by Ashley Weaver –
Belief in Christ saves us. True. But that’s just the beginning of a covenant with him. Faith is the genesis of a life with God. When we believe in him and accept him as our Savior, we enter into a covenant; one in which God works and we humbly accept. Our belief/faith leads to action. Not a “pull yourself up by your boot-straps” action, but surrender. Waving the white flag. A surrender of our will to his. Not in resentment or bitterness like when conquered by an enemy but with an acknowledgement of “I can’t do this. I need you, and I give you control.” Turning to him (repentance) and away from our old life is part of this covenant. And not just one time, but ongoing.
Baptism is part of this covenant. God calls us. He offers us life. We humbly receive. And we are baptized. Baptism is more than a physical exercise that we volunteer for to re-enact the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism is the consummation of this covenant, of our vows to him; leaving behind the old life and entering the new. It is the point at which we are united with Christ. He moves in and fills us with his life. We then begin to bear fruit in his likeness.
Baptism is “the passing through the water” like Noah did and Moses and Joshua with God’s people. In baptism, we cross over from captivity to freedom. Baptism is the point at which we are united with Jesus, our Promised Land. It is supernatural. God is active in our lives at baptism. It’s not just a social acknowledgement. It is a transaction, but one which involves complete surrender on our part. (Maybe that’s why we don’t baptize ourselves.) God is the active party in this transaction. He washes us in Jesus’ blood, he circumcises our hearts, and he “moves in” by his Spirit, to dwell forever. Our loyalties do an about face; our focus shifts. We give up all to receive the new life.
Consider Noah. God called him. Noah responded in faith. “Salvation” had occurred because of Noah’s faith in God. But deliverance in Noah’s life had not yet. It wasn’t until he “passed through the waters,” that he received new life, his deliverance. Faith and baptism are intrinsically tied together.
Moses, because of his faith, led the Israelites out of captivity. The Israelites entered in to a covenant with God in the Passover meal, but they still had to “pass through the water” to experience deliverance.
Similarly, when we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we still must be united with him in baptism. We enter the water, and in faith leave our old life of captivity. We come out of the water, and by faith are delivered into his Kingdom. As we walk in that truth, we are privileged with “all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” by his Spirit inside us.
In summary, faith (belief) and baptism are tied together. In the Church of Christ tradition, we have leaned toward baptism as the primary focus, the golden key of salvation. The exclusive emphasis on baptism has eclipsed the importance of faith in the saving grace of Jesus and the life of discipleship. “Just get them baptized” has been the prevalent mindset, and yet understanding of faith, surrender, sacrifice and holiness in a lifelong commitment to Christ has not been equally emphasized. Baptism has largely become a rite in the churches of Christ; one that is often carried out as a work that we do to ensure salvation, whether or not there is an understanding of faith or repentance or surrender. Baptism without faith is a religious ritual devoid of power. Faith isn’t truly faith unless it propels us toward obedience and dependence on God. It is our faith in the power of God that saves us. Period. And by faith, we are united with Christ in baptism.
Ashley Weaver is our guest blogger. She lives in Newcastle, OK. “I love the three R’s: reading, writing, and running. Married, with five kids, plus two daughters-in-law, two grands, and a soon-to-be son-in-law. I love my job as a counselor, but I am passionate about ministry and seeing lives transformed by God’s power and grace.”