It’s fascinating how God uses water in Scripture as a dividing line between bad and good. In the days of Noah, the earth was filled with violence. God promised, “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life…” (Gen. 6:13). God used water to wipe away the sinfulness of the earth and start fresh. It was the dividing line between corruption and cleansing, between old sinful life and a new beginning.
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, God used the waters of the Red Sea to destroy their captors. The Israelites rejoiced over their enemies in song, “You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.” (Ex. 15:10). Water was the dividing line between bondage and freedom.
Under the Law of Moses system, priests used water for ceremonial cleansing. Before entering the tabernacle, priests had to wash at the bronze laver. “They shall wash with water, so that they will not die.” (Ex. 30:20). Water was the dividing line between unacceptable and acceptable before God.
When Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests, they had to wash their whole body and clothes in water (Numbers 8:7). Water was the dividing line between unconsecrated and consecrated, between un-commissioned and commissioned.
Whenever Israelites were defiled by something unclean, they had to wash their clothes and bathe themselves in water before being cleansed (Lev. 15:5; 17:15). It was the dividing line between unclean and clean.
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, water was the dividing line between wandering and rest (Deut. 12:10). Naaman, a pagan Gentile, was cleansed of his leprosy in the waters of the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:14). Water was the dividing line between sickness and health. Even in the New Testament, Jesus told a blind man to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). Water was the dividing line between blindness and sight.
When you understand how God uses water in Scripture, it helps us see why God requires baptism for salvation. Many people think it’s outrageous to think God expects us to be dunked in water for salvation, but when accompanied by faith it makes perfect sense for God to use water this way.
The New Testament says baptism is the dividing line between lost and saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), between spiritual death and spiritual life (John 3:5; Romans 6:4), between spiritually uncircumcised and circumcised (Colossians 2:11-12), between unforgiven and forgiven (Acts 2:38), between being out of Christ and in Christ (Galatians 3:27), between being unwashed and washed (Acts 22:16), between bondage and freedom (1 Corinthians 10:2).
To be clear, there’s no power or salvation in the water itself. The power and salvation are from God, in whom we have faith. Colossians 2:12 says “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Our faith is in the working of God, not in the working of the water.
Likewise, Peter is clear baptism is not “the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:21). It’s not just a ceremonial washing like the Jews practiced under the Law and it’s not just getting wet. It’s an act of faith that trusts God to use that water to wash away our sins through the power of Jesus’ blood. At first, it may seem strange for God to use water as the dividing line in the New Testament between unsaved and saved , but after surveying the Scriptures it shouldn’t surprise us at all.
“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16)