Baptism is a reenactment of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the mark of our mysterious rebirth, born again. Our lives are given a second beginning. It is not simply a fresh start as the former things are no longer remembered and the person that we once were is dead, buried with Christ. Who we were has died with Jesus Christ.
A watery grave and yet a birth canal, we arrive in life for a second time to experience the new life found only in Jesus Christ. We see the world with new eyes, having left behind us the experiences of the old person, its nature and past life. It is not a change that is regrettable though some wish that they had met Jesus Christ sooner. No, we sing “what a wonderful change has come over me.”
Unless we are baptized of the water and the Spirit, we cannot see or enter the kingdom of God (John 1.32-33; 3.3,5). It is our new prescription and our pass into the kingdom of God. It is through baptism that we are able to see God’s vision and that we are able to experience this new life. Baptism answers Nicodemus’ question, “How can anyone be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” (John 3.4). Nicodemus could only see the physical possibilities of rebirth but Jesus offers an awareness of newness whose cause and effects are spiritual. In baptism, there is a change that occurs internally and our perspective and worldview changes.
Our position changes, now found in Jesus Christ and we have a Divine parent, having been adopted by God (Ephesians 1.4-5; Galatians 4.6). We, in turn, gain a new name, becoming the children of God and inherit spiritual traits. My grandmother would say, “The things that I used to do, I don’t do no more and the places that I used to go, I don’t go no more.” Baptism is a spiritual cleansing as our sins are washed away (Acts 22.16). Baptism changes our habits, our character and identity.
It does not matter that we look the same on the outside, that social difficulties and temptations remain. We have been joined on the inside. No longer living alone, we have a Helper and a Comforter. We have a different living arrangement and our lives are not lived the same way again. Though you cannot see it, you are not the same person after baptism.
You may have been a colored person, black/white/red/yellow/brown/beige, identified by the social identity of this world but this identity is lost in Christ. We are now a part of Christ’s person, joining the very Body of Christ. How we were judged before is irrelevant as race is no longer our judge. Our hearts have been cleansed; thus, it does not matter the social coloring of our hands. We have been taken to the water and race did not get up with us. Race can’t be baptized.