We do a lot of things for symbolic reasons. I was part of a board that made the decision to build a new facility. Prior to breaking ground, the board met at the site and were handed a gold shovel. Everyone lined up, put the spade in the ground, and a professional photographer took our picture. After that picture I never stepped foot on the property again until the building was completed. The symbolism didn’t mean much to me but the new office is nice. When I married my wife we exchanged rings symbolizing our commitment to one another. I still wear my wedding band and look at it often because it means a lot to me.
We do a lot of spiritually symbolic things too. Christians were a cross around their neck and some put fish symbols on their car. They take celebrate communion with juice and bread symbolizing Christ’s blood that was shed and his body that was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins. Both of these are powerful symbols that align us with Christ. Water baptism is also another powerful symbol of a person’s commitment to Christ. Baptism symbolizes a death and resurrection and Jesus commanded us to do it: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19. At Freshwater we believe the bible clearly teaches that baptism is symbolic. Water baptism identifies a person as a disciple of Christ and celebrates the passage from an old life into a new life in Christ.
In New Testament times, baptism followed repentance and faith. Peter invited his listeners on the day of Pentecost to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” Acts 2:38. When the apostles took the gospel across the Roman Empire from Jerusalem, new churches were planted, and believers were baptized soon after they turned away from sin and put their trust in Christ for salvation. Acts 18:8 says, “Many of the Corinthians who heard [Paul] believed and were baptized.”
What Does Water Baptism Mean?
Water baptism is an act of obedience for the believer. It means placing our pride, our past and all of our possessions before the Lord. It is giving the control of our lives over to Him. “Peter replied, ‘Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church--about three thousand in all” Acts 2:38, 41.
Water baptism is a public testimony. It is an outward expression of an inward experience. In early biblical times baptisms were held in public places where family and friends could gather. This public witness marked the believer as a follower of Christ. It is an outward symbol of an inward commitment. The apostle Paul explained that baptism also symbolizes the believer’s union with Christ: “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 identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Believers stand before witnesses confessing their identification with the Lord.
Water baptism is a picture representing profound spiritual truth: First, it symbolizes death to a person’s old life. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20.
Second, it symbolizes resurrection. “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. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection” Romans 6:4-5. When a person is baptized they are submerged, representing death, and lifted out of the water symbolizing resurrection.
Third, it symbolizes cleansing. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11.
How Should You Be Baptized?
The Bible word for “baptize” means to “immerse, douse, or saturate.” Some scholars translate the Greek word “baptizo” –Dip under water or submerge. In the two full descriptions of baptism found in the New Testament, individuals were immersed in water. Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River to identify Himself as God’s Son: “As soon as be was baptized, [he] went up out of the water” Matthew 3:16. The apostle Philip baptized the Ethiopian by going down into a body of water and coming up with him (Acts 8:38–39).
Freshwater believes that baptism should be done by immersion after a person comes to faith in Christ because this is what the scriptures teach. Immersion best symbolizes the end of the old way of life. Coming up out of the baptismal waters pictures the new life found in Christ. The person who was previously dead in sin has been made spiritually alive by the same power that raised up Jesus from the grave. United with Him, the believer is released from the power of sin in order to obey God. Paul portrays this life change as putting on new clothes: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
How old do you need to be to participate in believers baptism? A person is eligible to be baptized once they are able to understand the meaning of salvation and experience it themselves. Baptism does not save an individual. Its only symbolic in nature.
We encourage every believer to get baptized. If you were “baptized” as an infant, that decision was not your own and spirituality cannot be imparted onto other people. So take a public stand for Jesus and get baptized by immersion. This is what the bible teaches and it will strengthen your faith and encourage others.
Almost 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ commissioned a small group of disciples to build his church by making disciples. This included expanding the Kingdom of God by showing love, offering forgiveness, and providing hope to all who seek it. He said:
“19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NIV
For the past sixteen years our purpose statement has been as follows: “Freshwater exists to help REACH non-believing individuals, to CONNECT them with other Christians, to help them GROW in their faith, DISCOVER their ministry, and HONOR God with their life.” Our purpose is clear. We print it on our programs every week, it’s on the central walls of each campus, it’s on our web site, and we reference it over and over because we want to stay laser focused on making disciples.