Summary: For this baptism service, Dave shares some thoughts about what baptism is.
Wildwind Community Church
January 17, 2009
I realized the other day, much to my surprise and regret, that I have never preached a sermon on baptism! Of course we have done many services of baptism here at Wildwind, but I have never spoken on it before. I want to allow those being baptized to do most of the talking tonight, but I did want to take a few minutes to speak to you about baptism.
So today’s message is called Going Public. I couldn’t think of a better title than that for a message about bapism. Baptism is a sign. It is a seal. In baptism, you step forward to receive your watermark – it’s a public act that marks you as someone who belongs to Christ. And not only to Christ, but to Christ’s family. If you want to know who Christ’s family are, just look around you. God’s family includes God as your Father, Jesus as your brother, the Holy Spirit as your friend and advisor, and every other servant of Christ who has ever lived as your brother and your sister. We have three people here tonight who are going public and who are going to share their stories with you about how that journey has happened in their lives. Before we get on with it, I want to share a few things with you about baptism – what it is, what it isn’t, and who ought to do it.
Baptism, like many aspects of Christianity, comes to us from Judaism. The Hebrew term “mikveh” literally means any gathering of waters, but is specifically used in Jewish law for the waters or bath for the ritual immersion. The building of the mikveh was so important in ancient times it was said to take precedence over the construction of a synagogue. Immersion was so important that it occurred before the high Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement, before the regular priests participated in the Temple service, before each person entered the Temple complex, before a scribe wrote the name of God, as well as several other occasions.
So without question we practice baptism today because it is a ritual that was adapted from Judaism. We see that Jesus modeled baptism for us because, like a good Jew, Jesus himself was baptized.
Matthew 3:13-15 (MSG)
13 Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him.
14 John objected, "I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!"
15 But Jesus insisted. "Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism." So John did it.
And not only was baptism modeled for us by Christ, but then Christ commanded that we do it as well.
Matthew 28:19 (MSG)
19 Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
[Now I’m not sure what was said in Jewish baptism, or if anything was said at all, but I assure you that unlike those we’ll baptize tonight, the Jews were not baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! There we see some adaptation going on!]
And notice verse 19 here where Jesus refers to the idea of “marking” people by baptism. Baptism is a mark. [For those of you who work in offices, you might think of it as a watermark!] It is a sign that you belong to Christ. In some places in scripture, baptism is nearly equated with salvation itself!
Mark 16:15-16 (NIV)
15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved… The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is so essential that someone who comes to faith in Christ but is not baptized actually goes to hell. We believe that baptism is important, but that it’s not the baptism itself that saves a person. Baptism is an expression, or a mark, of the faith that lies beneath. But give that another moment’s thought and you will quickly realize that in a sense salvation and baptism ARE bound up together. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Is it the baptism that saves you? Of course not. But if you are saved – if you have made a decision to trust Christ as the forgiver of your sins and the leader of your life, why would you not be willing to declare that publicly? What Jesus tells us is that an essential part of this picture is going public – coming forward – stepping out and declaring your faith in Jesus.