Baptism Is a Sign of God’s Covenant Made without Hands
God relates to His people through covenant (a solemn agreement). When God established His covenant with Abraham, there was a sign of covenant given—circumcision. In the New Testament, God established a new covenant with us through Jesus, and baptism is the outward sign of our involvement in this covenant.
And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Baptism Is Pictured in the Story of Moses, Israel and the Parting of the Red Sea
When God delivered His people Israel out of bondage in Egypt, they passed miraculously through the parted waters of the Red Sea. They passed out of slavery and into freedom and a new life. The chariots of Egypt were drowned in those same waters. This is a great picture of Christian baptism. When we trust in Christ, we are liberated from our bondage to sin and selfishness and set free to live the new resurrection life of Jesus. When we are baptized, we pass through the waters from slavery into freedom and our old life is destroyed—much like Pharaoh’s armies.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
(1 Corinthians 10:1–2)
Baptism Was the Practice of the Early Church
When we obey the Lord by following Him in baptism, we’re following the pattern of the early church we find in the book of Acts. Acts is a historical book in the New Testament, which recounts the story of the first followers of Jesus. The following Scriptures are some of the examples found in the New Testament of Christians being baptized.
(Acts 2:36–38; 2:41; 8:36–38; 10:47–48; 16:30–34)
Baptism Is an Act of Discipleship
We baptize new believers because Jesus Himself was baptized by His cousin John. When we’re baptized, it’s an act of following Jesus, an act of discipleship. This is what discipleship means—to follow Jesus.
Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Baptism Is a Watery Grave
Baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, yet baptism is more than symbolic. It’s a spiritually significant work of living faith, whereby we bury the “old man” (Romans 6:6). We’re included in Jesus’ suffering and triumph when we first believe. When we’re baptized, we’re baptized into Jesus’ death and the waters of baptism become for us a watery grave. The person we used to be exists no more! The old “us” has been buried!
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Baptism Is an Act of Obedience
We baptize new believers in obedience to Jesus’ command.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We call these verses “The Great Commission.” In them, Jesus commands His followers to take the message of the good news about Jesus into the entire world. The command to baptize followers of Jesus is a very important part of this command.