What does it mean to be baptized? And why do Christians practice baptism?
First it is important to understand what baptism is. Our English word baptism comes from a Greek word baptizo, which means to dip, plunge, or submerge [into liquid or some sort, in our case water, but a piece of cloth could be baptized into dye]. Next we need to understand the Christian history of baptism:
John the Baptist baptized those who were serious about their walk with God. Luke called it “a baptism of repentance” and it caused quite a stir among the spiritual leaders in Israel (Luke 3:3-16).
Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17). Many have wondered why Jesus needed to be baptized since He is the sinless Son of God. This question comes from the misunderstanding that baptism cleanses us from sin. Baptism does not cleanse us from sin. Jesus was baptized to identify with people who, like Him, were serious about righteousness (that is being right with God) and their walk with God. Believer’s baptism is a way to identify with Jesus and those who, like Jesus, are serious about their relationship with God.
Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize others who are becoming His followers (Matthew 28:18-20: Also known as the Great Commission). When a believer follows the Lord in believer’s baptism, both the one being baptized and the one baptizing are being obedient to Christ’s command. The New Testament church prospered as it led people to Christ and baptized those new Christians.
Believer’s baptism is an act of obedience to Christ’s command. Believer’s baptism is a symbolic reminder of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-6). It also portrays what happened in the life of a believer when he or she trusted Christ as Savior and Lord. The placing of the believer under the water is a symbol that his old life is dead and that he has been raised up to walk a new life. Baptism demonstrates to people what has already happened by faith in the life of a believer.
This fourth point is critical, because it specifies that baptism is not a magical event, it is not what saves us, it is only by God’s grace (receiving God’s free gift that we do not deserve) that we are saved from our sin (sin: missing God’s perfect mark, His expectations for us) and separation from God: Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." "Roman 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned (accept Jesus) and fallen short of the glory of God.” 2 Peter 3:9b lets us know however that, “He is patient with you (us), not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (that is to turn away from the things that separate us from Him).”
God knows, however, that we are incapable of satisfying His requirements on our own “There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10. So Jesus came to offer Himself as the required sacrifice. This message is summed up in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Ultimately we all have to deal with Jesus’ statement “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Each member of our family has come to the conclusion that we need God’s grace and as such have received His free gift and have given a public declaration of our belief in what He accomplished through His death, burial and resurrection through our baptisms.