In the Bible, water can cleanse. That's why they had ceremonial washings. It was like taking a bath as a symbol that you are pure again.
That's why guys would sit by the bathing pools hoping for healing. They knew that water had the power to cleanse the body.
But they also knew that water can kill. In the story of the exodus (see Exodus 13-14), the people of God cross the Red Sea on dry ground. But what happens to the Egyptians who are chasing them? They drown in the water.
In the book of Revelation, many of you might not have noticed that in the description of the new heavens and new earth there's something that is excluded:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone" (Revelation 21:1 NLT).
Why would the sea by gone?
I know people who like going to the beach!
It's gone because water not only has the power to cleanse; it also has the power to kill.
In the new heavens and on the new earth, no one will need cleansing because sin and sickness and death will be gone. And there won't be a chance for the sea to swell up and bring death.
In the Bible, water can cleanse, but it can also kill. Both of those images are brought together in baptism:
When you go under the water, it's the picture of death. You are dying to your self, dying to the old way of being you, dying to sin and its penalty and power over you. When you come up out of the water, it's the picture of life, of cleansing, of newness. You are whole, you are well, you are newly empowered by God to live the life to which he's called you.
That's why, when we baptize people, we say that you are "buried with Christ and raised to walk in new life."
Off to the Beach