Question: "Why should I be baptized?"
Answer: If you are a believer in Christ, you should be baptized. If you are not a believer, then you should not be baptized.
The primary reason for a believer to be baptized is obedience to Christ. In the Great Commission, Jesus told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).
If Jesus commanded the apostles to make disciples and baptize them, it only stands to reason that a disciple should be willing to submit to baptism. It does not make sense for a person to claim to be a disciple and then object to the first thing mentioned by Jesus in conjunction with being a disciple. That would be akin to a disciple refusing to be taught all the things that Jesus commanded so that he might obey them.
Water baptism, as a ritual, does not save anyone. Neither does the obedience required to submit to baptism. Baptism is an outward picture of an inner transformation. Baptism pictures the washing away of sin and also the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on behalf of the believer. Baptism shows the believer’s identification with Christ.
In first-century Judaism, baptism was only performed on Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. When John started baptizing Jews, they were admitting that, because of their sin, they were no better off than Gentiles. They, like the Gentiles, needed to repent. This is why John responds to the religious leaders who were not being baptized, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” The religious leaders were at least in part relying upon their Jewish heritage to save them, but John tells them that their heritage was of no importance. John’s baptism was a public declaration of one’s sin and need to repent in view of the coming of Christ.
In the early church, baptism soon became the way that a person was identified as a true believer. If a person was casually connected with Christians or a church, but not baptized, no one considered him to be a Christian. When he was baptized, he was considered part of the church. If he was Jewish, he was often cut off from his family and synagogue, and in the Roman Empire, this was when persecution might really start as well. Baptism does not make a person a Christian, but it publicly identifies one as a Christian and opens one up to persecution in many cultures even today.
So, in obedience to Christ, a believer should be baptized. The believer’s baptism is a picture of the washing away of sins, the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ, and the believer’s public identification as a Christian.