This Sunday, the Park Hills family is holding a special baptism service. As we prepare to watch four special individuals be baptized and celebrate with them, I think it would be helpful to spend some time remembering what baptism is all about.
Matthew 28:19-20 says: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There are several passages in Scripture that talk about baptism, and most of them are similar to these verses in Matthew. The Bible is very clear that believers are supposed to be baptized.
Park Hills is a part of the Evangelical Free Church of America, and this is what our denomination believes about baptism: “The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.”
This statement can be found on the EFCA website.
It’s really important that believers understand that neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper have anything to do with imparting salvation to believers. Jesus did all the work necessary to extend the gift of salvation to the world, and all we have to do is understand it and accept it in faith. Believers don’t have to do anything to “earn it.” If we believed that being baptized and participating in the Lord’s Supper were necessary in order to spend eternity with God, then we would essentially be saying that Jesus’ work was insufficient to save us.
Although we don’t believe that baptism saves people, the Bible is clear that it’s something believers ought to do and we believe that it is a beneficial practice.
When a believer is baptized, he or she makes a public declaration of his or her faith in Christ. Most believers make the decision to accept salvation and place their faith in Jesus privately, or with a trusted friend, so baptism is a chance for the believer to tell a larger group of people about that decision.
Being baptized is sometimes compared to wearing a wedding ring. Just because a single woman puts a metal band on her ring finger doesn’t mean that she suddenly becomes married, and just because a married woman takes off her ring for a day or two doesn’t mean that she is single again. A wedding ring is a symbol that tells the public that the person wearing the ring has entered into a marriage covenant, but it is not necessary in order for that covenant to exist. It’s simply a physical declaration to the world that the person wearing the ring is living in a special covenant with another person.
Similarly, being dunked in water by a pastor doesn’t mean that someone has been born again, and not being baptized doesn’t mean that a person’s faith is empty. The power of baptism is realized when a person who has a legitimate faith in Christ lets himself be immersed in water in order to obey Christ’s command and proclaim to all those watching that he has accepted Christ’s gift of salvation and been reunited with God.