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Summary: BAPTISM IS ONE OF THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR FAITH. SOMETIMES WE GET SO FAMILIAR WITH WHAT WE BELIEVE THAT WE LOSE SIGHT OF THESE BASIC THOUGHTS. REVIEW IS OFTEN TIME WELL INVESTED.

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FOUNDATIONS OF THE FAITH: BAPTISM

MATTHEW 3:13-17

TODAY WE ARE CONTINUING WITH OUR SERIES ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR FAITH, BY LOOKING AT BAPTISM. BAPTISM IS A CONTROVERSIAL POINT OF CHRISTENDOM, AND IT IS NOT MY POINT TO ADD FIRE TO THE CONTROVESY, BUT TO EXAMINE WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY ABOUT BAPTISM.

I WANT TO BEGIN BY STATING THAT BAPTISM IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE FAITH. IT IS A DRAMATIC PRESENTATION OF THE DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST. IT IS ALSO A DRAMATIC PORTRAYAL OF OUR DESIRE TO FOLLOW CHRIST IN A DEEPER WAY. IT SIGNIFIES OUR DESIRE FOR OUR OLD NATURE TO DIE AND BE BURIED, AND THEN TO BE RAISED TO A NEW MORE SPIRITUAL NATURE.

WHEN WE SPEAK OF BAPTISM WE OFTEN REFER TO IT AS TOTAL IMMERSION BAPTISM AND THIS IS CORRECT AS FAR AS THE METHOD IS CONCERNED. THE THEOLOGICAL TERM TO DESCRIBE BAPTISM IS “BELIEVER’S BAPTISM.” THIS TERM ALLOWS US TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE THEOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE IS FIRST FOR THE PERSON TO BE A BELIEVER AND THEN TO FOLLOW AS AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE IN THE WATERS OF BAPTISM.

WE DO NOT BELIEVE, NOR DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ANY SALVIFIC VALUE IN BAPTISM. WHAT THIS MEANS IS THAT YOU CANNOT GO TO HEAVEN JUST BY BEING BAPTISED. THERE ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT IF THEY “GET DONE”, THEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. THIS IS NOT THE CASE.

A FORMER PASTOR ONCE SAID OF BAPTISM. IF THE PERSON IS NOT SAVED, IF THEY ARE NOT A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER, AND ARE BAPTISED, THEN THE ONLY THING THAT HAS HAPPENED IS THAT THEY START OUT A DRY SINNER AND END UP A WET ONE.

WHERE POSSIBLE WE TRY TO MAKE CERTAIN THAT THE PERSON WHO IS BAPTIZED IS A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN. THAT IS THE PROPER ORDER, A CONVERSION EXPERIENCE FIRST, AND THEN PART OF THE EVIDENCE OF THE CONVERSION IS THE DESIRE TO FOLLOW CHRIST IN BAPTISM. I USUALLY HAVE PREPARATION CLASSES FOR BAPTISMAL CANTIDATES, AND THIS IS FOLLOWED BY A MEETING WITH THE DEACONS, SO THAT WHEN WE PROCEED, IF WE PROCEED, WE HAVE MUTUAL ASSURANCE THAT BOTH PASTOR AND CHURCH LEADERSHIP FEEL THAT THE CANTIDATE IS PREPARED FOR THIS STEP. I ALSO WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT EVEN THOUGH WE FOLLOW THIS PROCEEDURE THAT THERE IS NO SYSTEM THAT IS INFALLIBLE.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT MODES OF BAPTISM, EACH HAVING THEIR OWN THEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE, BUT THE PREFERRED MODE THAT WE USE IS TOTAL IMMERSION BAPTISM. IT IS A PREFERRED SYSTEM, BUT NOT THE ONLY SYSTEM THAT HAS BEEN USED WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES WARRANT IT.

THERE IS ALSO NO SET AGE FOR A BAPTISM TO OCCUR. THE ESSENTIAL FACTOR TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT A PERSON SHOULD BE BAPTIZED IS WHEATHER OR NOT THEY HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL CHANGES THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN THEIR LIVES. I’VE KNOWN OF CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS SEVEN AND EIGHT WHO WERE BAPTISED, AND OTHERS WHO WERE ASKED TO WAIT AND THE SAME IS TRUE FOR ADULTS. THE ACTUAL TIMING OF BAPTISM IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS UNDERSTANDING WHY BAPTISM OCCURS.

LOCATIONS OF BAPTISM HAVE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS. WHEN I WAS BAPTIZED IT OCCURRED AT GRAND LAKE. MORE CHURCHES HAVE BAPTISTRIES, SOME USE HOT TUBS, AND I’VE KNOWN OF MINISTERS WHO HELD BAPTISMS IN SWIMMING POOLS.


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