Matthew’s gospel famously ends with a commission and a charge: “Therefore 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.” (Mt 28:19-20). Not only are we called to be baptized but to start a life of learning and following the One who promises to be with us.
Baptism, of itself, is not something that saves you or endears you to God. Instead it is a gift from God and a sign to yourself and the world of your new life in Christ. During baptism, we dramatize, with physical materials and motions the spiritual realities of our old and new lives. We act out our turning from our old life into the new and our commitment to follow Christ. We then are “buried” in the water and “raised” with Christ: clean, new and purified. We rise to be greeted by our new family who has witnessed and previously undergone the same process.
Baptism gives us a physical, 3-D demonstration of repentance. When we repent we literally have our minds changed (gr: metanoia) and turn (hb: shub) away from the route we are headed apart from Christ and towards and on the new “Way, Truth, & Life” (Jn 14:6).
Part of the drama of this event deals with death. Once confronted with the reality of Christ and the fact of our own mortality based on sin (Rom 6:23), we cling to Christ, who died on the Cross and was raised, and participate also in His resurrection. As we come out of the waters of baptism, we anticipate that resurrection and the new birth & new creation that is in Christ (Jn 3; 2 Cor 5:17).
This new life and new creation renews and reforms us. We now walk towards God (instead of away from), with Christ, and through the power and coaching of the Holy Spirit. Our birth makes us children of God and instills in us a transformed, renewed mind (Rom 12:2), a heart of flesh (vs. a heart of stone (2 Cor 3:3), and the teachable spirit of a disciple in a community of brothers and sisters in Christ.
In our risen, new life we walk not only with the gift of the Holy Spirit, but as members of a new family. We are no longer our own, but are inextricably tied to those who are also in Christ. This means that we shall live peaceably with these fellow pilgrims in the faith. This community of fellowship is now only complete with you in it. As a member, you covenant to hear God and discern the Holy Spirit with others. You also commit to serving others, proclaiming the Good News of Christ, and living in light of the hope of Christ’s return.