One of the least understood practices of Christianity is baptism. This is the third article on baptism.
One of the things that Covid-19 taught us, or reminded us about, is that water is not enough to wash away a virus or serious dirt. We need soap. Just as we need soap to wash dirt away, so we need the blood of Jesus to wash our sins away. To remind us of this, God gave us two rituals: baptism and communion. Baptism is a once-off ritual that represents our forgiveness in the once off death of Jesus (Herews 10:10). However, we are reminded of the continual state of forgiveness through the communion that we share each week.
In the previous article ‘Why get baptized? ’I mentioned that “educated, twenty-first century people tend to look down on rituals as meaningless, superstitious practices of primitive people.” This is a huge mistake. When God wanted to free the people of Israel from Egypt, he asked them to perform a ritual where they killed lambs and painted their doorposts with the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12). Imagine one of the families deciding that was a stupid idea, and did not paint their doorpost with the blood of the lamb. They would have died together with the Egyptians, not because God did not want to save them, but because they were foolish not to do a simple thing. The blood on the doorposts was God’s means of applying grace to his people.
God has given us baptism as a means of applying his grace to us. The waters of baptism symbolize the blood of Jesus through which we are forgiven. Just as the blood of Jesus washes away our sins, the waters of baptism “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16 NIV). Peter told the crowd that gathered on Pentecost Day to be “baptised…for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Baptism is a symbol. Symbols are full of meaning, and they carry REAL meaning. A wedding ring is a symbol of love between a husband and wife. Imagine a husband deciding not to wear his wedding ring because it is just a ring. How would his spouse feel about that? You may think it does not matter, but the ring symbolizes something that is intangible, but more REAL than the ring itself. When I counsel married couples who are having marriage problems, one of the things I often notice is that one or both of them no longer wear their rings. When I ask them why they are not wearing their rings, they have some “valid” excuse. What they don’t realize is that the ring carries their love for each other. It is not just a ring. That is why when married people want to cheat, they take off their wedding ring and put it in their handbag or pocket. It does not mean that it is okay to cheat without the ring, but it shows that they know in their heart that the ring carries the love of their spouse.
Baptism symbolizes and carries the forgiveness of God given to us in Jesus Christ. Just as behind the ring is the love of one’s spouse, behind the waters of baptism is the grace of God by which we are forgiven, and our sins washed away. This is the secret behind baptism. To wear a wedding ring is to be married to somebody. To be baptized is to be forgiven. Many Christians live in guilt as if they have not been baptized and forgiven.
You don’t need to live in your sins anymore. Discover the secret of baptism – wash your sins away!