The Significance Of Water Baptism: Is It Really Necessary To Be Baptised?
There's an instance in the Bible that has sparked a whole lot of intrigue when it comes to water baptism. It's the time that Jesus insisted that John the Baptist baptise Him in water. Upon presented with the task, John initially refused, claiming to be unworthy to do so, but Jesus responded by saying, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15)
Some have interpreted this as saying that water baptism is essential for salvation. But the Bible says it's not. Take the thief who was crucified with Christ who most likely never got the chance to be baptised but still was promised eternal life by Jesus. John 3:15 also tells us, "that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." We are saved simply by putting our faith in the more than adequate work of Christ on the cross.
So if water baptism is not necessary for salvation, can it be considered unimportant?
Far from it.
While baptism is not a prerequisite to heaven, God still commands us to be baptised simply because of the functions it holds. Here are three functions of water baptism that make it important.
1. Baptism Is An Expression
Baptism is first and foremost an expression of our devotion and faith towards God. Nowhere in the Bible or in civil law are you required to express your love to your spouse, but we know that it's important. It not only affirms the relationship but actually builds it. The same is true for water baptism as an expression. Romans 6:3 tells us, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?"
2. Baptism Is A Symbol
Colossians 2:12 says, "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."
Water baptism is an external symbolism of the internal work of cleansing of Christ's finished work in us.
Symbolism is more than just form. It is also functional. We need symbols to be reminded of the value of things. Take for instance wedding ceremonies. The wedding is not the legal binding of a marriage. The contract is. But it's crazy how much couples spend just to have a wedding celebration—because symbols are important to us.
3. Baptism Is A Declaration
When we truly believe in something and are convinced by it, it's hard not to declare it to others. I have a friend who's an ex-convict who met Christ behind bars. He loves to share to everyone he meets for the first time how he was once imprisoned (physically and spiritually) and is now free.
Water baptism works the same way. It's an uncontrollable urge to publicly declare that we are now free in Christ.