I. Why get baptised – the case for water baptism.
First and foremost, it is the Lord’s explicit command for those who would follow Him.
“…Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19 – 20
A disciple is one who follows Jesus and within the mandate of making disciples of all nations, within the process of discipling and being discipled is the all-important and integral element of water baptism.
Baptism is an integral and major part of discipleship; it cannot be dissociated, separated or isolated from the rest of the elements that Christ included in discipleship. Discipleship involves and includes baptism – it is unthinkable without baptism. Just as a compound is incomplete and ceases to be one if one of the elements is missing or is not there, so also with discipleship, it is incomplete as far as God is concerned and not as He intended it to be no matter what view we take shaped by our experiences or that of others. We must learn to uphold God’s truth over and above our experience and not relegate it below experience.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16
Baptism is a clear command of the Lord Jesus Christ and discipleship is about obedience; obedience to Jesus’ commands. Obedience is central to discipleship. Baptism is a command of The Lord that requires our obedience if we are serious about following Jesus and becoming His disciples.
This command is then echoed down the ages by those who faithfully followed the Lord starting with the first disciples themselves as we see in Acts 2:38
And Peter said to them, “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.
We will look at this scripture passage in further detail in the next section where we will deal with what precedes baptism in the life of a disciple. In the meantime, it is worthy to note that salvation is a free gift and the act of baptism neither confers it on us nor complements it as if it were in some way incomplete without the act.
Second, The Lord Jesus Himself got baptised giving his sole reason as the requirement to fulfil all righteousness when John actually refused to baptise Him. Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him to be baptized. (Mat 3:15)
Fulfilling righteousness was such a big issue for the Lord that He insisted on getting baptised Himself for the sake of fulfilling righteousness, i.e. following the prescribed ways and commands of God. This was in itself sufficient for the Lord to press his cousin John to baptise Him when on the exterior and even to John’s mind it was ludicrous and absurd that He would be baptised by John. Jesus was far superior and John had already declared that he was unworthy of untying Jesus’ sandals. So it simply did not add up for Jesus to even enquire to be baptised by John whose baptism was one of repentance. What would Jesus repent from? There was no sin or transgression in His life. Had there been any He would not have qualified to be the ultimate sacrificial lamb for God’s requirement was a lamb without blemish. Herein lies the reason why Jesus had to be baptised – on the exterior it was to fulfill all righteousness but its significance also lay in the fact that He was actually identifying Himself with those for whom He came to suffer death on their behalf, i.e. with sinners. The very people who queued up for the baptism of repentance at the river Jordan were those Christ wished to and came to identify with in order that His sacrificial death would be sufficient once and for all.
We will look at this element of identification in further detail in the sections to follow. However, suffice it to note here that water baptism is essentially a ritual of identification with Christ just as He identified Himself with us through the same ritual. We too need to make a public proclamation of our identification and association with Him and His works on our behalf if we have truly put our faith in Him for our salvation. There is no other way around it.
In water baptism we take up the Lord’s command and follow His example.