Baptism: Beginning of a New Life

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Baptism

Beginning of a New Life

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The greatest gifts anyone can receive come “from above”—from our Creator God (James 1:17 James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no ficklenss, neither shadow of turning.
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). And God offers us two gifts that are by far the most important that any human being can receive in this life. The first gift is the forgiveness of sins. The second is the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

In turn, these two gifts make possible the greatest gift of all, which is eternal, glorified life after death in the everlasting Kingdom of God (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
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).

Countless people are confused, thinking they have already received God’s forgiveness when they haven’t, and thinking they already have God’s Holy Spirit when they haven’t. This article will help you to know one way or the other.

First, it is always God who must initiate a relationship with Him. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws [or calls] him” (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
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). God calls a person by causing him to hear the true gospel while at the same time opening up his mind to spiritual understanding (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
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).

There is nothing we can possibly do to earn eternal life, but God does have conditions that we must fulfill. The last article in this series focused on one of those conditions—real heartfelt repentance over having disobeyed God’s laws. Another condition is faith in God—trusting in Him and believing His Word, the Bible. Jesus Christ emphasized these two conditions during His ministry (Mark 1:15 Mark 1:15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
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What shall we do?

But for us to receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit, more is required than just repentance and faith. In Acts 2, we read a summary of the apostle Peter’s inspired sermon. He explained that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ was necessary to pay the penalty for our sins. It is our sinfulness that was responsible for His suffering. In essence, “you crucified” Him (Acts 2:36 Acts 2:36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made the same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
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Notice the reaction of the listeners: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (verse 37, emphasis added throughout). They knew God would require them to do certain things if they were to be given eternal life.

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ ” (verse 38). Peter made it clear that we must receive two things to be reconciled to God—forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.

Peter said we must first repent. But Peter didn’t mention the other condition, which is faith. Why not? The very question “What shall we do?” showed Peter that the people believed in his message and in the Scriptures. They wanted to know what they should do next to act on that faith!

Therefore, once a person mature enough to make important lifelong decisions has a basic spiritual understanding of and belief in the “gospel,” meaning the good news of the coming Kingdom of God and His plan of salvation, God urgently desires to see him or her repent and be baptized as soon as is practical. Then he can receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.

What is baptism?

The Greek word translated “baptize” is baptizo, the common Greek term for immerse, submerge or put into. So most English Bibles merely anglicize the word to a slightly different spelling rather than translate it. The important point is that, in the Bible, “baptize” always means immerse.

Other authors of the time write of naval battles in which ships were “baptized”—completely sunk—in the sea. Therefore, it is nonsensical to say one can baptize (immerse or submerge) by pouring or sprinkling. The Bible itself proves that baptism meant immersion. John the Baptist needed “much water for baptizing (John 3:23 John 3:23And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
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). Jesus, when John baptized Him, “came up immediately from the water (Matthew 3:16 Matthew 3:16And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him:
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). When Philip baptized the eunuch, they “went down into the water” (Acts 8:38 Acts 8:38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
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). Afterwards, “they came up out of the water (verse 39).

Why is this important? Because of what baptism represents. Being put into and under water pictures a burial, and rising from the water pictures a resurrection.

Baptism actually pictures three deaths, burials and resurrections. First, baptism symbolizes our faith “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
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Second, it symbolizes our acknowledgement of the need for our old sinful way of life to be “put to death” and be buried forever (Colossians 3:5 Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
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; 2:12). And our rising from the water symbolizes our beginning to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-6 Romans 6:3-6 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
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). Of course our spiritual character isn’t immediately transformed in those few seconds. Baptism is a sign of our lifelong dedication and commitment to that goal.

Third, baptism symbolizes one’s faith in the hope of the literal resurrection to come—”that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15 Acts 24:15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
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Baptism: Much more than a ceremony

Symbolism is important, but baptism is much more than symbolism. If you were to ask 100 people who are seeking to be baptized, “Have you ever asked God to forgive you?” probably 99 would say yes. Then ask the 99, “Do you think God answered those prayers and forgave you?” Maybe 98 of them will say yes. Then ask them, “So why be baptized if God has already forgiven you, since Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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says that the purpose of baptism is to have your sins forgiven?”

Most people are confused. Even when they realize baptism is a biblical requirement, they think of it as a mere ritual of thanksgiving for God’s forgiveness. But Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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states that baptism is a required condition for forgiveness. Before forgiveness, God requires this public profession of commitment to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord (meaning Master —to rule over our lives, Luke 6:46 Luke 6:46And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
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).

Many have misinterpreted 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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, which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Most people fail to realize that the New Testament epistles were written primarily to Church members—those who had already been baptized. In the epistles, the pronouns “we” and “us” refer to baptized members; “they” and “them” usually refer to nonmembers.

Therefore, 1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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tells us that if a person who has received initial forgiveness through baptism sins after that, he does not need to be baptized again and again. Each subsequent time he sins, he only needs to repent of that sin, confess it to God and ask God’s forgiveness—and God will immediately forgive. This is one of the awesome privileges a person has once he has been baptized!

This explains why baptism is so important! God holds each person guilty of every sin he has ever committed until those sins are blotted out at baptism (Acts 3:19 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
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; 22:16). At the moment the repentant person is immersed in water, all his past sins are forgiven! What a joy it is to stand clean before God!

The next step: Receive God’s Holy Spirit

Once a person has been baptized, he is ready to receive God’s Holy Spirit. The Bible shows that the Holy Spirit is the spiritual essence and power that emanates from God the Father and from Jesus Christ. Many are surprised to find that the Bible never mentions a Trinity. Indeed, careful study shows that the traditional formulations of men are quite different from the biblical teaching. (For a definitive scriptural study, read our free booklet Who Is God? )

The gift of the Holy Spirit does not come during the baptism. Scripture shows that God gives it immediately afterwards during the laying on of hands by one of God’s ministers as he prays for the baptized person to receive the gift of God’s Spirit (Acts 8:14-17 Acts 8:14-17 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen on none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
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; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
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).

Once you have the Holy Spirit, you have “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27 Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
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). You are “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27 Galatians 3:27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
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). You abide in Christ and He abides in you (1 John 3:24 1 John 3:24And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he stays in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
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). You are among the “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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). You have a “new heart” and are becoming a “new man” (Ezekiel 18:31 Ezekiel 18:31Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel?
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; Ephesians 4:24 Ephesians 4:24And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
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).

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body … the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:13 1 Corinthians 12:13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
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, 27). That “body” is the Church—the “church of God” (Colossians 1:18 Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
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; 1 Corinthians 1:2 1 Corinthians 1:2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:
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). We cannot “join” the Church of God. God adds us to it when He gives us the gift of His Spirit. We are then members of God’s Church
(1 Corinthians 12:27 1 Corinthians 12:27Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
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).

“Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His —he doesn’t belong to Christ (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
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). He is not a true Christian or “son of God” (verse 14). To become a real Christian, you must believe, repent, be baptized, experience the laying on of hands from one of God’s ministers, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Once a mature person has spiritual understanding and faith and has repented of his sins, he should not delay baptism. When God is offering you a gift, why not accept it? Jesus warned against rejecting God’s offer: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16 Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
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). As Ananias said to Saul (whose name was changed to Paul), “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16 Acts 22:16And now why tarry you? arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
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).

After one receives the Holy Spirit, that is when real spiritual growth begins! The next article in this series will explain much about what a baptized member should do to grow spiritually. GN