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Baptism is the symbolic burial of the “old self.” The newly baptized person rises out of a figurative watery grave, portraying a resurrection to a changed life, and has hands laid on them to receive the Holy Spirit. The author of this article relates his experience.
We all anticipate various events in our lives, such as graduation from high school or college, our wedding day or the birth of a child. For me there was one event I greatly anticipated. This was the day of my baptism which took place when I was 23 years old.
For approximately 18 months prior to that day, I had studied and learned a tremendous amount from the Bible and the free Bible Study aids made available by my Church, which included a highly illuminating Bible Study Course, which added still more information and inspiration to what I was discovering. (See also the Beyond Today television program and UCG radio.)
I soon realized much of what I had been taught about Christianity was erroneous. I also came to see the self-absorbed way I was living was not only detrimental to me and others, but profoundly displeasing to God. I began to recognize the need to repent of my sins, which violated God’s holy laws, causing me to be separated from Him ( Isaiah 59:2).
Scripture defines repentance as heartfelt regret and sorrow over one’s offenses against God and a commitment to change (Psalm 51:4; Acts 3:19 and 17:30). With God’s guidance, I came to see I required a complete turnaround in the direction of my life. I needed to change from following my own ways to actively pursuing God’s priorities, and begin building a strong and enduring relationship with God the Father and Jesus, recognizing Christ as my personal Savior and spiritual brother (Romans 5:8-10).
God also provided me with the understanding of His purpose for humanity, which centers on eternal life in His divine family and Kingdom. As one illuminating passage explains: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Without God’s blessing and help we are told “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7, Christian Standard Bible).
To understand why I was so looking forward to my baptism it’s helpful to consider the history of the beginning of the New Testament Church on the day of Pentecost. On that day, 120 of Jesus Christ’s disciples were gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the fulfillment of the promise He made to them 10 days earlier—that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
When that tremendous event occurred, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4), and the Apostles began witnessing to the crowds in Jerusalem who were there to observe the feast of Pentecost. After hearing the Apostle Peter’s inspiring message the listeners felt “cut to the heart” and asked: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter replied, “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 (Acts 2:41-42).
Since that crucial event in biblical history, the Holy Spirit has been made available to everyone God calls, when they genuinely repent, are baptized and have hands laid on them. (See Bible Insights Weekly issue 225 for more information about the laying on of hands.) The only form of baptism practiced in the Bible is being fully submerged in water, as the symbolic burial of a person’s “old self” (Romans 6:1-6; Ephesians 4:22-24). It portrays a resurrection from death to a changed life, with the repentant person’s sins washed away through God’s forgiveness and mercy (Isaiah 1:18), allowing the newly baptized individual to move forward “to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
As for me, I came to see baptism was essential. It was an opportunity for me to pledge to the Father, as Jesus did, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). It gives a repentant person complete assurance the Father will resurrect him or her to everlasting life at Jesus’ second coming. Paul wrote: “ 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 6:5).
Baptism figuratively cleansed me from my past sins and opened the door to a growing relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. Now, decades later, God continues to guide me by His Spirit helping me to overcome sin and faithfully serve Him. Plus, through baptism God placed me into His Church, which He commissioned to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Everyone works together to carry out God’s work in this age and to love and serve one another as spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. Could God be calling you to a deeper understanding of Him and His Word? May God bless and guide you on your spiritual journey.
Beyond Today Magazine