Is Baptism Merely a Symbolic Act?
by Steve Hale
"Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead' ( Colossians 2:12, NKJV).
I've been reading a phrase among our brethren that has been bothering me. Part of me wants to believe it is merely a matter of semantics, yet another side of me says it needs to be addressed.
The phrase is 'in the symbolic act of baptism.' Baptism does symbolize our Lord's death, burial, and resurrection ( I Corinthians 15:1-4; Pom. 6:1-7). However, it is more than a mere symbolic act: it is the act of faith that puts one into Christ!
In fact, Paul said it (baptism) was "...the working of God...' through faith. If the candidate believes that Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God, then this baptism, through the working or operation of God, saves him. Without this faith, then it is merely "putting away the filth of the flesh' ( I Peter 3:21).
This is precisely whyJesus said: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned' ( Mark 16:16). Furthermore, faith and obedience go hand-in-hand. One does not fully trust or believe His Lord unless he is willing to obey Him.Jesus said: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,'
and not do the things which I say" ( Luke 6:46)? Paul said: "...He became the author of eternal salvation to all-who obey Him" ( Hebrews 5:9). John said: 'Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" ( I John 2:3, 4).
In the original text of this article, Paul drew a comparison between physical circumcision (the actual operation that removed the foreskin), and spiritual circumcision (baptism). As the foreskin was peeled off the Hebrew male the eighth day by the operation of circumcision via Abrahamic faith ( Genesis 17:10-13), sin is peeled away by the operation of baptism (by God Himself) via our faith ( Colossians 2:11-13).
When we are baptized into Christ:
1. we put on Christ ( Galatians 3:27).
2. our sins are washed away ( Acts 22:16).
3. we experience the new birth ( John 3:1-7).
4. we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 2:38; 5:32).
S. we are added to the church ( Acts 2:47).
6. we are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom ( Colossians 1:13). And, there's much more.
Even though baptism symbolizes, it is much more' than just a ritualistic or symbolic act! May we never surrender this only means to our salvation ( Galatians 1:6-9).
June 11, 1995
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