Baptism as a Wedding Ceremony and God’s Power
Making the decision to become a Christian has many similarities to a marriage commitment. The Bible constantly uses marriage as a central metaphor for God’s relationship with us. I have performed many wedding ceremonies. According to tradition, I always ask the man if he will “take this woman to be his wife, promising before God, his family, and friends that he will be a faithful, loving and devoted husband, that he will stay with her in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity, and that he will forsake all others and cling to her alone, so long as they both shall live.”
Then I turn and ask the women the same thing. In this pledge, the marriage ceremony is a covenant, an agreement between two parties, where they pledge themselves to each other in the most “sacred of all human relationships.”
Baptism is like a wedding ceremony. We have verbal commitments (our confession of faith and the words of the one baptizing us) and we have a sacred ritual (going under water). This ceremony commits us to a covenant-relationship with God. The ceremony expresses faith and is grounded in the “by grace through faith formula.”
God comes to live within us through the Holy Spirit when we enter into this special relationship. The Bible describes it this way:
“And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago” (Ephesians 1:13, NLT).
The Holy Spirit is the seed of God’s life in our hearts (1 John 3:9). This biblical doctrine has important practical ramifications.
I can remember making the decision to become a Christian and being aware that I had to surrender to Jesus as “Lord.” I had to think through the ramifications of my sinful habits because I knew that to truly surrender to him as “Lord,” I had to make some changes. I was willing to give up my habits, but I was not sure how I was going to pull it off (because I was realistic about myself).
God guided me with the belief that He would help me with my sinful ways. Like a child, I knew that I would stumble and fall, but I believed that God would work it all out. And, over time, He did.
The invisible power of the Holy Spirit is an important truth upon which we must rely. This is the answer for those of us who are afraid to commit ourselves to Christ because we doubt ourselves. We wonder if we can truly follow His teachings and obey His commands, but we must trust God to help us do what we could not do on our own.
A few years later I came across an analogy that has really helped me to understand how God helps us. Imagine having to write a play like Shakespeare! John Stott described what it would be like if someone told him that he had to do that (in his book, Basic Christianity).
It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet and King Lear, and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it; I can’t. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it; I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like that. And if the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life like that.
This is the secret of the Christian life – God working in us, giving us the desire and strength to obey Him (Philippians 2:13). The important point about living the Christian life is your decision to ask God to give you the right heart. If you truly trust God with your decision, He will help you develop a passion to follow Him.