Life After Baptism
It has been well documented that the church has had many arguments and fights within itself throughout its history. This is a sad fact but it is undeniable. Perhaps one of the greatest areas of disagreement has to be baptism. Still to this day many denominations are split over the theology and methodology of baptism. Yet, the observance of baptism has never really been seriously questioned. The fact baptism has been upheld for hundreds of years should be an indicator to us in the present that baptism is significant. Not simply because it has become a church tradition but because its roots are found in the pages of the New Testament. We can see that baptism is important in Scripture, but what exactly is the purpose behind it?
First off, the highest purpose in baptism, as with any act of worship, is to bring honor and praise to God. But baptism also has a few unique purposes of its own. Baptism very clearly symbolizes our union with Christ in a way that is distinct from other divinely designed systems, like marriage or parenthood for example. As we are baptized, we are declaring with our mouth and with our body, that our soul has been redeemed by God. When we go down into the water and come back up, we are stating that our old life of sin and carnality has died, and that we have been raised to eternal life, just as Jesus was raised from the tomb. The theologian Wayne Grudem views baptism, and the symbolism within, as a tremendous act of worship. He says that:
“The amazing truths of passing through the waters of judgment safely, of dying and raising with Christ, and of having our sins washed away, are truths of momentous and eternal proportion and ought to be an occasion for giving great glory and praise to God.”
The gospel is clearly at the heart of baptism, for without it there is no baptism worth rejoicing over. The gospel is what gives baptism meaning and power.
Baptism certainly does not lack purpose, but yet some people are reluctant to take part in it. There are several reasons for this, some of which come from an anxiety of what life after baptism looks like.
One of the most common things you hear as people are going through the baptism process is that increased opposition will come. In some cases this may mean opposition from people, particularly those outside of the church, but in general spiritual opposition is what is meant. While it is very likely that this is true, it may be incomplete to leave it at that.
Satan has been opposing God and His kingdom for as long as possible and his goal is always to destroy the works of God. For example, he tried and succeeded in tempting Eve in the garden, and he tried and failed in tempting Jesus to worship him. He also seeks to bring down Christians whose faith is growing and on display. Therefore, by committing to worshiping God through baptism you may indeed be putting a target on your own back for this very reason. The enemy will always seek to oppose genuine faith shown by a personal testimony and obedience. I have seen this truth hold people back from being baptized, but a fear of knowing that trials will come does not surpass the good news of baptism.
The good news is that God will supply you with the increased power to overcome this opposition. As you take part in baptism you will have an increased capacity for spiritual power. I believe this because the measure of our spiritual power is directly related to how Spirit-filled we are, and being full of the Spirit depends on several aspects including obedience, which participating in baptism is. Now, every believer has the Holy Spirit living inside of them, but there are different levels of which Christians are full of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul makes his appeal to the Ephesian Christians to do just that. He writes:
“Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” Ephesians 5:17-18
Seeking baptism is a practical way in which we live out this verse. By seeking baptism you are seeking to follow God’s will for all believers in His written Word. Doing this with a heart set on worshiping God will certainly be met with an increase of the Holy Spirit within your spirit as you follow God’s will. It is important to note that this filling is not a one-time only event. As Christians we “leak” our measure of the Holy Spirit as we commit sin and give into our flesh; therefore we must keep coming back to the source. All of this to say that God does His work in a person through the Holy Spirit living inside of them, and the amount that they are Spirit-filled is directly related to how much power He entrusts to them. This power will certainly be “at work within us” to overcome increased temptation and opposition (Eph. 3:20-21).
An increased commitment to the local church is another way in which people are anxious about being baptized. In Scripture there is a role within the church that each member is responsible to fulfill, and in baptism you identify yourself as a member of God’s universal church. Therefore, this role will fall on your shoulders. The focal point of this role is to serve. The early church knew very little of unbaptized members and it also had no expectations of its member being idle. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-12 that there are many gifted people within the church including pastors, teachers and evangelists but ultimately it is up to those being taught and instructed to carry the church in the other areas.
In some churches the pastor is expected to do everything because the rest of the church feels like it is his job to lead every aspect of the church. This thinking does not stack up well against Ephesians 4. Pastors certainly oversee every area of the church but their direct leadership isn’t necessary in every aspect of every ministry. For example, the pastor does not need to plan the church barbeque when several people in the congregation could handle it. He also does not have to lead summer vacation Bible school when other people clearly have the gift of teaching and leadership to do the same job. It could even be argued that the church is responsible to get the pastor away from some of the frontline duties that are secondary to preaching and teaching. This means that he can focus on sharing the Word of God instead of “waiting over tables.” This is where baptized members of the church are to step up and step into their role to serve in the local church.
Baptism has a great deal of beauty in its design because God has chosen it as a way to glorify Himself. It also serves as a way for Christians to declare that their old way of life has died, their sins have been washed away, and that they have been given new life through Jesus. The forecast for following Jesus has never been predicted as easy. But even still, God is faithful to supply wisdom and power to those who ask and live in His will. This means that God has your back in your deepest, darkest moments. The church is also impacted by baptism as people proclaim that their souls have been saved and are welcomed into the church with a responsibility to contribute to the team. No one has ever been saved to sit. Believers are not created to be benchwarmers. Rather we are to serve. We are to be involved in the match. This means that we will sweat, fall down and get tired. But even in our moments of weakness, we still have the opportunity to bring glory to God.