Just this morning, I opened up my Bible to continue with my through the Bible in a year reading. I just happened to open to the last page of my Bible and there is was. When I saw it, I felt a smile creep onto my face and joy filled my heart. There on the last page of my Bible was a picture that prompted my reaction. It is the picture of my baptism! My parents had baptized me as a child into the Catholic Church (and subsequently admitted to communion and confirmation). But as early as I could remember, I rejected it. I had spent virtually my entire life away from God. But as I gazed at that baptismal picture, I found myself transported back to that moment. The photo is from right before I was baptized at 21 years of age. I am standing thigh deep in the Ashland Creek. The pastor is standing behind me with his head obscured. My eyes are shut and there is a peaceful and slight smile on my face. I remember thinking at that moment, “Goodbye old life. Hello resurrected life!” What a glorious thought!
This photo has me thinking about baptism. Baptism is one of the two ordinances that Jesus gave to his people, the other being the Lord’s Supper. Just like Lord’s Supper, baptism is symbolic of the finished work of Jesus. Listen to Paul in Romans 6. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were eburied with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4). In the act of baptism, as we initially go down into the water, it is as if we are united with Christ going into the tomb. There is the death of the old man and the old life. As we come out of the water, it is as if we are being united with Jesus in His resurrection. We all know and realize that this is truly done, not by baptism, but by the Spirit who revives our dead hearts through regeneration. This is how we know that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Instead it is an issue of obedience. Jesus Himself was baptized. But baptism is a way that we celebrate what God has done in our lives. It is a glorious declaration and an amazing living epistle that we are Jesus’ and that He is ours.
As I think back to that day when I was baptized, when I came up from the baptismal waters, drenched from head to toe with water (in my mind overflowing with the Spirit), I knew that my life was God’s. I had known it before. My life was already His. But the very act of baptism somehow, at least in my heart, put an exclamation point on it. As I made it to the banks of the river, people hugged me and prayed for me. From that day, my life in Christ has taken many twists and turns. There has been up days and down days. I have been victorious and suffered heartache. But in it all, I can truly say, God has been in it. That humbles me. “Goodbye old life. Hello resurrected life!”