Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. Romans 6:3-4
“Baptism – What is it?”
What do you think of when someone brings up the subject of baptism? It probably invokes thoughts of sprinkling versus full immersion. Is it just about water, a stream, a beach, a swimming pool or a church baptismal? Baptism is much more than this.
First, baptism is a symbolic act of purification. We are to be different than the world internally, as well as externally (our behavior). “Be holy, because I am holy.”(Leviticus 11:44). This was God’s instruction to the Israelites and it applies to us today. God was very specific about what constituted holy behavior when He gave specific regulations regarding purification to Moses. These details are in Leviticus 12-15.
The second aspect of baptism is closely related to the first. It is the symbolic act of consecration for a special purpose. Consecration means to be “set apart.” You must be holy in order to be set apart for God’s purposes.
Thirdly, baptism is a symbolic act of identification. See Romans 6:3-4 above. It is to demonstrate that we have chosen to die to self. This is a very important issue. It means that you have chosen to set aside “your program” and accept God’s plan for you as your own. You see, Jesus’ whole life was about fulfilling God’s plan for Him, including a horrible death on the cross and His triumphant resurrection.
*In God’s eyes, baptism is a serious act. It clearly is for the Believer. It is not part of salvation. It involves publicly declaring that it is your desire to be pure, to be set apart and to set aside self-fulfillment for God’s plan for you.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! Isaiah 64:1
“Baptism of Jesus: Access”
The next several devos will examine the most famous baptism of all time: the baptism of Jesus Christ. Why was Jesus baptized? Well, clearly it was God’s plan. It marked the beginning of Jesus public ministry. And remember, Jesus is our ultimate example. He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We should desire to follow in His footsteps.
There are several fascinating aspects of Jesus’ baptism. Matthew describes the scene in this way: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened…” (Matthew 3:16). Mark, in his gospel, uses the word “torn open!” You see, this was a very significant event. The heavens were torn open and God the Father was present. This is the same word that Matthew, Mark and Luke use when Jesus died and the curtain of the temple, separating the Holy of Holies was torn in two.
The heavens were opened three times during Jesus incarnation. When Jesus was born the heavens were opened and the host of angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14). The heavens were opened a second time during His baptism. The next time the heavens were opened to welcome home a risen Jesus who had perfectly accomplished God’s plan for His life. “While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken into heaven.” (Luke 24:51).
The heavens were opened – what a remarkable sign! Heaven applauded Jesus baptism. God the Father was present. This is what Isaiah longed for: access to God.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. Matthew 3:16
“Baptism of Jesus: Encouragement”
The dove is the image of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus emerged from the water, the Spirit of God in the form of a dove lighted on Him. You see, this was an amazing scene! God the Father with His host of angels were present at this event. The heavens were opened! (See previous devo). Then, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. Acts 10:38 says, “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power…”
Why is this important? Because the Holy Spirit guided Jesus in His life as a man. Remember that Jesus in some manner gave up His equality with God while He walked the earth as a man. Philippians 2:6 tells us, Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Jesus, as our perfect example, shows us that the holy life necessitated guidance by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is very important to our lives. He guides us and directs us in fruitful living. He shows us the Lord. Jesus said, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26). Paul tells us in the Book of Romans that the Holy Spirit “intercedes” for us with the Father.
*Jesus Christ is the agent of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit brought encouragement to Jesus in His life, He promises to do the same for us!
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
“Baptism of Jesus: Approval”
Can you imagine sitting on the bank of the Jordan River watching John the Baptist do his baptizing? Along comes Jesus. At this point of His life He was a virtual unknown. But as He enters the water, John the Baptizer seems to know who He is. You can see it on his face. “This is the Messiah – this is God’s Son!” Jesus directs John to baptize Him, but John hesitates. He says, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14).
No negotiation takes place. Jesus simply says, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15). In short, it was God’s plan and it was Jesus desire to obey precisely.
So the baptism takes place. As Jesus emerges from the water, the heavens are opened: God is present. Then you see the spirit of God descending like a dove on Jesus exemplifying the power of God, which Jesus will need in short order (40 days of testing in the desert). Then, the “icing on the cake” is hearing the voice of God say: “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”
Can you imagine hearing the voice of God while He approves His Son? This is why the Baptism of Jesus wasn’t just the water. There were three remarkable signs that took place.
*So what does it mean for us today? See the next devo.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live; but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20
For me to live is Christ. Philippians 1:21
“Baptism: Are You Serious?”
Baptism is a very serious matter. It should never be taken lightly. Remember that baptism is symbolic purification, symbolic consecration (being set apart) and an outward commitment to “die to self.” In short, baptism is an external act to demonstrate your spiritual condition and commitment to God.
Think of this: Your life as a Christian is the only “Bible” some people will ever read! Ask yourself this question: “Do you reveal to others a holy God by your commitment to holiness, or do you smear the reputation of God with your inconsistent life? It’s a tough question, isn’t it? You see, if you are a committed “Believer” and demonstrate that commitment to others by baptism, you have a responsibility to live a holy life.
Consider these goals: 1). God’s reputation is at stake in my life. I want to maintain it, not stain it. 2) Live to serve; live to do God’s will; live to follow God’s purposes for my life. This is the ongoing battle in the “Believer’s life.” Choices must be made. There is no substitute for obedience. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
As you navigate your way through life, it is valuable to ask yourself: “WWJD – What would Jesus do?” Jesus was always obedient. He was meek, but not weak. He was tender and gentle, but was powerful in the Spirit.
Seek God’s approval over men. Man’s opinion doesn’t matter. We need to be living for the “world to come.” Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Jesus took baptism seriously and so should we!
*Here are some good questions to ask yourself: 1). What are you known for by those who know you best? 2). Do they see you searching for fame, power, success or happiness? 3). Are you known as a person who seeks after Jesus? 4). Do you begin each day intent on encountering Jesus? 5). Are you seeking Him with all your heart?
# One does not surrender a life in an instant; that which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime. JIM ELLIOTT