“…do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,” Romans 6:3-5.
How are we “baptized into his death?” Answering that question helps us to understand the meaning of true baptism. Initially, we need to surrender our wills to God, as Jesus did. He said, “Lo I come…to do thy will, O God. I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is written in my heart.” (Psalm 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10:7) We dedicate or consecrate our all to follow and obey the Lord with our minds, hearts, and our whole beings. This is a total dedication of service to do God’s will. When consecrated, we walk “in newness of life,” having a new, different direction or purpose. We pattern our lives after our dear Redeemer.
A few days before His crucifixion, Jesus stated, “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50) This shows that Jesus’ baptism water was a symbol of his real baptism in death. It was about to be accomplished at Calvary. Like Him, we who dedicate our lives to the Lord make ourselves “dead” to the world’s pursuits. Instead, we pursue heavenly things, studying the scriptures to find out what God’s will is for us. Our desire is to prove faithful and be resurrected with Him in the heavens. (Philippians 3:10, 11; Revelation 2:10)
So, with that in mind, is water baptism (symbolizing what took place in our hearts) necessary? “When we come to consider (water) immersion we see at a glance a wonderful, a striking, a remarkable, a fitting illustration of all that is implied in the real baptism to death…” Not only is water baptism a witness to others of what has taken place in our hearts with the Lord and our commitment to Him, but it also symbolizes that life of baptism. The individual places himself in the arms of another, and being fully immersed in the water, is dependent on that person to help him up. He comes out of the water into “newness of life.” This is the new life to which he has committed himself until he dies. So, yes, we believe water baptism is necessary, not for salvation, but for a witness of that life of commitment.