Dear Theophilus: On the Importance of Baptism

person getting baptised By Hector Llanes Posted on March 06, 2018  in  [ Theology & Ministry ]

Faculty, College of Theology

I am a new Christian. Do I need to be baptized?  What is the importance of baptism?

Sincerely,

Theophilus

 

Dear Theophilus,

The New Testament highlights the importance of baptism for the individual believer and the church. The early Christians practiced baptism as it had been ordained by Christ, it marked the personal identification with Christ, it marked the entrance into the Christian family, and it provided an opportunity for a public confession of faith.

Baptism was ordained by Christ

Before Jesus ascended to the Father, he gave to his disciples the last instructions (known today as the Great Commission):

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples highlight the importance of baptism for believers and the church. The disciples obeyed Jesus and made disciples of Him. And they baptized the new believers as Jesus had commanded them. Baptism has continued to be an integral part of the Christian church throughout its history.

Baptism marks the personal identification with Christ

When we come to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, our lives become united to Christ’s life. We begin a journey of faith, united to Christ. We renounce service to sin and give our loyalty and service to Christ. Baptism provides an opportunity to identify with Christ’s death and resurrection.

As Paul put it:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6: 3-4).

The act of baptism will be a reminder for life of the fact that we have died (and continue die daily) to slavery and service to sin and have been born anew in Christ.

Baptism marks the entrance into the Christian family

A new believer in Christ needs a spiritual family, a family of the faith in Jesus. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and we need each other to grow in this faith. Being baptized marks a beginning of a journey of faith together with the family of Christian believers. Baptism seals the Christian union of brotherly love in service to God. Paul named baptism as one of the things that unify a body of Christian believers:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4).

Baptism is a public confession of faith

The nature of baptism is that of a public act. When a new believer is baptized, he or she is giving a public testimony of his or her faith in Jesus as others are witnessing this public identification with Christ and the Christian church. Jesus taught his disciples the importance of living the faith in public as well as in private. Jesus challenged his disciples to confess their faith before others and to walk before others as his disciples (Matthew 10: 32-3; 16: 13-17, 24). Baptism presents an opportunity to the new believer to confess before others that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

Interested in having a question answered by Dear Theophilus writers? Send them all to cotblog@gcu.edu with “Dear Theophilus” in the subject line. You can learn more about GCU’s College of Theology by visiting our website or clicking the Request More Information button.

Hector Llanes, Ph.D.

Dr. Llanes is a native of El Salvador and fulltime faculty in the College of Theology at Grand Canyon University. He served as pastor, completed a M.Div. and earned a Ph.D. in church history before becoming an online instructor. His interests relate to historical theology and philosophy, history of Christianity and biblical studies. He and his wife of 30 years, Margarita, have four children.

Learn more about Hector Llanes, Ph.D.

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