We celebrate the baptism of Jesus on this Sunday Mass and so seems appropriate to have a look at what the Baptism that Jesus instituted as a sacrament really does to those who accept it in faith.
Let’s start with Old Testament book of Ezekiel which states:
I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. …I will put my spirit within you . (Ez 36:25-27)
“I will sprinkle clean water” – And so with this outward sign using water we see that God gives us His spirit. What else does God promise us? He promises us that through this sprinkling we will be cleansed of all our impurities. Is this prophecy truly made alive in the New Testament through the sacrament of Baptism? Let’s compare what God said through Ezekiel to what God said through Peter at Pentecost.
Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
Ezekiel said: “I will sprinkle clean water”
Peter said: “be baptized”
Ezekiel said: “[I will] cleanse you from all your impurities”
Peter said: “for the forgiveness of your sins”
Ezekiel said: “I will put my spirit within you”
Peter said: “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”
It seems quite undeniable that Ezekiel’s prophecy is perfectly fulfilled in the sacrament of Baptism. Because of His promise from Ezekiel we now know that the Grace of God comes during the sacrament of Baptism but what else does baptism do?
We know through Scripture that baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)
Baptism brings us in communion with each other by becoming members of the One Body of Christ.
We are brought into the Body of Christ, the Church.
And he is the head of the body, the church (Col 1:18)
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:22-23)
Baptism is the New Covenant fulfillment of the Old Covenant symbol of circumcision. As the Hebrews circumcised those for entrance into God’s Covenant with Israel, so too does the New Covenant fulfillment of circumcision bring entrance into the New Covenant of God to His Church through baptism.
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God. (Col 2:11-12)
If eight-day old children could enter the Old Covenant through circumcision via the faith of their parents how much more so can infants become adopted children of God through the New Covenant circumcision, baptism? The New Covenant is much more inclusive than the Old seeing as the New can include the gentiles as opposed to those of the line of Abraham.
We have seen that baptism fulfills the Old Covenant practice of circumcision (Col 2:11-12). Baptism was prophesied by Ezekiel to bring graces through the sprinkling of water (Ez 36:25-27) and washes away sins (Ez 36:26; Acts 2:38).
What else is baptism for? Well, is baptism necessary for salvation? The answer, very plainly is YES. “…eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.” (1 Pet 3:20-21). Pretty simple. As plain as it can get. Jesus taught this also in the Gospel of John
“Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again." Nicodemus doesn’t understand and so Jesus repeats himself, He says "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." (John 3:3-5)
One is born again through baptism, and that through baptism one can enter the kingdom of God, the Church…
Remember though, that the Church also teaches that it“…does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.”(CCC 1257)
And that is why the Church can teach that “"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.” (CCC 1260)
And so we see that baptism brings Graces from God (Acts 2:38), washes away sins (Acts 2:38), we enter into a covenant with God through baptism (Col 2:11-12), and we become Christians through baptism (1 Cor 12:13) by becoming members of the Church as through a door (Eph 4:4). And baptism is instituted by Jesus Christ Himself when He sent out the disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mat 28:19)