Why Christ Was and Christians Are Immersed (Mark 1:9-11)

Sunday, October 9th, 2011
Sermon Series: Mark

The Gospel of MarkDownload Sermon Outline

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Why Christ was and Christians are Immersed

Introduction to the Baptism of Christ in Mark 1:9-11—part 1

 

When Jean and I were engaged, we went to look for rings.  I only had one criterion for my ring–it had to be big!  I genuinely wanted everyone to know that I belonged to another.  I wanted a clear message–not that I thought I was some sort of babe magnet or lady-killer.  The only killing I do around ladies, especially singles, is to kill their desire to be married.  But I loved Jean so much, I always wanted her to know I belonged to her and she belonged to me.

Engraved inside my ring is James 1:17 which expresses my heart toward my wife.  “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.”  That is what Jean is to me, more than the day I married her, and this ring symbolizes my commitment, my relationship, my heart toward her–so it had to be big.

Just as a wedding ring symbolizes your marriage, baptism symbolizes your marriage to Christ, your salvation.  It is very true–a ring does not make you married, nor does baptism make you saved.  But just as a man or woman who doesn’t have a ring on their left hand will move you to assume they’re not married, in New Testament times, if a person was not baptized, you could assume they were not believers.  In other words, the practice of baptism is crucial!

Open your Bibles to Mark 1 and take your outline.  Today we will learn why God in the New Testament expects us to be baptized.  And we will start by our verse-by-verse study of the life of Christ in Mark 1:9 to 11.  Two major issues are addressed in these verses–baptism and the Trinity, and today is baptism.

Why is baptism important?  There are only two practices Jesus instituted in the gospels, practiced by the early church and taught in the New Testament letters, and they were baptism and communion.  Baptism is the first act of true obedience practiced by a believer–if the enemy can get you to disobey at the very outset of the Christian walk, he already has you in a mode of disobedience.  Baptism identifies you with Christ, His death for sin and resurrection to new life.  If you minimize the first act of outward identification with Christ, you’re already in a pattern to ignore the outward ways we show off Christ from the very beginning.  It can affect how we might value other ways to put Christ on display, with good deeds, displaying the fruit of the Spirit and sharing the good news with the lost.

Baptism identifies you with His Church–at salvation you are immersed into the body of Christ.  If you neglect this first act of identifying yourself as a part of His body, it can affect the way you value your role in service to the body.  Baptism also signifies your death to your old life and the beginning of a whole new life in Christ.  To ignore this first symbol of your death to sin may in fact cause you to have a wrong view of what it means to live dead to sin and alive to God.  You can’t afford an errant or optional view of baptism.

Make no mistake, baptism does not save you, nor is it required for you to be made right with God.  But every truly saved person will want to be baptized.  For every true believer wants to be obedient, and baptism is the first step of obedience in the life of the believer.  The Bible is not unclear.

In the Great Commission, in Matthew 28:19 to 20, Jesus gave a command to the Church to be baptizing.  In Acts 2:38, when the Holy Spirit said, “Repent and be baptized,” He gave a command to the individual believer to be baptized.  Christ commands the Church to be baptizing, and the Holy Spirit through Peter commands the individual Christian to be baptized.  And on the day the Church was born, every new believer was baptized as an example for us. True Christians are baptized Christians.

Yet in spite of these clear commands, there is still a widespread non-compliance to this ordinance of God.  Why is that?  What are some reasons people are not baptized?

1  The person is ignorant, not taught.

2  Some people are proud–they’ve gone a long time without being baptized and they’re not humble enough to admit it now.  They’d rather be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ than before the Church today.

3  They are indifferent.  Don’t bother me, I have my spouse, kids, home, job–I don’t have time to consider being baptized.

4  They are defiant.  They are courting sin in their life, and to be baptized would be hypocrisy.  Therefore they flatly refuse.

5  They are unregenerate. There is no moving of the Holy Spirit in their lives to make a public confession.  There’s no desire to obey.  They’re not going to affirm the reality of Christ because Christ is not a reality in their life.

6  They are confused.  People say Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, but Jesus didn’t sin nor have a need for salvation.  People say, “Isn’t the Bible talking about Spirit baptism, where we are spiritually made a part of the body–there really isn’t any need to get dunked is there?”  Or people say, “There are respected teachers who drip babies–I was dripped, so why go through this immersion thing?”

Now no one in my church family could possibly be ignorant, proud, indifferent, defiant or unregenerate–so you must be confused.  Let’s fix that by seeing what the Bible says about the baptism of Christ, and the ordinance of baptism for each and every Christian.

#1  All true baptism means immersion–have you been?

The word “baptism” comes from two different verbs:

1)  Bapto, used four times, means to dip, dip into die/to immerse

2)  Baptizo, always means to dip completely, or to drown

3)  Baptismos, noun, always refers to the ceremony of a Christian being immersed in water.

Baptism became a technical term to mean immersion–but have you noticed it is not translated from Greek to English.  In your Bibles it should be translated with the word “immersion”, but it is transliterated, which is to take the pronunciation of the word in one language and put it into another language without giving its meaning–baptizo is baptism.  Again, why was this done?

One more time . . . when King James commissioned the translation of the first English Bible, he requested baptizo be transliterated into baptism and not translated into immersion simply because he didn’t want to be immersed.  That is why our Bibles read baptism and not immersion.

“Baptize” is a transliteration, but it means immerse.  Every time it appears in the Greek manuscripts it should be translated as immerse or immersion in the English bible–that’s what it means.  Its meaning is so obvious John Calvin said, “To baptize means to immerse.  That was certainly the practice of the early church.”  Luther said, “The term baptism is a Greek term.  It may be rendered dipping, when we dip something in water, that it may be entirely covered with water.”

Roman Catholic Brenner said, “For 1,300 years baptism was generally and regularly an immersion of the person under water.”  Plus the word for baptism is never used in the passive sense.  Water is never to be baptized onto someone (sprinkling, pouring, dabbing), but people are baptized into water (active or middle)–an immersing into water.  And that is exactly what the New Testament teaches.

In Matthew 3:6, “They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins”–by the Jordan to immerse.  Then in 3:16, “After being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water.”  (He came out of the water.)  In Mark 1:5, “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”  John 3:23, “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim”–why?  Because there was much water there—the need for immersion.  Acts 8:38 to 39, “And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water . . . “  It was a submerging ceremony.

Plus, consider what baptism symbolizes–only immersion fits the reality of which baptism is the picture.  A believer at salvation is united with Christ, both in His death and resurrection.  Immersion symbolizes death and burial (going in the water), and resurrection (coming out of the water).  Only immersion symbolizes the reality of what baptism signifies–not pour, not drip, not sprinkle.

And water immersion is commanded of every believer.  Yet not merely for obedience, but also because of the picture it represents.  Baptism is a teaching aid, an object lesson, a physical analogy of a profound spiritual reality.  God likes to teach this way.  Every major event in Israel was remembered by a symbol.  These basically were for teaching aids.

Children were circumcised on the eighth day.  The older children would ask why?  The answer would be this–there is sin in our nature.  Man at the very point of his reproductive organ produces sinners, and there is a need for us to have a spiritual cutting away.  It was a demonstration of how the soul needs cleaning.  The Passover lamb is a symbol of the work of Christ on the cross.

All those Old Testament ceremonies are gone.  Now in the New Testament, only two pictures are left.  The Lord ’s Table is a physical picture of the death and sacrifice of Christ that happens regularly in the Church, in the early church weekly.  Baptism is a onetime physical picture of our union and identification with the death and burial, and resurrection of Christ and our new birth.  Plus it identifies us with Christ’s body, the Church.  It is a onetime physical symbol of a spiritual reality.  Have you been immersed since you were genuinely saved?  Do you have your ring on?

#2  Baptism symbolizes an internal transformation–are you?

The roots of baptism begin with Gentile Jewish converts.  Before the time of Christ, Gentiles who wanted to serve the One True God would identify with Jews religiously.  This is where baptism first appears.  It was a proselyte baptism.  There were three phases a Gentile had to go through in order to identify with the Jews and worship Yahweh.  These are fascinating.

First  Circumcision

This was to demonstrate they were sinful at their very reproduction/at their birth.  They had an innate depravity that needed cleansing.  They were admitting their root sinfulness.

Second  They were to be completely immersed into water

Why?  To identify a Gentile as dying to the Gentile world, buried, and then rising in a new relationship to God.  This is where baptism first appeared.

Third  Then they sacrificed an animal

The blood was actually sprinkled on the Gentile, symbolizing his daily need for cleansing from sins.

Knowing this will enhance your understanding of baptism in the gospels, like in Mark 1:4 to 5, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”

Understand, the last Old Testament prophet is John the Baptist.  He was to make the people ready for the coming of Christ.  How does he do that?  He preaches repentance.  Then he baptizes the repentant in an outward sign of an inward turning.  He baptizes them in order to show outwardly that they were repentant inwardly.

And get this, John is asking Jews to be immersed in water.  That is something they have only seen done to Gentiles.  Only the Gentiles had been baptized to this point.  This is a very humbling thing for a Jew.  In the mind of the Jew, he was a child of the covenant.  To be baptized was an incredible step for a Jew at this time, and yet they were flocking to John.  So in being baptized, these Jews were admitting that racially, they had been sinful and apostate in terms of their relationship to God.

They were admitting they needed a dying and a rising to a new life.  They were going to turn from the old life to a new life of tenderness to God.  They were admitting (this is big) that they were as sinful as a Gentile and needed to be washed like a Gentile.  Baptism shows the outward sign of an inward reality–a sign of what was really going on in their hearts.  In confessing their sin, they were admitting they needed a new life and a burial of the old.  And most importantly, their baptism was marked as a turning point to those Jews to get ready for their Messiah, like an engagement ring.

#3  The baptism of Christ was very unique–do you know?

Look at Mark 1 verses 9 to 11, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.’”  Jesus was baptized by John and confirmed by the Trinity.

Now turn to Matthew 3 and try to imagine the change which is about to occur with Jesus Christ.  Can you picture how it may have happened?  J. Oswald Sanders writes, “The door of the carpenter’s shop swung shut for the last time.  Never again would children on their way home from school, drawn by the irresistible charm of the Carpenter, pause to listen to one of His amazing stories.”

Leaving the humble cottage, Jesus made His way toward the river Jordan where unprecedented crowds were flocking.  The center of interest was an unorthodox prophet who was preaching repentance and administering baptism for the remis­sion of sins.  “Repent,” he commanded, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Here was a fearless prophet after the order of Elijah.  Pressing His way through the milling crowds seeking baptism at the hand of the prophet, the carpenter humbly took His place among the candidates.  When John the Bap­tist saw his face, he who had baptized so many others upon repenting of their sin was suddenly overwhelmed with an acute sense of his own sin and personal unworthiness.

Not long before, he had thundered at the Pharisees, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  Now in abject humility he says to Jesus, verse 14, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”  It was inappropriate that the Messiah should ask for baptism at his hands.  John had refused baptism to the Pharisees because of their lack of repentance.  Now John wanted to refuse to administer it to Jesus because of his own sinfulness.

Look at verse 15.  Although tacitly acknowledging John’s impulse to be correct, Jesus replied in words that assured him of the appropriateness of His submitting to this ordinance, “But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”  Then he permitted Him.  How can a “sinner” baptize the only “sinless one”?

The fact that Jesus had done nothing needing repen­tance did not relieve Him of the obligation to do this act of righteous obedience.  True, He had no sins to confess, but He was a child of Abraham, and to submit to John’s baptism was something God ex­pected Him to do.  As a result, John withdrew his opposition and administered the ordinance.  God told John he’d be able to identify the Messiah by a sign–He tells us in John 1:33, “He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’”

But how’d John know before the Spirit descended that this was Christ?  Was it the contrast between His strong, pure, attractive face compared to the sin-lined faces of the other people that convinced John this was indeed the Messiah?  We don’t know.  We do know this–this was the last act of our Lord’s private life.  Emerging from the waters of Jordan, He began His public ministry, assured of His Father’s approval and empowered by the Spirit.  But why did Jesus seek baptism at the hands of John then?

First  Christ’s baptism was His identification with your sin

By being baptized, Jesus was taking the first necessary step to becoming the sinner’s substitute.  When Jesus says in verse 15, “Permit it for this time.  It is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”  What did Christ mean to fulfill all righteousness?  Ultimately, by God pouring out His wrath on Christ for our sins, taking the punishment we deserved, taking our place–God could justly satisfy His righteousness violated by our sin.  Therefore the baptism of Christ is connected to the cross.  It was a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Before this, it was for the Gentile, symbolizing new life, or for the Jews, to repent of their sinful apostasy.  But now, Christ, by His baptism, is prefiguring His own death and resurrection in advance.  Jesus tells us this in Mark 10:38.  Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking for.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  Christ’s water baptism was a picture of his coming death for sin and resurrection.  His baptism involved no acknowledgment of sin, but only His purpose to be “made like his brethren” (Hebrews 2:17) in all things.

So by being baptized, Christ identifies with sinners in that symbol of death, even as He would finally as­sociate Himself with sinners in an actual death.  Though sinless Himself, He was and is able to sympathize with His brethren in their struggle with sin.

Second  Christ’s baptism announced the beginning of His public ministry as Messiah

It was fitting that so revolutionary a public ministry should be inaugurated by this public ceremony.  This baptism would clearly terminate His private life and begin His public life.  By administering baptism to Him, the forerunner of the Messiah, John, set Jesus apart for His mission of redemption.

Have you ever considered what Jesus must have been thinking while he was being baptized?  With His knowledge of the Scriptures, it is impossible that Jesus did not realize the awful implications of the symbolism of this rite, foreshadowing as it did His own death and resurrection.  Again, he said in Luke 12:50, “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”  Yet, knowing all of this fully, He gladly committed Himself to His costly task for you.

Remember when you knew you were gonna get in trouble, hurt?  Remember the dread of knowing what was coming?  Like the day I lit my neighbor’s newspaper on fire as a kid.  Chris, you are a pyro.  No, I am a guy–talk to your man.  Men like fire.  I got caught and I knew when my dad got home I was gonna get it.  Waiting was worse than the actual punishment—far worse.  With His baptism, Jesus knows what is coming, yet He goes ahead.

Third  Christ’s baptism declares the affirmation of His Father

With the Son being aware of the coming cross, how encouraging do you think it was for Jesus to hear these words from the Father?  Verse 17, “And behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”  Here is the ending of 400 years of silence, and with it Jesus is marked out as the One who fulfills Psalm 2:7, “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son.’”  And with those words, Jesus is declared by God to be perfectly qualified to embark on His public ministry.

Fourth  Christ’s Baptism begins His empowering for service

In Matthew 3:16, “And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him.”  This was no meaningless display.  From the moment of His conception until the cross, Hebrews 9:14 says everything was achieved “through the eternal Spirit.”  Dependence on the Holy Spirit characterized Christ’s entire ministry.

What a special event–all three persons of the Trinity at one time–the incarnate Son identifying Himself with sinful humanity.  The Father opens heaven to voice His approval of His Son whom He had selected for this task.  The Spirit descends from heaven to empower the Son to fulfill the purpose of the Father.

One God, three persons in an eternal relationship that will rock your world when we exposit Mark 1:9 to 11 next week.  Christ’s baptism was unique, but baptism doesn’t end with Christ.  How does baptism progress in the New Testament?

•Baptism starts with the proselyte, then Jews, then John’s Baptism, then Christ Himself, then Christ baptized others in John 3:22, and more were coming to Him than to John the Baptist.

•Then after dying and rising again, He commands the Church to go into the entire world and baptize in Matthew 28.

•Then the early church comes along and baptizes 3,000 the first Day of Pentecost (in Acts 2:41).

•In Samaria (the half-breeds), many were baptized by Phillip the evangelist (in Acts 8:12).

•At Gaza, the Ethiopian eunuch (a Jewish proselyte) was baptized by Philip (in Acts 8:38).

•At Caesarea, Peter baptizes a bunch of Gentiles, Cornelius and his friends (in Acts 10:48).

•At Philippi, Paul baptizes two more Gentiles, Lydia and the Philippian jailer (in Acts 16:15, 33).

•At Corinth, Paul baptizes Crispus, Gauis and Stephanus and others, as well as we know that Apollos and Peter baptized some as well (in Acts 18:8 and 1 Corinthians 1:14 to 16).

All of this is with absolute continuity.

#4  Celebrate your union with Christ by your baptism–did you?

Is baptism merely symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ?  No.  When you as a believer are baptized by immersion into water, you are demonstrating not only the death, burial and resurrection of Christ–you are demonstrating your union with Christ and His church in that death, burial and resurrection.  Robert Lightner defines baptism, “Believer’s baptism is a public testimony of one’s union with Christ.  The act symbolizes believer identification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.  The act is a solemn reminder to the individual and to all who observe, that there is no turning back.”

•That is the truth of Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.”

•We died in Him, and we rose in Him–which is union.  A baptized person is giving spiritual truth physical form.  It turns it into an object lesson.  Dying at the cross, rising again and becoming a new person in Christ–that is the point here.  This explains many seemingly difficult passages in the Bible.

•When it says in I Corinthians 10:2 that all the Israelites were baptized into Moses, that is not talking about water baptism–it means that they were immersed into Moses’s teaching.  They were in solidarity with Moses, they were in union with the Law of Moses.

•In Galatians 3:27 when it says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ,” he is saying that Christians are immersed into Christ, not water.

•Therefore when I Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism now saves you—(not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ).”  Again it is not the water baptism that saves you, but the spiritual union does.  And it is water baptism that symbolizes the spiritual union.  Do you have your ring on?

#5  Baptism only symbolizes your genuine salvation–has it?

There are some who say you must be baptized to be saved.  Is that true?  Simply stated, the relationship between baptism and salvation is the relationship of obedience to salvation.  Having been saved, we are given a new heart that desires obedience, and baptism is the immediate and inseparable indicator of salvation as the first act of obedience.

At the birth of the early church, believers were obedient and showed it by being baptized.  Three thousand believed, and 3,000 were baptized on the Day of Pentecost, and 3,000 continued in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship and the breaking of bread—3,000 baptized and 3,000 continued.

Baptism was God’s command, the apostles insisted on it.  Right there at the temple entrance, using the mikvah pools used by the Jews to wash themselves in order to enter the temple area, the early church was baptized.  And more than that, just fifty days earlier Christ was crucified as a false religious leader, and basically you were putting your life on the line to identify with Christ as a Jew.  But they did.  Any Jew that was baptized on the Day of Pentecost in the name of Jesus Christ was taking a bold step, total alienation from the culture, the synagogue, their family–from everything.

The price was high.  Nobody who was a halfhearted convert was going to be baptized.  The people who were going to be baptized were the real Christians, because they were willing to pay any price.  And that is what happened at the birth of the Church—3,000 were saved, 3,000 were baptized, and 3,000 continued.

Typically today, if 3,000 were supposedly saved, forty-two would be baptized, and twenty would continue.  It is different today than it was then–and one major reason was that the cost of baptism was very high, and the people who were not serious were not going to pay it.  There was no way they were going to be alienated form their whole culture and possibly lose their life if they were not serious about Christ.  That is the way it is in other countries today.  Therefore baptism was the inseparable token of salvation.

That is why in the Scripture, baptism was consistently linked to salvation.  Many times the Scripture writers used the word baptism instead of the word saved or salvation.  What was the reason?  Because the way you knew that someone was saved as a new believer was because they were baptized.  The ones who would not confess Christ before men in baptism were the ones Jesus would not acknowledge before the father.  In Matthew 10:32 to 33, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Because baptism was so inseparable from salvation, in Scripture people would refer to salvation as baptism.  That is why Ephesians 4:5 says, “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”  He means that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism–one salvation.  In the first two centuries, if a convert was not willing to be baptized, there was little confidence in his repentance.  If he was willing to be baptized, he revealed his true heart of repentance since he paid a high price in his culture if he was baptized.

•So when Christ says in Matthew 28:19, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all men, baptizing,” He means bring them to salvation, which is demonstrated in a willingness to be baptized–to be willing to pay the price to be identified with Jesus Christ publicly.

•Also, when you read Acts 2:38 and Peter answers the question of what do we do?  “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  He is not saying that baptism washes away your sins–he means that baptism is inseparable from salvation.  Baptism is where salvation is demonstrated.  It is an outward sign that your sins have been forgiven.

But do you have to baptized to get into heaven?  The thief on the cross did not, and there will occasionally be unique situations where that occurs.  But if you are reluctant to be baptized, there is question whether you have a new transformed heart of obedience.  And an unwilling heart in the matter of obedience without any New Testament command may well reveal an unregenerate person.  Christ said, “If you love me you will [what?] keep my commandments.”  He also said, “How can you say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things that I say,” and it starts with this simple command–be baptized.

•Understand, every treatment of salvation makes clear it is by grace through faith plus nothing or minus nothing–absolutely no works.  Baptism is merely the demonstrator of real faith and real transformation.  Real faith shows itself in obedience (not perfection), a willing and desirous heart to obey), and that first act of obedience was baptism.

•Baptism does not make you holy, it does not save you, it does not secure you, and it does not provide some on-going power.  It does demonstrate your obedience, and give you the joy and blessing of obedience.  Do you have your spiritual wedding band on?

#6  Take the step of obedience and get baptized–will you?

Is the Bible confused about baptism?  It is not confusing.  Yet there is an awful lot of confusion about it.  Why?  If there is one thing our enemy wants do in the life of the believer, it is to shatter the pattern of obedience.  And he wants to shatter it at the very beginning.  If you can make baptism so confusing that you ignore it, then the devil has started you on the path of indifference and disobedience.

That is why this is a controversial issue.  Some groups say baptism is unnecessary, others say baptism is what saves you.  One group errs on the side of grace–the other errs on the side of law.  One ignores the command to obedience, the other ignores that salvation is by grace through faith alone.

Some baptize for the dead, misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 15:29, which most likely refers to a solid Christian who dies, and their testimony was so strong, so powerful, that even after they died others were baptized.  They were converted to Christ, and their salvation was for the sake of the dead person’s testimony.

Still others baptize infants, wrongly believing that baptism replaces the Old Testament rite of circumcision.  Interestingly, even those groups that baptized babies immersed them until the Middles Ages when they began to sprinkle them.  The Church at that time wrongly taught parents that baptizing their babies would rescue them from a limbo if they were to die.  The goal of course was to keep the parents committed to the Catholic system.  Even some reformers didn’t break out of this belief, but you will find no support for it in the clear teaching of Scripture.

There was a group during the time of the reformation who taught that infant baptism was useless, that the Bible clearly only taught believers’ baptism–it was the Anabaptists who preached the gospel and encouraged people to be re-baptized by immersion.  Sadly, they were persecuted by the Catholic Church and even persecuted by some reformers.  Yet it was the Anabaptists who taught what the early church practiced and taught, what the Bible teaches—believers’ baptism.  So how should we respond to the Scripture?  Live it, obey it, follow it.

1  All believers are to be baptized

As F.F. Bruce writes, “The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament.  It is not a personal choice but a divine command.  Spurgeon said, “Nothing is more plainly taught in the New Testament than that it is the duty of every believer in Christ to be baptized.”

Take your response card and check today, “I want to be baptized,” if you have not been baptized by immersion as a believer.  If in your heart your baptism was done in true faith, and your conscience is clear, then that’s between you and the Lord.  But if not, just get baptized!  Don’t be ashamed–for five years I tried, finally was hired as a pastor, and John MacArthur baptized me as his junior high pastor.  There is no shame–just do it.

2  Only believers are to be baptized

As Wilmington says in his Guide to the Bible, “The two words belief and baptism are inseparably linked in the New Testament.  Belief is always assumed to be the root of which baptism is the fruit.”  Parents, let me make it simple–it is only as a child is old enough to demonstrate he or she is willing to pay any price to follow Christ, and would even turn away from you as their parents, if necessary in order to pursue Christ, that a child is ready to be baptized.  Usually that means a child is somewhere in their adolescent years.  Sometimes adults ask, “Should I be re-baptized?”  If you were not baptized according to the New Testament, if you were not immersed in water after a conscious commitment of your life to Jesus Christ after you became saved, you should be baptized–because whatever you did before was not New Testament baptism.  It is only for believers, but it is for all believers.

3  All believers should celebrate baptism

In your heart, move baptism from a theology to be studied to a ceremony to be celebrated.  It reminds us each one of God’s children is in Christ.  It reminds us of our union with Christ in His death to sin and resurrection to new life.  It shows us we belong to Christ and belong to each other—we are interconnected.  When we have baptisms, it’d be wrong if there wasn’t celebration.  I will never forget going under the water then rising up, and the cheer from the students when I rose out of the water, and all that it meant–to truly be Christ’s.  Let’s pray.

 

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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