What does baptism have to do with Easter?
This Sunday, the children of our Loop Kids ministry will be learning about the subject of baptism. As part of their lesson, I’ll be making my rounds of our elementary classrooms at Park Edgebrook, saying a short spiel about baptism and answering a few questions the young’ns might have.
Easter (which, as I write this, is coming up in a couple of weeks on April 16) is a popular time for churches to have baptism services. Have you ever thought about is? What is the connection between Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you think the word “Easter” signifies pagan deity worship (N. B. it doesn’t))? Let’s look at this question in four ways, to get our answer.
Why do people get baptized?
The word baptize comes from an old, Greek word (the language in which the New Testament was written), βαπτίζω (“baptidzo”) which means “immerse.” Though the practice changed over the years, originally baptism was done essentially by completely covering a person–by dunking them into–water. While the person is under the water, he or she is “dead” to the world above–they cannot see or hear anything. Then when they are lifted back up out of the water, it’s as though they are brought “back to life.” So then, baptism symbolizes death and resurrection–a person coming back to life from the dead.
Romans 6:3-5 says, “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (emphasis added).
So then, by being dipped below the water and brought back up, we are symbolizing our unity with Jesus. Just as he died for our sins, was buried and rose back to life, so we have died to our former, sinful way of life, and been raised to new life with Him.
Baptism is also a reminder of the hope that followers of Jesus have that, like Jesus, we too will one day rise physically from the dead.
Easter is the holiday when we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is therefore the perfect day to also celebrate the new life that believers have in Him.
What happens when a person gets baptized?
When a person repents and trusts in Jesus, God the Father (and the Son, according to whom you ask–whole empires of Christians have divided over that question) gives them the Holy Spirit to dwell inside them. The Holy Spirit is God. Yes, God actualIy comes to live inside you, when you are a Christian.
Because baptism is so connected with a person’s initial moment of receiving Christ by faith, sometimes in the Bible it can seem as though a person receives the Holy Spirit because they were baptized. In fact, there is one account like that in Acts 19:1-6. 12 guys, who had been followers of John the Baptist, had previously been baptized. But they had not really believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul met them, preached the Gospel to them, and they were baptized. Then Paul laid his hands on them, and they immediately received the Holy Spirit.
However, when we look closer, we see what’s really going on: God gives the Holy Spirit to people when they believe, not because they are baptized. What happens at baptism is nothing “magical,” but it is important. The person being baptized is outwardly showing that they desire to obey Jesus (who commanded His followers to be baptized), that they believe His death has made them right with God, and that they love Him. That is why baptism is so closely connected in Scripture with saving faith. It is often the first act a new believer does in obedience to their new King.
Of course, what also happens during a baptism that is done publicly is that the church congregation, along with the person’s family and friends, come together to celebrate the person’s new spiritual life. If you have been to a believer’s baptism ceremony before, you have probably witnessed the amazing joy that surrounds that special occasion. When baptism happens on Easter Sunday–a day already filled with celebration–that joy is multiplied.
Who should be baptized?
According to the baptism orientation materials from Park Community Church (which I did not write, but greatly appreciate), “Anyone who has repented and come to saving faith in Jesus Christ should be baptized in accordance with Scripture.”
Every example of baptism in the Bible always follows a person believing in the Gospel.
While the person being baptized must be a true believer, it is of course no requirement that the folks in attendance all be believers! When a person is baptized, they will typically share their testimony of how they came to believe the Gospel for themselves. Because Easter is a big day for non-Christians to visit a church gathering, Easter baptisms can be excellent evangelism opportunities.
When should I be baptized?
Right away! That is, if you are a believer in Jesus–if you have repented, believed the Gospel and received Christ by faith, then why wait? There is an example in Acts of a man who believed the Gospel while traveling down the road. Immediately they came to some water (it doesn’t say what kind of water–a river? A lake? A retention pond?) and the man asked, “What would keep me from being baptized?” And just like that, he was dunked.
Now, many churches will insist on a waiting period, so that (a) the church can be sure the person really understands and believes the true, good news, and (b) the person does not enter into baptism lightly but truly grasps its significance, but there is not biblically-required waiting period. If you are a new Christian (or even if you have been one for years) and have not yet been baptized, I suggest talking to your pastor or elders about it soon. Why not get baptized this Easter?
To learn more about upcoming baptism gatherings at Park Community Church, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.