Q.69. How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on he cross is for you personally?
A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, in other words, all my sins.
Baptism is a wonderful picture of salvation. Imagine children who have been playing in the mud. When they come into the house, they are filthy, dirt-encrusted little people. What is the first thing their mother says? She says, “Go take a shower.” In the act of showering, all the dirt is washed away and clean children emerge once again. This picture, or something like it, is what baptism tells us happens in our souls when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person and salvation is secured. Read 1Peter 3:18-22.
If baptism is a symbol of what has happened internally, does it matter if one participates in the outward rite? Certainly, Christ told his followers to “make disciples…baptizing them…and teaching them” (Matthew 28:19-20). Part of our obedience to Christ comes in doing the external things he desires as a witness to the internal transformation that has occurred. That is why the apostolic preachers in Acts always called their audiences to be baptized as a sign of their changed heart. Read Acts 2:36-41.
The Holy Spirit actively works in people to bring faith, cleanse consciences and wash away sin. We already learned (Question 53) that the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come – life eternal. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that assures salvation. Water cannot wash away sin, but God can and does when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person. This is what John the Baptist meant when he spoke of the coming baptism Christ would administer. Read Matthew 3:11.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:13. Truly there is only one baptism that matters and it is the baptism the Holy Spirit performs uniting us to the body of Christ. Let us never forget that a person can be immersed in water or have it poured or sprinkled upon him or her, but these actions can’t change a heart. Only the working of God through the Spirit can effect salvation.
Many have read Paul’s teaching on baptism in Romans 6:3-10 and have concluded that water baptism is efficacious in some fashion. This is a common Roman Catholic and Orthodox view, and even many reformed believers subscribe to a modified form of this view. This becomes evident when parents appeal to the water baptism of their wayward child as proof that they must be saved even if errant. However, this view cannot stand the scrutiny of the Scriptures. As we saw yesterday, it is the baptism of the Spirit that matters, and when the Spirit connects us to the body, then the power of Christ becomes real and flows through us, even giving us power to flee sin. Read Romans 6:3-10 in light of 1 Corinthians 12:13.
After a child takes a bath, the dirt is washed away, yet he or she remains naked and unprotected from the elements. So, to simply say that in baptism our sins are washed away leaves us naked too, but there is more that happens in baptism. Read Galatians 3:26-27. In baptism the Spirit washes away our sin but then we are also clothed with Christ and his righteousness. We also get to put on the robes of sinless perfection and spotless purity. Rejoice that our Lord washes and clothes us in baptism.