Baptism, often called “the first step of obedience” in following Jesus, is one of the oldest elements of the Christian faith, and represents your personal declaration of faith in Jesus Christ.
Lots of people feel as though they want to run to their baptism because they’re so excited to declare their faith to the world. This may or may not be you, but as a new believer, you can rely on your gut to tell you when you’re ready—even if you don’t feel like you have it all figured out just yet. God calls us to be baptized and the Holy Spirit leads us to the water.
It’s All About Identity
Identity. How do we define it? How do we identify ourselves? Be it by our ethnicity, our heritage, our sexuality, or even by our interests, our identity is really important to us. Christians have always understood that there is something greater that impacts all these things we use to identify ourselves. The Christian identity is formed primarily in and through Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul, one of the earliest Christian teachers writes:
Paul understood that his identity changed the moment he believed in Jesus. Paul had been a devout Jewish man, but Jesus changed his identity in a profound way. Everything about him changed, and he wanted to let others know that.
Today we might use Instagram to let the world know who we are, to declare our identity. In Jesus and Paul’s time however, they had baptism. It was a common practice in the ancient world, a way to publicly say, in effect, “This is who I am; I am one of these.” In fact, baptism is so important, even Jesus Himself—who was without sin—was baptized. He did this to identify with sinners and “carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15).
Here’s what the Christian Basics Bible has to say about why baptism is so important:
“From the beginning of the church’s existence, baptism was the way someone expressed their newfound faith in Jesus. Although adopted from Judaism, it was given new significance, no longer simply symbolizing cleansing but also speaking of the person’s identification with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize all who believed in him. Baptism serves as a sign of repentance, faith, and the desire to start life again.”
So baptism was a common practice for declaring identity in the ancient world, and Jesus commanded it (you can find that in Matthew 28:19-20); but it can seem weird to us today. Perhaps you had never heard of baptism before you came to faith in Christ, or perhaps you were baptized as a baby and you wonder if that still “counts.” These are all perfectly normal feelings and questions, so it’s a good thing we aren’t in this on our own.
Baptism and the Church
When you became a believer in Jesus you probably didn’t do so on your own. Someone—a friend, family member, mentor—helped you along. Chances are there is a church that helped too, and that’s where you should start your baptism journey. Baptism identifies us with Christ, but it also identifies us with His people—His church.
Different denominations and churches handle baptism in various ways, but no matter where you go to church, baptism is important. Being a Christian is not something we can, or should, do on our own. We are members of the body of Christ together (in other words, we are the church working together for the Lord), and your baptism signifies that bond you now have with your fellow church members.
Many churches have special classes to help you prepare for your baptism, clear up any questions you have, and set the time and date. Talk to the pastor or leaders of your church about how they view baptism and what your next steps should be. Then go get baptized!
What is a baptism? What will happen to me?
During your baptism, something similar to this will happen (bear in mind that the format may change depending on your church or denomination):
- You will be asked by your pastor to give a declaration of faith. Often this includes a series of questions and answers that have been discussed beforehand. Sometimes you’re asked to privately confess your sins before God or to give a testimony (tell how you came to know Jesus).
- The pastor gives a short proclamation, often with words such as, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” You will be gently submerged under water and brought up again immediately or perhaps sprinkled with water.
But What About . . . ?
You probably still have a ton of questions. Maybe you aren’t entirely convinced about your own baptism yet or feel like you don’t understand it all. Perhaps you wonder about babies or people on their deathbed who come to faith but can’t be baptized. Whatever questions you have, just remember that baptism is about what God has done for us through Jesus, and we know that we can trust Him. So, go talk to your pastor; ask your questions. Then. Get. Baptized. You won’t regret it.
When you do decide to get baptized, let us know! The team would love to pray for you and celebrate with you! Here’s our email: firstname.lastname@example.org we look forward to hearing your story.18