Matthew, an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, recorded these words Jesus spoke to his closest followers after he was raised from the dead, shortly before he ascended into heaven.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)
These were some of the last recorded words Jesus spoke before he returned to heaven. He told his disciples to spread the word about him to people everywhere, to baptize them, and to teach them how to follow him.
Jesus was essentially telling them to share his message with others—and when people came to believe in him, they should be baptized in God’s name.
So, if Jesus instructed his disciples to baptize future followers, we must first answer the question, “What does it mean to be baptized?”
It’s a way of saying, I’m going public with who I’m identifying with. When we are baptized, we are associating with the message and the person of Jesus Christ.
Shortly before he began his public ministry, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John. You may have heard him referred to as John the Baptist. John taught that people should repent and surrender their lives to God. As a symbol for those who believed in this message, they were baptized in a river. One day, Jesus went to be baptized by John. When John saw him approaching, he proclaimed to his followers, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). When Jesus was baptized, he was associating himself with the message John had been declaring.
It’s a declaration someone makes of a decision they’ve made to follow Jesus.
Perhaps the most famous verse in Scripture is:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
We summarize this verse with the following eight words as a way to describe what trusting in Jesus is all about:
Salvation was initiated by God because of his great love for us. When we trust in Jesus’s death and resurrection, we receive the gift of new life in Jesus and the promise of eternal life with him. This is what it means to be saved. When we are baptized, we are declaring our new association as a follower of Jesus.
We believe that a person is saved and then baptized. Baptism is evidence of a person’s individual decision to become a follower of Jesus.
Baptism does not make our salvation official. It’s a way of displaying an earlier decision to follow Jesus.
Have you been baptized since your decision to follow Jesus?
If you haven’t been baptized, what’s holding you back? We’d love to help you take the next step.
Don’t spend another season of your life being a Jesus follower, but not following his instruction about baptism. You’ll find that while your baptism is personal, it impacts more people than just you. Chances are, there’s someone whose faith will be impacted when you go public with your faith.
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