In my time on this Earth I have witnessed truly beautiful sights. Natural wonders take many forms and have the power to stop a man dead in his tracks. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, I have traveled and taking in the many sights and sounds of America. When one stands in the Rocky Mountains staring out onto God’s creation, it truly is a humbling and awe-inspiring scene. The coast of Dixie will always have a special place in my heart with its beautiful plantation homes, clear water, and gorgeous climate. And of course I never will forget the first time I hiked the backwoods of Appalachia and the power you feel in those hills and hollers. Throughout all of these travels and adventures I have been on however, nothing has the beauty or the truly awesome power of a baptism.
The word Baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo, meaning “full immersion.” Webster defines it as “a Christian sacrament marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community.” Beyond definitions; however, a baptism is an amazing ritual with every denomination and culture bringing their special flavor to it.
Different denominations have believers wear different clothes when they are baptized. Robes, formal wear, t-shirt and jeans, and everything in between have been on those who decide to give their heart and soul to Christ. Sometimes a long prepared for and studied process or on the spur of the moment after a powerful sermon and a spiritual revelation and a quick trip for the aisle–It doesn’t matter as long as the believer has truly decided to give everything over to Christ and serve the Church.
While in the Orthodox Church we submerge the believer three times for the Holy Trinity, our Catholic brothers sprinkle water, and our South Baptist brothers and sisters dunk you in the nearest body of water, what matters is that when you emerge from the water, having been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are washed free and clear of your sins and it is time for you to begin to carry your cross as a follower of the Savior of mankind. As Ephesians 4:5 says “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
In my days I have witnessed as many different types of people get baptized as I thought imaginable in an equally diverse series of situations. Baptism can happen almost anywhere it seems, ranging from the muddy banks of a Southern creek, to the mighty Jordan river where John the Baptist baptized Christ Himself, to baptisms in the mightiest Cathedral to the humblest Church. Regardless of where the baptism happens, its power will drive almost any believer to tears of thanksgiving and joy. When the believer goes beneath the blessed water they go in a sinner, full of the stain of sin and a creature of this fallen world. After the believer emerges from that water, they are an entirely new creation, free from the bonds of sin that had previously ensnared them, truly born again.
The role of baptism in being not just a symbol but a sacred and spiritually transforming experience goes back directly to Scripture. To announce the coming of the Christ, John the Baptist went among the people and began baptizing them in the name of the Lord and the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist told those he dunked into the water that “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Christ came to John as he was baptizing the faithful and Christ asked to be baptized the same as the other people had been. To mark the true beginning of His earthly ministry and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, Jesus went forth to be baptized. John the Baptist “tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”
After the death and resurrection of Christ, the disciples were commanded to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The sacrifice of the cross and the beauty of baptism was opened to the entire world and all of her peoples. Slaves, peasants, Roman centurions, and lords all came with trembling, fear, and love to the feet of Christ to accept His word and turn away from their lives of sin. Throughout the globe the disciples and the newly established Church spread the Gospel and converted millions of souls to Christendom, baptizing all along the way. Under threat of torture and death, the faithful selflessly spread the word of God to all who would listen and baptized them for Christ. With water and oil the Church separated the sheep from the goats, ushering in a new age where believers were given the ultimate gift, eternal life.
The ritual of Baptism is one that has been with the Church since the beginning and we shall always have it. Being spiritually reborn and given the unending grace of God’s love, the protection of the Son, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, baptism signifies a dying with Christ and dying to the world and sinful desires. Christians in baptism are being buried with Christ and then being resurrected to live a new life with Him for all of eternity. It is time for all of us in the Church to be emboldened in this dark age to spread the Gospel as much as possible and lead our friends, neighbors, and family to the their own Baptism where all are told to “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
No reason to not jump in, the water is fine.