God has often used object lessons to teach people spiritual truths. Two such illustrations are considered to be sacraments (also called ordinances) in today’s Protestant churches. One of the two is baptism.
The word baptism is used many times in the Bible. In each case, it means “to immerse” into something. When used in connection to water, the word means “to immerse into water” appropriately. In a more technical sense, it is being plunged or dipped completely below the water threshold. John the Baptist and early Christians baptized this way. In fact, it was the way that Jesus was baptized as well—completely immersed into the water.
The act of baptizing is symbolic of the spiritual truth of being born again. In baptism, people identify themselves with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It illustrates the spiritual transformation that has already taken place in the soul of the repentant sinner who submits to the authority of Christ. Paul describes it in Romans 6:3-4:
“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.”
Just as Christ died, was buried, and rose again, we too die in Him and are raised to a new life in Him. Thus, we are identified as being spiritually in Christ. Water baptism illustrates the reality of the spiritual baptism. What we see physically has happened spiritually. In the same way, it shows us how God washes away our sins and renews us by the Holy Spirit, which is called regeneration.
It is important to keep in mind that baptism does not convey grace to the sinner or regenerate the soul in anyway. In other words, it is not necessary for salvation. Rather, it is an outward sign of an inward transformation that has already happened. Therefore, baptism should occur after a person is born again, not before. And, when baptism is performed, it should be done by immersion, not sprinkling. Any other way would not symbolize the truth it represents.
Verses for Further Reflection