We celebrated the baptism of two small children on Sunday— a great and joyful occasion, but also one of awesome (in the real meaning of the word) significance. Baptism is a matter of death and life.
Baptism is a gift of God to signify and seal our union with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. The words of a very simple but lovely baptism song by Martin Bleby spell out the significance of this gift of God, and run this way:
Jesus went down to the water; the water came over his head.
Jesus rose up from the water again; the Spirit came down and God said:
“You are my Son, the One I love from all eternity.
You share my reign above as you die and live for Me.”
That verse speaks about Jesus’ own baptism by John the Baptiser at the Jordan River right at the start of Jesus’ public ministry. That ministry of Jesus was to bring the kingdom, the reign of God to the world. And the baptism at the start of it signified how it would be accomplished — through Jesus’ own dying on a cross and rising to new life. Just as water closed over his head, so Jesus would descend into death. And just as he rose up from the water, so he would rise from the dead. And in this way all of God’s enemies (and ours too) — the devil, evil, human sinfulness, death — would be defeated. That’s what the second verse goes on to speak of:
Jesus went down to the waters of death; the waters closed over his head.
Jesus rose up and the Spirit came down to give us all life from the dead.
We are the children of God’s love; He rescues us from sin,
And we shall reign above as we die and live in him.
A third verse applies this truth specifically to the baptised ones. It says that baptism is a person’s immersion in, connection with Jesus’ own dying and rising. That actually is how God sets us right with Himself, and brings us to a new future — by putting to death our past, and raising us to new life in Jesus’ dying and rising. All the benefit of it comes to us through faith. Your name can be joined to Jesus’:
I went down to the water; the water went over my head.
I rose up from the water again; the Spirit came down and God said:
‘You are my child, the one I love from all eternity.
Now come and reign above — you have died, now live with Me.