Why Get Baptized?
Thoughts on Rebaptism and the Biblical Reasons for Being Baptized
Ok, I’ll admit it. Rewriting a book about baptism isn’t the only thing I’ve done regarding this topic (yes, I had an initial attempt at a book that I have since removed). I’ve also been baptized twice.
My first bout with the water I deemed, well…unsuccessful. And, even to this day, I think I was right for reentering those waters. The first time I did it I was 13 years old. 13 and the girl at church that I liked was going to be getting baptized before me. And I was a little embarrassed by that fact. Okay,okay… I was extremely embarrassed by that. She beat me to the water, but I was determined to come in a strong second. Just a week or two after she was baptized, I too entered the water…kind of hoping she would notice me for it. Alas, she didn’t, but I digress…
At the age of 21, I decided to do it again. This time I wasn’t competing with anyone or for anyone’s affections. I wasn’t in a race to the water. I simply wanted to follow Jesus and be baptized for the right reason. In reality, my second time was my first and only time.
But, this brings up a good question: Just what is “the biblical reason” for getting baptized?
Why Get Baptized?
Where I grew up, it was like the Highlander Church…there can be only one (reason)! Only one reason was valid. Only one reason worked.
Anything else was just unbiblical.
However, is this what the Bible says? Is there only one biblical reason for immersing oneself in the water? Or, are there multiple reasons for getting baptized? I wonder….
Think about this:
What if I had gotten baptized out of a desire to just do what Jesus did? Let’s say that I read in the gospel accounts how Jesus had been baptized and my decision was based on this knowledge and this knowledge alone. I hadn’t read Romans 6 (most early Christians hadn’t either, by the way)? What if I had not yet arrived at Acts 2 in my study? Is wanting to do what Jesus did “good enough” for the waters to work? Is wanting to be like Jesus sufficient to make by baptism valid, or should I feel compelled, upon reading Romans and Acts, to go ahead and do it again?
This may seem silly to you, especially if you grew up in a church setting that did not honor the act of baptism in the same way my tradition does. But, I assure you that it is not silly nor have I created a straw man. For many in my religious group, these questions are serious. We believe, with much biblical support, that the act of baptism is where God does His work of forgiveness and grace. If we did it wrong or with incomplete understanding, then we are bound to have doubts. Doubts are unavoidable for us. In my recent book on baptism, I look at several different ways in which the New Testament talks about this watery moment. Does the Bible speak about baptism in the same way, every time it is mentioned? Does the Bible give only one reason for getting plunged into the water? What I discovered was quite astounding. The Bible speaks of baptism in a variety of ways.
It is the moment of heart circumcision.
It is when were are buried with Christ.
It is our exodus from sin-slavery.
It is where we get our new clothes.
It is when we experience the flood of Noah in our own lives.
BUT…Do you have to know any of this for baptism to work? Do you have to know ALL of it for baptism to take effect, or must you continually go back to the waters, time and time again, with each new understanding God gives you?
For many, unless you understand this as the moment when God washes your sins away, it must be done again. This is “the” reason, “the one and only” reason to be baptized. Nothing else matters. It is thought that if you are baptized for any other reason, it didn’t work.
“Baptized to do what Jesus did, following in his steps?” Didn’t work.
“Baptized to be crucified with Christ?” Invalid.
“Baptized to experience your own exodus from the slavery of sin?” Maybe it worked, as long as the right mantra was recited before the ceremony…by the right person some might add.
Let me be clear: this is not true. It isn’t true at all. You can understand all of it, part of it, or perhaps even nearly none of it and still have no need for concern. Getting baptized, following the example Jesus set, is good enough. Wanting to pursue God with all of your heart and, having seen others get baptized, you too decide to follow their example is “good enough.” If loving God was in any way your motivation for entering the waters, then you need not worry about doing it again. Our faith is in Jesus, not baptism.
And, assuming you get my book (see yet another shameless plug here…somebody’s gotta do it) and, upon reading it, you add layers of depth to your understanding regarding baptism,please know that you need not return to the waters for a fresh cleansing. Instead, you need only reflect on the moment that has already occurred and think to yourself, “Ah, I didn’t realize that happened in those waters all those years (or days) ago. God is great!”
And if you haven’t been baptized yet, what are you waiting for? It is a beautiful moment in the life of a believer.