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Water baptism is a beautiful reminder of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior, albeit not compulsory or salvatory. It is important to explain to the potential baptizee that they are already saved, if indeed they have confessed Jesus as Savior. In multiple instances, water baptism is seen as the means to an end (salvation), rather than as a reflection of the sacrifice our Savior made. Faith comes by hearing the call of the Holy Spirit, reflecting the Word. Confession unto salvation comes by believing the call. The call may occur during a worship service on Sunday, or in a revival. I recall a 4-year-old coming forward on the 4th day of a revival. When asked for her profession of faith, she said, "He forgives us our sins." Yes, she was immersed as a qualification for membership in that church, not for eternal salvation. Once saved, nothing could come between her and her Savior.
This is truly a puzzling question. The only answer I can think of is tradition. The Holy Spirit acting through the writers of the New Testament and Jesus' own words are unambiguous as to what baptism does. Baptism now saves you, search the scriptures, bapitism is not a work, it is something done to us. Jesus himself instituted it, tells us what it's purpose is as well as the apostle Paul. Instead of believing people willfully deny the plain words of scripture, I try to put the best construction on it and think they just follow tradition or perhaps want to humanly rationalize what is found in scripture.
Mark 16:16 says "Whoever believes AND is baptised will be saved". Thus it is clear that baptism is part and parcel of the process of salvation. I notice that many claim that we only need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While that is absolutely necessary for salvation, (John 3:5), please notice that water is also mentioned in the same breath. In any event, baptising with the Holy Spirit is not the duty of man. Any human who purports to baptise others with the Holy Spirit is simply dangling in the spiritist world. Such spirit is not of our God. We only have the bible as our standard of faith. It is from there that we see our examples. No apostle or prophet or anyone, ever baptised another with the Holy Spirit. That is the prerogative of God alone. To those who had received the Holy Spirit before they were baptised with water, this is what the Apostles could only conclude: Acts 10:47 KJV "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" Holy Spirit baptism was evidence that these could be baptised with water, rather than to say water baptism was no longer necessary. These are the last days, and human doctrines shall flood the show. 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Water baptism is part of the process of salvation. A lot if rationalising will drift us away from that salvation. You think the destroying angel sent to Egypt didn't know the Hebrew compound, or needed that blood to know? No! He knew all before hand, but they had been instructed to smear the door posts, and they did just that. To obey is better than sacrifice. And another thing - yes, the water is holy. We pray for it to be sanctified, and the people who baptise are also set apart, made holy, for the purpose. That is why Jesus had to travel about 40km to get to John. He could very well have swum in a nearby pond, but he didn't. Remember Namaan? He tried to rationalise. His leprosy was not gonna go away because he didn't find the Jordan attractive. His healing depended on obeying - blindly, I might add - the prophet's message from God. Our safety is on the simple message of the bible. And obedience. Bless.
The reason that it's an outward symbol of faith is because baptism in Hebrew is know as a mikvah. It is found in the OT. Our Bible is a translation from the septuingiat (Greek translation of the whole Bible) which translates the Hebrew. Therefore, our foundational Scriptures are written in Hebrew and Greek. Hebrew is a much broader language than our English language and expresses Eastern ways and thoughts. So, the root of our faith is Hebrew with Abraham (the first Hebrew) being the "father of our faith." "Mikvah" is a commandment and Jesus obeyed what was written. The NT (with Hebrew/ Jewish disciples) had all experienced the practice of mikvah. There are several reasons one had to mikvah: for cleansing (e.g., when a woman's monthly cycle ended), to be ritually purified (so one could go into the temple), priests had to be ritually purified in order to perform their services in the temple, and this one is important to note: when one changes from one status to another or when one is elevated in purpose (e.g., the status of rabbis would change, a common person would be elevated in position, etc.). At the time of His ministry, Jesus' position had changed. His 30 year "normal" life had transitioned to that of a rabbi, prophet, miracle worker, and Messiah (the Anointed One, which is what Messiah and Christ mean). He was elevated in position to begin His new ministry and whenever anyone's ministry changed, there was a mikvah. The mikvah is mainly an outward testimony of an elevated change. When Jesus said to "follow Him," we would show an outward witness to a new change in our own position, status, etc. So, in Hebrew, it is expressed all throughout the Torah. It was one of the commandments (not directly stated in the 10). Therefore, Jesus set it forth to us as a commandment, too. As believers, we also attach the above stated meanings to baptism (death, burial, resurrection of Jesus) because it does express a changed life. On another note, the priests had to go through a mikvah, and we would become "priests" as taught by the NT writers. Some other "mikvahs" on a grander scale included: the Flood (the earth would be changed from what it was) and the passing through the Red Sea. Although the Hebrew people did not get wet, they are mentioned as having passed through the waters. They were changed from slaves (to the Pharaoh of this world) to free children in God (being freed from slavery).
Why do people say baptism is symbolic or an outward sign of an inward faith, when the bible does not say that? I believe it does say that in reading of the scriptures. Here are just a few scriptures that speak of "baptism" as a sign of your inward faith in God's Son ~ Jesus Christ. "From the time when John was ritually cleansing people through baptism in the Jordan, as a sign of rethinking their lives of sin, to the wonderfully inspired teaching on the mountain in Galilee...." Matt. 3:1-8, 11. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" ~ Matthew 3:13-17. "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins" Mark 1:4-5. "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus" ~ Acts 19:4 "So now, don’t delay. Get up, be ceremonially cleansed through baptism, and have your sins washed away, as you call on His name in prayer.” ~ Acts 22:16 "Has the Anointed One been split up into many small pieces? Do you think Paul was crucified for you? Were you ceremonially washed through baptism into the name of Paul? Absolutely not!" ~ 1 Cor. 1:13 "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" ~ 1 Cor. 1:17. "The water through which the ark safely passed symbolizes now the ceremonial washing through baptism that initiates you into salvation. You are saved not because it cleanses your body of filth but because of your appeal to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King" ~ 1 Peter 3:21. I believe these and more Scriptures answer the question that was stated above: Perhaps people say that it is a symbolic and sign of one's faith because of what scriptures have told and spoke to them. To be baptized in water was an old ritual, and the mikvah was a foreshadow of things to come. It was a "sign" to show that you agree or are "immersed" into the train or school of thought that the one was baptizing you into. John baptized in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God. By being baptized in water is to show that you are turning your thoughts away from the world's thinking (your previous thoughts and ideas) and are believing in the thoughts and ideas of a Higher Authority. You couldn't even do this if it were not for God's grace to "initiate" your thoughts and be lifted up into thinking in His direction and line of His will and come with the sense of knowing that you are turning around in a different direction (repenting=change one's mind-set/thoughts/thinking). So by being baptized can one not see that the Scriptures speak of this very act? Is it not then the very "outward sign" of one's "inward faith" in the immersion of their thoughts to the One in whom they are believing in?
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, the Bible says we are baptized into His body (i.e., born again). This is the inward, spiritual baptism that saves us from our sinful nature. At that moment, we become a new creation in Christ. This is all a work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person. Then, water baptism is the outward demonstration that this inward, Holy Spirit baptism into Christ Jesus has occurred.
Here's something to consider, Now observe that he saved us not by works, but by baptism. This passage clearly shows that baptism is not a work of man "done in righteousness." Baptism is not a work of man; it is a work of God because it has been commanded by God (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Baptism is a work of God in the same sense that believing on Jesus is "the work of God" (and John 6:29 says just this). Those who believe that he saved us by works should give up the view. And those who disregard baptism should realize that they can not be saved without obeying God. Guardian of Truth
Romans 6:4-8 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Baptism is an act of being born again in fulfilment of prerequisite for seeing the kingdom of heaven. By complete immersion in the water one is dead to the old ways of life and as one is raised from the water one becomes a new person in thought and deeds- born again. Christ had a conversation with Nicodemus as below John 3:1-5 KJV  There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:  The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. We should also note that true baptism only takes place when one realises that he is wrong but God is right and ready to surrender to Christ as his lord and saviour. It is therefore not necessarily a symbol but a condition to be fulfilled to see the kingdom of heaven. Well of course one may argue that it is an outward sign of the internal faith if the thinking is in line with the confession of sins and acceptance of Christ as the Saviour for it is only the faithful that can accept Christ and then make public declaration through baptism. The fact that Christ also got baptised underscored the importance of baptism. I believe that salvation has many ingredients and water baptism is one of them. If the essence of salvation is to enter the kingdom of God then water baptism by immersion is key.
Numerous scriptures that point to the necessity of baptism. In fact, when it comes to obeying a clear mandate in scripture such as being baptized, we are to remain 'young and impressionable' (much like that of little children) by following the commandments in scripture, even if it doesn't make sense to the natural mind. Jesus says in Matt 18:3 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." One should take the time to do a careful word study on the word "baptism." It's a very simple task. If the scriptures clearly say that baptism is necessary for salvation & that baptism washes away & remits (removes) sins, then we should know that it IS in fact necessary from us taking the time to review scripture for ourselves. I Peter 3:21 "And that water [water from the flood in Noah's day] is a picture of baptism, which now saves you not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus..' Acts 10:48 And he (Peter) *commanded* them to be baptized in the name of the Lord..' Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, *and wash away thy sins*, calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized *every one of you* in the name of Jesus Christ *for the remission of sins*, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Mark 16:16- He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. In Matt 3:15, Jesus equated the fulfillment of all righteousness with his being baptized by John the Baptist: "And Jesus answering said unto him (John), suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him." In Acts 19:1-5, the apostle Paul compelled believers who had already been baptized under John's baptism to be rebaptized in the name of Jesus. And they were obedient because the scriptures says that they were rebaptized. If baptism wasn't important, then I doubt if Paul would've made the point for them to be baptized.
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