In our last post, we finished addressing what baptism is and isn’t. In this post, we want to be much more brief in addressing what baptism does and doesn’t do.
What Baptism Doesn’t Do
Let’s begin with the negative, what baptism doesn’t do. Baptism as we see the Bible defining it does not save you. This is very important to note. Particularly in our geographical culture where cultural Christianity is alive and mostly well, many functionally believe that their baptism has saved them. If you ask them to share why they think they are Christians, or why they think God in Heaven is theirs to behold forever, they will say something like, ‘Well, I was baptized when…’
Even if they don’t believe their baptism saved them, their lack of clarity upon the gift of faith in the Person and work of Jesus through which God saved them has them testifying as if their baptism saved them. It’s the stone of remembrance. But it’s that concerning what God did in saving us, not that it itself saved us.
Additionally, there are heretical branches of so-called Christianity that do believe in what’s called baptismal regeneration, that is, that the waters of baptism do actually wash the sinner clean from their sin and save them. Without this, none are saved. They draw on the misinterpretation of texts like John 3:5 (where by ‘water’ Jesus is making reference to the New Covenant language of Ezekiel 36:25), and 1 Peter 3:21 (where baptism is so closely related to the saving ‘ark’ of Christ, it’s practice is virtually inseparable from the effect of repentance and faith in Him. A Christian was a baptized person and a baptized person was evidently a Christian).
Besides this, the saints in the Old Testament were obviously never baptized but, at Christ’s transfiguration, we see Moses and Elijah appearing from heaven. Of course, the thief on the cross was never baptized, and yet Jesus told him that, on account of his faith in Him, he would be with Him in Paradise.
More, Simon the magician was baptized, but it’s highly questionable whether he was actually saved. We might add that many who die in infancy or believe later in life when, due to disability, baptism is practically impossible, are yet saved by their faith in the Gospel of God’s grace. So Christians are to be baptized, but baptism doesn’t make one a Christian. What does it do?
What Baptism Does Do
We might ask, if it doesn’t save us, why is it so important? Well, it’s so important simply because it’s in the Bible. Jesus commands it. God thinks it important. But we might add, then, what we’ve covered thus far; believer’s baptism marks off the believing individual from the world as united to Jesus and part of His new creation people. It’s meant to show the world who belongs to Jesus.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s virtually the same language we use about formal, meaningful membership in the local church. That’s on purpose. Baptism depicts what membership declares. They go together. Baptism is the initiatory sign for belonging to the family of God. It’s the front door to God’s ‘house.’ It’s the person declaring for Jesus, and Jesus’ people positively affirming that declaration. Believer’s baptism is, we say, prerequisite for membership in the local church.
So what does baptism do? It doesn’t save us. But it does say that we’ve been saved, that Jesus’ people believe us to be saved, and that we are assuredly one with Christ and His new creation people, those determined in the Spirit to walk together in newness of life. It identifiably binds us to the church expressed in local churches.
Next time, we’ll begin to dig into the Lord’s Supper. Until then, continuing to aim only for fully-informed minds begetting fully-rejoicing hearts as we, in spiritual unity and with holy accountability, come to remember the Lord’s death until He comes again. Devoted to the most Scriptural display of Christ’s glory in and through you,