Many see the amount of baptisms as a sign of how well a Pastor is doing. Why are baptisms so imperative to some? Because, baptisms, in the church management’s estimation, are a quantitative measurement that easy to see as opposed to spiritual growth which is very subjective. It is sad, because while a pastor may be baptizing many people, it does not mean him or the church are doing well spiritually.
Was baptism important in the Bible? In the book of Mark 16:15-16, Christ is quoted saying,
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Notice that the word baptism comes after the word belief. Baptism can only come after you believe. If you are baptized without you believing you merely got wet. Those who do not believe typically will not get baptized and of course this will lead to eternal damnation.
Getting baptized should show symbolically that you have believed the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of salvation. What does this mean? When Christ died on the cross, the whole world was saved from the eternal damnation or death that is the wages of Sin (Romans 6:23). Because of this we now know, that God is not against us (Romans 5:8). In fact, He is the one that sent His Son to pay the wages of Sin – “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He loves us so much, that He wanted to save us from this second death, which is good-bye to life for ever. As the Apostle John wrote, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1John 4:10). And, He did this while we were yet His enemies or sinners (Romans 5:8). In other words it is not because we loved Him – we naturally hate God - but because He loved us. Anyone that loves God does so because He loves us first (1John 4:19). But that is only part of the good news. God not only wanted to save us from eternal death, He also wants us to live eternally with Him.
Those who are grateful for what He has done believe Christ accomplished this for them. We read in John 3:16 that those who believe not only will not perish but have eternal life. God wants to take us home with Him to be eternally with Him. But, as a friend of mine says, “you can’t take someone home if they don’t know how to act.” While God wants to take with Him the whole world, only those who believe – constantly and continually - that Christ has saved them from eternal death will learn how to act. They will overcome their sinful tendencies and will be transformed into new being by the renewal of their hearts and mind. To this group baptism is special.
To this group baptism represents the new birth experience. They have repented, left the old behind, died to self, been converted, given a new heart of flesh, and/or their mind has been renewed. Symbolically, when we go down in the baptismal waters we die, and when we come up we are resurrected. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. If it were, salvation would not be by grace through faith, but by baptism. The thief on the cross will be resurrected unto eternal life. He believed Christ. By faith this man accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Those who believe will have no problem becoming baptized.