Baptism: What It Will and Will Not Do
Having died for the sins of the world and risen from the dead, Jesus instructed His apostles to take His story to all people (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16). He further stated that those who heard this gospel message, believed it, and were willing to be His disciples were to be baptized. While many today downplay its importance, the book of Acts shows that in apostolic preaching baptism was considered a vital part of the message, and conversion was not complete until one had submitted to being baptized in water. (See Acts 2:38-41; 8:12, 13, 35-38; 9:17, 18; 10:47, 48; 16:14, 15, 30-34; 18:8; 22:16). That baptism was important in New Testament times cannot be denied, but what was it intended to accomplish? If you were to decide to be baptized today, what would it mean in your life? What would this act of obedience do for you? First, we ask that you consider carefully some things baptism will not do and then some things it can and will do.
Baptism Cannot …
Bring an end to all your problems. If you suffer from physical afflictions before being baptized, you will probably continue to suffer from the same ailments afterwards. Though we do not seek to minimize the value of prayer (James 5:16), Christians, like all others, experience sickness and eventually death. In the first century, Timothy was highly praised by Paul for his spiritual qualities (Philippians 2:19-22), yet suffered “frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Baptism will not exempt one from sickness.
The same thing could be said about any financial or personal problems you are experiencing. While the all-sufficient Scriptures teach us how to avoid certain financial traps and show us how to be better people, poverty and personal problems can still occur. Debts made before conversion will still be there and Christians can be “downsized” as easily as unbelievers. We do not intend to suggest that some problems are not made better when one becomes a Christian and learns to follow the footsteps of Jesus, for they are. But we must also remember the warning of Jesus that conversion might actually prove to be the cause of personal problems. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36).
End the conflict with Satan. As we read in Mark 1:9-13, it was immediately after His baptism that Jesus had to face the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. While the devil will do all he can to keep you from being baptized, do not think for a moment that he will surrender at that point. After your baptism the devil will still seek to devour you (1 Peter 5:8), and you will have to face many of the same fleshly struggles that were present before your conversion.
Transform an immoral act or relationship into a moral one. God will not allow His children to do any of the immoral things He condemns in those not His children. 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 makes no distinction between acts of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, covetousness, etc. committed by the baptized or the unbaptized; it simply states that those doing such will not inherit the kingdom of God. It should be obvious that if a practice was sinful before baptism, it will still be sinful afterwards. If you are involved in an immoral relationship, such as an adulterous marriage or living together without being married (Matthew 19:9; Hebrews 13:4), you must stop that sinful practice, for baptism will not sanctify immoral conduct.
If baptism cannot rid of us of our problems, put an end to temptation, and make it possible for us to continue in forbidden relationships, what good is it? Why should anyone be baptized? We would answer that while there are limitations to what can be accomplished through baptism, the benefits it brings will so outweigh the “negatives,” that like the jailer of Acts 16, you should be baptized this “same hour” (Acts 16:33).
Baptism Will …
- Save you. Mark 16:16
- Bring you into the kingdom of God, for it is part of the new birth. John 3:3-5
- Bring forgiveness of sins when it is accompanied by repentance. Acts 2:38
- Wash away your sins. Acts 22:16
- Unite you with the saving death of Jesus Christ, so that like Him you might rise to walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4
- Allow you to enjoy a very special relationship with Christ as you put Him on in baptism. Galatians 3:26, 27
The repentance that precedes baptism may be painful and costly and you will still face many struggles, but as a forgiven child of God, living with the hope that comes through forgiveness and with the aid of Christ your King, you can conquer these difficulties (Romans 8:37) and learn that the price you paid was nothing compared to what you gained (Philippians 3:8-10).
“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16