Author: Ron Graham
In this lesson, we look for a Bible answer to the question, “Why be baptized?”
Of course the simple answer is, “Because I love God, and one who loves God keeps God's commandments” (1John 2:3-6). That is a very good answer. It gives one's general motivation for obedience to God’s commandments.
In this lesson we are looking for a different kind of answer to the question “Why be baptized?” We are looking for the specific purpose of baptism.
There's another way to describe the answer we are looking for. When a person is baptized, does God only look on it with approval? It is wonderful to think that God is being pleased while someone is being baptized. But is there more to it? Does God do anything or cause anything to happen to the person being baptized? That's our question.
The Bible (and therefore God) regards people as in one of two groups: (1) Those condemned for their sins, (2) Those forgiven of their sins and saved from condemnation.
Jesus divides human beings into these two groups. There are the many who enter a broad gate and walk a broad way to destruction. There are the few who enter a narrow gate and walk a narrow way to life (Matthew 7:13-14). When Jesus comes he will "separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:31-33).
Jesus spoke of these two groups when he said, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. He who does not believe shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). This shows us that a believer in Christ who obeys Christ in baptism, leaves the group "condemned" and joins the group "saved".
The only way to get out from among the "many condemned" and to be among the "few saved" is to have one's sins forgiven. Jesus offers only one means of forgiveness: "My blood... poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). John says, "Jesus released us from our sins by his blood" (Revelation 1:5).
At what moment are a person's sins forgiven so that he or she is no longer among the condemned but instead among the saved? The answer was given by Jesus when he said, "...and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). That's when his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins saves a person.
This is why Peter said, "repent and be baptized... for the forgiveness of your sins", and Ananias said, "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins" (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16).
If we leave out the "and be baptized" that Jesus, Peter, and Ananias put in, then we leave out the event in which God forgives sins through the blood of Jesus.
In Peter's statement, you will have noticed that he not only attached the forgiveness of sins to baptism, but also attaches to baptism "the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Paul explains the gift of the Holy Spirit this way: "You were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit of promise who is given as a pledge of our inheritance..." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
So at baptism, the blood of Christ releases us from previous condemnation, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us for our ongoing salvation (Ephesians 3:16).
Still looking at Paul's statement about being sealed with the Holy Spirit, you will notice that he says, "You were sealed in him [Christ]" (Ephesians 1:13).
Paul often speaks of being "in Christ" and he says, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
Since Paul tells us that forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit are "in Christ" we must ask Paul, “How do we come into Christ or at what moment does God take us from being outside of Christ and put us in Christ?”
Paul answers, "Don't you know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?" (Romans 6:3-11).
From that passage we see that if we leave out baptism, then we leave out the moment at which God puts us "into Christ" and "into his death". We leave out the moment at which our old sinful self dies and is "buried with Christ" and a new self can "arise to walk in newness of life." Notice: Paul says these things happen "through baptism" (Romans 6:4).
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus —for all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).