Eric Douglas, age 21 of Somerset, KY died in December 2003. He was a bad man, full of immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, strife, jealously, dissensions and envy. He was a child of wrath, sinned continually and led others to do the same. He did no good, he did not seek God, he did not understand the things of God, he had turned aside and become useless. His throat was an open grave, did not know the path of peace and had no fear of God before his eyes. The funeral will be Sunday at High Street Baptist Church in Somerset, KY. All friends and family members are encouraged to attend.
The first thing that we must understand about baptism is that it symbolizes death. Usually, when we think about new Christians or someone being “born again”, we forget to mention the part that involves death. But we must understand that baptism means death. For those who are considering being baptized, or struggling with whether or not you need to be baptized, understand that your baptism is a funeral service. And until you have died, you don’t need a funeral service. Baptism equals death.
Above, you read my eulogy. I wrote that because in December of 2003 I did die. All those things that I read were true of me. But the death that I died was not a physical death; it was a death to self. That was a time when through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the truth of God’s Word and His Son Jesus Christ, the old man died. That old Eric was gone and it was no longer I that lived, but it now Christ who lives in me. And my symbolic funeral was at High Street Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky as I was baptized, publicly professing my death. Baptism means death.
Many of you may have never thought about baptism in those terms. But what does Scripture say? Romans 6:3-4 begins by saying, “Or do you not know?” In other words, “Don’t you know what I’m talking about here? Don’t you understand the significance of what baptism says about you?” “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” If we take both verses we get all kinds of morbid terms. “His death…buried with him…into death…the dead.” It seems that Paul has his mind set on death.
The word “baptize” is the word “Baptizo” in the original languages as Paul would have written it. It means to plunge, dip, immerse, drench, overwhelm. It refers to the sinking of a ship. One of the reasons that we put someone all the way under water when they are baptized is because that is what the word means. The word “baptize” does not mean to “sprinkle”. If Paul had meant sprinkle, he would have used the word for sprinkle that is used in Hebrews 9 and 10. But he didn’t say sprinkle, he said immerse—baptize.
Another reason we immerse is because that is the method that is shown in the Bible. Mark 1:5 shows that John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan River. Surely he didn’t take people out into the river so he could pour or sprinkle water over their heads. When Jesus was baptized in Mark 1:10, the Bible says that he came “up out of the water.” In Acts 8 when the Ethiopian Eunuch was saved, instead of finding a cup of water to sprinkle, he and Philip went down into the water and he was baptized.
But finally, we immerse the one being baptized because when you bury someone you don’t sprinkle dirt over them. When you bury someone who has died, you put them all the way under. We immerse because baptism symbolizes death. On one hand it is a moving picture of the Gospel as it allows us to remember how Jesus was crucified and buried. But on the other hand it shows your death to your old way of living. It shows your death to that person you used to be before Christ saved you.
Realize that through baptism you are saying that the person you used to be—the one who sinned constantly, who didn’t care about Jesus or His Word or His Church—that person is gone. You have turned from your sin and that sin is put to death in your life.
Can you truly say that you have put sin away in your life? If you cannot then you need to think twice about being baptized. You need to question whether or not your baptism was legitimate. But if you can say that you have turned from sin, then you need to let the world know that the old person is gone.
Those of you who were baptized years ago or are considering Jesus even now, what can you say about your life? Have you put sin away? Is that old person gone? Or are you the same person that you were before the day you say you were saved? If that old person still dominates your life and your life is characterized by sin instead of righteousness then you need to consider your salvation. Because when you were baptized, it is your symbolic public burial service that shows what has happened to the old you.
Listen closely to me: Baptism does not save you. It does not “seal the deal” on salvation. It does not “make you OK” with God. It does not wash away your sin. It does not put you in right standing with God. It is not the moment in which your salvation is activated.
Baptism is a sign that shows that you have been saved and have repented of sin. It’s then and only then that someone should be baptized. If you have turned from sin and believed in Jesus Christ and have been saved then you need to be baptized as soon as possible. And if you have been baptized earlier in your life but you realize that you did so without repenting of sin, ask yourself, “What did that baptism mean if it didn’t mean death?”
Colossians 2:11-12 says, “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism.” Baptism symbolizes death. Make sure that you understand today that baptism shows you have died to that old person.