Baptism is important
Q. Why do you think baptism is so important that Jesus commanded it in Matthew 28:19? John Forehand, Richmond, VA
A. Baptism is important because it demonstrates God’s whole plan to restore our fellowship with him. We can trace the beginning of baptism to the Laver in the Tabernacle courtyard where priests washed their hands and feet before entering the Tent of Meeting. Later, priests were immersed for ceremonial cleansing in the Brass Sea at Solomon’s Temple.
Scriptural baptism is by immersion (Matthew 3:6, 16; John 3:23; Romans 6:4). Immersion is the only mode which demonstrates the gospel. John the Baptizer was commanded to immerse those repenting of their sins in preparation for the coming Messiah. Jesus allowed John to baptize him as an example for us. Even though Jesus taught his disciples how to baptize in John 4:1-2, he never told them to baptize when he sent out the Twelve and the Seventy on preaching missions (Matthew 12:5-8; Luke 10:1, 9). That’s because the gospel wasn’t complete until after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus had to return in post-resurrection appearances to command baptism because it couldn’t symbolize the full gospel story until then.
Baptism doesn’t save us but it’s an outward sign of what’s happened on the inside, and it’s important for its three-fold testimony: As the new convert is laid back under the water and raised (1) he is portraying the gospel showing how Jesus died, was buried, and was raised for our salvation (Romans 4:25). The believer is also demonstrating that (2) he has died to his former life without God, and that life is buried as he is resurrected to serve Jesus as his Lord (Romans 6:4). Again, Baptism also testifies to the convert’s belief that, (3) if he should die and be buried before Jesus comes, his body will be resurrected to live with Jesus (John 6:40). God wants everyone to be convinced of these truths, so he commanded that we show them visually by baptism. — The Rev. Dr. Tom Lovorn is pastor of God’s Storehouse Baptist Church in Richmond and he writes a weekly question and answer column for The Progress-Index.