When it comes to baptism, many people have many different opinions. They differ on opinion of necessity, and what baptism does for us. For the writer of Hebrews, baptism was a fundamental concept that all should have. In this article, we are going to state baptism’s importance and role in the Bible as well as for us.
We first see baptism with the prophet John the Baptist. He was baptizing people in the Jordan river for repentance. This baptism was a pledge for repentance that all who were baptized would change their mind and repent from the ways of the world. John knew that there would be a greater baptism that was coming. He prophesies of this in Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” There was a greater baptism coming that Jesus would give to us and that is the Holy Spirit. Jesus would give us the Spirit instead of baptizing with water.
During the book of Acts, lots of baptisms of believers take place. There is really one concept that we can take away from all of these encounters as to what baptism represents for a believer. In Acts 2:38, Peter tells the crowd that they can be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. In Acts 22:16, Paul says that baptism washes away our sins. So if our sins are forgiven when we are baptized then why do verses like Ephesians 1:7 tell us that we have forgiveness through the blood of Jesus? Is this a contradiction? No.
Jesus’ death on the cross and the blood that flowed from his body, that act is what allows our sins to be given, the blood covers them up. It was the sacrifice that atoned for our sins. When we are baptized, our sins are “washed away” symbolically in the water. There is not a physical thing that is washed away when we are baptized. However, they are symbolically washed away as we are baptized because we are pledging our life to Jesus when we are baptized and are given new life. A life that has been forgiven of all the terrible sin committed previously.
This idea is further explained in 1 Peter 3:21. This says, “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”. This verse seems to say that we are saved by being baptized. Peter had just made a point about how Noah was saved through the flood waters. He then compares this baptism. Just as Noah was saved in water, so are we through baptism. However, just being baptized does not save. This is Peter’s point when he says ‘not a removal of dirt from the body’. It does physically save you but baptism is a symbol of the decision one has made to follow Jesus. The decision to follow Jesus prompts being baptized and this act of baptism represents our sins being forgiven.
Baptism also represents Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Romans 6:4 Paul talks about when we go into the water, it’s as if we are taking part in Jesus’ death. When we come out of the water, we are representing the risen Jesus and are ready to live a new life. So by being baptized we are again aligning our life with Christ and sharing in his blessings.
Baptism is full of symbolism and representation for a believer. Baptism symbolizes Christ’s death and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins. Of course, the act of baptism does not save a soul. Jesus Christ saves all who come to him and we are saved by his grace through faith. However, all who believe in Jesus should be baptized because it represents the decision to follow Jesus and our recognition that we have been saved by the one and only Savior.