Getting baptized is a big decision, and people make that decision for a variety of reasons. Sadly, many of these reasons are not the biblical reason to get baptized. Now, the following list contains examples of reasons that people use as their primary purpose for being baptized, and why those reasons are faulty foundations. Yes, some of them are reasons why you should consider baptism, but they are not the proper foundation for making that decision.
1. Don’t get baptized for a right relationship with God.
Here in lies the first question you should ask yourself before deciding to get baptized: am I doing this because I believe it is going to earn me something with God? The answer should be a firm no. I grew up in a tradition that believed that baptism was essential for salvation. Many of us high schoolers would have arguments about whether someone would go to heaven if they happened to slip on the edge of the baptismal and meet an unfortunate end before they had been dunked. The answer should have been: “Possibly. It depends on their heart motives for being baptized.” The truth is, it is only through faith in Christ that we have full acceptance before the Father by grace, not because of what we do.
2. Don’t get baptized to gain the approval of others.
It is easy when considering baptism to think about the approval that we will receive from our Christian family and friends. Some of you are being urged by others to get baptized, and frankly, you are a little tired of it; some of you are wanting to get baptized for greater acceptance in your family and among your friend circle. Appeasing them is not a reason to get baptized. This connects very closely with number three . . .
3. Don’t get baptized because your pastor told you to.
Yes, this is a controversial statement, so let me clarify what I mean. I do not want to discount the counsel and wisdom of your pastor or your Christian friends and family, but ultimately, they can’t make this decision for you. Their words (which could very well be Spirit given) should make you consider whether you should get in the water, but baptism is done in obedience to Jesus not for other people’s contentment.
4. Don’t get baptized for a “fresh start.”
Some of you are looking for your life to be turned around. You are looking for some stepping stone to give you confidence in attacking life differently, in a more positive way. Unfortunately, many people look to baptism as this path to a better life while sadly bypassing the one who has promised true, spiritual baptism. If you are looking for a new life, it can only be found in coming to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus and believing in him, the life-giving and death-defeating Savior. Water baptism will not answer your longing for a new life because there is no power in it to do so.
5. Don’t get baptized because of an emotional high.
There have been many people who have been baptized multiple times in their life because they went to a certain conference or attended a summer camp that convicted them anew of their sin. They then felt as if they needed to rededicate their life to Jesus through baptism (See number four. Rededication is good as repentance, but baptism isn’t the mode for doing that). Also, there are many people who have been touched by a worship song or the sight of other people getting baptized and they just wanted to be a part of an extremely powerful moment, and so they decided to be baptized with the crowd. This should cause us some pause when we consider that baptism for people in other countries marks them out for persecution. The cost of being a disciple of Jesus—the cost of handing the keys of your life over to Jesus, so that his commands become the rules for your life—ought to be weighed before making this decision.
So Why Should I Get Baptized?
Baptism is a step of symbolism and obedience. The truth is, though, that one cannot be truly obedient to Jesus unless they believe that Jesus is who he says he is and that he did what the Bible says that he did. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). It is Jesus who saves, and it is our faith that unites us to his salvation.
All throughout the book of Acts we see that there is a progression of faith first then baptism (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12-13, 36-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). Physical water baptism is the outward symbol to God and the rest of the church of several things: 1) that someone has believed the preached message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection 2) that they acknowledge him as Lord of heaven and earth and seek to follow him in complete obedience 3) that they confess their sin and turn away from living a life as their own master, and 4) that they want to be counted as united with Christ through faith in his death and resurrection.
Jesus does call us to baptism (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, we at Mercy Hill say that baptism is the first step of obedience. If you believe and want to respond to the truth of the gospel through a repenting of your entire sinful life and walking in obedience to Jesus as Lord, this is the reason to get baptized. Joyfully come to make this declaration of your salvation to the church so that we can give the glory to God for what he has done in your heart.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)