“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” – Genesis 1:1-4
“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually.” – Genesis 8:1-3
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by pa strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being ta wall to them on their right hand and on their left… Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea… But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” – Exodus 14:24-29
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38
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).
In the Old Testament book Leviticus, the type of offering needed to atone for various sins is given by Moses. This was a bloody system. God wanted Israel to know that sin cost something of value. And atonement is not cheap ~ it always costs something precious; blood.
The writer of Hebrews states that these bloody sacrifices were done regularly because they could not take away sin. In fact, these sacrifices were done as prophetic foreshadowing of the coming Messiah who would take sin once for all upon Himself (Hebrews 10:1-10).
Living now in the fulfillment of Israel’s hope, this sacrificial system is fulfilled. The atonement has been secured and reconciliation with God comes through Jesus Christ as the once-for-all sacrifice making atonement for sin. Jesus has taken the whole of God’s covenant with Israel to Himself and appropriated the promises now to all who believe Him.
The Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist are perpetual ordinances established by Jesus in both visible form and invisible grace. The are visible signs pointing to the invisible grace God gives those who walk in the obedience that comes from faith (Rom. 1:5)
We are baptized in water because we are:
- Remembering the saving acts of God in history
- Joining the people of God in covenant,
- Identifying in spiritual union with Christ’s death and resurrection, and,
- Anticipating the fullness of the new-creation.
By recalling the finished work of Christ, in faith receiving the sacrament of baptism, we also receive new creation grace. God gives real resurrection life to us in baptism. This is not because the water alone is special, but because the Sacraments are “Word-Acts,” wherein the Word of God comes to the recipient in the visible sacrament. Baptism is efficacious because God has commanded it and promised to bring into covenant those who pass through the waters, just as with the Israelites leaving Egypt.
However, there is a divine infusion of God’s power into the recipient of baptism when he has repented of his sin and confessed the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The believer is buried and raised again to eternal spiritual life when he in faith repents. When he is baptized, not only is the spiritual work of the believer being born-again illustrated, he is also receiving fresh grace from God.
If this is a concept somewhat foreign to you, here are the words of Peter concerning baptism:
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (1 Peter 3:21-22 ESV).
Peter connects directly baptism, salvation, a good conscience, the Resurrection, Enthronement and Session of Jesus Christ.
From the most ancient of times water baptism was conducted through immersion, or the total person going under the water. Baptizo (Gk) means, “to immerse.” The New Testament teaching concerning baptism is about identification. The believer, standing in the waters, ‘dies.’ The believer going beneath the water is ‘buried.’ And the believer pulled up from the water is ‘resurrection.’ Baptism therefore is the very symbol of salvation since it illustrates the believers union with Christ.