When God does something, He does not do it in a corner and hide it so nobody can see what He has done. When Christ died so that we might be redeemed back to God, He died on a hill before the entire city of Jerusalem. The judgment of God on His own Son for our sake was visible to the whole world. Likewise, when we turn to God, it is not a secret matter. Our confession is first before God and then before men. "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33).
Baptism is a sign of identification with Christ. To the early Christians, entering into baptism was an open testimony that they accepted Christ as the Messiah. It brought immediate persecution from the Jews. Even today, many governments and religions use the act of a person submitting to water baptism as the basis for persecution of the believer. On the day of Pentecost, when the first believers realized they had crucified the Christ, they were smitten in heart and cried out, "What shall we do?" Peter's answer was, "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). There were about three thousand that gladly received his word and were baptized that day.
It is not the physical act of water baptism that washes away our sin, but rather the blood of Christ, as we repent and turn to God for cleansing in our hearts (see 1 Peter 3:21 and Romans 4:9). Godly repentance produces a clearing in our lives. It also brings a desire to be openly identified with Christ before men. Baptism is God's chosen way of doing this. If we have experienced a true work of repentance in our hearts which clears our relationship with God, it will be a joy to acknowledge our Lord in this way. In one sense, it also helps to seal our own choice. We are testifying before all, "I am going with Jesus, and not turning back." We are stepping out onto the water, and Jesus is there to hold us up.
The symbol of baptism speaks of death to the world, sin, and our old lives. Coming up out of the water also speaks of a new life in Christ. It is only a type, however, since the reality is brought when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ (Galatians 3:27). In the same way we are immersed in water, we must be immersed in the life of God. Physical baptism points us to the one true spiritual baptism which brings us into union with God. The Holy Spirit brings within our lives all that Jesus is. Baptism is still a command of the Lord, however, and we should not try to bypass this part of God's purpose. Seal this decision in your own heart before God and before men and obey the Lord in this matter. Do not turn back, for "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).