The essential point of baptism in the New Testament is identification with Christ. You and Christ are no longer separated. You are in Him and He is in you. You are one. A member of His body.
This is what the passages about baptism stress.
You wouldn’t know this by listening to Christians talk about baptism. Mostly it’s just arguing about how to baptize, who baptizes, what church to baptize in, how old you have to be to be baptized, etc.
Argue, argue. Fight, fight.
Let me draw this together for you the way Paul does. Read this passage. Like, really. Read it. It’s Ephesians 4:3-6:
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Then he lists a bunch of things that there are only ONE of. If we’re all focused on the ONE then we can’t argue about anything!
If there were two, yeah, we could argue about which is better. But there’s only one.
Ephesians 4 is about the church and how it’s supposed to function. If you read all of Ephesians 4, which I’d encourage you to do, you will note that it sounds nothing like your experience in church.
Instead of making every effort to keep the bond of peace at church, most people make every effort to make it about all their weird stuff and bring in their identities, their opinions, their anger, their selfish desires, and their idiosyncratic preferences and any chance at unity is out the window.
Baptism eliminates personal fleshly identity. If every person in the church were truly living as one identified with Christ, the unity would increase.
Note that Paul says there is “one baptism.” Many have argued about the meaning of this over the years, naturally.
Some say it’s infant baptism, others say it’s immersion, others say it’s sprinkling, other’s say it’s believers baptism, and still others say it’s the baptism of the Spirit.
We fight over which baptism is the ONE. And, of course, we naturally decide the form of baptism we like best is what the ONE is. How convenient. No one has ever said, “You know what, I think your baptism is the ONE and mine isn’t.”
Here’s what I think Paul’s point is.
As we’ve traced through the New Testament, we’ve seen the progression from John’s baptism, to being baptized in the name of Jesus.
I think all Paul is doing is defining things. He and others explained through the Gospels and Acts that baptism into Jesus Christ is what stands now.
I think that’s all he means. You’re baptized into Christ. John’s baptism is done. Some were still faithful to John and that caused division. But now it’s all about baptism into Christ. When you get baptized it’s about immersion into Christ. Identifying yourself with Him. That’s what it is. That’s the ONE baptism.
If you come out of the water of baptism fighting about how dumb people are who weren’t baptized like you, you’ve kind of missed the point. Remember when Paul came to Christ he counted all his religious attainments as dung.
Baptism isn’t about you vs. them. Baptism is about you losing yourself in Christ.
You’re baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. That’s the ONE baptism. And the teaching of this one baptism is losing your life to gain Christ’s.
Don’t fight about this. Keep it simple.