A Disciple is Marked by Baptism
by Ryan Rainey
Baptism is perhaps the most confusing topic for people that know God and are still seeking him. I am regularly asked, “Why should I get baptized?” “How do you know when you should be baptized?” “Do you have to be baptized to be saved?” “Why do some baptize babies?” “Why was Jesus baptized?”
Instead of responding to them with the quickest answer that I have been conditioned to respond with, I would rather that they discover for themselves what baptism is.
Let’s define it in a simple way:
Baptism is a ritual or practice involving water to identify someone as a disciple of Jesus.
That is why Jesus commanded that we baptize people—to mark them as a disciple.
…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.”
Unfortunately, it is easy to get distracted by a lot of theological controversies when the subject of baptism comes up. Let’s not get distracted by the mode of baptism (should we immerse, pour or sprinkle the water?) Let’s not get distracted by the timing of the baptism (should infants be baptized in anticipation of their eventual commitment to become disciples someday—or as an expression of their parents’ commitment to raise them as disciples? Or should only people be baptized who are old enough to make their own meaningful commitment?)
Rather, let’s focus on the meaning of baptism; for baptism is extremely rich in meaning.
Baptism expresses cleansing.
When you are a disciple, you understand that Christ cleanses you. You understand that Christ died in your place on the cross, paying for your sins, fully forgiving you for all your wrongs. You are cleansed from guilt, and you are becoming a cleaner, healthier, more whole person.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Baptism expresses an ending and a new beginning.
Immersion especially dramatizes this: a person is buried under the water—signifying the end of his or her old life—and then rises up out of the water—signifying the beginning of his or her new life as a disciple.
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.
When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Colossians 2.11-12 (NLT)
Baptism indicates a new identity.
…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
…if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5.17
Here is an analogy: When a woman gets married, she accepts and wears a ring, a symbol of her vows and commitment. The ring is not what makes her married, and it isn’t what makes her love her husband. Commitment is what makes her married, the Relationship is what makes her love her husband. But she wears the ring as a symbol of her new identity as a woman in a committed relationship with her husband.
Baptism suggests that a person has similarly entered into a relationship with and commitment to Jesus Christ. It says, “Our relationship has progressed from a casual acquaintance or friendship to a deep, lifelong commitment.”
Not only that, but through baptism, like wearing a wedding ring, a person is “going public.” A bride and groom say, “I’m not ashamed of this commitment. I want to be publicly identified as a person of commitment, a person of lifelong relationship to someone I love and loves me.” Walking down the aisle, gathering a crowd and exchanging vows in front of people is a very public way to say, “I’m closing all of my other options. She is the one.”
In a marriage, the ring is often associated with taking on a new name, which suggests a new identity. A woman says, “I am now the wife of Ryan,” or a man says, “I am the husband of Lanae.” Before these words were not true; now they are. Now they describe a new identity.
Baptism means that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. Baptism means that you now identify God as your Father, Jesus as God’s Son, and the Holy Spirit as God not only “up there” or “out there” but also God “in here”—God alive and present in your own heart, your own life.
It means you are not ashamed of this new identity. It means that you are going public with your commitment, and you are public with your new relationship.
If you are committed to learn from Jesus how to live life to the full, if you are committed to help others learn to live life that way too, if you have accepted God’s invitation into a lifelong relationship, if you have accepted this new identity as a disciple, then you should be baptized to demonstrate that commitment. By being baptized, you will be saying, “I am a disciple, and I am committed to the mission of helping others become disciples too.” As you help others become disciples, you’ll invite them to “go public” in this way too.
Baptism Logistics at The Branch Church
Do I have to be baptized at the church building?
There is no rule to where you can be baptized and it certainly doesn't have to be in our facility. People have been baptized in lakes, swimming pools and bathtubs. Of course, we've built baptistries into our Worship Centers because we love witnessing baptisms at The Branch, but it is by no means a requirement.
When can I be baptized at The Branch Church?
We encourage you to be baptized ANY time. However, some times are better than others. We believe baptism should be a public demonstration of faith, so we would love for you to be baptized during one of our weekend services or any other gathering. You may however, request to be baptized at a time of your choosing.
What is a baptistry?
Each of our campuses has a baptistry behind the stage in the Worship Center. A baptistry is basically a large tub with steps on either side. We heat the water to be around 95 degrees. The water level is about 3.5 feet and there is a crate available for kids to stand on. There is a microphone installed near the front of the baptistry. Please try to avoid touching the microphone when wet.
Where are the changing rooms?
On either side of the baptistry, there are stairs leading up to dressing rooms. The men's dressing room is on the right and the women's dressing room is on the left.
What will I wear in the baptistry?
In the dressing room you will find special blue robes designed for baptism. These robes are durable and modest. There are changing stalls in each dressing room. It's recommended that you change completely out of your clothes and into the robe so you can change back into dry clothes afterwards. There are also clean towels and a blow dryer in the dressing room for you to use.
If you'd like to talk with someone about baptism, or you're ready to take the next step, choose your campus and complete the short form: