“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” – Acts 22:16
On the surface (no pun intended), baptism seems kind of odd. How can being dunked under water was away sins? People do that all the time anyway; there’s nothing special about it.
Or is there?
Let’s talk about what sin does for a minute.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… – Romans 5:12
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:20-23
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17
Sin causes death. Are there other consequences along the way? Sometimes. But ultimately, causing death is sin’s only power.
Now, baptism is, as many preachers I’ve encountered are fond of saying, a reenactment of Jesus’ death:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
– Romans 6:1-11
I know that’s long, but if you didn’t read it, go back and do so. Now.
Read it? Good. Moving on.
Anyone who lives long enough has become enslaved to sin. And what does that do? It causes death, right?
When someone is baptized, they’re buried with Jesus into death, “united with him in a death like his.” Meaning that the old, sinful self that was enslaved to sin has been crucified with him.
So now sin has done its job. It’s been satisfied; there’s been death; it doesn’t need to stick around any longer. Justice has been served.
The result? Death no longer has dominion over that person. Since they died with Christ, they can now live with him.
That is why being dunked in water has this awesome power.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. – 1 Peter 3:21-22