I oten feel that baptism is often not taken seriously enough by churches, especialy in the preparation for the ‘event’. Part of the reason for this is a lack of understanding of what the Bible teaches about it. When we look at the original word in New Testament Greek, ‘bapto’,we find it has three significant meanings:
1. To dye. At the time of Jesus, cloth was often soaked in a dye to give it its colour. Now the dye would permeate the material thoroughly, so that every inch of it would be soaked in the colour. This then becomes symbolic of seeing the word ‘baptism’ used in the sense of a ‘totally committed faith/belief’, I believe that this is the case in Acts 2:38. So, in this and many other instances, the writer(s) is talking about having a faith that is real and has depth to it and not about being baptised in water.
2. To wash. This is the usual understanding of ‘baptism’, as in Matthew 28:19. But when you look at some passages, like when John baptised, there is also a link to confession of one’s particular sins done publically at the same time. To me this is all about taking this step of faith in following Jesus really seriously and seeking to be ‘cleansed’ of one’s sins and become ‘clean’, by publically naming them, and that Jesus is the only one who can ‘cleanse’ you, and thus you become ‘pure’ in God’s eyes. This, of course, is only possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, as one is put under the water, one is symbolically ‘dying’, and then as one comes out of the water, one has been ‘resurrected’, made ‘new’ or ‘clean’.
3. Entering the Church. Baptism also symbolises the entrance of the believer into the Church, and becoming part of the family, becoming one with fellow believers. So, as part of the ‘liturgy’ of the baptismal event, there should be a declaration by fellow believers, welcoming that baptised person into the worldwide family of God. (I need to think further about this.)
So, one can see that there needs to be preparation for baptism, to help the believer understand the cost of following Jesus, the benefits of being part of the worldwide family of God, and the need to leave the past behind in declaring their particular sins publically.
But, one must also see that the Church then has the responsibility of continuing to mentor them, encouraging the believer to get into the Word and apply it in every part of their lives as well spending time with God.