What is the Meaning of Baptism?
The word “baptize” means to dip into or to immerse. Hence “baptism” is immersion. This term has been used by Christians for many years to denote a ritual of sprinkling some water on new believers, “christening” babies, or immersing people into water upon conversion. However, this word has a much deeper meaning and significance.
Crossing the Red Sea Symbolizes Baptism
The story in Exodus fully symbolizes baptism. When the people of God, the children of Israel, were enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt, God sent Moses to bring them out of bondage into Canaan, the good land which He had promised them. (Exodus 3:7-8), (Matthew 11:28) Pharaoh signifies Satan, usurping and enslaving the God-created people. Egypt signifies the Satanic world, which is the means by which Satan possesses, distracts, and enslaves the God-created people so that they are not able to come to God. People toil all their lives in this world. Some are successful in accumulating riches, power, status, fame, etc. (Matthew 19:23) Many more have mediocre achievements. Yet all accomplishments and achievements may be chains that bind. Most live in poverty and strife, having no peace or rest. This, too, is a form of bondage. Rich or poor, all are under slavery all their lives, and all are dying and die, bringing nothing with them. (Hebrews 9:27) This world is a gigantic system of slavery. Both the “bond” and the “free” are under Satan’s usurpation.
The Good Land Signifies God as Everything to Man
The good land signifies God being the complete enjoyment for His people. God’s people, as His kingdom, should live in and labor on the good land so that they may have God as their food, drink, clothing, housing, and protection.
Moses Signifies Jesus being Our Salvation
Moses signifies Jesus Christ the Savior coming to defeat Satan to free His people from this enslaving world. (Hebrews 3:5-6) Christ wants to redeem all the God-created people and bring them into Himself as the good land so that they will live in Him and He will live in them. (Colossians 2:6) He and they will become a mutual abode. (John 14:20) He will be their life and they will be His living. He will dwell and act in them and they will be His habitation and expression. (1 Corinthians 6:19), (Ephesians 2:22)
God's People were Saved through Water
In order for Moses to save the children of Israel from Pharaoh and his pursuing army, he needed to bring them across the Red Sea. By the power of God, he opened up the Red Sea for the people to pass through. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2) When Pharaoh and his army tried to follow after them, the water closed up and they were drowned. Thus the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt. The Red Sea was a picture of the water of baptism. The crossing of the Red Sea by God’s people signifies baptism. The drowning of Pharaoh and his army signifies the destruction of Satan and his power of darkness over the believers.
Believing and being Baptized Is the Way of Salvation
We were born in sin with a sinful nature, the controlling power of Satan within us. (Psalms 51:5), (Romans 5:17) We were also born in this Satanic world under his slavery in our outward circumstances. (1 John 5:19) In order to be saved, we not only have to believe into the Lord Jesus Christ, we also have to be baptized so that we may be delivered from the world and so that the hold of Satan on us may be removed. (Matthew 28:19) Therefore, the Lord said in Mark chapter sixteen verse sixteen, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Believing is half of salvation and baptism is the other half. If the children of Israel only believed that God would deliver them and did not take the step of passing through the Red Sea, they would still be in Egypt in slavery. Some people say that it is enough to believe, but according to the word of the Savior, we need both to believe and to be baptized.
Being Baptized into God
The water of baptism also signifies the Spirit. To be baptized, immersed, into water signifies being dipped, immersed, put into God, who is the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13) The Spirit is invisible, but water is visible. When the baptizing one puts you into water, by faith, he is putting you into the Spirit. Visibly, you are being immersed into water, but invisibly, you are actually being immersed into God. When you believe and receive the Lord by prayer, the Spirit enters into you to regenerate your spirit so that you will have God as your new life. When you are baptized, you are put into the Spirit so that you will have the Spirit as power for you to have a new living. God comes into you and you go into God. Then you will have a new life within and a new living without. Inside, you will have Christ as your life; outside, Christ will have you as His living. Therefore, baptism is not a ritual for people to perform. It has an intrinsic significance that is beyond human eyes and minds.
Being Transferred into God's Kingdom
The Lord Jesus also said, in John chapter three verse five, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5-6) To be born of the Spirit means to receive the Spirit into our spirit. (Colossians 3:4) To be born of water means to be baptized. By being born again of the Spirit and of water, one may be transferred from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God, from being enslaved by Satan to being set free by the Spirit in Christ.
Believing is Before Baptism
We need to consider the “baptism” that many people received when they were babies. That was a ritual their parents chose to perform on their unwitting babies with the good intention that their children would be for God. God gave man a free will to choose to receive Him or reject Him. Therefore, when those babies grow up they need to choose for themselves. If they choose God, then they have to believe and be baptized. According to Mark chapter sixteen verse sixteen, they need to believe first before their baptism can be effective. If you are in this category, then you must decide for yourself once and for all whom you would choose. If you choose God, then you need to believe into Christ and be baptized into Him. (Acts 26:18)
Practical Points concerning Baptism
Today, most people think that they can only be baptized after a certain waiting period, on certain important days, in big designated buildings, with special water, by ordained persons. These concepts are not biblical and do not have to be followed.
When should we be baptized? According to the Bible, there is no need to set a time or a waiting period. (Acts 22:16) In Acts chapter two, when three thousand people believed, they were baptized that day. There were many similar cases. People were baptized immediately upon believing.
Where should we hold baptisms? According to the Bible, baptisms may be held wherever there is water. (Acts 8:36) Examples in the Bible include the Jordan River, people’s homes, and water by the roadside.
Who may baptize? Traditionally, the clergy, such as priests, ministers, and pastors, were "ordained" to baptize people. But according to the Bible, there is no ordination or restriction to a certain class; rather, all the Lord’s disciples have been commissioned to baptize. Anyone who has the faith to preach the word also has the right to baptize, because baptism is not a matter of ritual but a matter of faith.
Whenever you want to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and life and be transferred from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God, pray and ask the Lord to come into you, and be baptized immediately wherever you find water by anyone who has the faith to immerse you into God. The person who had enough faith to give you this article should have enough faith to baptize you.
You may pray, “Lord Jesus! I want to be delivered from the slavery of this world. I want to be freed from Satan’s hold on me. I believe that You came to save me. Come into me that I may have You as my eternal life. Amen. Thank You, Lord.”
*All quoted verses taken from "The New Testament Recovery Version Online" at http://online.recoveryversion.org, Copyright © 1997-2012 by Living Stream Ministry.