For going on 2,000 years, believers have gather around pools of water to watch the ministers of the gospel immerse new converts in water.
The Lord’s churches have an ancient heritage. Across the continents and down through the ages the people of God have confessed their sins, trusted in the Christ, and submitted to water baptism.
Starting in a muddy river in Israel, then spreading to Jerusalem, and then through Samaria and Asia; down southward to Africa or westward across the mountains and on to Europe, then to the Americas, the message of Christ was proclaimed and believed. Age after age, church after church, acting out this drama, making this confession; Jesus Saves. Confessing that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God came, born of a virgin and entered into His own creation to save His people from their sins.
We declare in baptism that the Godman was nailed to the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice and completely saved every single person for whom the sacrifice was intended. On that terrible afternoon, Jesus cried, it is finished, and gave up the ghost. Jesus, the Lord, the Saviour, the King, was dead. They took His lifeless body from that wretched tree and laid His dead corpse in a rich man’s tomb. Sad, dejected, and faithless, the disciples had given up in despair.
But lo, at the dawning of the first day of the week, the two Marys came to the tomb but the stone was rolled away. They were terrified, but the angle said “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” The tomb is empty! Jesus had risen! The Lord then met with his disciples, spoke with them, ate with them, and preached to them. He was alive! He had the power to lay his life down and he took it right back up. This same Jesus, in his same body spoke to these same disciples, bodily risen and forever defeating death for his people.
The Jesus who had the power to raise himself from the dead has the power to give life: to give life to the dead, to raise them from spiritual death unto spiritual life. We are to go with this message of the gospel and preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ. We have been charged to make disciples and baptize believers. We baptize them, symbolizing how we are made disciples. As Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected – we symbolize that in the water. We are buried in baptism. As Jesus rose from the dead for our justification, we come up out of the water raised to walk in newness of life. Baptism symbolizes what Christ has already done. We baptize believers; the disciples of Jesus to show the world that we have died to the old life in repentance and have been born again and are new creatures in Christ.