Preparing our hearts for baptism
In Jewish weddings, brides are ceremonially bathed in purification rituals before they are married. So when the Jewish people heard Jesus refer to Himself as the Bridegroom of His people, they understood that they had to wash and purify themselves before they could be united with Him. This is the essence of water baptism.
Mark 2:19-20 ESV And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
John 4:13-14 ESV Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 7:39 NLT When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him…
1. Baptism is not optional
Before His death and resurrection, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” By this, He demonstrated that our inward spiritual unification is linked to an outward washing with water.
John 13:8 ESV Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
When we are unified with God through baptism, we will be born again through the washing with water and with His Holy Spirit to experience His Kingdom righteousness, peace and joy. Baptism is not merely an empty symbolic act of washing.
John 3:5 ESV Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Romans 14:17 ESV For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
2. Agreeing to join Jesus in His death and resurrection
This is why the apostle Peter said that we are to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of our sins, and we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit afterwards.
Acts 2:37-38 ESV Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Without a correct understanding and attitude, we will strip baptism of its spiritual significance and power. For many, baptism is merely a tradition that qualifies them for membership, school admission, acceptance by others etc. Neither does it make sense to baptise babies or young children who do not know how to repent and follow Jesus into His death and resurrection. We ought to undertake baptism as seriously as we would, solemn marriage vows.
Mark 7:7-8 ESV in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
3. Nothing stands in the way
Fortunately, we can consider being baptised again if we did not have the right heart or understand its spiritual significance the first time. In Corinth for instance, believers were baptised again after they understood its true meaning. They then received the gifts of the Holy Spirit during their second baptism.
Acts 19:1-6 ESV And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Over and over again in the book of Acts, those who believed in Jesus got baptised immediately. It appears that the primary requirement was simply their belief in Jesus and a willingness to die to their old selves. It did not require special qualifications. It is recorded that 3,000 believers in Jerusalem got baptised in one day. Being familiar with their bath rituals, the Jewish people knew that they first had to be cleansed of their sinful nature before they could receive a new heart and a new spirit from Jesus. It is highly likely that they baptised each other before witnesses in Jesus’ name.
Acts 2:41-42 ESV So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Ezekiel 36:2627 ESV And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Jesus’ Great Commission
In His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus called all His followers to baptise others and then teach them God’s Word afterwards. In fact, Jesus Himself did not baptise people but left it to His disciples to baptise and disciple new followers.
Matthew 28:19-20 ESV 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.”
John 4:1-2 ESV … Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples).
If we were to imagine what the disciples in the book of Acts said as they baptised each other, it could have sounded like this:
“I declare that Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Saviour, that He died and rose again after three days and has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Today, I choose to crucify my old self to the cross and bring my body of sin to nothing. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I repent of all my sins and choose to die Jesus’ death to my flesh and rise again with Him in His resurrection – into newness of life through His Holy Spirit. ”
What a wonderful self-declaration that would be for every one of us.
Jesus was also baptised and received the Holy Spirit as a result. As Jesus’ followers, we ought to emulate His example and not wait to get baptised. And when that happens, let us do it with the right understanding and heart, as we rise up to new life through the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 3:16 ESV And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
Acts 22:16 ESV And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
For more on baptism, please refer to Romans 6.
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