What is Baptism?
Baptism (from the Greek word baptizo means to dip, immerse or fill. Traditionally baptism involves being submersed for a short period of time before coming up out of the water. This is symbolic of dying to the past life of sin and being raised to new life in Jesus.
Baptism is commanded by Jesus for all believers. When a believer repents of their sins and chooses to trust in Christ it is an inward and invisible work of the Holy Spirit. But baptism is an outward and visible act by a believer expressing full cooperation with God's work of grace.
In John’s gospel we learn that that Jesus himself baptised people (John 3:22), His disciples baptised people (John 4:2) and in Matthew we read Jesus’ instructions to His disciples to continue to baptise those who have repented and trusted in Jesus:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
The apostle Peter treated Baptism as the outward sign of the inward act of repentance:
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:38-41 (NIV)
Baptism does not have power to save - it just makes the believer wet! But Baptism does represent what has happened in the believers heart and spirit – they have died to their old way of life (represented by going under the water) and they have been raised to new life as God’s Holy Spirit has come into them by faith in Christ Jesus (symbolised by the baptised person being raised out of the water again!).
Often, as people are obedient to Jesus' words to “be baptised”, they find a deeper, richer confidence in their new life with Christ that simply wasn’t there before. That is a natural result of obeying the Lord!