has continued down through the centuries with all people who become Christians. Simply put, baptism is an external sign of an internal change that has taken place in someone’s heart. It is not a means of salvation, but a response to salvation. This is why we celebrate baptism – it represents a life changed by God.”
I hope this helps. If you would like to be baptized, or want to know more, don’t hesitate to ask!