Today marks the 40th anniversary of my baptism.1
Let me share some reasons why I think it’s as big (if not bigger) than the anniversary of my conversion.
First, baptism is often synonymous for salvation. In Mt. 28:19, Jesus commands his followers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It’s passages like this that give rise to the well-known line that says baptism is the Christian’s first act of obedience. I agree. The New Testament pattern is clear: one believes the gospel then is baptized. The latter points to the reality of the former. This is such the case that New Testament leaders like Peter would even use baptism as shorthand for salvation. For example, the apostle said in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” While we know that baptism doesn’t save anyone (see Peter again in 1 Peter 3:21), the act is so tied to salvation that oftentimes, to speak of one of one is to highlight the other. The same is true for me. When I reflect on my baptism that took place on May 10, 1981, I’m not thinking of when I got wet but when I got saved. Thus, celebrating the anniversary of my baptism is how I celebrate the anniversary of my conversion.
Second, many folks can’t tell you the moment of their salvation. If you grew up in a Christian home where you were taught the faith from infancy, when did your belief in Christ become actual saving faith? In other words, when did your faith move from being on loan to your own? I think that’s a difficult if not impossible question for most folks with that background to answer. Frankly, I would argue it takes saving faith to even say the “sinner’s prayer” which would mean, technically speaking, a person believed in Christ before they formally prayed to “ask Jesus in their heart” (a phrase nowhere in the Bible by the way!). So, when I was 10, I told a pastor that I wanted to become a Christian because I now trusted Jesus in who he was and what he did for me. Consequently, the minister led me to recite a prayer of salvation with him. But was it the prayer that saved me or the faith in Christ I already possessed to pray it?2 This is why trying to pinpoint the moment when you crossed the line of faith may be hard for many. However, what believers can testify to is that the day they entered the waters of baptism is the day they publicly declared that Jesus was their Savior and King. No debate. No equivocation. No question. If there’s a line believers know they crossed in the gospel, at least that one is clear!
Third, baptism isn’t just a celebration of one’s faith but the sacrament of grace which declares, among other things, one’s entrance into the church. Before the messiah’s arrival it was pretty clear, circumcision was the sign and seal of entrance into the Old Covenant people of Israel. But with Jesus, the sign and seal of entry into God’s New Covenant people is baptism. It’s the Christ-ordained way one declares, “I’m in! This is my new gospel identity. I am a part of the Body of Christ now! These folks are my new family. These practices are my new disciplines. These patterns of worship are my new rhythms of life. Christ is my King and I’m a part of his people!” In some traditions, congregants dip their fingers into baptismal waters before entering the sanctuary to remind themselves that it’s only by Jesus they have entered the church (a truth baptism points to). Looking back over the last forty years of how the local church nourished, cherished, protected, and encouraged me in Jesus makes me reflect upon my baptism with great joy! It also reminds me that the only reason I’m a part of God’s people is because Jesus went under the waters of judgment in my place. His death is my death, and his resurrection is my resurrection (cf., Rom. 6:3-5) – a celebration indeed! Therefore, the anniversary of my baptism isn’t just a celebration of my faith – it’s bigger than that – it’s also a celebration of the gospel and the gospel community I’ve been placed into by grace!
What is the date of your baptism? It’s something worth celebrating!
- Bene nota: I am a credobaptist. I believe the New Testament demonstrates baptism follows belief (credo is Latin for “I believe.”) and therefore, not a practice for infants on their parents’ well-meaning behalf (that is paedobaptism).
- Answer: it was my God-given faith that made the grace of salvation operative in my life