Baptism is Life... But It's Also Death
I am approaching my ten year baptism anniversary. I was baptized at the age of thirteen on a beautiful, warm, sunny Easter day. Even at that young of an age, I fully comprehended the commitment and testimony that baptism entailed, and I was excited. I was excited to share my testimony in front of my visiting family members, my church family, and all the guests that attended church that may be hearing the Gospel for the first time.
I knew baptism was about new life in Christ. Baptism is an outward sign of the inward grace that had entered my life and changed me through faith in Jesus Christ. As a follower of Jesus, I wanted people to know that I was committed to living my life in a way that pleased Him and gave Him all the glory. In my testimony, I shared Psalm 23 to the congregation and explained what it meant for me to call Jesus my Good Shepherd. In Him, my eternal hope is secure. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so too was I experiencing new life through Him! Baptism is such a beautiful symbol of raising up out of sin and death to experience the life and freedom Christ has to offer.
As I waited my turn to enter the baptismal, I realized I actually felt quite nervous. I was about to be dunked in water in front of almost 500 people! They were all going to be watching me. My turn was next and I quickly began my way to the few steps down into this holy dunk tank. My foot didn’t even make it on the first step. IT SLIPPED. My wild foot MISSED the step and slid right off the edge, plummeting my legs forward and my butt straight down on the step. Boom, boom, boom! My butt, instead of my feet, continued the journey down the three steps making loud splashes all the way down. Oh, was I mortified! The service was even recorded, and you can HEAR the splashes and the resounding GASP of 500 people. It is quite the audio.
I couldn’t believe it. I was literally dying of embarrassment. To make matters worse, my pastor was absolutely soaked by the water that had splashed up from my fall. The whole baptism was truly eclipsed by this slip which has constituted as my personal “Most Embarrassing Moment” for ten years and running. I couldn’t believe how dumb I made myself look. I didn’t even enjoy the day after that. I actually cried on the way home.
As I look back on that fateful day, I truly believe part of me died in that moment when I slipped in the baptismal. Before this moment, it was easy for me to understand that baptism meant new life in Christ. Now, I can see, really vividly (probably too vividly), how baptism represents death as well. And in order to understand how baptism symbolizes our new life in Christ, we must also understand the brevity of the death that takes place as well.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” - Romans 6:3-5
I love the way author Preston Yancey explains this in Out of the House of Bread. “Burial proceeds resurrection, the fast comes before the feast. I trust God will not leave me in the country of death but will answer me by receiving me into God’s presence… The sacrament of baptism uniquely participates in pronouncing my being as hid in God, for in the waters I am lowered into the death of Jesus, identified fully and completely with Jesus in His death, so that in being brought up from them I may also share in His own rising again. Paul identifies baptism as a sacrament by observing our passing into the waters as the visible sign of the invisible grace at work in us. We have been buried with Jesus… and raised to walk in life in the fullness of Him.”
It took me ten years, but I think I am finally learning why God allowed me to slip into my baptism in the first place. In my small, human way, God allowed me to identify with Christ even a teeny bit through death. I still care way too much about what people think of me and how they perceive me, but my baptism is a lesson to me to put that to death and follow Him. My feet may have slipped, but by the grace of God I was lifted out of those waters.
As you contemplate taking this next step of following Christ through baptism, my exhortation to you is this: Christ seeks to put to death every desire and sin in you that does not emulate or glorify Him. This is not something you can do in your own power, but through the power of God that works mightily in you! I challenge you to publicly proclaim your commitment to Him through baptism. The pain of putting to death your old self is totally eclipsed by the glory of the new life in Christ taking over! Go ahead and take the plunge!