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.