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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 23 2024

Baptism: beginning of a new life

The forgiveness of sins and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit are the two gifts from God that then lead to the greatest gift of all, eternal life in the everlasting Kingdom of God (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

It is always God who initiates a relationship with us, as Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws [or calls] him" (John 6:44). God calls a person by causing them to come into contact with the true Gospel, and opening their mind to spiritual understanding (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14).

Although we cannot earn eternal life there are conditions we must meet. One is heartfelt repentance for having disobeyed God's laws. The other is faith in God— learning to trust in Him and believe His Word, made available to us in the Bible. Jesus Christ emphasized these two conditions during His ministry (Mark 1:15).

In addition to these two requirements the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ was necessary to pay the penalty for our sins. The Apostle Peter's sermon in Acts chapter 2 makes this clear. It is our sinfulness that was responsible for His suffering. When Peter pointed this out his listeners: "were cut to the heart” and asked “what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37). Peter then told them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (verse 38).

To be reconciled to God we must receive His forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. This occurs when a person repents of their sins and is baptized and through the laying on of hands receives the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word translated "baptize" is baptizo, the common Greek term for immerse or, submerge. In the Bible "baptize" always means immerse. One cannot baptize (immerse or submerge) by pouring or sprinkling. John the Baptist needed "much water" for baptizing (John 3:23) and Jesus, when John baptized Him, "came up immediately from the water" (Matthew 3:16). When Philip baptized the eunuch, they "went down into the water" (Acts 8:38). Afterwards, "they came up out of the water" (verse 39).

This is important because of what baptism represents. Being put into and under water pictures a burial, and rising from the water pictures a resurrection. Baptism symbolizes our faith "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

It also symbolizes our acknowledgement of the need for our old sinful life to be "put to death" and buried forever (Colossians 3:5; 2:12). Acts 2:38 states baptism is a required condition for forgiveness. It is our public profession of commitment to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord to rule over our lives (Luke 6:46). Our rising from the water symbolizes the beginning of our "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-6). It is a sign of our lifelong dedication and commitment to the goal of developing our spiritual character and living according to God’s way of life.

Thirdly, baptism also symbolizes our faith in the hope of the literal resurrection to come—"that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15).

Baptism is so important because, at the moment the repentant person is immersed in water, all their past sins are forgiven. God holds each person guilty of the sins he has committed until those sins are blotted out at baptism (Acts 3:19; 22:16). Then, once a person has been baptized, he is ready to receive God's Holy Spirit, which is the spiritual essence and power emanating from God the Father and Jesus Christ.

God gives us His Holy Spirit immediately after baptism during the laying on of hands by one of God's ministers as he prays for the baptized person to receive the gift of God's Spirit (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6). Then the baptized person has "Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27), and we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), have a "new heart" and are becoming a "new man" (Ezekiel 18:31; Ephesians 4:24).

To become a real Christian, we must believe, repent, be baptized, experience the laying on of hands from one of God's ministers, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. When God gives us the gift of His Spirit we then become members of God's Church (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are "... baptized into one body…the body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:13, 27), which is the "church of God" (Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:2).

Once a mature person has spiritual understanding and faith and has repented of his sins, he or she should not delay baptism. As Ananias said to Saul (whose name was changed to Paul), "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). Real spiritual growth begins once we are baptized, and through the laying on of hands, receive God’s Holy Spirit.