The spiritual significance of baptism
As most Christians know, baptism is one of the seven sacraments or religious rites of orthodox Christianity. John the Baptist, a Jewish Nazarene and relative of Jesus, established baptism in Christendom. He is the forerunner of the Saviour, because, prior to his conception, the angel Gabriel prophesied to Zacharias, his father, that John would go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elias, call the Jews to repentance and prepare them to receive the Messiah – Luke 1:17.
John preached ‘the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’ (Luke 3:30). Multitudes that came to John for baptism were sternly warned in Luke 3:7-14, that only practical repentance was acceptable. When asked what this meant, John told them that repentance went beyond the mere symbolism of being immersed in the River Jordan, to bringing forth worthy fruits – being transformed and regenerated – expressing qualities of kindness, honesty, compassion and contentment. John added that Jesus would baptise ‘with the Holy Ghost and with fire’.
Evidently, this is the ultimate significance of baptism. Christian author, Mary Baker Eddy, explains fire baptism in Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, as purification from error – sin and wrong thoughts. She says that this burning of the chaff of error, with the fervent heat of the truth, which Jesus says makes free, melts and purifies even the gold of human character. This purification of sense and self is vital to the progress of Christians, because Christ Jesus says in Matthew 5:8 that only the pure in heart can see God.
Thus, the spiritual significance of baptism, as preached by John the Baptist, and as practised by Christ Jesus, goes beyond sprinkling or submergence in water, to practical repentance, forsaking sin, watching every thought to make sure it is good, learning to pray without ceasing and walking in the footsteps of Christ Jesus.
Striving to tread in the narrow way may oftentimes feel like a fiery trial, yet spiritual reformation and the freedom and joy this brings are certainly worth it.
Moji George, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Nigeria West.
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