By Dudley Rutherford
Ever since I was a small boy, I have lived to honor my earthly father. Even though my dad died in March 2020, I try to honor him daily. God must have put it in my heart to have such love and respect for my earthly father that I wanted to please and honor him every day.
I don’t claim to be perfect like Jesus, but our Lord also strove every day to honor and please his Father. When Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River at Bethany in the Judean desert, God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus did exactly what his heavenly Father called him to do.
When a person decides to be baptized, they do what God the Father has called every believer to do in his Word (see Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; John 3:5; and Acts 2:38, to name a few). What a blessing that this simple act of obedience pleases the Lord God Almighty. And when you think about the beauty, meaning, and implications of baptism, and as you begin a new journey with Christ, you can’t help but become filled with joy and gratitude. I will share four reasons from Romans 6 why baptism and thankfulness are inextricably connected:
1. You Get to Be United with Christ
Baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus died on a cross. After he spoke his last words and breathed his last breath, they took him down from the cross and buried him in a tomb. Three days later, God raised him from the dead. When you are baptized, it’s a picture of being buried like Christ, because when you choose to live for Jesus, you die to yourself. The “old you” remains down in that water, while being raised up out of that water symbolizes the “new you” being resurrected to new life—just like the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
(As a quick aside, Greek words are far more colorful, descriptive, and specific than English words. Greeks used the word baptizo to describe biblical baptism; baptizo means to fully immerse, not sprinkle.)
Jesus never committed any sins, so he did not have to be baptized. He was baptized to set an example, to initiate his ministry, and to please his heavenly Father. And when we are baptized, we emulate Christ and follow his example. Not only that, but we are also united with him!
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:3-5).
Our baptism is beyond symbolic—our baptism supernaturally unites us with Jesus Christ for everlasting life. What a joy! What an honor! This reality is almost too wonderful to comprehend, and it leads us to immense gratitude.
2. You Get to Preach a Sermon
When you are baptized, you announce and portray that you personally believe Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave, as described in the Scriptures. Next, you present your desire to die to yourself—your sin, your old ways—and become a new person in Christ.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Romans 6:6-8).
In baptism, you, in essence, preach your own testimony. You preach a powerful sermon. You preach the story of what’s most important in your life. Your baptism is a blessing to everyone who witnesses or hears about it, because they hear the story of the gospel and how God transforms lives—including yours! They hear about the hope we can have in Jesus to be free from sin and to live a new life in Christ. As you walk with Christ (and turn away from sin by his grace and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), others see your sermon lived out continually. Not that you will be perfect—only Jesus is perfect, and our sanctification in him is a process—but those around you hopefully will see a sermon of love, grace, humility, and obedience exemplified through you. Additionally, baptisms provide a witness to the entire church and community that Christ is still transforming lives today. This great privilege is a huge reason to be thankful!
3. You Get to Be Free
Paul announced in the previous verses that the believer is set free from sin through Christ. He then wrote, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11). When we put our faith in Jesus and are baptized into his name, we are to consider ourselves dead to the sins that made us spiritually dead. After baptism, we are alive to God because of his Son Jesus. This is a reason to celebrate and be filled with thankfulness!
A few verses later, Paul further clarified, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (v. 14). Sin no longer is your boss—Jesus is. However, Jesus is a different master from sin in every way. Jesus is loving, good, merciful, powerful, and full of light and grace. And there is freedom in grace. Not only that, but there is also family in grace. Jesus said,
Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:34-36).
After your baptism, you no longer are a slave to sin, but a free and loved member of God’s family with an everlasting inheritance. Aren’t you glad? I am so thankful to have an earthly family—my parents, siblings, wife (the perpetual sunshine of my life), children and grandchildren (who bring me joy and make me so proud), and my extended family. Then, to be a part of not only a church family, but also God’s eternal family . . . and to be regarded as his child? That makes the many very good things in life unendingly better! The freedom and family we receive through salvation, which begins with belief and baptism, are great reasons to be thankful, wouldn’t you agree?
4. You Get to Be Forgiven
One of the best-known verses in the Bible is Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our sins were deserving of death. (Our sins were the cost, the wage, the price.) But God—through his mercy, love, and forgiveness—cancels our sin because of his Son’s death on the cross. We are forgiven. And for this, we should thank God every moment of every day.
Peter preached the sermon of his life in Acts 2. The apostle went all the way back to the prophet Joel to explain why Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Scriptures, and that he was crucified and resurrected from the dead.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).
Peter said to repent and be baptized. Those two things are connected . . . you really can’t do one without the other. Then Peter said, every one of them should be baptized. In other words, there are no exceptions. Every person in the crowd that day needed to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.
When Peter said, “for the forgiveness of your sins,” he meant all sins. No matter what sin you’ve ever committed, no matter how many times you’ve committed that sin, no matter how bad and wicked and evil that sin, no matter whether you consider it a little sin or a big sin—all your sins are forgiven. Think about that. Every sin you’ve ever committed gone, vanished, washed away. You’ve been forgiven. That’s great news! It’s a reason to rejoice and overflow with gratitude. You can’t help but thank God for his amazing grace.
Baptism may seem like a simple, one-time event in the life of a Christian, but the blessings of baptism are manifold and far-reaching. When you are baptized, you participate in something special that was initiated more than 2,000 years ago. It’s amazing to think about. Baptism enables us to be united with Christ not only in a symbolic way, but a supernatural way. It allows us to preach a sermon to others and provide a witness to the church and community that Christ transforms lives. Baptism is an important step in our walk with Christ, which ultimately results in freedom from sin. And lastly, as the apostle Peter declared, when we repent and are baptized, we receive the forgiveness of sins.
I hope that whenever you think about baptism—be it your own or someone else’s—or witness a person being baptized, you remember these four awesome truths. I pray your heart will overflow with thankfulness as you continue to live to please your heavenly Father.
Dudley Rutherford is the author of One Thing: Rediscover a Simpler Faith in Our Complicated World, available at Amazon and from other booksellers. He serves as senior pastor of Shepherd Church, which has three campuses in the Greater Los Angeles area.
You can connect with Dudley at www.LiftUpJesus.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.