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by Wayne Blank
The English word baptize is derived from the original Greek word of the New Testament which literally meant to immerse in water. As the Scriptures above make clear, Jesus Christ considered baptism to be an important act, so much so that He insisted on it when John hesitated to baptize Him. Jesus' baptism was then done in The Jordan River, perhaps not far from the place shown in the photograph at right.
Jesus' baptism was of course done solely to set an example for the repentant, since He had absolutely nothing to repent of, and absolutely no sins to be forgiven. But why is baptism in water important? Why wouldn't Jesus take "no" for answer, even with Himself?
An Act Of Sincere Repentance
Those who repented were always baptized in water:
"Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:2-5 RSV)
Water Baptism and The Holy Spirit
With repentance and baptism comes The Holy Spirit:
"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:36-39 KJV)
A Symbol Death, Burial and Resurrection
Baptism symbolizes the death (of the old self, by repentance), burial (by immersion in the water) and resurrection (the coming up out from under the water) to those who repent:
"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, so that 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 RSV)
An Important Step Toward Salvation
Jesus insisted upon water baptism for Himself. Christians should do no less for themselves:
"for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:26-29 RSV)
Fact Finder: What was one of the very first acts of repentance done by hostile Saul, who later became the apostle Paul?