Summary: God’s Call to Baptism
Going Under: God’s Call to Baptism
April 27th, 2008
As we’ve been announcing that we are going to have a baptismal service in a few weeks, I’ve had several people ask me questions about what that means, how we do it, who should be baptized and things like that. I wanted to just make it very clear by watching that video, that we don’t do it like that! There will be no cannonballs into the baptismal tank!
We have been blessed in our growth with all sorts of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. And baptism is one of those things, within the church, that is done differently by different groups, and means different things to different people. Over the years, baptism has been one of the most controversial topics in the church. Denominations have split over what it means and how it is to be done. What the church believed about baptism was one of the driving forces behind Martin Luther’s ideas that brought about the Reformation in the 1500’s. Even as far back as the first century of the Christian church’s history, we have evidence that baptism and the way it was done, was the cause of disagreement and conflict. With all of the confusion, disputes, disagreements, and misunderstanding, I think that it is easy to miss the beauty, meaning, and symbolism of this simple act that Christ taught and preached was to take place in the life of every believer.
So, this morning, I want to try to clear some things up. I don’t want you to miss what baptism means, and my goal is to give you an understanding of what we do here, why we do it, and what the Bible has to say about it.
For Some – refresher, that’s alright! For others, I hope it will answer some of the questions that you have.
I. What Baptism is Not.
Before we go too far here, I want to point out one very important thing. You need to know one thing that baptism is not. Baptism is not necessary for Salvation. This is one thing that can confuse some people, particularly those coming out of the Catholic faith as well as some other mainline denominations today. There are many people that hold that faith and baptism are necessary for salvation. In “The Fundamentals of catholic Dogma” by Ludwig Ott, he writes this: “Baptism by water is necessary for all men without exception for salvation.” So there are many coming out of the Catholic Church that hold to this belief that salvation is not complete until baptism has taken place and also that if an unbeliever is baptized, that is still enough to earn them salvation. The problem with this is that it clearly goes against what the Bible teaches about salvation. The Bible teaches that salvation is a work of God, that there is nothing that we can do to earn it or secure it ourselves. It comes through Faith in the resurrected Lord. Period.
Ephesians 2:8-9 explains it very clearly: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Salvation that included the condition of baptism would be a salvation of works and would change the gospel. So, we preach that baptism is necessary for full obedience to God (which we’ll look at in a moment) but not necessary for Salvation nor is a guarantee of salvation. So, that’s what it’s not.
Let me tell you what it is:
II. What Baptism Is.
The Bible teaches that Christians should be baptized, most of us know that much. But many of us cannot answer the question of what baptism is other than to say that it’s something that we are supposed to do. Well, If you boil it right down, Baptism is about two things.
1) Public Declaration of Allegiance
Baptism is our public declaration that we belong to God and that we are no longer who we once were.
When I got married, I stood before a group of people and declared that I loved Erin. I made a public declaration of allegiance to her. I promised to love and cherish and honor her until the day I die. I was committing to a new way of life together. The marriage ceremony is a declaration of Allegiance to one man or woman. It’s the same with baptism, it is a ceremony in which we declare our allegiance to One. We are standing before friends and family and vowing to follow God, to love Him, and to keep His commands. It is a commitment to a new way of life.
I can remember when I got baptized. I was around 11. As I stood in front of the church, my testimony was not eloquent or anything special. But I can remember saying that I wanted to be baptized because I wanted everyone to know that I was a part of God’s family. Baptism is a private thing, to a degree, it is between you and God and it is a very significant celebration in your life. But, it is also a very public thing. It is your initiation into the Body of Christ, the Church, and because of that, we celebrate it together as a Church family. Baptism is our public declaration of Allegiance to Christ, but there is another aspect to it. There is also very clear symbolism within the act of being baptized.