Summary: A sermon on how baptism relates to the church (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, Rediscovering Community, chapter 10 Sacramentally Participating pg. 241- 254)
How can one be baptized without the church? Christians are the church. If not a Christian then not part of church, if a Christian then part of church. We have no record of anyone in the NT baptizing themselves. Imagine someone coming to the point of wanting to be baptized, they come forward where? They give the good confession to whom? They walk into the water, say a few words and then immerse themselves (seems more like a casual swim than a baptism). They come out and no one is there to greet them because no one is present. Seems rather hallow & empty when we think of it.
To review and to remind us of this series of the community and the church, we started this by confronting the mistaken idea that a person can be aChristian without the church. From that, beginning in the OT and now into the NT, we have been putting Scriptures and biblical ideas to support the importance of the church to a Christian. Today we begin by talking about two things that many associate exclusively with the churches of Christ, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Today mainly focusing on baptism.
Some refer to these practices as “sacraments”; others refer to them as “ordinances.” Either one can spark a heated debate. I submit that these two terms in their current definitions fall far short of describing these biblical practices. We should not use either one, not biblical.
Sacrament refers to an oath of allegiance. Someone who uses this term might say that the act of baptism, regardless of the faith of the participant, imparts God’s grace into the participant. Close to baptismal regeneration. God- not people- acts in baptism.
Ordinance derives from the word “to ordain." This emphasizes that Christ himself ordained baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Believers participate in these two acts not to receive God’s grace, but simply out of obedience to Christ. Someone who uses this term probably will say that baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. People- not God- act in baptism.
Both of these terms miss the mark. The Bible recognizes that baptism includes both human faith and God’s grace. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter taught that baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (human part), which “saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (God’s part). In Acts 2:38 Peter taught that the people should “repent and be baptized” (human part), this would bring “forgiveness of your sins” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (God’s part). This includes our part and God’s part.
John the Baptist initiated baptism before the ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ continued this practice in his ministry. But baptism has a much deeper meaning after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It plays a significant role in the new covenant Jesus’ established with His death and resurrection. As under John the Baptizer, baptism continues to involve repentance and forgiveness, but it also gained the force of the cross, the empty tomb, and the HS.
In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), Jesus instructed His disciples to baptize those who are becoming followers. Baptism, in the very least, expresses a person’s intent to follow Jesus, who Himself was baptized by John in the Jordan River. But that is not all. The NT connects baptism with the grace of God made possible through the cross of Jesus. The NT expresses this connection in various ways. In baptism comes: (Read this from the bulletin outline. Today we are trying to focus on the next to last one [Connection with the church] but all of these apply. One is not more important than another
In baptism comes: Forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38, Washing away of sin (Acts 22:16), Release from the power of sin (Colossians 2:11-15), Death to sin (Romans 6:11), Life in Christ (Romans 6:11), Union with Christ (Galatians 3:27), Union with Christ's death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5), Reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), Entrance into the kingdom (John 3:5), Connection with the church (1 Corinthians 12:13), Reception of salvation (1 Peter 3:21))
Baptism, by itself, does not save. Jesus saves by the grace of the cross. In baptism, as a part of faith and accompanied by repentance, we respond to Jesus’ gift. Though by itself baptism does not save, it does hold a momentous place in the conversion process.
Understanding the role of baptism in salvation requires grasping the relationship between baptism and faith; the NT links the two in an important manner. In Galatians, for example, Paul explains, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26, 27, NIV. Paul connects “faith in Christ Jesus” with “baptized into Christ” and “clothed yourselves with Christ.” In another place Paul through the HS says, “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:12, NIV. Baptism and faith interweave. Baptism without faith serves no purpose (just getting wet). Rightly understood, genuine faith includes baptism as a part of its expression. This understanding helps reconcile passages such as 1 Peter 3:21, which speaks of “the baptism that now saves you”; and Ephesians 2:8, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” The salvation process includes baptism and faith intertwined. NT writers had one with the other. Faith is not a preparatory step that precedes baptism, nor does faith come as a result of baptism. Instead, genuine faith includes baptism.