by Jack M. Lane

In Hebrews chapter 6, there is a list of basic doctrines, the foundational ideas of our faith which we should be able to explain to others. Baptism is one of those. Hebrews tells us, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2, NIV throughout except where otherwise noted).

These are the foundational, basic doctrines. And notice that baptism is in the plural – “baptisms.” We’ll cover that later. First, though, let’s read a little background about baptism.

What is it?

When someone is baptized, they are lowered into water, picturing being buried in the grave. The person doing the baptizing lowers the person into the water, in the same way that we, when we are dead, must have someone lower us into our graves.

Then the person doing the baptizing brings the person up out of the water, just as God raises us out of our graves        in the resurrection at Christ’s return.

Why do people get baptized?

The primary reason for baptism is repentance. Repentance can be defined as our deep regret, sorrow, and remorse over our past conduct in life – an actual feeling of shame and repulsion at our disgusting way of life – coupled with a sincere dedication to change our life, go in a new direction, and live according to godly goals and ideals.

There comes a time in some people’s lives when they become interested in the things of God. We wish everyone would come to that place right away. The world would be a safer place, people would be happier, families would be functional rather than dysfunctional, governments and businesses would serve people rather than rip them off, everyone would be looking out for each other instead of “looking out for number one,” and life would be better all the way around. Unfortunately, that’s not the way life works today.

However, the gospel message is that such a time is coming. God will send Christ back from heaven to overthrow the devil, bring peace to a warring planet, and set up a kingdom that will rule in peace and harmony for 1,000 years. That’s the gospel message.

Mankind will be reconciled to God after 6,000 years of sin and misery. Satan will be chained, Christ and the resurrected saints will be ruling righteously, and people will be living the way of God, the way that leads to happiness, joy, and fulfillment.

That’s what’s prophesied for the future. In the meantime, we have a very sick world, filled with very sick and sinful people, ruled by a very evil devil. He has most people in his grip. He has convinced much of the world to come down to his level and live in sin, instead of striving to climb up to a godly way of life. It’s a dangerous world out there.

But during this present age, before Christ returns, God calls out some people to understand a little about the future. God selects individuals, here and there, to understand His plan, to see what the future offers, and gives those individuals He calls an opportunity to approach Him, receive forgiveness of their sins, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and have the power to overcome sin and sinfulness.

These people are the saints. They are members of the assembly of God (also called the body of Christ) and will be resurrected to immortality as full-fledged children of God at the time of Christ’s return.

We can read a little about this in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4:

13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [those who die], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

       This is the destiny of the saints, to be resurrected to immortality and be with Christ forever. To be a saint, there are a few things you need to do. One of those things is baptism.

A little history

The ancient prophets foretold that, just before Messiah was to come, there would be someone coming as a voice crying in the wilderness:

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 3:1).

We also read about this time in Isaiah chapter 40:

1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.

2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’s hand Double for all her sins.”

3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth;

5 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

(Isaiah 40:1-5, NKJV)

These are prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. In the passage in Isaiah 40, verses four and five are talking about great earthquakes, when the land will be reshaped – valleys will be lifted up, mountains will be brought low. These are catastrophic events which are prophesied to take place when Messiah returns in power. These things haven’t happened yet.

However, verse three is a prophecy of John the Baptist prior to Messiah’s first coming. We can see the fulfillment of verse three in the gospels. For instance, in Matthew chapter 3:

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea

2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’“

(Matthew 3:1-3)

Also in Mark chapter one:

1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” –

3 “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’“

4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

(Mark 1:1-11)

Where did this idea of mass baptizing in public come from? Moses didn’t baptize people. The prophets didn’t practice baptism. It seems as if John came out of nowhere, baptizing people as a symbol of their repentance. He was sent, as a prophet, to be the messenger who would precede the appearance of the Messiah. God gave John the job of baptizing people to get them ready for the appearance of the Messiah.

In the first chapter of John’s gospel, we read:

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’

31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.

33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

(John 1:29-34)

        It looks as though John was commissioned by God through a prophet, or directly by God Himself.

 Born again

When Yeshua began His ministry, he continued the practice of baptism. After Yeshua’s death and resurrection, and His ascension to heaven, another aspect was added: the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit.

In John chapter 3 we can read a little about how Yeshua taught about baptisms:

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.

2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

(John 3:1-8)

Yeshua is explaining here that whoever is born of the Spirit is actually composed of spirit, not a material body. That refers to being in the first resurrection at Messiah’s return, when we will be resurrected as spirit sons of God (1 Thessalonians 4; 1 Corinthians 15).

Being born of water has a different meaning. That’s referring to baptism. Both are necessary. You must be born of water, or baptized, in order to be born of the Spirit, or resurrected.

Let’s continue in John 3. Skipping to verse 16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Many churches teach that the unsaved will be spending eternity burning in hellfire, in the agony of burning yet without actually burning up. The Bible doesn’t teach that. Instead, the Bible teaches that when people die, they are dead, and they will live again only if they are resurrected from their graves.

So the purpose of God giving his only Son is so that those who believe in him shall not perish. To perish is to die, to cease to exist. The purpose of Messiah’s coming is to make a way for us to not have to perish.

Skipping to verses 22-24: “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. (This was before John was put in prison.)

Skipping to verse 26:

 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.

28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’

29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

30 He must become greater; I must become less.

 John’s job was to baptize people as a demonstration of their repentance. When Yeshua came into His own, John’s job was over.

 Part of the Great Commission

 Yeshua gave His disciples a message of good news to preach to the world after He ascended to heaven. Just before His departure, He reminded them about it, in what we call the Great Commission:

 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20)

 Let’s see how Luke relates the message of the Great Commission:

 44 He [Yeshua] said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,

47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48 You are witnesses of these things.

(Luke 24:44-48)

 That good news, about repentance and the forgiveness of sins, has come down to us today, and we often have opportunities to relay that message to others in our lives.

 But how did it start? Why do we need a message of repentance and forgiveness of sin?

 Purpose and meaning of baptism

God created Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve sinned. Every human since then, with one exception, has sinned. Every human from Adam forward has earned the death penalty for living a life of sin.

The Bible talks about being enslaved by sin. This really describes our human mindset, our human nature, that makes us want to be bad, to do bad things, to hurt others, to try to gratify ourselves at the expense of others. It’s our human weakness.

But God has a plan to bring us out of that garbage pit and raise us up to a new way of living, with the help of His Holy Spirit to give us both a changed heart and the strength to overcome sin in our lives.

That whole plan hinges on what happened during one week in history, a long time ago. The turning point in all of history, the event that gives us the power to break free of sin and sinfulness, is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We read in Romans chapter 5:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11)

Reconciliation to God is an important part of the gospel message.

Skipping to verse 17: “For if, by the trespass of the one man [Adam], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

When we are reconciled to God, justified, brought back to a good relationship with God, we receive the gift of righteousness. How do we get that gift of righteousness? It’s there for the taking. It’s available to us. God, as our Father, asks us to freely take of that gift. Yeshua, as the sacrificial Lamb, has already paid the price. It’s a done deal. Now it’s our turn.

If we have received the invitation from our Father to come into His way of life, to learn what He has to teach us, to be adopted into His family and finally born from the grave as full spirit children of God, then the next step is ours.

What steps are those?

Mark 1:14-15: “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

Repent and believe. Those are the steps. Repentance and faith. Turning your life around and believing the good news Yeshua taught.

In Acts chapter 2, Peter is preaching a powerful sermon to a group of people. He is telling them about God’s plan, and about the Messiah they longed for and hoped for.

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

(Acts 2:37-41)

This is as close to a formula as it gets. Remember, baptism is one of the six basic doctrines. Those six doctrines form a pattern, a flow, showing the plan of God for our lives. Let’s look at those again, in Hebrews chapter 6: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of (1) repentance from acts that lead to death, and of (2) faith in God, (3) instruction about baptisms, (4) the laying on of hands, (5) the resurrection of the dead, and (6) eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2).

These basic doctrines show the overall progression of what happens to human beings as part of God’s plan.

If you feel that God is calling you to a saving knowledge of His plan, His forgiveness, and the incredible future He has in mind, this is how you can be a part of it: repent, believe, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit.

What it represents

Paul describes the symbolism of baptism in Romans chapter 6:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

4 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.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin,

7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.

18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.

21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 6:1-23)

There are two things to notice here. In verse 23, sin pays wages – death. However, God gives a gift – eternal life – something we did not have, something we could not have unless God gives it to us. We can’t earn it – it’s a gift!

The other thing to notice is in verses 19 and 22: The benefit we receive from being a slave to God is holiness. That holiness, in turn, results in eternal life.

There are always people who resist God and say that obeying God is an attempt to earn our salvation, and since we can’t earn our salvation, we shouldn’t have to obey God. They say that obedience shouldn’t be part of being a Christian. In reality, they simply don’t like God’s laws, and they want the salvation without having to obey God.

If we were to mention to people who hold to that idea that God requires obedience, they will bristle up and call us legalists. A legalist is one who earns his salvation – or thinks he is earning his salvation – by obedience to the law, doing good deeds, and in other ways earning Brownie points with God so God will be obligated to save that person.

We are not legalists. We know we can never earn our salvation. We know it is always a gift from God.

But verses 19 and 22 say that the benefit we have from becoming slaves to God is holiness – goodness, godliness, righteousness, saintliness. Those folks who point the finger and call us legalists – this is what they fail to see, and what they fail to achieve. Without godliness, or righteousness, you won’t receive the end result, which is the free gift of eternal life.

We have been buried with Messiah in baptism. That’s what baptism represents.

Paul further discusses some of the symbolisms of baptisms in Colossians chapter 2:

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

(Colossians 2:9-13)

 There are several pictures, or allegories, here. Paul says we have been given fullness, that Christ circumcised us, and that we have been buried. These all picture what God does for us when He gives us His Spirit. The one I want to concentrate on now is the picture that we are buried with Christ.

The picture, the symbolism, is that Christ died and was resurrected, and we die and are resurrected. That, of course, is only a symbol. Christ died and was raised from the dead, but we haven’t yet literally died, and we haven’t yet literally been resurrected. That’s our hope in the Christian faith – to be literally resurrected from the dead at Christ’s return.

In symbolism, we have died in Christ and have been buried in His death. That’s also how we behave in our life. We have died to sin and have been buried in Christ’s death.

As a result, we live a new life with a closeness to God we didn’t have before we were baptized. We’re able to do this because we have been united with Christ in His death.

However, the symbolism continues. When we are brought up out of the watery grave of baptism, we are picturing the time when we will rise from the dead to be with Messiah forever. That’s why we are to walk in newness of life, as Spirit-begotten children of God, with the very Spirit essence of our Father in our minds and hearts.

Not only are we living the symbolism of the resurrection, but it’s God’s Spirit in us that makes it possible to live His way. It’s God’s Spirit in us that gives us the desire to live His way.

But we are not yet resurrected out of our graves, in real life. We are through with our old life, yet we walk around in the same body and in the same world. We haven’t literally died yet. How is that pictured in the symbolism we’re living?

Paul answers: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The picture we are living right now, today, is the picture of our miserable old bodies nailed up to Christ’s cross, dying right alongside Him! Yet Paul says that he lives, but it’s really Christ living in him, and he lives by faith in Christ. The picture we should have every day of our lives is the picture of ourselves, nailed to the cross with Christ, partakers of His death, so we might be in His resurrection from the dead later.

Romans chapter 8

Paul wrote about the struggle he had against sinfulness in his life in Romans chapter 7. But following that, in Romans chapter 8, he wrote about the Spirit and its power to help us overcome our sinfulness:

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope

21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,

39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:1-39)

Look at those three questions Paul poses: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” Well, the devil certainly will, if given a chance.

“Who is he that condemns?” Again, the devil would be happy to condemn us.

But look at the rest of the passage, where Paul asks and answers the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer is: nobody!

Let’s look at John chapter 10 and see what Messiah said about that.

22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,

23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.

24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me,

26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

(John 10:22-29)

Repentance is necessary

Repentance involves changing your life. It means you’ve decided the old way of life doesn’t work, the old ideas you lived by aren’t right, the goals and ideals you had before don’t take you to the right place, and you’ve found a better way of life, a direction for your life that takes you to a better place.

Repentance isn’t merely feeling sorry for yourself, or wishing you hadn’t been caught, or thinking God will reward you financially if you join a particular church denomination or perform a special ritual.

Repentance is the result of realizing you’re a sinner, and you have fallen short of what God expects of you. Repentance comes after you realize that the world is not your friend, but God is.

Repentance means you’re responding to the love of God, and the sacrificial offering of the Messiah, and you’re setting about to change your whole approach to life, sincerely, from the heart.

First, you need to realize what God is offering you: being a child in His family, coming under His watchful protection, and receiving personal attention and training through a variety of life experiences – in other words, the school of life, the school of hard knocks – to the end that we will be resurrected as children in whom He is pleased, to help our Father in the family business of governing the universe.

Once you realize this, and realize that you want this, and you repent of the things that have kept you away from this end result, the next step is to be baptized, as an outward symbol reflecting what has taken place on the inside – a visible act, often done before witnesses, confirming your decision to change your ways and live in a manner God wants you to live.

Here’s a situation many people have experienced: We are baptized, then about six months later we go to the one who baptized us and we say, “I think I need to be re-baptized. You know, I understand so much more now, I have a better idea what repentance is, and I really feel closer to God than I did when I was baptized. I didn’t really know what I was doing back then. Do you think I need to be re-baptized?”

This often takes place following baptism and the receiving of God’s Spirit. We undergo a growth process: we grow in grace, and we grow in knowledge. It’s a lifelong process – or, at least, it’s supposed to be.

As the Spirit grows within us, and our understanding grows, it’s normal to experience a deeper repentance, a deeper determination to follow God and learn His Word, and to even undergo a change in how we think!

The thing that really makes the difference is the Sprit in us. But before we can receive the Spirit, we must undergo baptism. And before being baptized, we must repent.

How it’s done

Once you have reached the point of repenting, feeling deeply broken up about the sins you have committed in your life, and are determined to seek God’s will for the rest of your life, it’s time to be baptized.

Since baptism pictures death, you will be placed into a grave. It’s a watery grave, and there must be enough water to immerse you completely, just as if you are being buried in a real grave.

The person baptizing you will bring you right back up, before you have time to run out of air. This pictures how we will be totally unconscious when we are dead, and our next waking moment will be coming up in the resurrection.

We had been slaves to sin. We had been under the death penalty for breaking God’s laws. But now we have been redeemed, justified, and free to walk in faith.

23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

(Galatians 3:23-29)

What Might We Notice After Baptism?

Paul tells us in Romans chapter 12:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

(Romans 12:1-3)

This is a good point. It’s possible to feel special, especially chosen, highly esteemed by God, after being baptized. There’s an exhilaration, a great weight lifted, a feeling of joy, that can come on us after we’re baptized. We really ought to make sure we don’t get carried away.

Yes, we’re clean. For a little while, at least, we’re sinless. But it really won’t take long for someone who has just been baptized to commit another sin. It’s the way we’re made.

We will sin again. But we can easily be forgiven by falling on our knees, confessing to our Father, and asking His forgiveness. And He is very happy to forgive when He sees your humble, repentant attitude as you struggle against sin.

The scriptures tell us not to live in sin any longer, not to pattern ourselves after the world. But we’re still human, so we’ll still have a battle on our hands to overcome our human nature. But that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, to give us the extra power we need to overcome.

Paul tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. Not a dead sacrifice on the altar of the Temple, but a living sacrifice,        walking around in the world, interacting with people, doing good deeds, showing God’s love to everyone, letting our lights shine. We can do this by being transformed by the renewing, or the making new, of our minds.

Once we are baptized, and hands are laid on us, and we receive the Holy Spirit, what can we expect? Will we suddenly start to glow? Will we hear angels singing from somewhere above us? Will we speak in tongues? Probably not.

I remember, when I was being counseled for baptism, being told that most people don’t feel anything, or experience anything, but after six months they can look back and see the progress they’ve made. I can tell you, in my case, that there were some immediately noticeable changes in my life, my health, and my personality. Not everyone experiences this, but I did. God gives gifts as He sees fit, and I’m happy He saw fit to heal me of some major problems that were holding me back, both physically and otherwise.

Those of us who have been in the faith for a number of years are sometimes puzzled when we see people in the faith unable to overcome problems in their lives, unable to get going down the right road, unable to make decisions and act on them.

I have always told people that the Spirit can give you the power to overcome, the strength to persevere, and the ability to tune into God’s wavelength instead of Satan’s wavelength.

But it isn’t forced on anyone. There will always be people who never seem to get past their problems, and fail to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

And we have seen people at church who simply were not with the program. There will always be those who did not take conversion and baptism seriously, who were not ready to fully yield themselves over to God, who may have been baptized because another family member expected them to get baptized, or any number of other reasons.

There are also those who come into the Family of God with good intentions, but the cares of the world choke their resolve and they fall away.

This is discussed in the parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew chapter 13.

The baptism with fire

There is more than one baptism. In Hebrews chapter 6, in the list of basic doctrines, it mentioned baptisms, in the plural. You may recall that John the Baptizer said, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).

What is this baptism of fire? Is it something good? Is it something we want?

John explains more in the next verse: “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

That’s the baptism with fire. We want to be the wheat, gathered into Christ’s barn. We don’t want to be the chaff baptized, or immersed, into a fire that can’t be quenched!

How is Christ winnowing His threshing floor? That’s another one of those colorful Bible analogies that make reading scripture come alive.

A long time ago, before we had tractors and combines – and still today in many parts of the world – the farmer would gather together his harvested wheat into a big pile. Then the laborers would take a tool, similar to a shovel, scoop up a shovelful of wheat, and throw it up into the air. The heavy wheat, the part the farmer wants, would fall back onto the floor. The lightweight grass particles, plant stalks, and other debris – the non-food parts – would blow away in the breeze to be gathered up later.

This is an allegory of us: We’ve all been thrown up in the air, figuratively speaking. The good wheat falls back onto the floor, while the chaff gets blown about by every wind of doctrine.

There have even been some people who have ended up rejecting Christ as their Savior, and have gone into Judaism, or other Christ-rejecting religions, as a result of bad judgment, and bad advice from people they chose to follow.

Some people simply give up and go back into the world, forgetting everything they have learned, and just trampling on God’s free gift. This places those people in serious jeopardy of being burned with unquenchable fire. Let’s read about that in Hebrews chapter 10:

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,

27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

(Hebrews 10:26-31)

Along these same lines, in Hebrews chapter 6 we read:

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,

5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,

6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

(Hebrews 6:4-8)

John said Messiah would baptize with Holy Spirit and with fire. This is the baptism of fire. We don’t want it.

Who should be baptized?

Since the biblical requirement is to repent and believe, there must be a certain level of maturity. Young children should not be baptized. They are simply too young to be able to fully comprehend what it means to repent; they won’t have the mental capacity to truly understand the elements of our faith; and they are not of sufficient age to understand the ramifications of making a lifelong contract. This is why children are not allowed to enter into legal contracts – they simply don’t have the maturity and life experiences to understand contract law.

Since repentance must come before faith and baptism, children (and others who cannot fully understand the concept of repentance) should not be baptized.

Older teenagers probably should not be baptized yet unless they can demonstrate enormous maturity and a responsible approach to life. There are a great many pulls on our young people, including hormones and our entertainment, which can pull a young, immature Christian around.

And this is exactly why some parents and teens have expressed a desire for baptism – so the young person will have the extra help of God’s Spirit to overcome the temptations of the world. However, parents and their children should balance a number of factors, including the maturity and knowledge levels of their children, before making a decision.

A teenager should not be baptized simply because the parents want it. Baptisms must take place when the person being baptized wants it, can understand what it means, and has the ability to repent and understand our faith.

An adult person who comes to understand that there is a God, that He is active in the lives of His people, that He is working out a plan here on earth, and that He invites people into His family, should consider baptism.

If the only motivation is to gain freedom from guilt because of past sins, and the person wishes to be freed from that enormous weight of guiltiness, that person needs more counseling before being baptized.

The purpose of baptism is to show, by the use of this public ceremony, that the person being baptized has repented, has come to believe in the saving blood of Messiah, believes the good news of the kingdom of God, and wishes to receive the adoption into God’s family through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Happy ending

In Isaiah chapter 1, we see that God has a plan, and intends for the story to have a happy outcome.

What God tells Israel as a nation, we can take to ourselves and apply in our own lives, daily, as a part of repentance, and walking in the Way.

In Isaiah 1:16-19, we read:

16 wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong,

17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land;

Isaiah uses strong imagery to portray in our minds the loving God who forgives the repentant. These words apply to those who repent and are baptized, because it is through the Spirit that God forgives, and gives us eternal life.

And, as we have seen, it’s an important part of the story, first to believe on God’s Son, then to repent deeply, then to be baptized to show that repentance, then to receive the Holy Spirit, which God gives to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32), as a down payment on eternal life in His family (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).

In Acts chapter 22, the apostle Paul was relating how he had been struck down on the road to Damascus, and how he received a visit from Ananias.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.

13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.

15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.

16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’”

(Acts 22:12-16)

That’s good advice for everyone who seeks to enter the kingdom and family of God. Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

What are you waiting for?