Why this declaration?
Well listen to how the Bible talks about this moment:
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Or listen to this passage:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).
One! Children of God! Clothed with Christ! One in Christ Jesus! Powerful words and even more powerful reality!
So why is baptism such a big deal in this? More and more Bible-believing leaders are urging baptism as important, why? After all, many people argue over its meaning, purpose, and how it is to be done. So if it is such a big deal, why so much discussion and disagreement?
Baptism is a big deal for many reasons, some more important than others. Here are a few:
- Baptism was practiced in the book of Acts by those sharing the story of Jesus and those who responded in faith to Jesus.
- Jesus commanded that we do it when he was ascending into heaven.
- Baptism is talked about in the strongest of terms — like being born or like dying and being buried.
- Paul talks about it in his letters as a point of unity.
- Baptism is looked back upon as a reminder of our life-turnaround at conversion, and a place where we put on new clothes and seek life from a heavenly perspective.
And for me, there is another reason: baptism is important because it is directly connected to what is core gospel!
Rather than teaching baptismal regeneration or rather than teaching baptism as some spiritually mystical moment that changes us without faith in Jesus, let's look at how the New Testament connects baptism back to faith in what Jesus did. After all, it is God's grace given us in the work of Christ that saves us and we receive that by faith that unites us to What is Core!
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Now notice some things that Paul says to emphasize that this is What is Core:
- Gospel I preached to you — all that Paul endured, he endured to share this message
- You received it — you believed it and took it into your heart
- You have taken your stand — you've built your life and hope for the future in this.
- I received this — this was authoritative truth, verified by the other apostles
- I passed on to you — I made sure you knew this was CORE
- It is first importance — in other words, everything else proceeds from here: source & value!
Now let's look at another passage that connects baptism to What is Core and reminds us why it is so important:
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:3-5).
Now, notice how our experience in baptism, because of our faith in Jesus, directly connects us, helps us experience, and makes real what happened at the Cross on Skull Hill and at the empty tomb!
- We were baptized into his death in baptism — literally united with Christ Jesus in his death.
- We were buried with him through baptism into death.
- We were raised just as Jesus was so we can be united with Jesus in a resurrection like his.
And this same connection can be found all throughout the New Testament and the book of Acts, God's story of how people first became Christians.
Now let's notice what the Bible doesn't say.
The Bible doesn't say baptism is important because it is an essential or commanded "step" to salvation — baptism is never called a work or step in the New Testament.
The Bible doesn't say baptism is important because it is an "outward symbol of an inner faith" — it's never called a symbol and as a growing number of evangelical leaders have pointed out,* praying the sinner's prayer and asking Jesus into our heart is never found in the New Testament as the way we are saved.
Believing or trusting in our heart in what Christ did and calling on the Lord to save us is found all throughout the New Testament, and this involved faith and baptism together — notice how faith and baptism (Acts 2:36-41; Acts 16:25-34), or calling on the name of the Lord and baptism (Acts 2:22-41; Romans 10:9-13; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21), are linked together in the New Testament! Faith expresses itself in being united with Jesus in what he did to save us.
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
- He was buried.
- He was raised according to the Scriptures.
Baptism becomes the faith-moment where we call on the Lord's name for salvation and are "united" with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection! Faith expresses itself and shares with Jesus' saving work in baptism. Baptism is all about trusting that God sent Jesus to die for my sins and raised him from the dead for me to have the power of a new life. And without that faith, that trusting in Jesus to make us clean, then it is just washing dirt off our bodies (1 Peter 3:21).
By faith, like people for thousands of years, we can be united with Jesus in what he did to save us. We can be part of God's forever family and know that our future is tied with Jesus and his glorious future (Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1-4).
No wonder people from different nations gathered to celebrate the confession of faith and the commitment to Jesus as Lord as these twelve precious people were baptized. And no wonder we all then joined together and said: