And Peter said to them, “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.”
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Water baptism is an outward sign of our salvation. It is a testimony to ourselves and to others that we have chosen to follow Jesus.
A simple understanding of water baptism is that it is a ceremonial washing which symbolizes being washed clean of sin. This understanding is supported by verses such as:
An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 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.” (John 3:25-26 NIV)
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)
Water baptism is an outward symbol of the inward washing that occurs with salvation:
...he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit... (Titus 3:5)
Many also understand water baptism to be a symbol of the death of our old self (being buried with Jesus), and of our being raised up in new life (being raised from the dead with Jesus). This understanding is supported by these scriptures:
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. (Romans 6:3-4)
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
In some cultures, water baptism carries huge significance, sometimes being interpreted by unbelievers as a rejection of their culture and religious beliefs. A follower of Jesus may be rejected by friends and family because of their new faith, especially after being baptized. It is usually preferable for believers to avoid alienating friends and family. However, sometimes being rejected by friends and family is unavoidable, and a new believer must find new spiritual family among God’s people. God will help you through this as you continue to trust in him (Mark 10:29-30, Luke 18:29-30).
For Further Reflection
Matthew 3:1-12: John the Baptist (& Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-20)
Matthew 3:13-17: Jesus’ baptism (& Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22)
Romans 6:1-14: Being buried and raised with Christ.
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