Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Christ commands us to be baptized into identification or union with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Trinity was made manifest at Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan.
A. T. Robertson in his Grammar says that “baptizing” and “teaching” are modal circumstantial participles. These are methods to make disciples. This is the uniform practice of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus (John 4:1, 2) in the Gospels, and of the early Church. Baptism is not a rite of initiation into a temporal holy club. It pertains to the mystical household of faith.
This is a matter of identity. Believers who were openly committed to Christ came into the fellowship of the local Church by baptism and were then identified as disciples (Acts 9:18, 26).
One becomes a saved person by grace through faith without meritorious or necessarily prerequisite works (Eph 2:8, 9). When one becomes a committed disciple, he accepts a disciplined life to make every effort to live that identity. Discipleship, most simply put, is a lifestyle of following Christ according to His Word by faith so that He lives through us as the vine does through its branches (John 15:1–16). The seal of abiding in Christ as a disciple is one’s bearing “much fruit” (v 8).
Baptism embodies the attitude of the committed disciple’s life (Matt 10:38, 39; Rom 6:3–5). As discipleship has definiteness about it, so has the act of baptism. Baptism, as a simple and definite act, is a fitting point of departure to begin life as a disciple. For the attitude of loss of the old identity and the dedication towards a new one is acted out visibly (Luke 9:23–25).
The baptismal formula involves water and the naming of the baptized as one belonging to Christ. The meaning in Greek is more accurately, that this soul is brought “into union with "God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This captures the idea of motion towards God, the source of life.
This is the beginning of identification as a witness to Christ (Matt 5:11–16; Acts 1: 8). It is the unspeakable privilege of the people of God that as others see what they do and how they live, that the unsaved world thinks of God. God has placed His Name upon us (Acts 15:17). We have become identified with Him intimately and all we do or fail to do brings glory or dishonor to Him. What a challenge this is! What a serious responsibility!
Therefore, the New Testament takes baptism much more seriously that we do today. Too few Churches teach the doctrine and function of baptism so that those preparing value it as more than a proof of sincerity. The candidate for baptism is to “count the cost” of becoming Jesus’ disciple (Luke 14:27–35). For we will all give an account to Him as to what we have done with what He has given us (Luke 19:11–27; 1 Cor 3:9–15).
In such passages as Matthew 18:6 and John 1:12, “identified with” shows this kind of faith as the mark of one who trusts in the Person of Christ and His righteousness. Christ is the focus of the faith to which one is committed in baptism a He is also our redemption and promise of eternal life.
Related reading: How to Build a Disciple-making Church; Who Am I in Christ?