What My Baptism Meant (and Means) to Me
D. J. Lawrence, Ammanford
I was almost twelve years old when I was converted. It was on a Sunday night in December 1936, and I can still recall how deeply troubled I felt. My concern arose out of the possibility that the Lord might return that very night and that I was unprepared. Ultimately, bursting into tears, I told my parents that I wanted to be saved. In their presence I knelt down and accepted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour. Later I came to understand that the experience within my soul which brought me to my knees in contrition was the conviction of the Holy Spirit- Thai night my need was not for any further information; I already knew the way of salvation. Indeed, I welt remember telling a school-mate how to be saved before I was saved myself. What I needed was to yield my wilt and to commit myself to that which i already knew
ft was about two years later I was baptized. What I have said about my conversion applied also in the case of my baptism. Just as I had known how to be saved prior to my conversion, so I knew also that the next step after it was to be baptized. I knew that baptism was not essential to salvation, but that it was closely associated with it. Whenever the subject arose during the course of a conversation or an address, I was disturbed.
Having requested baptism, in due course i was interviewed by two elders from the local assembly who asked the reason for my request. Simply and a bit nervously I replied, "Because the Lord has commanded it". I had heard others speak of the joy they had experienced on being baptized, and I recall that after my baptism I was worried and somewhat disappointed at not having felt a sudden surge of joy. I realize now that, by concentrating on my feelings rather than on the fact of my obedience to the Lord, ! was largely robbed of that joy, Probably the devil was taking advantage of the situation too.
It will be seen that my first impression concerning baptism was to regard it as an act of submission to the command of the Lord. I knew little or nothing at the time about its deeper and spiritual significance, But then neither did I know very much about the great themes and blessings of salvation at the time of my conversion. Faith in Christ brought me into the good of n complete salvation, even though I did not understand much of what that meant. Likewise, baptism is firstly a command to be obeyed ; fuller appreciation of its significance comes with spiritual growth. The one thing I did understand, however, was that after my baptism a greater responsibility rested upon me to live a consistent Christian life
Some time later I had a desire to study the Scriptures for myself. As a result of my studies I learnt much more about the important subject of baptism. For instance, I discovered that the command concerning baptism is found in the Gospels, that the practice of baptism is found in the book of the Acts and that the teaching about baptism is found in the Epistles. The Lord Jesus commanded His disciples, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you". Matt. 28. 19-20 r.v. The book of the Acts records many examples of the apostles' obedience in fulfilling the mandate and commission given to them by their Master. It is clear that on every occasion the persons who were baptized had first believed the gospel. This is why the baptism included in the Lord's commission is often referred to as "believers baptism". Certainly baptism is never mentioned in Scripture in connection with the birth of infants. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration (that people— usually infants—are born again as a result of being baptized) is contrary to the Bible. Regeneration is by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, Titus 3. 5; 1 Pet. 1. 23, and not by the water of baptism. There will be some unbaptized believers in heaven but there will be no baptized unbelievers there!
When I came to look more closely at those passages in the Epistles which explain baptism, I began to understand something of its deeper meaning. I came to see that my baptism expressed something which was already true of me as a Christian ; namely, that I had died, been buried and been raised with the Lord Jesus. Because He had died for me, I was to reckon that David Lawrence had died in and with Him. Now, the only sensible thing to do with a dead person is to bury him. Although I was not aware of it at the time, my baptism was a figure of the burial of my former self, and my emergence from the water was a figure of my being raised to walk a new kind of life, Rom. 6. 3-11;
Col. 2. 12. This "new kind of life", to put it simply, is letting the Lord live in me. Paul summed up his experience in the following words, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me", Gal. 2. 20.
Incidentally, as Christian baptism figuratively represents a person's burial, we can safely assert that only baptism by immersion adequately expresses this. To sprinkle somebody with water can hardly be accepted as a symbol of burial ! The practice of the early church was not to apply the water to the individual but to immerse the individual in the water. We read concerning Philip the evangelist and the Ethiopian eunuch he was to baptize that, "they went down both into the W3ter, both Philip and the eunuch", Acts 8. 38.
My baptism, however little I understood of it at the time, was my recognition of Jesus' lordship. It was my acknowledgement that I am no longer my own; I am the property of Him who had died to save me, 1 Cor. 6. 20. This being so. His service and interests should hold first place in my life. I ought to yield my will to Him and seek His glory in all things. There is a danger that some believers will think of their baptism merely as an experience of the past, which can be forgotten once the command of the Lord has been obeyed. Others may think of it only as a pre-condition for assembly fellowship. Indeed, this was my idea as a lad. I have since discovered that baptism relates to the whole of my life, past, present and future, and that it makes enormous practical demands on me continually.
What then does my baptism mean to me today? Well, it not only stands between me and my past life; it also teaches me that I am cut off from the sinful pleasures, allurements and associations of the world. I read that, "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world", Gal. 6. 14. Baptism is a constant reminder that I should "seek those things which are above" ; my affection should be set on such things and not on things on the earth. Col. 3. 1-2. You might hear it said that, "You can be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use". For my part, I am convinced that the more heavenly minded the Christian is, the greater earthly use he is likely to be for the Lord. I pointed out earlier that baptism does not fit me for heaven. Thai is true, but its teaching should help fi1 me for earth! It causes me to remember that, though I have to live in the world, I am not "of" the world, John 17. 14.
Young Christian, let me ask you, "Have you been baptised?" If not, then go and see your local elders and tell them that you want to be. If, on the other hand, you have been baptized let me put a further question to you in closing, "Are you living as a baptized Christian ought?". Am I?