How Does Baptism Work?

     Baptism is important. If it was insignificant or a mere adjunct to salvation we would not find it mentioned as it is by Paul, Peter and the Lord Himself. Most folks reading this article know the passages in the New Testament that reference baptism, among which are Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21. From the very beginning of my exposure to the New Testament, the passage that has helped me most has been Romans 6. I think this is the case because this passage helped me understand how baptism works.

     We know that Paul wrote the Roman letter to Christians. He was not so much trying to get them to obey the gospel as he was helping them to see the value of living the Christian life. In Romans 6:1-14 he asked them to remember their own baptisms as an encouragement to be faithful to the Lord and not “continue in sin.” Evidently some of them had come to think that grace freed them from living a careful Christian life. Paul assured them that this was not an approved function of grace.

     In the process of his explanation he said this: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (6:3-5). I remember reading this before I became a Christian and thinking, “That’s it. Baptism will put me in Christ.”

     That is how it works. We all know that Jesus shed His blood in His death on the cross (John 19:28-37). Paul told us that we are baptized into His death. Thus our baptism is the time and place where we spiritually contact the saving blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). As we look back at Romans 6:3-5 we see that Paul identifies baptism as a burial as is also indicated by the word baptism itself, which means an immersion. When a person is immersed in water understanding that this is to wash away his or her sins, that person is the recipient of God’s grace and mercy.

     This is not so popular today, but it is nonetheless true. Salvation comes at the moment one is baptized. Nothing in the text indicates that a person is saved, then baptized. The two things are simultaneous according to the New Testament. May God bless us with time and opportunity to do His will.