Quick quiz. Which of the following is visible?
Faith … repentance … the effectual calling of the Spirit of God … the new birth … the baptism of the Spirit that joins the new believer to Christ … water baptism?
I bet you said “water baptism,” and that answer is … CORRECT!
This Sunday at Woodland we’re celebrating baptisms. Our local church family will surround four of our own and recognize them as those who belong to Jesus. That’s one facet of water baptism, and there are others. There’s the believer’s recognition of sin and the proclamation of the Gospel through the ordinance. There’s the believer’s testimony that she has trusted Jesus by faith and turned from sin to follow Jesus. And, there’s the identification of the believer with the finished work of Jesus.
Water baptism makes all these invisible realities visible.
In 1 Peter 3.21-22, Peter charges his readers to make a picture of the saving work of Christ, even while they wait for Christ’s return and suffer hardship in a hostile world. One way we (along with his first readers) are to do this is through the ordinance of baptism that makes a picture by pointing to another picture.
Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ …
The other picture water baptism points to is the baptism of the Spirit of God that is received by faith. (See Romans 6.3-4, too). Water baptism points to that “appeal” (ESV), that request that the believer makes to God for a good conscience. The picture here is of the believer going to God and saying, “I know I’m far from You, Lord. I believe that Jesus paid for my sins on the cross, and that You raised Him from the dead. Please save me and make me alive too, like Jesus!”
God responds to the believer’s faith by granting a “good conscience,” the new birth. All of this is based on the work of Jesus, stamped by the resurrection and punctuated by Christ’s victory and present reign.
… Jesus Christ … who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Did you know that water baptism points to so much? Have you ever thought of the dunking of a man or woman in a newly lacquered horse tank (that’s what we use here at Woodland!) is invested with so much significance?
Baptism has significance, because water baptism makes a visible picture of the work of Jesus that become ours by faith in Him.
And that’s what we’re celebrating Sunday!