Baptism was not a new concept in the first century. Whenever people converted to Judaism in biblical times, they were immersed in water as a sign of their ritual cleansing. Christianity gave baptism an even deeper significance.
Christians hold three views regarding the significance of baptism.
- The first is the sacramental view espoused by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. In this view, God conveys grace to believers through the sacrament. Believers’ sins are remitted, and they receive a new nature.
- The covenantal view explains that New Testament baptism is a counterpart to Old Testament circumcision. This view does not see baptism as a means of salvation. Rather, baptism is a sign of God’s covenant to save humankind, and it is a means of entering into that covenant and enjoying its benefits.
- A third view (my view) is the symbolic view. This view says that baptism neither produces salvation nor conveys grace. Rather, it is a symbol that points to the believer’s identification with Jesus. It is a public testimony that shouts to the world that a change in status has occurred in the person’s life. Formerly, the person was identified with the world and was lost, but now the person is identified with Jesus. Immersion into the water and rising out of it symbolizes death to the old life and resurrection to the new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-4).
Pearl of Wisdom: Let’s take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate our identification with Jesus Christ.
Rhodes, R. (2010). 5-minute apologetics for today: 365 quick answers to key questions. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.