Before he returned to his Father, Jesus gave his followers some instructions, often known as the “Great Commission.” He said,
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
All Christians everywhere have the same confession: Jesus is Lord. We acknowledge that all authority is his. Because he is Lord, he tells us to make disciples of all nations. This involves two steps: baptizing new converts, and teaching them to observe his commandments.
Through baptism a person publicly identifies with Jesus. Baptism is a public declaration that Jesus is Lord and signals the person’s desire to follow Jesus. It does not grant salvation to a person; a person is baptized because he or she has responded to the good news that Jesus is Lord and that all who come to him in faith will be saved.
At New City we ask three questions of a person being baptized. 1. Do you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead? 2. Are you trusting in Christ and Christ alone for your life and salvation? 3. Do you renounce Satan, this world, and your own evil desires to follow Christ and Christ alone?
On the basis of a person’s faith demonstrated through these questions the church of Jesus Christ baptizes this person in water, symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The one being baptized is thus publicly identified with Jesus. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans,
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:3-4 ESV)
Baptism, then, symbolizes our identity with Christ and our desire that we walk in newness of life. This is the second part of the Great Commission. We baptize new believers and teach them to observe Jesus’ commands—that they “might walk in newness of life.”
Baptism is more than a mere ritual to go through. It is part of the mission of God in this world.