I came to faith as a teenager and was baptised soon afterwards. All this happened in addition to me being christened as a baby, an event that I knew little about apart from being told I was adorably cute - I know some things are harder to believe than others!
For those of us who embark on the road of baptism we do well both to know and explain why. Why bother with the fuss of wet clothes and damp hair on cold days when staying dry and keeping warm is important. Why go through the challenge of standing in front of people to explain our faith and actions. What does it matter? After all, isn't faith a private matter?
Seriously not. Faith is far from private. However, this is not the point. Baptism matters because of where it leads. Followed through and worked out, baptism is an important step in the journey of faith and in the Bible is likened to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea or Noah and his family being saved from the flood by climbing into the ark. Baptism is both symbolic and spiritual.
It’s symbolic in so much as it is associated with events of deliverance in the scriptures like those just mentioned. In the same way that God delivers his people from their enemies so God though baptism delivers us from our sins and sets us on the pathway to a new life. Baptism isn’t simply about looking back, but more importantly going forward; of taking the next step of a new life with Jesus.
Baptism is spiritual in so much as it points strongly to the work of Jesus and his death on the cross. In this act of dying we see that Jesus is raised to new life. Equally through baptism we identify with Jesus’s death in going into the waters and with his resurrection life in being raised up out of them.
This coming Sunday is a wonderful occasion at Hope when four people who have made a decision for themselves will get baptised. It is for each of them a step of obedience and personal choice. We recognise in them an acknowledgement of God’s work through Christ and their desire to continue to walk with him.
In our spiritually curious world which offers a plethora of religious alternatives I am ever grateful for the clarity that baptism brings to our faith. It is a truly important step, one not to be taken lightly or without proper thought, but when entered into with sincerity and faith combines to be a defining moment in a spiritual journey that has hope, freedom and forgiveness at its heart.