Q45: Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?

A: No, only the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from sin.

Scripture Reference:

Luke 3:16 – John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (ESV)

The Vertical Truth in Faith – What does this mean in my relationship with God?

Perhaps one could understand this question asked in a different way. Does baptism save? Is baptism the means by which God cleanses us from our sin? The answer is certainly, no. As is stated in the answer to the question, only the blood of Christ…can cleanse us from sin. As a result, consider the following two implications in response to this question and answer as it pertains to our relationship with God.

One, God is the sole initiator and sole provider of our salvation. The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God in His steadfast love, motivated by His own good grace put forth His one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Jesus’ sacrifice was unique however in the sense that it was one time for all time (Heb. 9:12). Through Jesus’ sacrificial death and his victorious resurrection from the dead all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13), meaning they are cleansed from their past, present and future sins by Jesus’ blood alone. This is one of the truths that make the Gospel so beautiful. There is no other means by which mankind can find cleansing for their sin.

Two, baptism is a gift from God to be celebrated with the church as a picture of what God has accomplished in the life of the believer through the death and resurrection of His Son. Proper understanding of this question and answer allows one to rightly understand baptism. Many carry an unknown misunderstanding that baptism is a salvific or regenerating moment. When asked the question, “when did you become a Christ follower?” many refer to when they were baptized. While most are not attempting to make a claim that baptism is God’s means of salvation, the language matters. It is Christ alone who saves us; therefore, baptism is a symbolic, celebratory act of obedience to carried out in the life of the church proclaiming that Jesus alone has cleansed us from our sin.

  • Hebrews 9:11-15 “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

The Horizontal Truth in Love – What does this mean in my relationship with humanity?

If it is the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit alone that brings cleansing for sin, people need to know this. Whether people realize it or not, apart from Jesus, they are opposed to God, enemies even (Col. 1:21) in their sin. Left to themselves they have no hope of being saved. There is no good work, religious act, or personal sacrifice that one can make in order to be cleansed of their sin. They need someone to act in their place and this is precisely what Jesus does. He is the one who stands in their place to take the wrath of God toward their sin. People need to hear this and believe this and be reconciled to God. There is no other way. The question to the Christ follower is, armed with this understanding, who are you telling? Who do you know that needs to hear this incredible truth that Jesus brings cleansing for our sin?

  • 1 John 1:1-3 – That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Practical Truth in Action – How can I put this truth into action

There are a couple of applications that result from this question and answer. First, if you are a believer in Jesus and have not been baptized, you ought to take the step to do so. While baptism is not the means of cleansing it is the public display that you have been cleansed. Baptism is a step of obedience to Jesus’ command. It is one that is to be celebrated in the life of your church. Enjoy it!

The second application is for you, as a believer in Jesus, to tell someone who is not a believer about this glorious truth that God has made the way through His Son for us to be cleansed of our sin. It is too good not to tell!