Emily had traveled from Taiwan to our town to work a semester as a college exchange student. Her family was Buddhist, but a short time before arriving in our town she had heard about Jesus, believed in him as her Lord and Savior, and was saved by his grace. Emily wanted to be obedient to Jesus in every way, but her parents had refused to allow her to be baptized. When she arrived in the USA and visited our church, she felt the freedom and had the boldness to ask if we would baptize her. The answer of course was yes!
A few weeks later, we stood in the waters of baptism and before she was baptized she looked out at the people in attendance. I said to her, “Emily, these are your friends.” She almost started to cry. She asked, “These are my friends?” I said, “Yes, these are your friends.” Because she had already gotten to know some of the ladies in our church, she had felt their genuine love for her, but the power of the Holy Spirit in her life at the moment of her baptism confirmed that her public profession of her faith in Jesus through believer’s baptism was in fact a powerful step of obedience.
I baptized her, and when she came up out of the water everyone applauded loudly because they were so excited for Emily. She smiled a huge smile and we offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Then we sang a verse of Amazing Grace.
For Emily, her baptism was a spiritual marker authenticating the validity of her faith in Jesus Christ. It demonstrated to her, to the people in attendance, and everyone who watched the video of her baptism online that she was no longer trusting in a false religion but truly she had been changed by Jesus. Her baptism symbolized what had happened inside her heart and mind, how she was once spiritually dead in her sins (symbolized by going under the water) but now she was spiritually alive (symbolized by coming up out of the water). Furthermore, her baptism demonstrated her obedience to Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20) and her trust in his death and burial (pictured by going under the water) and his resurrection (pictured by coming up out of the water) as described in the Bible.
4 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.
For her, believer’s baptism was truly a no-turning-back moment in her faith in Jesus Christ. She was publicly declaring her faith in Jesus and her desire to obey him completely.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17), not to be saved from his sins (he was sinless!) but rather to set an example for us to follow. He was immersed under the water, as were the New Testament believers. The Bible say to believe and be baptized. The Greek word baptizo literally means, “to submerge, to immerse” completely under. It was a word used by the dyers of cloth to baptize the cloth, changing it from one solid color to another, from tan to purple for example. It was also used by mariners to describe the condition of a sunken vessel: the shipwrecked boat was baptized at the bottom of the sea. The mikvehs — essentially outdoor baptism pools — at the temple complex in Jerusalem gave a picture of immersion under the water for spiritual reasons.
On the day of Pentecost when 3000 people trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior and her baptized (Acts 2:37-41), they were baptized there at the temple complex. And then everywhere that Jesus’ disciples went, they baptized new believers in Jesus.
Philip had a powerful encounter on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8:26-39). The Holy Spirit had directed him to leave the region of Samaria to go to this desert road. When Philip arrived there, he came upon an Ethiopian eunuch riding in his chariot, traveling back from Jerusalem to Ethiopia, reading a portion of the book of Isaiah. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading, and indicating that he did not, the Ethiopian invited Philip into the chariot to explain the meaning to him. The Bible says that Philip explained not only that passage but explained all that the Bible says about Jesus. In the chariot on the desert road the Ethiopian man trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
They saw a body of water and the Ethiopian asked what prevented him from being baptized? There was nothing to prevent him. He ordered the chariot to stop! He and Philip went down into the water and he was baptized by Philip. He was declaring that he trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as the payment for his sin and as his hope of eternal life. He was declaring that he once was dead in his sins but now was alive in Christ. He was changed forever!
The two men parted ways after that encounter. The Ethiopian continued on his journey, taking the news of Jesus to the Ethiopian people. Philip was found spreading the good news of Jesus in another city.
So what about you?
- What details do you remember about your baptism? How was that day a spiritual marker for you?
- Or, perhaps you need to be baptized. If so, talk to your pastor or a leader at your church soon and get it set up as soon as possible!
- Let us continue to share the good news of Jesus with people, and when people profess faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord let us baptize them!