What Is Baptism?

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Marriage is the beginning of a new life for a couple. At the wedding ceremony, they vow to share joys and sorrows as husband and wife for the rest of their lives. Likewise, baptism is the first step in coming to God and the ceremony for making a covenant with God.

Through baptism, God forgives all our sins, and we promise to turn away from our sinful ways of life. We also promise to live as God’s people serving Him faithfully for the rest of our lives. Baptism is the turning point of our life because all our past sins and transgressions are forgiven. After baptism, we should follow the teachings of God until we go to Heaven. This is why the Bible clearly teaches us the meaning and importance of baptism which allows us to make a covenant with God.

Jesus Set the Example of Being Baptized

Jesus, too, was baptized before starting to preach the gospel.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John 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, . . .Mt 3:13–17

Baptism is a ceremony for sinners to receive the forgiveness of sins (Ac 2:38). Jesus, who was without sin, came to earth as the Messiah to lead us to Heaven; yet, even He was baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus’ example shows that baptism is the ceremony through which God’s people can fulfill all righteousness.

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.Jn 3:22–23

Jesus was baptized and then began His ministry. He also set the example of baptizing others. The reason Jesus Himself was baptized and baptized others as well was to show that baptism is an important truth in the eyes of God that leads mankind to salvation.

The True Meaning of Baptism

Although we were already born physically, baptism allows us to be born again and receive a new life in God (Jn 3:3–5). Through this ceremony, God sets us free from slavery to sin and death, making us the people of the Kingdom of Heaven.

. . . Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.Ro 6:1–4

Through baptism, we are crucified with Christ, and through Jesus’ resurrection, we live a new life. Jesus’ crucifixion allows us to realize our sins and repent. Jesus’ burial in the tomb symbolizes the burial of our sins in water during baptism. Jesus’ resurrection reminds us of our pledge to live a new life and follow the path of Christ. God has promised to grant salvation to those who live a new life through baptism.

[A]nd this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.1 Pe 3:21

Baptism is a sign of God’s promise to save our souls. In order to keep this sign until the end, we must remain faithful to the pledge we made with God. When we were baptized, we pledged to live a new life and turn away from sin. How, then, can we ask God to keep His promise to save us while breaking our own promise to turn away from sin?

As Christ devoted His life to the salvation of the world, we have a responsibility to share the promise of eternal life with all mankind and lead them to salvation. Jesus gave us the sign of salvation—baptism—and told us to go and baptize all nations so that the gospel will be preached throughout the whole world.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “. . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Mt 28:18–20

Through Jesus’ words, we can understand the importance of God’s promise of baptism for all mankind. We should first baptize people and then teach them to obey everything Christ commanded us.

Baptism Fulfills Righteousness

John the Baptist was sent by God to baptize Jesus and many others to fulfill the prophecy about the one calling in the desert (Mt 3:1–6). As a prophet sent by God, he carried out his mission by the will of God, not by his own will.

. . . Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”Mt 21:31–32

“The way of righteousness” shown by John the Baptist refers to baptism (Jn 1:24–34). As a man sent from God, the mission of John the Baptist was to conduct a baptism of repentance. Jesus taught that baptism is a sacred ceremony to fulfill the way of righteousness and that people who refuse to be baptized are those who neither repent nor believe.

(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ ”Lk 7:29–32

Many people were baptized, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law refused to be baptized. As Jesus explained, when the flute was played, they should have danced; when a dirge was sung, they should have mourned. However, like senseless people they did not respond to the truth of God no matter how much Jesus taught them. Jesus said they rejected God’s will because they refused to be baptized.

According to Jesus, only those who do the will of God can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 7:21). Through these words, we can see that baptism is God’s holy will to save mankind and lead them to Heaven.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”Mk 16:15–16

Baptism and Salvation in the New Covenant

Some people think they do not need to be baptized again because they were already baptized in other churches. However, they need to consider if their baptism was based on the Bible. Not every baptism contains God’s promise of salvation, even if it is done with water.

Baptism is not a mere formality but a regulation for receiving God’s promise. There is a great difference between the water used for baptism and the water used for a shower. God’s promise and the sign of salvation can only be found in the water used for baptism; the water used for a shower does not contain God’s promise—it is only for removing dirt from the body.

Suppose the Pharisees imitated Jesus and the disciples by conducting baptism 2,000 years ago. Would the baptism of the Pharisees have led anyone to salvation? No. Their baptism would not have had any promise from God. Only a baptism that contains God’s promise can be a sign of salvation for us.

Through the example of Jesus and the disciples who received and conducted baptism (Jn 3:22–30), we can understand what kind of baptism God acknowledges as a true baptism. As for true baptism, where should it be conducted, and who should carry it out? To understand this, let us carefully study the faith of Jesus and the disciples as well as the truth they observed.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” . . . And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”Lk 22:7–8, 19–20

Peter and John prepared the Passover as Jesus had directed them and celebrated the Passover of the New Covenant. The disciples, who baptized many people, were all in the truth of the New Covenant.

Our baptism can be acknowledged by God only when we are baptized in the place where God dwells. God dwells in Zion, the city of His appointed feasts (Ps 132:13–14; Isa 33:20). To those who keep the New Covenant in Zion, God says, “You are my people” (Isa 51:16; Jer 31:31–34).

According to this prophecy, Jesus proclaimed the New Covenant on the Passover. The true baptism that can lead us to salvation is the baptism conducted in Zion—God’s dwelling place—where the truth of the New Covenant is observed.

The History of Baptism in the Apostolic Age

The Bible shows that baptism was conducted by the disciples who preached the truth of the New Covenant during the Apostolic Age after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, . . .Ac 8:34–39

The eunuch, an important official for Candace the queen of Ethiopia, was baptized and received the promise of salvation. This baptism, which guaranteed salvation, could not have been conducted by just anyone. True baptism can be conducted only by those authorized by God who dwells in Zion.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, . . .Ac 16:13–15

. . . The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” . . . At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.Ac 16:27–33

. . . “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. . . .Ac 10:37–48

The families of both Lydia and the jailer were baptized by Paul. Cornelius, a centurion, and his family were baptized by Peter. The Apostle Paul, who said, “I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Co 11:23), preached the New Covenant Passover. The Apostle Peter, too, prepared and celebrated the New Covenant Passover, as Jesus had directed him. In Zion, the city of God’s appointed feasts, they worshiped God, learned God’s teachings, and observed the laws of the New Covenant. Since baptism is an essential regulation of the New Covenant, it was conducted by the disciples in accordance with Jesus’ teaching.

Nowadays, many churches claim to perform baptism. However, a baptism performed in a church that does not keep the truth of the New Covenant is nothing more than a mere ritual that God does not acknowledge. God only acknowledges the baptism conducted in Zion, in the truth of the New Covenant, as the true baptism containing His promise. It is only in Zion that God has promised His blessing of salvation and eternal life.

Reflecting upon the meaning of our baptism once again, let us give thanks to Heavenly Father and Mother for calling us to Zion and granting us the blessing of forgiveness of sins and salvation. Furthermore, let us preach the gospel to those who are not yet in the New Covenant so that they, too, can come to Zion and receive true baptism—the sign of salvation. As God devoted His whole life to saving us, let us also participate actively in saving the whole world with a beautiful faith, being united with God and always cherishing God’s promise in baptism.