Now that we've established how Jesus' church is the promised second gathering foretold by the Prophets, let's look at how baptism fits within the context of this series.
Hopefully this will deepen your appreciation for how GOD has chosen to use baptism.
Welcome to the 29th post in my series of rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.
Want to see something beautiful?
Check this out...
When we are first born into this world, we are pure and innocent. Yes, we inherit the flawed fleshly nature of Adam at birth, but individually, we have not sinned.
In time, though, due to the weakness of our flesh, we sin just like those who've come before us.
And our sin severs our perfect relationship with GOD.
In GOD's eyes, once we've sinned, our flesh is as good as dead. Our body is ruled by sin. We are enslaved.
If we physically die in this condition, GOD's justice will send us to hell. Because GOD's just-ness cannot allow one sin to go unpunished.
Left to our own ignorance, we'd have no knowledge of the danger we are in.
This is the first purpose of the gospel: to convict us of our guilt and need for forgiveness.
Thankfully, the gospel also offers a solution to our greatest need: Jesus!
Recognizing our need and Jesus' sole ability to help, we turn to Jesus.
Jesus said that all who wish to be saved must be immersed in water for the forgiveness of their sins.
We call this immersion "baptism."
Something amazing happens when the repentant believer is baptized because of their faith.
Paul explained it this way to the Christians in Rome:
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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.
5 For 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. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
(Rom. 6:3-7 NIV)
Baptism represents the individual's personal death to sin.
The guilty sinner is buried in the water, just like Jesus was buried in the earth.
While under the water, by faith the sinner's soul contacts the blood of Jesus, where He washes them clean of any sin.
Then, GOD recreates the person anew. Their nature changes instantaneously.
Lifted out of the water, the person is now a saint, resurrected from their grave, just as Jesus was from His.
Paul referred to his own baptism transformation in this same way:
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Gal. 2:20 NIV)
By being baptized into Jesus, the believer becomes a new creation.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Cor. 5:17 NIV)
And, as the Corinthian Christians knew and as Paul explained in Rom. 6:3 (inserted above), it is into Jesus that the person is baptized. Baptism is how one gets "in" Christ.
The saved one is now a spiritual creation—an adopted son, fit for a spiritual kingdom of which s/he is now a citizen, the very thing we have been discussing.
In other words, baptism is the bridge that transports the seeking soul with a good conscience from living merely in the physical world to being a citizen of the spiritual kingdom of GOD.
Jesus foretold this coming truth to the Pharisee Nicodemus:
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:3-8 NIV)
Paul later affirmed to Titus that this new birth was accomplished during baptism:
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
(Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
In the conclusion to the letter to the Galatians, Paul emphasized the essential nature of baptism and its connection with the spiritual Israel, which we have been discussing:
15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
(Gal. 6:15-16 NIV)
Recall that the purpose of the Galatian letter was to rebuke these Christians for having been persuaded by Judaizing teachers to turn from the true gospel to a perverted gospel which also required obedience to the Law of Moses.
So, in v.15, Paul reminded them that it is not obedience to the Law that matters, but being the new creation, which they had been when they were baptized, thus making them a spiritual Israelite—a member of Jesus' church.
How beautiful is this!?!
GOD does the saving. Jesus does the cleansing. Baptism is GOD's chosen process by which the transformation occurs. You can't be transformed without it.
Put the pieces all together and it looks something like this (click to view larger image):
No intellectually- and spiritually-honest believer who grasps these truths about the essential change which only occurs by faith during baptism will refuse immersion for the purpose of receiving the forgiveness of their sins.
(Oh, and if you don't like this, don't get upset at me. I didn't decide things to work that way. I'm just here to explain how GOD said the process works. We should be humbly grateful that He provided an easily attainable way.)
If you would like to know more about the biblical purpose of baptism, click the image below to download my free series.
Got questions or comments? Leave them below. (I'm truly happy to help. But please, carefully read the entire series first.)