Someone once wrote, “Baptism is the first step in the life of obedience of a new Christian,” and I completely agree. But for some reason, baptism has become a mark of maturity, a standard you must be willing to live up to, or an act showing that you are a more committed Christian than others are. And not all who say they are Christians are interested in getting baptized. There is something wrong with this picture. On Sunday, I preached the story about Jesus’ baptism found in Matthew 3:13-17. In this passage, John used his baptism of repentance to help prepare the Jews for the coming of the Messiah. And Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry. Baptism was the first step.
But what did Jesus’ baptism signify? Of course, Jesus was not baptized because of His need to repent. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Jesus had no sin. In the Matthew story, John knew that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized and so John didn’t want to baptize Him. But Jesus replied, “Let it be so for now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Jesus was telling John that this act of baptism was the beginning of God’s unfolding plan of salvation, which would later be fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ baptism meant that He was fully identifying with sinful humanity in their need for repentance.
So why do we get baptized? First of all, it is a proclamation of our faith and an initiation into the church. Secondly, as seen in Romans 6:3-4, baptism symbolizes our identity with Christ in His death and resurrection. Lastly, Jesus’ commission to the apostles was to make disciples and to baptize.
Baptism truly is the first step! Have you been baptized? Why or why not? What is holding you back? May 2013 be the year that you are willing to act and respond to Christ’s work in your life.