Transferring Citizenship

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)


The Naturalization Act of 1795 required all incoming United States citizens to declare their allegiance to the United States from any former prince or kingdom. America in its earliest stages realized that they needed something to initiate new citizens into the country. The American system of democracy and freedom of religion was sure to attract citizens of other nations. Thus, at beginning of this new nation, incoming citizens had to go through a rite of initiation declaring their public intent to transfer their citizenship to the United States.

Baptism is the rite of initiation whereby incoming citizens declare their public intent to transfer their citizenship from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God.  Philippians 3:20 states that, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”  Ephesians 2:19 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” When people put their faith in Christ, they transfer their citizenship from the earthly to the heavenly kingdom.  We are no longer strangers to Heaven, but have been declared citizens. And being declared citizens of heaven, we are not strangers and aliens of our earthly kingdom.

Baptism is a public declaration that we have chosen to pledge our allegiance to God and His kingdom over any earthly king or nation.  The act of baptism is to symbolize that our former life and our former allegiances has been buried and are raised to walk as citizens of the heavenly Kingdom.  In baptism, we identify ourselves primarily with Christ’ death and resurrection and declare Him our true King over any other.

Although baptism is a personal choice, it is not a private one.  The church comes along those seeking baptism to discern their profession and help them understand the transfer of total allegiance to Christ.  For baptism is the rite of initiation welcoming people formally into the church, the visible community of the kingdom of God.  Baptism does not bring people into the invisible kingdom of God for God alone calls people by the power of the Holy Spirit into His kingdom.  Baptism then does not save, but it is a public statement by the church that one’s soul has been bound for heaven (Matthew 16:19).

Although baptism does not save, it is commanded to be followed by Christ for the good of the church, the individual believer and the world.  Baptism helps the church know who their citizens are, it helps the believer know they have transferred their citizenship to heaven and it clarifies to the world that they are not part of God’s kingdom and need to transfer their allegiance.

God was establishing a new spiritual nation through the forgiveness of sins and redemption through the blood of Christ. And this new kingdom was going to attract new citizens so God established a system for people to public renounce their past allegiance and to declare their intent to live as citizens of heaven.  Let us be faithful in following God’s plan to publicly initiate God’s people as citizens of heaven as we await from there our Savior Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).
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