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)
Discipleship is a process. Baptism is a part of that process. I think our view of baptism impacts our view of salvation and of discipleship. If I view baptism as something I actively do, then I am likely to view discipleship from the same perspective. How much Bible reading can I do? How many scriptures can I memorize. I viewed my entry into discipleship, baptism, as a task to be completed and it is very easy to keep that mindset. Much of the debate over baptism is the result of trying to correct this perspective. If this is how we view baptism, then it is a work and we are saved by faith not works.
What if instead we view baptism as something someone else does to us?
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12 ESV)
There are so many things going on in baptism and books have been written on the subject. I want to focus on just two. On a physical level I am trusting that someone will lower me into the water and then lift me up. Although it could be challenging for the person baptizing me, the more I relax in this process the more powerful the experience is likely to be. I am being baptized. I am being buried and raised. I could easily lower myself under the water and stand back up. Maybe this is why there are some faith traditions that baptize a person face forward into the water. The less control I have during this process, the better. I’m also trusting the Bible and the instruction I’ve received that says it is important that I submit to this process.
On the spiritual level I’m trusting that a simple physical act is going to connect me with Jesus. I am being baptized into Jesus. I’m no longer attempting to follow someone from a distance. I am in Jesus and He is in me through the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have died and been resurrected.
The challenge is that once people have been baptized, especially as adults, our expectation and theirs is often that they are as mature in their new life as they were in their old one. How would our practice of discipleship in the church change if we treated those who have just been baptized as spiritual infants? I think several things would change. First, we wouldn’t want them to remain infants and we’d do everything possible to teach them to walk, talk, and act like Jesus. Second, we’d be patient because we’d recognize that this doesn’t come naturally. Third, we’d encourage them to maximize their involvement in the Christian community and its gatherings because we know that we learn better when we’re surrounded by people who love us and know where we need to grow.