To understand baptism, you need to know two things: what it is and what it means. We’ll start by looking at what it is. The word “baptize” came to us from the Greek language. It means “to immerse, submerge, wash, or cleanse.” In a certain sense, when you dip a cookie in milk, you are “baptizing” it.
In a Christian baptism, a new believer is dipped down under the water by one of the leaders of a church, then brought back up again, all in the name of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Back in the time of the Bible, we read about baptisms being done in a river. In many church buildings today, there’s a special tub built specifically for dunking believers!
Like the Lord’s Supper, baptism is a sign that points to something greater. Think about a road sign that points the way to an amusement park. It could be the greatest-looking sign in the world, but it can’t compare to the thrill of riding a roller coaster! Baptism is a sign. It’s a good thing that points us to a much greater thing, something way better than even the tallest and twistiest roller coaster on the planet!
In Romans 6:3-4, Paul explains what baptism is pointing us to: “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.”
To save us from our sins, Jesus died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and then rose back to life on the third day. In a baptism, as a believer is dipped down under the water, it’s a picture of Jesus’ death and burial. And when that new believer is brought up out of the water, it’s a picture of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
When a new believer is dipped under the water, it’s a sign that they are joined with Jesus in his death. Their old sinful life is just as dead and buried as Jesus was all those years ago. And when they’re brought back up out of the water, it’s a sign that they are joined with Jesus in his resurrection. Just as Jesus was raised to life, the person baptized can turn from their law-breaking ways to live a life that pleases God.
Baptism isn’t magic or a miracle. There’s no such thing as “holy water” that washes away sin. Instead, it’s a sign pointing to something greater: the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection!