Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers...
Baptism is a hugely important part of a Christian’s life and has many facets:
- It is an expression of our faith in the message and person of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-38)
- It is a picture of what Christ has done for us (Romans 6:1-11; Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5)
- And, it is a source for our unity with fellow believers (Ephesian 4:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
However, one of the most fundamental things baptism does is change our identity. Identity is a constant theme in our day. Our culture pulls us to find our identity and define ourselves according to any number of things in your life.
But for the Christian, in the act of baptism, God does the work of defining who you are. Jesus’ own baptism shows us this.
What I want to look at is what his baptism tells us about our identity.
Jesus’ baptism is the archetypal Christian baptism. By that I mean: what happens at Jesus’ baptism is demonstrative of what is true of everyone who is a believer.
So, let’s look at Jesus’ baptism:
1. Beloved by the Father
Let me start at the end. When Jesus came up from the water, we read that there was a voice that came from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).
The amazing reality of the gospel is that in Jesus is that God says the same thing of us. We see this in the letter to the Galatians:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
In Jesus Christ, the Father says this of you, “This is my beloved son or daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” You are now defined as a loved child of God, and you have all the benefits and blessings of being one.
Your status as a child of God is solely dependent on your status of being “in Christ.” This should drive us to live a life of thankful obedience.
We should wonder at the fact that God has made us his own through adoption in Christ. We should respond with a loving obedience to him.
2. Indwelt by the Spirit
Jesus’ baptism took place at the beginning of his earthly ministry. We read in the Gospel of Matthew:
And behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. (3:16)
This marked the beginning of his miraculous and prophetic work in Israel and the surrounding regions. It is clear even from the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus that he would be anointed by the Spirit for the work that he was called to do (Isaiah 61:1-2).
Our new identities as believers is that we are indwelt by the Spirit as well. God’s presence is always with us through the Spirit, and the Spirit himself empowers us for all that God calls us to do (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
Again, this changes the way that we live our lives. With confidence in the Spirit’s work in and through us, we can have fruitful obedience in our lives. Paul encouraged Timothy to continue on in his ministry by appealing to the presence of the Spirit in Timothy’s life when he says:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (1 Timothy 1:6-7)
3. Living in Christ
Of course, I can’t think of a better picture of the reality that we are in Christ than baptism. Our baptism into Christ is a baptism into his life. Just like Jesus, we have died to our old, sinful ways and have true life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-11).
But our baptism into Christ is also a recognition that we are to strive to live the life that Christ lived. Paul says as much in his letter to the Galatians:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
We see this reality in Hebrews 12:1-2 when we are called to follow Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus’ life is now the mold that defines our past (we have died with him), our present (we have new life in him), and our future (we will one day be resurrected as he is).
Our story is already written.
Remember Your Baptism
The waters of baptism do not magically transfer these realities to us. Rather, our baptism stands as a tangible sign to us of what God has done in Jesus. He has radically redefined us. So much so that we are now beloved children of God, indwelt by the Spirit in order to live new lives in Christ.
So Christian, on days when you feel weak in your faith, far from God, or challenge by the life God has called you too, look to Christ’s baptism.