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What Is Baptism?
A marriage is a new beginning of life for a couple. At the wedding ceremony, they vow to share joys and sorrows as husband and wife for the rest of their lives. Likewise, baptism is the first step toward God, and it is a ceremony where we make a covenant with God.
Through baptism, God forgives all our sins and we promise to turn away from our former, sinful way of life and to live as God’s people by serving only God for the rest of our lives. Baptism is a turning point in our life when all our past sins and transgressions are forgiven and we start a new life, so that we can follow the teachings of God until we go to heaven. So, the Bible clearly teaches us the importance of baptism, a ceremony where we make a covenant with God.
Jesus set the example of being baptized
Jesus was also baptized and then started to preach the gospel.
Mt 3:13–17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized . . .
Baptism is a ritual for sinners to receive the forgiveness of sins (Ac 2:38). Al-though Jesus was the Messiah who came to this earth to lead us along the path to the eternal kingdom of heaven, He went to John for baptism. Jesus said He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. By setting the example of being baptized, Jesus showed that baptism is a ceremony for God-believing people to fulfill all righteousness.
Jn 3:22–23 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.
Jesus was baptized and then began His ministry. He also set the example of baptizing people. The reason Jesus set the example of being baptized and baptizing people as well, saying it is something proper in God’s eyes, was because baptism contains an important truth that leads mankind to salvation.
The true meaning of baptism
Baptism is a ceremony where we are born again into a new life in God after first birth from our mother’s womb (Jn 3:3–5). It is also a ceremony for receiving God’s promise to set human beings free from slavery to sin and make them the people of the eternal heavenly kingdom.
Ro 6:1–4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Through baptism, our sinful bodies are crucified with Jesus and we are born into a new life just as Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus’ crucifixion represents our recognition and repentance of sin, Jesus’ burial in the tomb symbolizes the burial of our sins in water through baptism, and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead corresponds to our commitment to becoming new beings and following the life of Christ. To those who are baptized and live a new life, God has promised salvation.
1 Pe 3:21 . . . and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .
Baptism is a sign of God’s promise to save our souls. To have this sign till the end, we have to keep our promise to God. We must not just ask God to fulfill His promise to save us while breaking our promise to turn away from sin and live a new life with Christ.
Just as Christ devoted His life to the salvation of the world, we have a responsibility to share the promise of eternal life in heaven with people in the world by saving and benefiting them. So, Jesus has given us the sign of salvation through baptism, and has told us to go and baptize all nations, so that the gospel will be preached to the whole world.
Mt 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “. . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Through the words of Jesus, we can realize how important baptism—a pledge to God—is for mankind. We should baptize people first and then teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded us.
Baptism is performed as a way of righteousness
As the one calling in the desert prophesied in Isaiah, John the Baptist was sent from God and baptized Jesus and people (Mt 3:1–6). This was not an act of his own will; he performed the mission as a prophet sent from God.
Mt 21:31–32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
The way of righteousness John the Baptist brought refers to baptism (Jn 1:24–34). The mission of John the Baptist, who had been sent from God, was to practice a baptism of repentance. Jesus has taught us that baptism is a sacred ceremony and a way of righteousness, and has defined the people who refuse to be baptized as those who do not repent and believe.
Lk 7:29–32 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ ”
Many people were baptized, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law refused to be baptized. When the flute was played, they should be willing to dance together automatically, and when a dirge was sung, they should mourn together. Like insensitive people, however, they did not respond to the truth of God no matter how hard Jesus tried to teach it to them. Jesus said they rejected God’s purpose for themselves.
According to Jesus, only those who do the will of God can enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21). Judging from this, we can see that baptism is God’s holy will to save human beings and lead them to heaven.
Mk 16:15–16 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
The baptism of salvation in the new covenant
Some people think they don’t have to get baptized anymore because they have already been baptized in other churches. However, they need to consider whether or not they’ve received the baptism of the Bible. It is because not every baptism, although it is done by immersion under water, can become the baptism of salvation God has promised.
Baptism is not just a ritual action, but it is a regulation that contains God’s promise. Both water for baptism and water for a shower are the same type of water, but there is a great difference between them in terms of promise. Water used in the baptism ceremony is the sign of salvation God has promised, but water used in a shower has nothing to do with God’s promise and it only removes dirt from the body.
Suppose that the Pharisee imitated Jesus and His disciples in their baptism 2,000 years ago. Could their baptism lead them to salvation? Not at all. Their baptism had no promise from God. Only the baptism that has the promise of God can be a sign of salvation for us.
Let us remember where and through whom God gave us the baptism of salvation. Jesus set the example of being baptized, and He baptized many people with His disciples (Jn 3:22–30). The Bible explains in detail what truth and faith Jesus’ disciples had when they baptized people according to the example of Jesus.
Lk 22:7–8, 19–20 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” . . . And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Peter and John prepared the Passover just as Jesus had directed them, and celebrated the Passover of the new covenant with Jesus. All the disciples, who baptized people with Jesus, abided in the truth of the new covenant.
Our baptism can be recognized and acknowledged by God when we are baptized in the place where God dwells. The dwelling place of God is Zion where God’s appointed feasts are observed (Ps 132:13–14; Isa 33:20). God says to the people of Zion, “You are my people,” and He has made those who keep the new covenant His people (Isa 51:16; Jer 31:31–34).
According to these prophecies, Jesus proclaimed the new covenant through the Passover feast. Only the baptism, which is performed in Zion—the dwelling place of God—where there is the truth of the new covenant, can be the baptism of salvation.
A lesson from the history of baptism in the apostolic age
When we look at the Bible records about the history of the church in the apostolic age, we can see that all baptisms were done by the disciples who preached the truth of the new covenant.
Ac 8:34–39 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water . . .
The reason the eunuch of the Queen Candace got baptized was because he could receive the promise of salvation through baptism. This baptism guaranteeing salvation was not given by anyone, but only by the prophets who received authority from God who dwells in Zion.
Ac 16:13–15 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized . . .
Ac 16:27–33 . . . The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” . . . At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
Ac 10:37–48 . . . “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ . . .
Lydia’s family and the jailer’s family were baptized by Paul, and Cornelius the centurion and his family were baptized by Peter. Paul was an apostle who preached the New Covenant Passover, saying, “I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Co 11:23), and Peter was an apostle who prepared the New Covenant Passover just as Jesus had directed him and celebrated it. They were all taught in Zion—the city of God’s appointed feasts, worshiped God in Zion, and observed the laws of the new covenant in Zion. Baptism is one of the laws of the new covenant. So, they conducted baptism according to Jesus’ teaching.
Many churches today say they also perform baptisms. However, the baptisms done in the churches that do not have the truth of the new covenant are a mere formality, which God has never acknowledged. Only the baptisms conducted in Zion where there is the truth of the new covenant according to God’s promise can be acknowledged as true baptisms. God has promised to grant salvation in Zion, where He bestows His blessing of eternal life. This shows that a baptism done in any other place except Zion has nothing to do with salvation and it is a mere act of immersing the body in water.
Let us give thanks to Heavenly Father and Mother for calling us to Zion and giving us the blessings of the forgiveness of sins and salvation, and remind ourselves again of the meaning of the baptism we underwent. Furthermore, let us preach the gospel to many people who have not yet received the baptism of salvation in the new covenant, so that they can receive the sign of salvation in Zion where God dwells. Let us always remember God’s promise in baptism and participate actively together in saving the world just as God has been working hard to save us, with a beautiful faith in unity with God.