Matthew 3:1-12 — Baptism! The Symbol of Salvation — Getting All Wet and Covered Up by Jesus!

Posted: September 3, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 3:1-12 — John the Baptist baptized people in the Jordan River upon the confession of their sins. Baptism. Even though there are many rituals in Christianity that men have created over the years, there are only two that were ordained by Jesus – one is the Lord’s Supper and the other is baptism. But what does it really mean. You hear from us evangelical Christians that baptism itself does not impart salvation but it is rather an outward symbol of what has already happened inside of a soul that have been saved by Jesus Christ. Let’s look, then, at the symbolism of baptism.

First, baptism was not unknown to God’s people before John the Baptist. The Jews of ancient times would baptize converts to Judaism to signify the convert’s’ “cleansed” nature. It was an initiation rite into the Jewish way of life. So, it was in a sense a symbol to them of a Gentile person leaving their old culture and old ways behind and being accepted into God’s chosen people. As time passed, it became more about being initiated into citizenship into the Jewish culture than it was about becoming a child of God. But, John was the first to use it in the way that we think of in Christianity.

With John the Baptist, it was no longer an public initiation rite into Jewish society like a citizenship oath here in our country. It was about confession of sins and repentance. It become symbolic of who and what we are before, during, and after having met Jesus Christ and having accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. For the purposes of baptism, we will assume that we are at a river, or lake, etc. for the sake of argument.

When we are on the shore away from the water, it is symbolic of our rejection of God. We are in the dry parched land and only believe what we can see, touch, and feel. We feel in control on the land far from the waters of God. This represents the dry parched land of our sinful life. Are you on in the parched, dry land? Are you living a life that seems to have no meaning and purpose? How is that living life on your own terms without God working for you? Tired of the meaninglessness and the randomness of life? Come to the waters of God.

It is when we walk into the water, it is symbolic of that point in life which we are confronted with our sins and that we realize that there is nothing that we can do to be good enough. Even when we try to be good, we can only do it for short stretches of moments or maybe some can stretch for most of a day. But there comes a point when we realize that we cannot control our sin nature. We realize that God is perfect and we are not. When we realize this unequivocal fact, that we can never be good enough because we just cannot do it, it drives us to the realization that we need a Savior. It is the walking into the water that is symbolic of the fact that we realize that we are full-on, hard core, rebellious sinners against God and that no “goodness factor” is going to save us. We realize that that there is no ledger of good deeds on one side vs. bad deeds on the other and that one bad deed no matter how small disqualifies from an eternity with a perfect God. Walking into the water is symbolic of our realization that we need an external cleansing. Walking into the water is symbolic of our realization that we need Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is the walking into the water that is symbolic of our desire to change, our desire to be cleansed by the perfect sinless life of Jesus Christ. We are wading in the water. We are kicking around this Jesus as Lord thing. We are being drawn to it but yet we are not yet fully immersed in the life of a Christ follower. We are living half out of the water and half in. We have not yet been convicted of our sins to the point that we want to do something about it.

It is in the moment of the actual baptism, the immersion into the water (or the dunking as I like to call it), that is symbolic of our salvation moment. It is that moment under the power of the Holy Spirit that we accept Jesus Christ into our heart as our Savior and Lord. It is at that moment that we know and understand that in the absence of the perfect sinless substitute of Jesus Christ that on our own merits that we are destined for hell and an eternity of suffering and pain separated from God. It is in the moment of helplessness that we cry out to the only one thing that can save us from what we see and that is Jesus Christ. At that moment, we are immersed in the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. We are covered up by his perfection. The immersion into the water is symbolic of the fact that when we ask Christ to be our Savior that He washes away our sin. As we are immersed into the water, it is symbolic of us dying to our old selfish, sinful ways. We are dying to our sins under the water symbolically just as we die to our sins when we ask Jesus into our heart. He washes us and makes us clean and pure just as water cleans literal dirt off of our bodies. Our sins are washed away in Christ. He makes us pure again. The immersion in water is symbolic of all of that.

When are pulled up out of the water by the person who performs the baptism ceremony, it is symbolic of Jesus pulling us up out of our old, dead life and into the newness of life that we have in Him. We are resurrected from our old life into our new just as Jesus was resurrected from the grave on Easter Sunday. We arise from the water different from when we went under. When we are saved, something truly miraculous happens. We are changed. I am not talking spiritual warm fuzzies that we get sometimes before we actually get saved, but I am talking the real deal. When we truly ask Jesus into our heart, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside and begins the work of change immediately. Like an engineering on a construction project issuing change orders to the construction of a building so does the Holy Spirit do in us. Like the renovation guys and gals on HGTV changing an old home from the inside so does the Holy Spirit do His work in us. We are truly changed and are continually changing. We prove by the way that we live that we have been changed. We now live lives of repentance. We now live lives not for ourselves but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in which we begin to do and seek things that bring glory to God. It is through Jesus Christ that we are given a new lease on life. Our lives have been changed. The proof comes in the pudding of our lives after salvation. We are not perfect. The work of the Holy Spirit is a full-time job for Him until we are perfected when we meet Jesus face to face in heaven. We arise from the water in baptism a soaking wet person but it is symbolic of the change that is happening within us. We are now soaked in Jesus Christ. We are now all wet with the Holy Spirit all over us. He is working on us to bring us into to newness and into greater and greater Christ-likeness.

Baptism. The one place that being considered all wet is a good thing. It is symbolic of what Christ has done in us. Out with the old and in with the new. Dry and dirty going in and clean as a whistle coming out. Dry and meaningless going in and wet and covered coming out. Let’s be all wet!

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