BAPTISM AS THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH
Baptism into Christ is a decisive act on the part of a believer to walk by faith so as to become a child of God, to become clothed with Christ (Gal.3:27). Baptism is not a rite or ritual performed by someone else on us. Neither is baptism a meritorious deed executed by us that works to earn God's favor. In simplest terms, baptism is an step of faith that places us in the arena of God's saving grace wherein we find salvation, forgiveness, redemption, cleansing, reconciliation, and other precious salvific joys. Baptism into Christ is a revealed pathway opened up to us by God, whereby we become the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor.5:21). It is a holy endeavor, a sacred undertaking, where one personally dedicates his or her life to following Jesus. To speak of holy baptism is to acknowledge that baptism is an act of obedience that both signifies and seals our status: we are wholly His - - separated to God (i.e., holy).
If we stick with the Bible we can see clearly that baptism is a key ingredient in God's plan of salvation. Jesus told Nicodemus that the way into the kingdom required that one be born of the water and the Spirit (Jn.3:1-5). When the multitude on Pentecost asked, “What shall we do?”, Peter directed: repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38). When Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian, the treasurer saw water and asked, “What pre-vents me from being baptized?” Following his confession of belief Philip baptized him (Acts 8:35f). This account raises the question, Can one truly preach Jesus and not teach baptism? God charged Ananias with giving instructions to Saul of Tarsus. Although Ananias was initially skeptical about Saul's “conversion”(Acts 9:13-14), he heeded God's directive. In fulfilling his assignment, Ananias simply asked Saul, “Why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). In the wake of the Damascus Road epiphany, Saul both fasted and prayed (Acts 9:9-11), but he still had his sins. The washing away of Saul's sins took place when he was baptized into Christ.
As to the Biblical mode of baptism, it is an immersion in water. Why would John the baptizer set up shop at Aenon when any place along the river would have sufficed for “sprinkling”? The Scripture states, John also was bap-tizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was MUCH water there (Jn.3:23). One doesn't journey through the desert without flasks of water. Concerning the baptism of the treasurer, the text divulges: they both went DOWN INTO the water, Philip as well as the eunuch (Acts 8:38). The apostle Paul chose his imagery carefully. When it came to baptism Paul spoke of it as a BURIAL (Rom.6:4 & Col.3:2) - - not a term one would use to describe a mere sprinkling of water.
Why must we obfuscate that which is obvious? Baptism is not a man-made work, it is compliance with the will of God. cf. Mt.28:19; 1Cor.6:11; Eph.5:26; Titus 3:5 and 1Pet.3:21. Baptism unites grace and faith (Eph.2:8). To use a Pauline expression, baptism is “the obedience of faith” (Rom.1:5 & 16:19). That which makes baptism so essential is the revelation that one is BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS (Rom.6:3f). Therein lies the power and necessity of baptism!!
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ