What does the Bible mean when it talks about repentance, baptism and conversion? The author of this article describes his journey to come to understand and recognise God’s calling after embarking on a period of Bible study and prayer.
Initially he became aware that much of what he had previously been taught about Christianity was erroneous, and that his self-absorbed lifestyle was displeasing to God. He also realized he had only been able to come to this understanding because of the miraculous and merciful spiritual calling of God (John 6:44).
God led him to understand the need for repentance from sin—which is the violation of God’s law, separating us from God (1 John 3:4; Isaiah 59:2). Repentance is defined as deep regret and sorrow over our offenses against God and commitment to change, which King David expressed in Psalms 51.
Through repentance and seeking God the author realized a complete turnaround in his life was needed. He had to stop following his own ways and actively pursue God’s priorities, recognizing Christ as his personal Savior. The Apostle Pau wrote to the church in Ephesus describing what their lives were like prior to their conversion, stating they had “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [that is, Satan the devil]... among whom also we all once conducted ourselves… fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind…” (Ephesians 2:2-3).
Until God opens a person’s mind and grants repentance the willingness to do so, and the spiritual understanding we need is impossible (Proverbs 16:25; Jeremiah 17:9). This was mightily demonstrated on the day of Pentecost when the New Testament Church began. One hundred and twenty disciples were gathered in Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of the promise Jesus Christ had made to them 10 days earlier—that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
When this tremendous event occurred, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4) and the Apostles immediately began witnessing to the crowds, with Peter urging, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Three thousand people repented, were baptized and received God’s Spirit—the very essence of His nature and power (Acts 2:41).
From that time forth the Holy Spirit has been made available to every person God calls who genuinely repents and is properly baptized. The only form of baptism practiced in the Bible is being fully submerged in water, as a symbolic burial of the “old self” (Romans 6:3-4). As the baptized individual rises out of a figurative watery grave, it portrays a resurrection from death to a changed life. In a spiritual sense, the repentant person’s sins are totally washed away in the baptismal water through God’s forgiveness and mercy.
God inspired His prophet Isaiah to tell us: “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Baptism symbolizes the complete removal of sin in a repentant person’s life, made possible through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice ( Revelation 1:5). This allows the person to move forward with a renewed and dynamic spiritual purpose.
Just as Jesus arose from the grave, baptism gives the repentant person complete assurance the Father will resurrect them to everlasting life at Jesus’ second coming: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also 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” (Romans 6:4-5).
Baptism opens the door to a wonderful and growing relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, and is the beginning of a thrilling journey toward eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Beyond Today Magazine (May-Jun 2019)