“Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
This afternoon I have the privilege of baptizing Steve Nolen, a brother in Christ, at Wintler Park on the banks of the Columbia River. Not only it is a great joy to get to do this, it is somewhat unusual in that this will be the second baptism I’ve done at this location in less than two weeks. Could this be the new Jordan River?
Getting baptized in the Jordan River is a popular thing to do when people visit the land of Israel. This is quite understandable since that is the very river where John baptized thousands of repentant sinners, and then baptized the sinless Savior who willingly identified himself with us. What better place then to be baptized as a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ?
However, while a Jordan baptism is potentially a wonderful thing to do, the record of the early church makes it clear that the particular body of water used in baptism is actually irrelevant. The very first Christian baptisms happened on the day of Pentecost and they were done in Jerusalem, not the Jordan. There are no rivers or lakes in Jerusalem, so they undoubtedly used the local mikvahs, small pools of water used for ceremonial cleansing. Imagine the water quality after 3,000 were baptized that day!
As the gospel spread to surrounding regions, new believers were baptized in whatever body of water was available. The African official in Acts 8 simply chose the first pool of water he found. “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’” (Acts 8:36) Most recorded baptisms in Scripture do not mention whether it was a river, lake, sea or pool and the reason is clearly that the important thing is not the location of the water but the attitude of the heart toward Christ.
At Evergreen Bible Church, baptism at Family Camp has become a bit like our version of the Jordan River. Many people choose to be baptized in that special place there on the banks of Lake Creek in Triangle Lake, Oregon. I certainly love baptizing people there. Not only is it picturesque in its beauty and reminiscent of the Jordan River with its slow, quiet water, but it is the very spot my parents were baptized when they came to Christ in the 1970’s. There is a heritage of faith in those waters, for them and many others baptized there.
But while the memories are precious, the great thing is the reality baptism pictures. Being put under the water, whether an ocean or a horse trough, illustrates our union with Christ in his death so that our sins are paid for. And being raised up out of the water (I haven’t lost one yet!) symbolizes our union with Christ in never-ending resurrection life.
If you are a believer in Christ, offer up a fresh expression of gratitude for the miracle of your salvation. And if you haven’t been baptized, let me know. I know where there is some water.