What is baptism?
Baptism is one of the first acts of obedience to God that we find in the Scriptures for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. It is a public symbol in community with other believers of the whole-life transformation that salvation through Jesus brings to those who trust and follow Him.
The act itself is an immersion in water that represents the believers union with Jesus. We go down into the water as a symbol of surrendering to, letting go of, or even dying to our old manner of living that was not connected to a relationship with Jesus. Going into the water is a physical representation of the humble release of control of our life to God. We acknowledge we have tried to meet the needs of our mind, body, heart, and soul in our own ways in the patterns of the world apart from God that Scripture calls sin. We have sinned against God and one another. Going in to the water is a declaration we want to be done with a life of sin.
Coming up out of the water represents being raised with Jesus by the very power of His resurrection to a new kind of life. We are counting on the covering of Jesus' grace because of his shed blood on the Cross to forgive and cleanse us from sin. We are committing to live our lives led by the Holy Spirit who fills those who call Jesus Lord.
We do this act publicly as a statement and confession before God and other believers. It is not that the person being baptized has achieved some higher status than other Christians or is sure they will no longer have doubt or sin. Instead, we are confessing with this symbol of baptism that we are committed to a journey of following Jesus in the highs and lows of life with a community. We will need grace and the Holy Spirit everyday for this and we are not called to be alone, but woven into a church family. That is why baptism is done with the church witnessing. The one being baptized is committing to a relational journey with others and the church is committing the same to the person.