Let’s get to our passage. Turn over to Matthew 28. This passage might be pretty familiar to you, but that’s ok. When you get to Matthew 28, we’ll read verses 19-20. Pay attention to this passage…as it lays the foundation for what we’re studying today. Let’s read our passage for today…again, it’s Matthew 28:19-20.
It says: 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We’re nearing the end of our series about making disciples. We’ve gone into great detail about what it means for us to be disciples today…how we should apply the same principles that they did back in biblical times…what our motivation is for making disciples…and how we should implement the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples as he was about to ascend into heaven.
But there’s one command that we haven’t really touched on yet… his command to “baptize them.” And because this is such a vital component to our making disciples…we can’t finish our series without addressing baptism.
Some people might wonder, “Why baptism?” or “What kind of baptism?” We won’t spend a lot of time on that this morning other than to say…we baptize in order to follow the example set by Jesus in his own life. We baptize because Jesus was baptized and he commands us to baptize as we make disciples. And we baptize by immersion because that’s the kind of baptism that he had nearly 2000 years ago. We don’t need to overcomplicate it because it really is that simple. Jesus set the example for us to follow…and he gave us the command to obey.
*So the question is…what purpose does baptism serve? What does it do for us today? Why should we stress it as an important part of becoming a Christian as we make disciples? What we’re going to talk about this morning will serve as a refresher for what baptism has done for us…if we’ve been baptized…as well as show us what we should tell others about what baptism does for them.
**Let’s start with a basic principle…a basic result of baptism. Because a lot of things happen when you go down into then back up out of the water. One of the things that happens with baptism…is repentance and forgiveness.
Now…one of those…repentance…is done by us. The other… forgiveness…is what is given to us…it’s done by someone else. God. Repentance and forgiveness are what baptism have been about for a long time. Even before Jesus himself was baptized.
Look over at the next page in your bible…at Mark 1:4. There, we read that “John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” There those two words are. He preached a baptism of…repentance…for the forgiveness…of sins. Again, before Jesus was immersed by his cousin, John was already talking about what baptism was and why the people needed it.
Then after Jesus left this earth? It was the same message. It’s what Peter told the crowds in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. When their hearts were cut after hearing his message…and they asked him what they needed to do…what was Peter’s response? He said in Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Now…do you notice something about how both of those passages are worded? There’s repentance…then there’s forgiveness. Repentance has to happen in order for forgiveness to take place. And… as we said just a minute ago…repentance is our part…the forgiveness is God’s.
So if we want God to forgive us…we need to repent and be baptized. What does it mean for us to repent? If you’ve heard sermons on baptism or repentance in the past then you know what it means. Repentance means you turn away from living in sin. It’s that 180* turn, right? Before your baptism, you were living in sin. At the time of your baptism, you turn away from that sin and live instead for God.
Then…when you do that…when you repent…then God will forgive you of your sins. Why do we need forgiveness? Because if our sins aren’t forgiven…if they aren’t removed from us as far as the east is from the west as it’s written in Psalm 103:12, then we will never be worthy of coming into his presence someday. If we are still connected to our sins, it is impossible for us to come near to him. And if we aren’t near to God…we will miss out on heaven. That’s why we need forgiveness.
But again…forgiveness only comes from God. As I said on Wednesday night…you can confess your sins to someone…to a preacher or to anyone else…but they can’t forgive you of those sins. That forgiveness…that removal of your sins…can only come from God. …
So what happens if you don’t repent? What happens if you don’t, on a continual basis, turn back from the sins you’ve committed? Well… if you don’t repent…if you don’t confess those things to God…then how can he forgive them? And here’s the frightening thing about this…there people who get baptized with it in their mind that it’s for forgiveness, and they leave out the repentance part! So if someone gets baptized thinking that they’re forgiven and can just go back to sin, then they’re leaving out a vital part of baptism!
*That’s why we…and the people who we share the gospel with… need to understand that, with baptism…forgiveness comes when there is repentance. You need to stop living in perpetual sin. Are there going to be times when you trip up after your baptism? Yup. So when that happens, you repent once again, striving to not return to it, confess it to God…and ask his forgiveness. When you do…he will forgive you.
**So again…that’s one of the basics of baptism. It functions as our way of repenting from our sins and being forgiven by God. But there’s more that happens when we are immersed in the waters. You see…when you’re baptized…you identify with Christ.
Now, hearing that you might think to yourself, “Well, of course I identify with Christ when I’m baptized. After all, that makes me a Christian, right?” Well…yes. When you are immersed…when you repent from your life of sin and have your sins forgiven and washed away by Jesus’ death on the cross…you take on a Christian identity.
That’s what we’re told in Galatians 3:27 which says: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” We are clothed with Jesus. We are wrapped in him…in who he is. He is what covers us. It is Jesus’ example that we are to follow when we’ve made the decision to submit to God and be baptized. His identity becomes our identity.
But to believe that, through baptism, a title like “Christian” is the extent of your identifying with Jesus Christ…is to devalue what you go through when you go down into and then come back up out of the water. Because your identity is more than just a word that means “little Christ”…and it’s more than being clothed with him.
Let’s turn over to Romans 6. What Paul writes here gives us a good picture of what happens with baptism. He starts the chapter by asking if we should live in perpetual sin so that God’s grace could be continually extended to us. In other words, he’s asking if it’s ok to take advantage of the grace God has given us. And he answers in verse 2: “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Then listen to what Paul writes starting in verse 3: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Here’s how we identify with Jesus through our baptism. Jesus… the only begotten Son of God…died on a cross for your sins. So that you would have a chance to repent and be forgiven, as we’ve already talked about. After his death, he was put in a tomb. He was in the grave. Then what happened after three days? He rose. He came back to life and the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb and he came out alive.
That is what baptism does for us…that is how we identify with him. We die to our old self. We are plunged down into the water… which serves as our tomb. Fortunately, you don’t stay there for three days. But that old self? That old self is dead and buried. Then when you come back up out of the water…you rise alive. And not only to you rise alive as a new life…a life that is redeemed…but you rise as a new life that looks forward to eternal life someday.
*Jesus is the one who conquered death by dying on the cross and rising from the grave. But when we are baptized with him…we identify with him because we go through the same thing he did. We die. But then…through that death…we will live forever.
**And that will be the case for anyone who we are discipling today. They will also identify with Jesus through his death and resurrection. … With that in mind, let’s look at one other event that happens through baptism. When we are together as one.
Not only are we one with Jesus Christ…not only do we identify with him…but we also become one with each other. We are joined together as one. What is it that joins us all together as one? It’s the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, we’re given the gift of God’s very Spirit. And it joins us as one. That’s what we’re told in a couple of passages.
Let’s start with Ephesians 4:3-6. There, it says: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Now…this might sound kind of confusing. We’re baptized into one body…one Spirit? Then why are there so many different denominations? Or why are there so many varying opinions on what God’s word says or what a church should do or even whether or not baptism is even necessary? How can it say that there’s only one body and Spirit and Lord and faith and baptism?
What Paul is saying is that there is only one true body. There’s only one true Spirit. Only one true Lord and faith and baptism. Anything else that is manmade and false? That’s not what Paul is talking about here. Someone might’ve been baptized…but if they don’t repent and receive forgiveness…if they don’t identify with Christ in the ways we’ve talked about today…then they’re in the wrong. And for those people…they’ll be in for quite a shock someday. But that’s because they aren’t living as a part of the one body…as the bride of Christ. They’ve decided to live for themselves or by their own knowledge or whatever…and aren’t included in what Paul writes here. What they have is false…and they’re deceiving themselves.
Paul says that there is only one true Spirit that is given by the one true Lord God that results in one true faith. And those who receive all of this through the one true baptism are the one who will live for God today…and will be blessed with eternal life someday.
*Can you go from being together as one as a part of the same body with the same Spirit given by the same Lord to something different? Absolutely. If you don’t follow where the Spirit guides…if you choose not to obey the one Lord…if you renounce the one faith… as many who consider themselves “Christians” have done in their lives…then you run the risk of not remaining with the one body and the one Spirit. And if you’re not together as one…then you’re out on your own.
****Without baptism, you won’t have a chance to be joined into the one true body. Without baptism, you can’t be identified with Christ. Without baptism you can’t complete your act of repentance and have your sins forgiven. … And neither can anyone out there who we are trying to make into disciples.
That’s why Jesus included it in his instructions to us as we make disciples. When we are joined together with the one Spirit…when we identify with Christ through our own death and resurrection...when we repent and are forgiven…then we will be blessed with eternity someday. And that’s what we should want for everyone else we know who hasn’t come to him yet. They need to come to Christ. And they way they’ll do that is through baptism.