It WAS hot. The sea glittered as though it were raining quicksilver. The waves rolled invitingly to the beach. My younger son and I decided to brave the cold water (this was Britain!) and take a cooling dip.
After the initial shock, the water was wonderful, and we played in the waves for a long while. Fun became exhilaration as the rollers grew around us, picking us up like flotsam or crashing over us. We were reminded of the power of the waves as we left the water. One would carry us towards the shore whilst the next would flatten us! We made the shore perfectly safely and were elated for the rest of the day.
The scientific numbers make impressive reading. A cubic metre of water weighs 1000kg, or a metric tonne. Physicists have calculated that a breaking wave will exert peressure of up to 30,000 kg per square metre. Thankfully our beach waves were relatively small, but that still means around 500kg impacting on our bodies – no wonder we couldn’t resist their power!
This also explains the fearsome force of storms at sea, to destroy boats and coastal defences and make us stand in awe at the power of nature.
Water – the ONLY Way to God
The Bible teaches us about the power of water in a different, more important way. Jesus made it very clear that, if we want to be part of God’s family and hope to be in His future Kingdom, we have to be baptised:
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
If we are not baptised, then we cannot participate – it is that simple. The process starts with belief in God and in His purpose, which is laid out for us in the Bible. Having understood what God wants from us, if we choose to believe Him and trust Him, we show this through being baptised.
It is like a spiritual washing, showing that we want to be connected to God through Jesus. The Apostle Peter put it like this:
Baptism [is] not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).
Another apostle, Paul, explained that baptism is like putting on new clothes, identifying ourselves with Jesus and so becoming God’s people.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
Baptism is a relatively simple thing to do. It means to go down into water, be covered by the water, then come back out. You can see an example in Acts 8:35–39.
That process is a powerful symbol of dying and rising again. If we stayed under the water, of course we would drown. So that ‘burial’ is a fitting image of death. Yet we come up out of the water again, and so we live – a picture of coming back to life, or resurrection. Jesus literally died and then rose from the dead, and baptism connects us very directly with his work:
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection (Romans 6:3–5).
The writer (Paul again) shows how baptism identifies us with Jesus’ experience, firstly with his death. Jesus died as a sacrifice to bring people to God, so we need to be associated with his death.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he was made immortal. You can read in the final chapter of each gospel to learn how he was changed, no longer subject to the limits of human weakness. We want to be like him, when he returns to set up God’s Kingdom.
Paul actually continues in this chapter to explain that, after we have been baptised, we start a new life now. It is a life in which we try to please God, while we look forward to Jesus coming back. It is a new life of hope and purpose today.
The Power of God
Such is the power of water – the power of baptism. In being baptised we commit our life to God and to His Son: both our way of life, as we saw above, and our actual existence.
Once we are baptised, we effectively ask God to keep our life safe, so that even if we die, He will bring us back to life. There is no safer place to put our lives than in the hands of God Who created life and can recreate it in His Kingdom.
[You were] buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead… If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 2:12, 3:1–4).