In our church calendar year, we usually conduct two water baptism in each year. Once in Good Friday/Easter Sunday period and the other being Christmas Day. Allow me to write the above topic over the next few Koinonia Sundays.
The Greek words baptisma (the noun) and baptizo (the verb), were used in two ways. It was used in the process of dyeing garments and it was used in the process of drawing liquids from one vessel to another. To dye a garment completely that garment has to be submerged in the dye so that the colour is the same throughout. To draw water out of a large vessel into a cup for drinking, the cup has to be submerged in the liquid before being drawn out.
In this church, we adopt the full immersion method for water baptism (most of the time, unless due to some physical handicaps). We submerge the person in water, the person going under the water before emerging out of the water. This means that he or she is dipped completely under the water before being raised out of it and out of the baptismal pool as a whole. For those with physical handicaps, we do allow sprinkling of water on the head.
One guiding passage is Romans 6 (ESV).
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. For if we have been united with him in death like His, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like His” – Romans 6:3-5.
A picture is given by Paul here. A parallel between the concept of death, burial and resurrection and the practice of baptism. By being baptized into His death, our old life and our old self should both be dead. Literally, our baptism was the funeral service of our old life. To be “buried with Him” signify the reality of the death of our life we have buried. As we went under the water in baptism, our old manner of life was buried.
Many of us may have gone through the water baptism decades ago! And the real challenge to our hearts is to remember the moment of significance and how it has stayed with us since then. Are we living in the good of what that baptism meant? Are we really a different person and increasingly so?
In summary, let’s list the negatives and the positives, whom a new person in Christ, should be:
V 6 “the body of sin might be brought into nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin”. The old life has been rendered powerless. We are no longer controlled by sin. We may fail but that is not the manner or principle of our life.
V7 “set free from sin”. We are justified, made righteous and fit for the presence of God. Sin no longer has any reins over us.
V8 “we believe that we will also live with Him”. We have the confidence that we live in the enjoyment of His fellowship now and that we should live a life that is consistent with the presence of the Lord.
May we be encouraged that our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is one that is stable and steadfast (Colossians 1:23) and that our transformation from our old self is not short term but long term. Our salvation is a change that cannot be reversed. And our baptism should give testimony to the inward change and that is why it is so important that our baptism shows that our lives are changed. For those who have yet to be baptised, may I strongly encourage you to consider when the next water baptism service comes around, which is scheduled in December 2015.
Elder Andrew Lim