Part 4 of a 4 part study on the Good News. This week we talk about the response we have to the Good News through baptism.
Good News Part 4: Baptism
The Sign and the Seal
The debates about the details of how baptsim and saving grace are connected have been a source of division among protestants for years. The writers of the Bible use baptism as a direct sign of saving grace. Therefore the sign and that being signified are often used very interchangably in scriptures allowing the affects and workings of one to be attributed to the other. In reality the scriptures are very short on the details and intricate workings of this relationship leaving us plenty of room for debate. Many reformers addressed baptism simply as a mysterious union of the physical and spiritual workings of salvation and grace… hence leaving it in the realm of what was called a sacrament.
First we’ll talk about what it means to be sign and a seal. We’ll look at our earthly marriage practices for examples of how we often exemplify signs and seals. And also how this allows us to use the signs of marriage idiomatically to refer to the marriage itself.
Why be baptized?
First there are many promises associated with baptism (whether idiomatically or directly). Too often we get caught up in the promises tied to it and forget the real reason. Here is a list of promises we have: Relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matt 28:20), an appeal for a clear conscience (1 Pet 3:20-21), remission of sins (Acts 2:38), reception of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38), buried with Christ and raised with him (Rom 6:3-4), new birth (Rom 6:4-5), put on the righteousness of Christ (Gal 3:26-27), and to be added to the church (the body) (1 Cor 12:12-13).
Some Christians will pick one of these and proclaim it as the “only” valid reason for baptism. However, all of these are given to us as promises and we don’t obey promises. We obey commands and if a promise is tied to a command, then we receive it. So if we did not comprehend promise #3 in the list, does that mean we don’t get that one? Absolutely not. Nothing in scripture indicates such things. The bottom line is, we are baptized because we are commanded to. Let God be the one to hand the promises and decide at what precise point the “salvation occurred”. None of that is our business. Our business is to have faith and respond to it. So stop arguing about the whys and the whens and just do it.
To be immersed in something is to be all consumed by it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the specifics of baptism we’re forgetting the power of it. We forget that it is about immersion into something greater than ourselves. We forget that it is our physical way of touching something untangible. How immersed do you want to be in the power of Jesus’ blood? Just enough to show up to church? Or is there more too it. Do you truly want to be consumed by Him? Then be buried with him and rise to walk with him in the most mysteriously powerful metaphor we have as Christians.