One of the problems the church has faced since it first appeared on the scene in Israel is the place and purpose of baptism.
And, since the days of Corinth, one of the primary reasons for the confusion is that we always start our conversations about baptism with a conversation about baptism – and not a conversation about the Covenant from which baptism gets its meaning.
This was the case in Corinth (1 Cor 1:11-17). People were causing division. How? By holding a discussion about baptism and the pre-eminence of the person who administered it. We have similar division when we give pre-eminence to the mode. But the conversation about baptism must always be grounded in the Covenant in which it occurs.
Paul put it this way in Galatians 3:27,
“For as many of you as were baptised into Christ, have put on Christ.”
Baptism is an arrow, not pointing in, but pointing up to Christ. Baptism does not speak of the internal condition of the person, but of Christ. If you are forgiven, Christ is your forgiveness. If you are redeemed, it is because Christ is your redemption.
Baptism is simply declaring on earth what God has already declared in heaven, namely, that only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can bring you in to the Kingdom. Those who receive it are receiving the sign of the New Covenant. A Covenant dipped and sealed in blood.
Baptism is not getting wet. It is not getting dipped, plunged, sprinkled or splashed. To be baptised is to be grafted in to Christ the Vine. It is to publicly enter a Covenant with Christ. Once this is understood, it becomes clear that when talking about baptism we are not just talking about water.
We are talking about Olive Trees, Parents, Families, Gentiles, Jews, Grapes, Circumcision, Coats, Death and Resurrection. In other words, we are talking about something which is much bigger than it looks.