Summary: This was a quick sermon I preached before performing the baptisms of two of our new members who have recently made professions of faith.
A Lesson On Baptism
By: Ken McKinley
(Read Matt. 28:19-20)
In looking at this text, one of the first things we note about Christian Baptism is that Jesus commanded it in the over-all framework of making disciples. In our text Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, and they were to do this in two ways – 1st by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and 2nd by teaching them to obey everything that Christ had commanded.
And so; if we want to be faithful to the Lord, then we should be baptizing new believers as He has commanded us to do. But we can’t just dunk people in the water and expect them to be Christian disciples. We need to understand what baptism is, the history behind it, the right and wrong reasons to get baptized and the purpose for it.
So turn with me to 1st Corinthians 12:12-13 (read). This passage shows us that it is the Holy Spirit that baptizes us into Christ. So the first thing we need to understand is that being baptized into Christ is done, not by a preacher, or a priest, or an evangelist, but by the Holy Spirit. This is of course talking about salvation. When a person is saved by grace through faith, the Holy Spirit unites them with Christ, whether or not they’ve been dunked in a tank, a river, a lake, or sprinkled. It’s the Holy Spirit that unites the believer with Christ.
That’s why Paul says in 1st Corinthians 1:17 that the Lord didn’t send him to baptize, but to preach the Gospel. Paul says in Romans 1 that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. In other words, it’s God’s grace, given to you through faith that is generated through the hearing of the Gospel message, that brings about salvation. Not baptism. But I’ll get a bit more into that in a little bit, but first we need to look at what the Bible has to say about baptism. The Bible is our one and only source of authority, as it is God’s word to us, so we need to examine what it has to say about this.
Now I don’t want to sound like a school teacher but we need to understand that the word “baptize” is a verb. In the Greek writings of the New Testament the word “baptize” means to “Immerse,” to “dip,” or “to plunge.” Not only can we get that from the Greek language, but we can see it in the historical accounts of baptism in the Bible. John baptized people in the Jordan River and not on dry ground, meaning that most likely John didn’t sprinkle. We see in the account of Jesus’ baptism that He went down into the waters and came up out of the waters. Secondly; John baptized at Aenon near Salim and the Bible says he did this “because there was much water there.”
Then we look at Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:35-39 (Read). We see that Philip and the Ethiopian had to wait until they came to a large amount of water in verse 36 and then they went down INTO the water in vs. 38.
In Romans 6:4 Paul talks about water baptism as being the symbol of how we are united with Christ (remember how the Holy Spirit has united us to Christ, or has baptized /immersed us into Christ). So Paul is saying that water baptism is the symbol of what has already happened to us by grace through faith. Again that’s why Philip wanted to make sure the Ethiopian really believed before he baptized him.
If you don’t believe… if true faith isn’t present, then all baptism does to a person is get them wet. If you do believe, then baptism is an outward confession of what has happened on the inside. It’s showing everyone present that you are united to Christ.
Now the problem is that there are some who have come to believe that baptism is what actually saves a person. They have taken passages like Mark 16:16 which says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Or Acts 2:38 where Peter said, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” Or Acts 22:16 which says, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” The problem is that these passages are grossly misunderstood. Let’s look at that first one again Mark 16:16 (read), notice that it says “He who does not believe will be condemned.” It says nothing about a person who isn’t baptized being condemned. Judgment comes upon those who do not believe. In the second Scripture Peter added repentance to baptism and he speaks of receiving the “Gift of the Holy Spirit.” In the last text we see that “calling on the name of the Lord” is also used.