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What Does Baptism Mean? I Have Been Forgiven By The Father

Baptizo Series 5

Why do we immerse new believers in the first place? What is the meaning or significance of this act? Baptism signifies three vitally important realities in the life of a new Christian. It is a display of Trinitarian glory, for it declares that the believer is joined to Jesus, that the believer has been forgiven by the Father, and that the believer is being sanctified by the Spirit. saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:21)

When the Apostle Peter speaks about baptism, he mentions it in the context of talking about God’s wrath against our sin, and our need for forgiveness: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21). In context, “this”—the thing baptism “corresponds to”—is the rescue of Noah and his family on the ark from the wrath of God. Peter is saying that just as Noah was saved through water, which signified death and judgment, so too in baptism the believer is saved “through water.” But, before anyone misunderstands Peter, he makes an important clarification. Baptism saves “not as a removal of dirt from the body.” Instead, Peter goes on to explain, it’s what baptism represents and signifies that saves, not the ceremony or the water: “as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus.” It’s faith that saves; baptism represents that faith.

By saying this appeal is directed to “God,” as distinguished from “Jesus Christ,” Peter, like the New Testament writers so often do, means God the Father. Why is this important? The book of Hebrews tells us that “when we sin,” it is “Jesus Christ the righteous” who is our “advocate with the Father.” It is the Father’s wrath that must be dealt with. It is the Father’s forgiveness that we need. Baptism, Peter is saying, is a cry to the Father for that forgiveness. And this “appeal” to the Father for forgiveness is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This cry of faith to the Father is an act of trust in Jesus. And because we are joined to Jesus by faith, our cry of faith to the Father results in his forgiveness.

That’s why Peter was so confident that when sinners repent and cry out in faith, as represented in baptism, the Father will forgive: “repent and be baptized...for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Was he disagreeing with Paul, who said in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”? Absolutely not. Peter and Paul were saying the same thing with different words. For Peter, “be baptized” is shorthand for “believe.” The act of baptism is an outward expression of inward faith. Baptism makes visible what cannot be seen: the faith in Jesus Christ that saves, and its result, that we are forgiven by the Father.