Baptism is a covenant—or a promise—that you make with God. When you get baptized, you promise to serve Him and follow His commandments to the best of your abilities.
If you’ve ever read the New Testament, you’re probably familiar with the story where Jesus visits John the Baptist to be baptized. “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15). Even Jesus, who never sinned, was baptized to show obedience to God and be the example for us to follow.
If the meaning of baptism could be boiled down to one word, that word would be identification. Baptism speaks primarily of a personal, public identification with Jesus Christ. The sacrament of baptism is an outward visible sign of the grace of God. Through baptism a person is joined with the universal church, the body of Christ. In baptism, God works in us the power of forgiveness, the renewal of the spirit, and the knowledge of the call to be God’s people always.
Baptism with water and the Holy Spirit is the sign and seal of our common discipleship. Since baptism is God’s gift, the Holy Spirit is called to be upon the water and those being baptized. The act of baptism also marks the beginning of new life of discipleship with Christ, the human response to that gift. It is your personal identification with the greatest act of human history—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism doesn’t save you—salvation comes by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).