This is why baptism so special to Christians
Being baptised is in some ways like a special welcome into a local church. Baptism is a sign that someone has turned from (‘repented of’) living to please themselves and instead has chosen to live God’s way. Some Christian churches baptise infants. Others wait until a person is old enough to decide for themselves, showing this in “believer’s baptism”.
Why do people get baptised?
One reason why Christians choose to get baptised is because Jesus himself was baptised. He also asked his disciples to baptise others as a sign of their commitment to living life differently. In the Bible, the Gospel of Matthew records these words as the last thing Jesus said before he returned to heaven:
“I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28: 18-20)
Jesus asked it, so Christians do it! When an infant is baptised, the parents and Godparents make promises on their behalf. When the child is old enough, they may make their own promise to live as a Christian in a confirmation service. Churches that do not baptise infants may have a service of “dedication” or “thanksgiving”, to say “thank you” to God for the child and to pray for the family.
What does Baptism mean?
For many Christians, baptism is an outward symbol of something happening on the inside.
There are two big things that baptism in water symbolises:
Getting clean. When people do things that displease God, it’s almost like getting dirt on your soul. Water is used for washing. Through baptism, Christians show that they have been made clean by receiving God’s forgiveness for the things they have done wrong.
Moving from death to life. If you saw somebody lying still on the floor, you might think that they were asleep, or perhaps worse. If they were to sit up, you would think they had woken up. When Christians are baptised by immersion – pushed backwards under the water and then brought up again – they show that an old way of living has gone. The old person is dead and a new person is alive, ready to start living in a way that pleases God.
Did you know? All Christians used to be baptised by going right under the water, like believer’s baptism today. Old baptisteries were like small swimming pools and were in separate buildings next to the cathedral or church.
How does baptism work?
The word baptize is a transliteration of the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizo) which comes from the word βάπτω (bapto). Bapto is literally associated with an item being dipped or submerged—for instance—when a garment’s color is changed by being dipped into dye. Traditionally, someone is baptized when they’re lowered into the water and brought back out of it. Bapto is literally associated with an item being dipped or submerged—for instance – when a garment’s color is changed by being dipped into dye. Traditionally, someone is baptized when they’re lowered into the water and brought back out of it.
You can see this clearly in Jesus’s baptism:
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”—Matthew 3:13–17
The text describes Jesus as coming out of the water. Immersion makes sense in light of the call for believers to see baptism as a way to publicly identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.—Romans 6:3–4
The act of baptism gives the participant and their witnesses a clear metaphor for the believer being lowered into the grave with Christ and then being raised to new life.