Water. It's cool. It's refreshing. It's delicious. And it's also the perfect thing for baptizing new Christians. Go figure.
Water, Water Everywhere
Baptism is a pretty big deal in Acts of the Apostles. Loads of people physically dunk themselves in water in order to show their commitment to Jesus:
Those who welcomed his message were baptized. (2:41)
The eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. (8:38)
[Paul] got up and was baptized. (9:18)
[Lydia] and her household were baptized. (16:15)
[The jailor] and his entire family were baptized without delay. (16:33)
Why get your hair wet to show that you believe in Jesus? Because it's all part of starting your new life as a Christian. Just like babies grow and develop in the water-like amniotic fluid in their mother's womb (sorry, bear with us), baptism by water is seen as a way to be reborn into a fancy new Christian life. It's also a whole lot less slimy.
You just have to get a little wet and you're all good. Kingdom of God here we come! Um, not quite.
Acts makes it clear that baptism isn't some kind of cure-all that instantly fixes all your problems. Though it's true that the water washes away your sins (22:16), it's still possible to be baptized and act like a jerk (see: Ananias and Sapphira). Baptism is an outward symbol of an inner reality.
Jesus also explains there's baptism with water (which is what John the Baptist offered) and baptism with the Holy Spirit (which is what the apostles are peddling) (1:5).
The converts in Samaria are baptized, but they don't receive the Holy Spirit until later (8:16). When it comes to Cornelius and his Gentile friends, Peter says, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (10:47). In other words, they've already got the spirit, so someone best get the wading pool ready.
In Popular Culture
- In The Awakening, Edna allows herself to drown in the sea, effectively "freeing" herself from the constraints of society.
- The Wicked Witch of the West is killed when a bucket of pure, sweet, life-giving water is thrown on her. It's a kind of reverse baptism.
- And every time a couple stands out in the rain and kisses at the end of a romantic comedy, we're supposed to understand that they've entered into a new life together and that all the zany misunderstanding of the past two hours are being washed away down some New York City drain.