This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.
Why We Baptize
At the end of our worship services this weekend, we will witness several believers receiving baptism. I hope that all of you will make it a point to be there for this. Baptisms are among the most exciting things that we do here at Northpoint. It is evidence of the Spirit at work drawing people to Christ and of fruit being borne in our ministries. It gives us the opportunity to see believers publicly confessing their faith in Christ. Baptism encapsulates what we are all about: making disciples who make disciples. It is invariably an encouraging time.
Why do we baptize? We do not believe, nor does the Scripture teach, that baptism saves us. Baptism is, rather, an outward symbol of an inner reality. It is not the cleaning of the body with water, but instead the cleansing of the heart with the blood of Christ that saves. If water baptism does not save, why do we do it? Baptism is a poignant symbol of the work that the Holy Spirit does in the believer who in turn identifies with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is an act of obedience to the command for believers to openly proclaim their allegiance to Christ and their recognition of His lordship. They also thereby show their unity with the body of Christ, the church. This is why baptisms are never done secretly or privately.
Baptism does not secure for us right standing with God. Instead it shows us how that right standing is achieved: when we are regenerated by the work of the Spirit, we die to self and live to Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Just as we cannot bring ourselves back from the physical grave, neither can we resurrect ourselves from spiritual death. Baptism visually reminds us that it is not our work which saves, but the resurrecting power of Christ.
We only baptize believers, those who have consciously identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in faith. The Bible always speaks of belief preceding baptism and we baptize only those who understand the meaning and have experienced the power of the good news. Indeed, baptism is a compelling picture of the truth and hope of the gospel. It is a visual reminder that Christ died, not to make good men a little better, but to bring the dead to life. This is why we insist on baptism by immersion in water when possible. It illustrates the inner reality of a person dying to self, identifying with Christ in His death and burial, and being raised with Him. As Paul explains: “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.” The one who repents of his sinfulness and throws himself on the mercy of Christ will be cleaned of the guilt and stain of sin and emerges from the water clean, renewed, alive. Baptism also points us to, and reminds us, of the life we now lead in light of our resurrection with Him. We who have been made alive “walk in newness of life,” everything has changed: we enjoy new hope, new confidence, new priorities, new inclinations, new passions, and new minds. Witnessing believers responding to the command of our Lord to be baptized is an encouraging experience for those of us who have been baptized as we affirm together “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”