What is baptism?
It is primarily an act of identification. It is primarily an act of identifying myself as a corpse. “Who — Douglas? You won’t see him no more.” Baptism declares that we have been crucified with Christ. Baptism declares that we are embracing what Christ demands of us: to hate our mother, father, wife, children, and our own life also.
The question of the ages, when it comes to infant baptism vs. believer’s baptism, is: do we issue the certificate of death before or after the event? Infant baptism looks forward in faith to the day when God will regenerate the heart of the Christian, and writes out the death certificate in advance. It recognizes the strange truth that a Christian is not always yet a Christian.
That Christian who isn’t yet a Christian was me for 25 years. There was never a time when I would have said, “I am not a Christian.” Those who have heard my story know facts that I hid for years: the heart of the old Douglas was weighed down with the guilt of sexual sins, ambition, conceit and envy. But I never would have said “I am not a Christian.” I belonged to the class of people spoken of in I John 1.6. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” The uncanny thing about that state is that you regard your sins as somehow being lesser evils than the exact same acts practiced by non-Christians, but can’t ever shake your feelings of guilt.
One day around Thanksgiving 2010, Christ pierced through my blindness and gave me faith to see who I really was, and the glories of who Christ is: the shepherd who seeks out all His lost sheep scattered on cloudy and gloomy days, and dies to give them life. At the moment that I understood Christ rightly, the scales fell off. I believe that moment was when the Holy Spirit transformed me into a new creature. Sin has still mastered me many times since then, but what has changed is my attitude toward God. Before, I regarded God merely academically — as someone to learn about, know things about, be able to argue in favor of. The idea of Christ being the lover of my soul was foreign.
Since then, the question of baptism has nagged at my mind. I had received Christian baptism at age 8 or 9. Was there a need to go through the rite of baptism once again?
I made it a question of paedo-baptism vs. credo-baptism. If paedo-baptism (the practice of baptizing infants) is Biblical, the baptism I’d received counted once and for all, and there was no need to receive the covenant sign again. So, my Pastor, Chadwick Haygood, and I studied a book on baptism. But I too readily saw both sides and still haven’t formed a solid conclusion on that matter.
Something else settled the question.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13.45
Christian, Christ is the pearl of great price. There is no coming to Christ half way. It’s never, “I’ve found the pearl of great price! Let’s see if I can drum up enough ready cash to buy it but still keep my 401k.” No. Christ must be followed with a sense of urgency to shout to the world “I will have no other lovers!”
The only way I can think of shouting that to the world is to be baptized.