The waters of baptism

| Father Michael Van Sloun | June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

Water is the principal symbol for baptism. John baptized Jesus with water in the Jordan River. Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where they baptized others with water (Jn 3:22-23). When Jesus died, water flowed from his pierced side (Jn 19:34), an outpouring of his grace through water. It is a rich symbol filled with spiritual meaning.

Water is rebirth. Jesus explained, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5). A person is born as a human being by the goodness of one’s mother, and through the waters of baptism, a person is reborn as a spiritual being by the grace of God, and through this rebirth, the person is an adopted child of God.

Water is life. Water is essential for a plant to grow and bear fruit, and without water, a plant will wilt and die. The waters of baptism impart the life of Christ and enable Christians to grow spiritually and bear an abundant yield of good deeds in the vineyard of life.

Water is power. The swift current of a large river can generate an enormous amount of hydroelectric power.  Similarly, the waters of baptism convey the infinite power of God’s amazing grace and energize a person to live a dynamic and vibrant Christian life.

Water is salvation. Noah’s family was saved from the raging waters of the great flood by the ark. A person is rescued in the waters of baptism from the tumult of sin that is swirling below, and is saved in the safety of the boat of the Church with Jesus as its captain. Jesus explained, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16a).

Water is cleansing. Water is used to wash soiled clothes or dirty dishes to get rid of the dirt and grime, so they will be sparkling clean. Similarly, the waters of baptism wash away the stains and impurities of sin so that the soul can be white as wool or freshly fallen snow.

Water is deliverance, liberation and freedom. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. They were liberated and received their freedom when God divided the sea and they passed through the waters, which were like a wall to their right and their left (Ex 14:21-22). The waters of baptism are deliverance from slavery to sin, liberation from the forces of evil and offer the freedom to choose to live according to God’s ways.

Water is death and resurrection. To fall into the water and be submerged for even a short amount of time can result in drowning and death. If a lifeguard is nearby, the rescuer can dive in, bring the victim out of the water and save his or her life. When a person is plunged into the waters of baptism, the person shares in the death of Jesus, and when the person comes up out of the water, the person is saved and shares in his resurrection (see Rom 6:3-5).

Water is eternal life. When the Israelites came to the end of their exodus journey outside of Jericho, they passed through the waters of the Jordan River, which had halted upstream so that they could cross over safely into the Promised Land (Jos 3:14-17). Those who pass through the waters of baptism are promised an eternal inheritance so that when their human life on earth ends, they will cross over safely to eternal life with God forever in heaven.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. Read more of his writing at

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Category: Faith Fundamentals