This is very mysterious! What is so significant in this water that even without adding salt, it separates me from my past life of sin and join me to Christ? Not only does it free me from sin, but puts on Christ on me, and I become a new creature and is eligible to inherit God’s promise made to Abraham’s race. Moreover, Peter’s simple response to the crowd on the first day of the Church when they requested for reconciliation after having condemned Christ is still an enigma. How is it possible that by pouring just water on them, and using those few words, their sins will be forgiven and they will receive the Holy Spirit? Fortunately or unfortunately, the faith and teaching bequeathed on us at childhood has made this mystery so simple for us to accept baptism as the first symbolic action conferred by the Church on individuals for reconciliation with God. In other words, although the truth behind this mystery is indubitable, yet beyond the doctrine impacted on us at childbirth, there is a certain theological distance that reason could lead us before faith could proceed. That is to say, there must be indices that form the bedrock for the theology of Christian baptism.
Christian doctrine teaches that baptism is a free gift of God given for the ontological transformation of those who are open to God’s grace. In addition to this teaching, there is a source from which baptism draws the power of its ontological transformation. They include; Jesus’ baptism at Jordan and His Pascal Mystery. These two sources are so interconnected that the very baptism of Jesus at Jordan foreshadows His Pascal mystery. They are so intertwined that what Christ symbolically and volitionally accomplished at His baptism; laying down his life, he concretely and definitively consummated through His Pascal Mystery.
Lending credence to the epiphany that attended the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, that is, the opening of Heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit and a voice saying “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” a further theological enterprise could reveal that this mysterious scene is not only a divine signature on the ministry of Christ but also a graphic indication of the new direction that future baptism should follow. So, in every Christian baptism, God sees in the recipient what He saw in His Son and so becomes entirely pleasing to God. This divine encounter has been sealed by the blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus, which are types of Baptism and the Eucharist. In spite of the outward signs of this sacrament, there is something remarkably relevant upon which the effect of baptism is concretely felt. And that is our exposition to the new experience of God, which is transforming and touches the inner life. This is an experience of God, that permeates our whole person and furnishes us with a new orientation. It is a spiritual experience that is liberating and can only be received as a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is on this note that William Barclay would say to be born a new is to undergo such a radical change that it is like a new birth, it is to have something happen to the soul which can only be described as being born all over again. Besides, the whole process is not a human achievement, because it comes from the grace and power of God.
So, spiritual regeneration, and inner purification are divine prerogatives that go beyond the power of physical water. Therefore it is the spirit that purges, rejuvenates and strengthens us.