Baptism is a ceremony through which you publicly enter into an agreement with your Creator. He agrees to forgive your past sins. You agree to love and obey Him. We do this because God has told us to.
Followers of Christ are instructed to be baptized in Acts 2:38. The Church of God is instructed to baptize in Matthew 28:19-20.
The actions of having someone put you under water and then bring you back up again have no power in and of themselves. However, in the context of a baptism, these actions are a necessary sign of a spiritual transformation taking place within.
So how is a person saved?
First, let’s establish what exactly you need to be saved from: You need to be saved from death.
Scripture tells us that through our sins we have earned only death, but God has the power to give us everlasting life (Romans 6:23). By the power of God, you can be saved from that death (John 5:24).
Your path from death to life follows this basic pattern
Awareness of sin
Sin is disobedience to God’s laws and is an offense before Him. It only makes sense that before you can consciously turn away from your disobedience toward God you first need to become aware of what those laws are and how you have offended God. One of the many roles of the Church of God is to proclaim the laws of God.
Conviction that you need to repent
With knowledge of God’s commands and standards comes awareness of your own guilt and offense toward God. You can ignore that guilt or you can choose to reconcile with God. He wants to reconcile. In fact, your sense of guilt is prompted in you by His Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Romans 2:4; John 6:44).
To reconcile with God, the penalty for your offense before Him must be paid. God is willing to pay the penalty of death on your behalf, though, which He does through the death of Jesus Christ.
Through the act of baptism you publicly declare your acceptance of that payment on your behalf. You enter into this agreement with God before witnesses. Note: The public nature of this declaration is accomplished by presenting yourself to the Church of God to be baptized rather than performing the actions by yourself in private.
Going down into the water is a rite confirming the death of the old person you once were. Rising up out of the water confirms your entry into the newness of life (Romans 6:4). You are now cleansed of your guilt before God.
Receive the Holy Spirit
Your guilt may be gone, but you have not yet received the gift of everlasting life. This gift of eternal life begins with the receipt of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands from a minister of God (Acts 8:14-17; 2 Timothy 1:6-7; Acts 19:5-6). The presence of the Holy Spirit within you is:
A down payment from God of the eternal life you will receive in fullness when resurrected (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The very power of God which will raise you from the dead—the same power of God which raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11).
Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit will guide and prompt you to walk in God’s ways for the remaining days of your flesh and blood life (Romans 8:4). Through overcoming temptation and trial you will grow and mature into the fullness of Christ.
When Christ returns, those of us who have remained faithful in love and obedience to the very end will be granted the prize of eternal life. Our salvation from death will be complete (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
A declaration of intent
The act of baptism is an important event on the path to eternal life. It is a sign that marks your day of decision. The day when you formally and publicly declare you are committed to walking the path that leads to eternal life (Philippians 3:10-11).
The time to get started on this important redirection of your life is now.
Find a minister of the Church of God near you here.