Today we will conclude our study of God's big arrow of believer's baptism by noting one more important truth that it points to, namely....
The Calling to Sanctification. Colossians 2:16-18
As we already saw, baptism points to the cross as seen in Colossians 2:9 and 13-15 and also to saving faith in Colossians 2:10-12. But now Paul reveals something else baptism points to, not only what took place in the past, but also the present calling God has for every Christian. The calling to be progressively sanctified means that from conversion the Christian is called to be like Jesus in their thoughts, actions and attitudes. Oftentimes I will refer to baptism as the believer's first major step of Christian obedience. Other baptism texts bring out this meaning, such as Romans 6:4 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." What Paul does is use this word picture to urge his readers to heed God's calling on their life to be sanctified and to walk out the Christian walk.
Baptism points to our calling to be sanctified in the mind. Colossians 2:18
We read in Colossians 2:18 "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind." The mind is the battleground of spiritual warfare that is to be waged with the weaponry of scripture and prayer. It is helpful sometimes to think about the day of your baptism, because you can simply ask yourself - why was I baptized? When you reflect on how you felt when you came up out of that tank, you realized more than ever that your calling was to walk forth in newness of life. The Spirit called you, transformed your heart and brought you to the point of saving faith prior to your baptism. You didn't get baptized to get changed, rather you got baptized to testify of having a prior change. Baptism's message is not only about you testifying publically about your faith in Christ, but also the desire to walk forth in a growing relationship with Christ. Romans 12:2 reminds us to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind". Though this world may try to fill our minds with evil thoughts and others may try to delude our way of thinking, we are to take every though captive and bring it to the obedience of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Notice how else baptism points the believer to God's present calling to be continually sanctified...
Baptism points to our calling to be sanctified with God's people. Colossians 2:19
Notice what Paul writes in Colossians 2:19 "and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." In Baptist churches today we recognize that those who have been truly converted and scripturally baptized as believers by immersion are deemed members of that local church. Why? Because baptism is one's initiation into the membership of the local church. Acts 2:41 describes the first baptismal service in church history: "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." Those believers who were baptized were "added", that is to say, they were put on the membership rolls of the church at Jerusalem.
Jesus gave baptism to his church as an ordinance that is to be practiced until His return in Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism does not merely speak about the individual new convert entering into the water, it also reminds the new Christian who is about to enter that they are getting ready to participate in the local day in, day out life of church membership. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 drives this point home: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."
Christians need the local church to effectively heed the call of God to grow in sanctification. Hebrews 10:24-25 states - "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." So baptism points to the calling God has to be sanctified in the mind and with His people, the local church. But notice one more thought...
Baptism points to our calling to be sanctified in the Word. Colossians 2:20-23
Paul writes in Colossians 2:20 "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as...". What Paul then does is enumerate more of the false teachings being peddled by the heretics operating at Colossae. Why heed the traditions and empty teachings of men? If anything, baptism reminds the Christian that nothing else but the Word of God can cleanse the saint of God. Again many well-intentioned people will try to make baptism the cleansing agent of the believer's life. Yet once more I say: what does the scripture teach? Notice John 17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." Also Ephesians 5:26 "so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." Then one more, 1 Peter 3:21 "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Why those three verses? Because those advocating some type of baptismal regeneration appeal to these texts. Yet the first two plainly tell the reader that it is the Word alone that cleanses. Then the 1 Peter 3:21 passage plainly tells us that the symbolism of the ark of Noah in the prior verse "corresponds" to the baptism that now saves you. Which baptism? The Spirit baptism at salvation (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) to which water baptism signifies. I always tell my baptismal regenerationist friends that the weight of the passage lies not at the first half, but at the second part - namely Peter tells us what water baptism "does not do" - wash away the dirt from the flesh." So then if water baptism is incapable of taking away sin, then what is its point? Notice again - the appeal of a good conscience to God. Only a true believer in Jesus Christ is fit to enter into the water, being that a converted human heart is interested in asking God to enable them to grow in the faith that they prior received before the water baptismal event.
The only thing that can convert the soul of the sinner is the Word of God. (Psalm 19:7; 1 Peter 1:23) Likewise the only thing that can cleanse the soul of the Saint and strengthen them in their faith is the written Word of God preached and taught. (Psalm 19:8-14; Ephesians 5:26). Baptism pictures for us what the Word of God alone can do. Water does not cleanse. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse, and only the scriptures can continue to cleanse. (Hebrews 9:14-15)
These past two posts have aimed to specifically unpack the meaning of baptism in Colossians 2:8-23. To heed the immediate context of Paul's statements in the chapter, it has been contended that the only proper manner in interpreting the baptism of which he speaks is to understand it as believer's baptism. Baptism is Christ's ordinance to His church which functions as an arrow in pointing to an event - the cross; a necessary experience - saving faith and a present calling to all Christian - sanctified living.