Choosing to Identify with Jesus

Once we begin to follow Jesus, it is good to follow up with baptism. Baptism with water is a way to positively identify with Jesus and is almost universal among followers of Jesus.


credit: Andrey Dementev

Why are Believers Baptized?

There are several reasons why baptism is such a universal practice.

1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to prepare for the Kingdom of God. We identify with Jesus and follow his example in baptism. The Kingdom of God is just an older special term for those who are aligned with Jesus and the Father. You can read about Jesus’ baptism in Mark chapter 1, Matthew chapter 3, and Luke chapter 3.

2. Jesus instructed his followers to baptize new followers. Matthew chapter 28 reports,

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

3. The symbolism of baptism reminds us of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So, when we are baptized, we identify with Jesus in that way as well. Paul writes in Romans chapter 6,

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

4. Baptism is a public statement of identity with Jesus. Once we learn about the good news of Jesus and embrace it in our lives, the next logical step is to identify with Jesus in a definite, public way.

Is Baptism a Condition of Acceptance by God?

No. There are no pre-requisites for following Jesus, but baptism is a way to identify with Jesus in a definite way. It signals our commitment to aligning with Jesus.

How does Baptism Work?

The practices of baptism vary from group to group. Some baptize infants who are born to followers of Jesus. If this is the case, they will also baptize older children and adults who become followers of Jesus later in life. Other groups baptize only older children and adults.

The method of baptism also varies. Many groups sprinkle or pour water on the heads of the new follower. Others dip the new follower briefly under the water’s surface; this is usually done in a baptistry (water tank) in the church, but sometimes natural bodies of water or even a swimming pool are used. Sprinkling, pouring, and dipping are all valid methods of baptism.

Who Will Baptize Me?

Most churches have guidelines about who can baptize others, but this is not always the case. Some groups require membership in their church for baptism, while others will baptize anyone who has become a follower of Jesus. Check with any church or Christian minister to learn more.

Baptism is a positive and rewarding step for those who begin to follow Jesus.

In this series:

Making the Good News of Jesus Your Own
Choosing to Identify with Jesus
Does Behavior Matter?
Loving God and Others Makes Rules Obsolete
A Delightful Insight into Behavior
Growing as a Follower of Jesus
What is the Good News of Jesus Anyway?

Your observations and comments are welcome below.
If you enjoyed this or found it helpful, please sign up for updates in the column to the right (email, RSS, Facebook, or Twitter) so that you don’t miss future posts. Also consider sharing this post using the buttons below. Have a great day! ~Tim
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11 Responses to Choosing to Identify with Jesus

  1. Your talk about churches made me think – what’s your opinion on them, Tim? Do you attend a church? Your extremely unorthodox views would be unwelcome in many churches. I know there are also open-minded churches who welcome guests with differing theology, but I’ve never met anyone who describes their following Jesus the way you do. Is there any church where you feel your personal theology fits well with what comes from the pulpit?


    • Good question Jonny!

      Most of my life I attended church all the time and usually held some non-ministerial position in the congregation. Often I taught well-attended adult Sunday school classes and pushed the edges of traditional thinking, but I packaged it well and knew how to avoid getting into serious trouble.

      Because I am inclusive and not out to convert everybody to my views, I have no difficulty attending churches with which I disagree on some points. However, as my views developed, I moved from more traditional churches over the years: fundamentalist Baptist to Pentecostal to Presbyterian.

      Over the past few years, I have rarely attended church due to a serious illness, but I am much better now and recently attended my Presbyterian church. Unfortunately, the new pastor is SO traditional in his thinking that I am looking for another church, but I do not expect a perfect match.

      You are perhaps correct that there is no denomination that corresponds exactly to ALL my views, but there are many individuals and congregations that hold similar ones. I don’t think any of my views are unique, and most of them are gaining ground even among evangelicals.


      • Sorry to hear about the illness, and I’m glad you’re much better.

        Which Christian writers do you enjoy? I’m thinking about the progressive Christian voices I know of – Alister McGrath, James Barr, Keith Ward, John Shelby Spong, James McGrath – and wondering how your theology differs from theirs. Mind you, I haven’t really read much of their stuff yet. It’s on my to-do list, but my reading list is loooooong at the moment.


        • I tend to read writers with whom I do not agree because I learn more from them, but I also like writers who can state beliefs similar to mine in a better way than I can.

          My favorite writers of all time are C. S. Lewis, Isaac Asimov, and F. F. Bruce, all of whom I began reading early in my life. Lewis is more dangerous to evangelicals than most people think and one can blame him for much of my non-traditional theology–he got me thinking. Bruce is conservative and more of a New Testament scholar than a theologian, but his approach inspires my imagination. Asimov is not a Christian, but his impact on my theology is significant.

          In my middle years, I really enjoyed John P. Meier’s series on Jesus, A Marginal Jew. Clark Pinnock wrote a number of cutting-edge books on theology and he was an evangelical! I especially like A Wideness in God’s Mercy. And theologian G. C. Berkouwer helped me tremendously in my struggle with inerrancy, though I have not found all his books helpful.

          More recently, I have really enjoyed three evangelical pioneers. Rob Bell made quite an impact in Love Wins, and tomorrow I am posting a review of his newest book which is about God. Peter Enns did a very good job on evolution over creation in The Evolution of Adam, and I am currently reading his book on incarnational scripture. Justin Lee is a breakthrough leader and writer on gay issues among Christians. He is director of the gay Christian network and his recent book Torn is excellent!

          As you might imagine, I do not agree completely with any of them, though Justin Lee is perhaps an exception; he seems to see things much as I do, which is odd since we have such different life experiences.

          There are many other writers, both Christian and non-Christian, that I like and more that I plan to read. I follow a number of blogs, including James McGrath, which you mention. Regarding Bishop Spong, I have read a couple of his books and much of what he says is good, but (this is not a criticism) I don’t really understand why he claims to be a follower of Jesus at all. I am sure he can explain it, but I don’t see it in his books I have read.

          I hope this long answer is an adequate approach to your question, but I could talk about books for days! Who did you like to read? Do you continue to read any Christian authors?


  2. Marc says:

    Sorry to hear about your illness Tim. May our Lord Jesus Christ, the Physician of our souls and bodies, grant you healing and many years so that you can find your way home to His Church.


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