Reflections on Baptism Part 1

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The Bible in Your life and Your Life in the Bible

"baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you" (1 Peter. 3:21)


Have we ever heard someone say something like ‘get a life man’ or ‘I want my life back’ or ‘this is a dog’s life’? There is apparently a general discontent with life and the radical, logical conclusion of this is that the suicide rate has soared.

This discontent creates havoc within the individual and, worse still, it creates havoc in society. As society is no abstraction but consists in individuals, the greater the discontent in individuals, the greater the discontent in society and the greater the discontent in society, the more strained relations become between nations. From this global chain of discontent comes the feeling, shared by many, that things are generally falling apart. There is a general impression that something is not quite as it ought to be, that this is not life as it was meant to be, that this is hell on earth. This is the result of the fundamental relationship that has broken down, that between God and man.

Working quietly below the surface is another quality of life, another type of person, another society, another kingdom. It is the kingdom of peace, of love, of joy and happiness, a kingdom where all things come together and fall into place, a kingdom where life, love and freedom rule. This is the result of the restoration of that fundamental relationship with God:
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
The reality of hell is present here today but so is the reality of heaven. We need to choose to which world we wish to belong, the culture of death or the culture of life. Which is it going to be?

It is baptism that marks that transition from one kingdom to the other, from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life, from the kingdom of despair to the kingdom of peace, harmony, love, hope and joy. It is the kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of Satan, the source of evil, destruction and fragmentation into which we are all born when we enter this world.

In the midst of this world of despair Christ is drawing all people to himself; he is drawing all beyond despair towards hope, beyond hatred towards love, where justice is tempered by mercy, and beyond death towards life.
And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw everyone to myself.’
(John 12:32)
He is now drawing us even as we read these words. It is like the drawing power of a magnet. First of all, in the distance, that attraction is hardly felt, it is often distorted or stifled by events, problems, commitments, by everyday matters that tend to imprison us, to deprive of us of the quality life we were meant to enjoy. However, there are brief moments when we do feel that attraction and if we respond to it, those moments will become more frequent and stronger and as we let ourselves be drawn closer to the divine magnet there will be a time when we, like a metal object, will snap into union with the magnet, into union with Christ Jesus. That moment of union comes in baptism, the new birth of water and the Holy Spirit:
no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. (John 3:5).
We are drawn gradually to believe and trust in Jesus and decide to give our lives to him and that commitment is sealed in baptism. That union with Christ becomes a spiritual reality and his divine life is imparted to us.

Everyone is drawn but not everyone responds positively. Those who do are called out from the Kingdom of despair to the Kingdom of hope, life, love and freedom, a new life begins, we are born again, from above and begin an exciting journey. We remain in the world yet not of it; we start to live in it with a different attitude, a different mindset, the mindset of Christ. We live above the despair and fragmentation of this world and we conquer it in Christ; it no longer conquers us.
Take courage! I have overcome the world (John16:33)
In all of this we are more than conquerors, through him who has loved us (Romans 8:37)
It is always God who takes the initiative. Christ draws people to himself and takes us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit who also enables us to respond.

In some Christian traditions the event or rite of baptism is accompanied by actions that are symbolic of what actually happens; they make visible what is spiritual. There are several of these symbols. The most obvious one is the use of water. It is, of course, not the water in itself that saves; it is a visible sign of what actually takes place spiritually.

The original Greek for ‘baptism’ is ‘baptizo’ meaning ‘immersion’. Baptism takes place by immerging the person completely into the water. As water, in itself, does not save but it is the cross of Christ that saves through faith of the person and by the power of the Holy Spirit, some churches have moved from total immersion to sprinkling, which is more practical. The symbolism remains the same and so does the spiritual reality which water symbolizes.

The first example of baptism by immersion is the baptism of Jesus himself by John the Baptist. Jesus had no need for baptism for it was the baptism of repentance and for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus was without sin. However he identifies completely with us in our sinful condition just as on the cross he identifies with us in our suffering, in fact, he took our sin, the cause of all suffering, upon himself:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It was he who took our sins to the cross and it is through this sacrifice of Christ that we obtain the gift of salvation, to which we have access through baptism.
That was a symbol of the baptism which now saves you; this baptism is not a matter of physical cleansing but of asking God to reconcile us through the resurrection of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 3:21)
In Baptism by immersion going under the water and emerging from the water symbolizes the death of the old life and the emergence of the new life in Christ through the purification of the Holy Spirit. We are born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).  We are reconciled with God, united to God, we become partakers of the very nature of God and thereby enter into the Kingdom of God and come out of the kingdom of evil, despair, hatred, unforgivenness and fragmentation.
<<Next Page Baptism - The Divine Life in Us Part 2

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