Why get baptised?

Baptism feels like a big deal. A lot of people I talk to are nervous about doing it.  Here are the two big reasons I get from people for not getting baptisedI’m not ready yet, I don’t know enough, I’m not mature/spiritual/godly enough?

I’m frightened – of doing something in public with everyone looking at me, of having to speak and give my testimony, of the baptism itself going wrong (what if I’m dropped, held under too long, breath at the wrong time.”

Often as well, there’s a little bit of the “should it really be a big deal” about the conversation. Do I really need to get baptised? After all, I have prayed and asked Jesus into my life.

Here are some thoughts in response to those questions and comments.

I’m not ready yet

Sometimes we can talk about baptism as though it’s a special initiation we have to go through, a super spiritual event reserved for the super spiritual. If we think and feel like that then we will probably never get baptised.

Yet when you look at the New Testament, you realise that baptism is one of the first things new Christians do.  On the day of Pentecost, the crowd who hear Peter preach are convicted of their sin and rebellion against God. “What shall we do?” they responded. And Peter replied “Repent and be baptised, every one of you.”[1]

Fascinatingly, when the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road home from Jerusalem met Philip and Philip explained the Gospel to him. His instinctive response was “Look, here is water, why shouldn’t I get baptised?”[2]

For the crowd and the Eunuch, baptism marked the start of their Christian faith not the end goal or some mid-point.

Our faith is deeply personal but it is not meant to be private. Baptism is the way that God tells us to publically express our faith.  I guess it’s a bit like the marriage ceremony and certificate. I know in my heart that I love my wife, that’s personal but my commitment to love and be faithful to her is not private.  There was a day when I stood up in front of witnesses, gathered family and friends and before God declared my commitment to love and cherish her through all the ups and downs of life.

At baptism, in the presence of friends and family, before God we publically declare our trust in Christ and our willingness to serve him anywhere and everywhere through all the ups and downs of life.

I’m afraid

Well, there’s a lot we can do to calm anxious nerves.  Many people have been safely baptised throughout history and there are ways that we can minimise the pressure on those getting baptised . For example sometimes we might print off a copy of their testimony for people to read or ask a few questions in an interview style.

But I also think that there is something wonderful in the imagery of baptism and even the anxiety we might face that points us back to the Gospel.  Paul in Romans 6 uses the image of baptism to show how we have died and been buried with Christ and raised to new life.

The baptism pool is a very vulnerable place to go. We put ourselves in the hands of someone else and trust them to take us through the process and bring us up and out the other side. This reminds me that when I put my trust in Jesus, I trusted him to bring me safe through life and death and raise me to new life.

Is it that important?

I want to get the right balance here. We can easily fall into a legalism and put the pressure on people to respond for all the wrong reasons. However, we can become casual about baptism. If this is the way that God has told us in the Bible to show our response to the good news then can we really sit back and treat it as an optional extra.

Outward obedience can become simply ritual but it is also a healthy way of showing the response in our hearts.

[1] Acts  2:37-38.

[2] Acts 8:36.