What is baptism? Baptism is not a ceremony for joining the church. A certain book containing questions and answers about the church tells people that baptism is a ceremony for joining the church. This kind of speaking has a “Babylonian” flavor and is from the spirit of error in man. This word is absolutely not from the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “One faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). Baptism is not a ritual. What then is baptism? Some people say that through baptism we are immersed into Christ’s death. Although this is not wrong, there is a prerequisite to being immersed into Christ’s death.
Many people when reading Romans 6 always miss one phrase. They read that they have been baptized into Christ’s death and that they have been buried with Him, but they miss the phrase baptized into Christ Jesus. Verse 3 says, “Or are you ignorant that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” How can we be baptized into Christ’s death? Only those who have been baptized into Christ can be baptized into His death. Thus, to be baptized is to be immersed into Christ. Because we have been baptized into Christ, we are in Christ and are identified with Christ. Hence, when Christ died, we also died.
For example, suppose a store called Huang’s is one million dollars in debt, but because I do not know it, I buy its stock and become a shareholder. Two months later, someone comes to me and asks me to pay the debt. I tell him, “I do not owe you anything.” Then he asks me, “Are you a shareholder of Huang’s?” I reply, “Yes.” Then he says, “Because you are a shareholder of Huang’s, its debt is your debt.” Since I have become a shareholder of Huang’s, its mistake becomes my mistake, and its debt becomes my debt. In the same principle, when we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ. Hence, when Christ died, we also died, and when Christ was resurrected, we also were resurrected.
In baptism we are baptized into Christ. What is baptism? Baptism is to be immersed into Christ. To believe in the Lord is to receive Christ, and when we open our heart to receive Christ, this is to believe in the Lord. Through baptism we are immersed into Christ; that is, we are baptized into Christ from our spirit. If a person who enters into the baptistry does not have the faith to commit himself to the Holy Spirit, yet allows himself to be baptized into Christ through the church, his baptism is meaningless and worthless. Baptism is an act of faith, and it is through this act of faith that we are baptized into Christ. It is neither an outward form nor an outward ritual.
Many Christians truly have the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in their baptisms. In their baptisms they are filled with faith. In such a faith they have an outward action—they give themselves to the Holy Spirit through their faith. When they enter into the water, they are baptized into Christ. From that time on, they are baptized into Christ and are in Christ. Christ’s death is their death, Christ’s resurrection is their resurrection, and Christ’s experience is their experience because they have been identified with Christ.
(The Crucified Christ, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)