Baptism is a Sign
In the previous post (Baptism: When heaven meets earth) we saw how baptism, that act Jesus commanded his disciples to perform on his followers (Matthew 28:19-20) is a sign. It does what all signs do: it points to something else, like a concept, action, or principle. This baptism sign points to God who promised he would do whatever it took to redeem (buy out of slavery) and reconcile (reunite) people back to himself. The Father in heaven planned out a way to save people. Oh, I need to make something clear just in case: I remember when I first became a Christian and these church people were talking about how God saves. God saves what? Money? No. People! What? God collects people? Silly, isn’t it?
God saves people from his anger and just punishment for rebelling against him by trying to unseat God from his throne. He saves people from the world system by buying them back from Satan’s realm where they were slaves. He saves them from a corrupted earth and makes them ready for a new heaven and earth. He saves people from themselves – from the toxic effects of sin. (Check it out in Ephesians 2:1-10)
Baptism is a simple earthy act that points us to our heavenly Jesus and the complex work he did for his people through his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension (Romans 6:3-4).
So, Baptism comes from our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ as something that signifies the incredible love of God to work out his plan to have you as his child (Ephesians 1:3-6). So, when you think about your own baptism or observe someone else being baptized as follower of Jesus think heavily and with wonder about this awesome reality.
Wait! There’s more!
Baptism is a seal on the earthly one
The reality of the Heavenly Father’s saving plan is also about applying his claim upon his earthly people (1 Peter 3:21). So, the deeply rich meaning invested in the washing event is placed upon God’s own folks.
Why do we call it a seal? Especially when it has nothing to do with those cute sea mammals? We call it that because that’s what the Bible calls it (Romans 4:11). A seal is something that tells us and confirms for us that this thing or person is authentic. As they say in the South, it is “jen-yew-wine”! It is the real deal.
We have many different kinds of seals. There is the presidential seal placed on things that represent and/or belong to the office of the president. There is the Gold Seal of Approval; well, there are different kinds of those. How about the seal placed on an official document to prove that it is legitimate? The wedding band is a seal of fidelity and love for one’s spouse. A badge, brand, or even a tattoo can be used to signify ownership or authenticity. You get the picture, I’m sure.
Baptism is an event that outwardly seals God’s promises and saving work onto one who has a saving kind of faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The act of baptismal washing is an act that states something like, “Our Heavenly Father claims this earthly person and through Jesus Christ saves him or her to be his beloved royal child. All the work Jesus has done is set upon this person. I am His and she/he is mine. This baptism seals the deal.”
Usually, when someone comes to believe the claims of Jesus Christ and trusts in Jesus as the only true Savior and Lord, the person gets baptized. What’s more, just like I did when I was baptized in the South China Sea, I was so excited because I was making a statement of faith in Jesus that said, “I take Christ as my God, my Savior and my Lord.” What an exciting event and a precious thing to happen.
However, think about the other side of this: when a person is baptized the sign of Jesus’ wonderful work is sealed to that person, and it is God who is saying, “I take this one to be my own beloved royal child!” Wow! Let that sink in for a while.
There are so many aspects of baptism about which we could explore; but not now. Yet, I do want to leave with you two more things to tuck into your need-to-know file.
First, it is not the earthly element itself that ultimately authenticates or seals you to Christ and all that he has done, is doing and will do. It is God, the Holy Spirit that makes the connection from the historical work of Jesus so many centuries ago, through heaven and to you, the one who believes in Christ.
Second, as a matter of historical fact, the very ancient Church who lived in the Roman Empire and spoke Latin borrowed a word from Latin. That word was sacramentum, which had a couple of meanings. One was to denote the oath that a Roman solider pledged in obedience to his master, namely Caesar. The other meant “a mystery.” The ancient Church considered baptism and the Lord’s Supper as pledges of obedient loyalty to King Jesus and a mystery in the way it all fits together in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1; Ephesians 1:9-10), so they called both things “sacraments.” And now you know.