I’ve always had a healthy respect for the water. I mean, I took swimming lessons as a child, and I can do a pretty mean doggie-paddle. I can even swim underwater with my eyes open. But I’m not tempted to leave my lifejacket off when I’m in a boat. I don’t feel too comfortable in the deep end. And in the ocean, I like to be able to touch bottom. It’s a healthy respect for water.
Maybe it’s because of the fact that I can’t breathe when I’m under water… I’ve swallowed my share of sea water…and lake water…and pool water…
Or it could just be that I’m not a strong swimmer. I get nervous when I’m in over my head.
It’s probably because of the power water can wield. A swift current or undertow can sweep people away. Ocean waves are strong and can take your breath away. Water is powerful.
I find it interesting that Jesus’ ministry took place around or on water a lot of the time. He began His ministry in the Jordan River, being baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus and His disciples went across the Sea of Galilee so many times. That’s where Jesus calmed storms. That’s where He walked on water. That’s where He enabled Peter to take some steps on the surface too. The seashore is where we see Jesus huddling up with several of the disciples after His resurrection, cooking up some fish. Water played a pretty significant role in Jesus’ life.
And water plays a significant role in the life of a follower of Jesus too, or at least it should. One of the two sacraments in Scripture that proclaim the good news of the Gospel is all about getting all wet. We call it ‘Baptism,’ and it’s a significant moment in the life of a believer. Baptism is when a person makes a public confession of their faith and then is immersed in water.
But why? Why would we encourage people to get wet, head to toe, in church, in front of God and everybody, and call it a spiritually significant event?
Some think that if you’ve completed all the major religious activities, including being baptized, then you’re ‘safe’ when God looks your way. The water must cover my guilt. But it’s not that.
I had some teens in my youth group years ago who thought it was cool that the church had a built-in hot tub on stage and wanted to plan a party! No, that’s not it either.
Some think that there’s something special about the water. As I said, water holds a lot of power. So maybe it’s special water, kinda like Carrie Underwood’s single, “There must’ve been somethin’ in the water…” But no. It’s not even that.
In thinking about the significance of baptism, we could talk about how water cleanses us. Just as we use water every day to clean our bodies, our hands, our clothes, our cars...using water in baptism signifies the cleansing work of Jesus in our lives.
Water is also very refreshing. Whether taking a long drink from a cold glass on a hot day, or diving in the deep end on a summer afternoon, water refreshes us, invigorates us, and breathes life and excitement into our lives. In the same vein, baptism refreshes and invigorates our walk with Christ.
But if we get right down to it, being baptized is a huge metaphor that people in the Church have been acting out for a couple thousand years. It’s like you’re starting all over again in life, with Jesus, and baptism reenacts ‘dying’ to your old way of life, your life of sin, as you are ‘buried under the water.’ Then you’re raised up to your new life in Jesus. As Scripture says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom. 6:4)
Most of the people in the Bible who were ‘saved,’ who committed their lives to Jesus, were baptized. Peter actually instructed the people in Acts 2 to, “repent and be baptized…” (Acts 2:38) It’s very significant. It’s a milestone in the life of a believer. Of course, it’s not the water that saves people… It’s their faith, and God’s grace. After that saving grace has been accepted, baptism is an important next step – it’s what my old theology professor used to call ‘an outward sign of inward grace.’
And so I think it’s also important to see that baptism is just as much for the crowd as it is for the person being baptized. Those watching are invigorated all over again as they see that God is moving in someone’s life! It testifies to God’s grace and forgiveness, and in so doing, it encourages the believers and calls sinners to repentance.
Have you been baptized? If you have put your faith and trust in Jesus for your salvation, it’s an important next step. And not just for you, but for all of us as we celebrate new life in Christ! On Sunday, August 25th we’re having a baptism service. I’d encourage you to take that next step! Just contact me in the coming weeks.
I have a healthy respect for the power of water. But when it comes to baptism, it’s not really about the water. It’s about God’s grace, cleansing, forgiveness, and new life in Him!