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Why be baptized

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus Christ gave the following instructions to His disciples.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the world. Amen.  (Matthew 28:17-19)

During His ministry on earth, Jesus had given His disciples many different commandments (which may be found throughout His scriptures).  Why then would Jesus speak of baptism in particular when commissioning them to go and teach all nations whatsoever He had commanded them?  Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, helps explain the prominence of baptism in Jesus’ commission by stating that through baptism we are buried with Jesus Christ in the likeness of His death that we might die to sin and be raised up in the likeness of His resurrection.

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of lifeFor if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead to sin is freed from sin.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.  For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 6:3-5)

Paul exemplified these words with his own life, by the way in which he lived in the newness of life revealed in Jesus Christ, that is, by living a life which was in the likeness of His resurrection.  First, however, Paul had to die to His sins by washing them away in baptism.  Then, by faith in Jesus Christ, he was given the power necessary to live in the newness of life in Christ, which is marked by sacrificial love.  And so he wrote:

I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the just. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:8-12)

This is the same way each of us may, in Jesus’ words, be grafted into Him.  That is, through baptism we may enter into Jesus Christ’s death and come forth in the likeness of His resurrection and, thereby, live in and by Him.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:4-11)

Note how Jesus states here that without Him we can do nothing.  Unless we abide in Him by first entering into the likeness of His death and the likeness His resurrection, we simply will not be able to keep of His commandments.  Therefore, He calls us to repent of our sins and receive Him so He may give us the power to become God’s children and the guidance of His Spirit whereby we may walk according to all of God’s commandments.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; only to them who believe on his name.  (John 1:11,12)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death … Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, though the body shall die because of sin, yet the Spirit is life, because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, unto sin, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live unto Christ. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption; whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  (Romans 8:1,2,9b-15)

Because Jesus Christ loves each one of us, He has given Himself in sacrifice for us to redeem us from sin – through His redeeming love – as well as to give us the power to live through Him in a manner and unto an end which glorifies God.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish; but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:14-17)

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (I John 4:9)

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:7-11)

In a word, then, baptism is about love.  It is about the greatest love of all, the pure[1] and perfect[2] sacrificial[3] love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  (John 15:13)

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:6‑8)

And it is about the same love with which our Lord calls us to love each other, even unto the laying down our lives for one another as He laid down His life for us.

A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34,35)

Hereby perceive we the love of Christ, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (I John 3:16)

In other words, baptism is about fulfilling the two great commandments:  loving God with our whole beings and loving our neighbors as ourselves.[4]

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is; Hearken, and hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:34-36)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. (I John 5:2,3)

This then is our calling in Jesus Christ, to lay down our lives that we may take them up again in the power and example of our resurrected Lord.

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17,18)

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:9,10)[5]

In the words of Paul, we are called to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God is.  (Romans 12:1,2)

And we first make this offering of our bodies unto the Lord in the waters of baptism.

And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth, ye will be saved. (Omni 1:46,47)

For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water: and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire, and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye enter in by the way, ye should receive.  And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask, if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far, save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save; Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. (II Nephi 13:24-29)

And the first-fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith, unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; and the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart, cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.  (Moroni 8:29)

Remember, this is how we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.[6]

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and everyone that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love god, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.  (I John 5:1-3)

Briefly comprehended, then, the commandments of God may be summed up as follows:

Therefore owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  (Romans 13:8-10)

In baptism – if born out of a love of God and our fellow man – we enter into the mind of Jesus Christ.  That is, we become like-minded with Jesus Christ through the laying down of our lives with Him, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross(Philippians 2:1-8)

We must take care, therefore, how we enter into baptism.  We cannot say we love God and yet hate a brother or sister who is in Christ.  For, as Jesus has said, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.  (I John 4:20,21)

… Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  (Matthew 25:41)

In practical terms, then, baptism involves laying down our lives in a watery grave so we may come forth out of the same and enter fully with unfeigned love of the brethren into the body of Jesus Christ, meaning His church, wherein we are called to abide together in love in the same manner in which Jesus keeps His Father’s commandments and abides in His love.[7]

And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life: Now I say unto you, If this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?  (Mosiah 9:39-41)

Yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God: And they were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God, was added to his church.  (Mosiah 9:48-50)

Thus it is written that the church receives new members through baptism.

And again by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism:  All those who humble themselves before God and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.  (D&C 17:7a-d)

It is in this same manner, as recorded in the Book of Acts, that the Lord’s church grew initially, and this is the only way His church can grow in these latter days.

Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall received the gift of the Holy GhostThen they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls …  And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  (Acts 2:38,41,47)

In agreement with Peter, Nephi testified of how God promises those who come into the waters of baptisms the gift and power of His Holy Spirit.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father, that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism; yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word; behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; Yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.  (II Nephi 13:16,17)

Those who enter into this new life in Jesus Christ bear God the fruit of His Spirit, which Paul tells us is all goodness and righteousness and truth.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:4-11)

Thus baptism is also about joining together will all those who have been born of His Spirit by entering into the New Covenant established through His blood which was shed for us.  Come, then, and be baptized, and wash away your sins and be born anew of God’s light and His love.  Come unto the Lamb of God to be redeemed and ye shall have eternal life.

Now this is the commandment:  Repent, all ye ends of the earth and come unto Me and be baptized in My name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before Me at the last day!”  (III Nephi 12:33)

Behold, this is my doctrine: Whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church; whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore, he is not of my church.  (D&C 3:16)

Summary Notes:  Our Lord leads us in the way of obedience and everlasting life by calling us, saying, “Come, follow Me.”  He invites us to join with Him in baptism, to enter into His death and the hope of His resurrection.  He invites us to become members of His body, the household of faith.  His call is an invitation to enter into the way obedience, to yield to the will of God and become sanctified.

Everyone who follows Jesus, who walks in His footsteps, God promises to fill them with an even greater measure of His love than when they first believed.  He pours out the pure love of His Son upon them through the gift of His Holy Spirit.

In other words, beginning with the command to repent and be baptized, being baptized fulfills the two great commandments, which are to love God with our whole beings and our neighbors as ourselves.  Therefore, this is how we may know that we love God and His children, when we keep the commandments that come from above.  For God’s own Son was baptized according to His commandment.  Thus, by being baptized, Jesus Christ witnessed unto His heavenly Father that He was willing to keep all His commandments and, thereby, fulfill all righteousness.  Likewise, we are baptized for the same purpose of fulfilling all righteousness.  Through this precious ordinance we witness to God our willingness to keep all His commandments and, in particular, keep His everlasting covenant.

Keeping the commandment to be baptized fulfills all righteousness by allowing God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in us and to express Himself through the fruit of the Spirit.

We have been called to witness our devotion to the commandments of God beginning with repentance and baptism.  As such, these two ordinances are referred to as the gate by which we enter into the path which leads to eternal life.

For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water: and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire, and by the Holy Ghost.  (II Nephi 13:24)

Because Jesus was obedient to the commandment to be baptized, our heavenly Father sent forth the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove and baptized Him with His Spirit (cf. Luke 3:28,29 & 4:16-21).   Likewise, through our obedience to Him, unto the fulfilling of His commandments, God promises to pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us, filling us with His love and hope.

Through baptism we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus laid down His life for us that He might take it up again and, thereby, bring about the resurrection of the dead.  In baptism we too lay down our lives for each other just as Jesus laid down His life for us.  Through baptism – through laying down our lives for each other – we witness our desire to be raised up unto the newness of life that is in Christ Jesus our Lord whereby we might live in peace together in His kingdom of peace.

By keeping God’s commandments, beginning with the commandment to repent and be baptized, we abide in His love.  Jesus said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”

This then is the beginning of our love of God and the children of God, when we follow Jesus into the waters of baptism.  This is the place where we enter into His death so that we might come forth in the likeness of His resurrection, where we might come forth in the newness of His life.

It is the way, by keeping the commandment to repent and be baptized, that we take our first steps toward abiding in Zion.  These two ordinances of God are the gate by which we begin our journey in the straight path which leads to the kingdom, where the commandments of God abound.  For it is written, in God’s kingdom there will be “commandments not a few.”  Why?  Again, as Jesus has said, the commandment of God is live everlasting.

There, in His kingdom, God will feed us with every word that proceeds forth out of His mouth.  Jesus is His incarnate Word, the living bread of heaven that was made flesh.  And by our feasting on Jesus words, i.e. His flesh and blood, we receive wisdom and truth.  We receive life everlasting.

In the final analysis, baptism is about love.  It is the beginning of the appropriate way God has provided for us to enter into and express His love in our lives for each other and for Him when joining His body, the church

[1] Moroni 7:52

[2] I John 4:18 & Moroni 8:18,29

[3] John 10:17,18 & John 15:13,14 with Romans 5:6-10 & Romans 6:3-9; see also I John 3:16,22-24, 4:7-5:12

[4] cf. Matthew 22:34-39 & Mark 12:33-39 with Luke 6:27-38 & Matthew 7:21 (12 KJV)

[5] John 14:23

[6] I John 5:2

[7] John 13:34,35 & 15:13,14 with John 10:17,18

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