OPENING: A drunk stumbled along a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeded to walk down into the water and stood next to the Preacher.
The minister turned and noticed the old drunk and said, "Mister, Are you ready to find Jesus?" The drunk looks back and says, "Yes, Preacher. I sure am."
The minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up. "Have you found Jesus?" the preacher asks.
"No, I didn’t!" says the drunk.
The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, "Now, brother, have you found Jesus?"
"No, I did not Preacher."
The preacher in disgust holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time brings him out of the water and says in a harsh tone, "Friend, are you sure you haven’t found Jesus yet?"
The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher..."Are you sure this is where he fell in?"
APPLY: In Matthew 28 Jesus gave the Church their final marching orders. He said their job, as a church, was to help people find Jesus. They were to go into all the world and make disciples of all people. How were they going to do that?
Jesus told them that the two parts of their responsibility were to:
1) Baptize them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
2) AND teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us
There’s a lot of material packed into those two responsibilities. And because there’s so much in those two commands we’re going to focus on baptism this week and THEN in the next few weeks we’ll talk about some of the things we should teach people to obey.
I. Until I’d prepared for this morning’s sermon, I hadn’t noticed that something was missing in this text. Really, there’s something missing.
Jesus told the Disciples, their first job in making disciples of all nations (in bringing people into His church and introducing them to the wonderful life of being children of God) was to baptize them.
But... there’s something missing here. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Bible say something about… faith? … repentance? ...confession?
Yet here - when Jesus is talking about making disciples - there’s no mention of faith, repentance, or confession. Just baptism into the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
That would seem to be a fairly important set of things for Jesus to be leaving out, don’t you think? Why would He do that?
One possibility is that Jesus made a mistake. Somehow in the course of the all the activities that were taking place that day, and in the confusion of the moment – He just forgot and left faith, confession and repentance completely out… Noooo, I don’t think so.
The other possibility is that there’s something WE CAN LEARN from Jesus leaving these things out.
II. What can we learn?
The first thing we should notice is that Matthew 28 is a command to the church, NOT to the convert. Jesus is telling us what WE should do to make disciples.
Now, follow me here:
Can you MAKE a person believe? (No, you can share your faith with them and explain what they need to believe, but you can’t make them believe).
Can you MAKE someone repent of their sins? (No, you can talk to them about their sins and their need to change, but the decision to repent must be theirs).
Can you get people to confess something they don’t feel? No, of course not – all these things are the responsibility of the convert. The church’s role in conversion is to administer baptism. That’s our job. In fact, this is the cool part of being a Christian. This is the one thing we can do that Jesus did not do.
Do you remember when Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12
We will do "greater things" than Jesus did? I don’t see how that’s possible. What greater things could you & I do that Jesus didn’t do? Jesus fed thousands, healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water… those are hard acts to follow!
But did you know that Jesus never baptized anybody?
“The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples” (John 4:1-2).
Of course, that took place before the church began, but even after the Church started, Jesus left the task of bringing people into the kingdom in the hands of believers.
Take for example the story out of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). An angel sends Philip to teach an Ethiopian who is riding home in his chariot. Philip joins the Eunuch, explains a passage of scripture the man had been studying and baptizes him along the way. The angel could have done that. But he didn’t. The privilege of bringing the Ethiopian into the Kingdom was reserved for a humble deacon named Philip.
Or, take the example of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-19). Jesus confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, struck him blind and then sent him on to Damascus telling him: "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:6). Amongst the things he was told by a disciple named Ananias was: "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16)
It’s interesting that Paul was told by Ananias that his sins had not yet been "washed away." What does that mean? It means Paul was not saved on the road to Damascus. The privilege of bringing Paul into the Kingdom so that his sins could be washed away was delegated to a man that Scripture only mentions this once: Ananias. Ananias baptizes Paul into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Do you understand what an awesome responsibility that is? You and I have been given the privilege of welcoming people into Christ. Faith, repentance, confession may be the responsibility of the convert - but baptism is the responsibility of the Christian who wins them to Christ.
The benefit for God is that no convert enters the kingdom alone. There will always be someone there who should be discipling them.
III. Now, there’s another peculiarity of what Jesus commands in this great commission.
He tells us that we need to baptize disciples into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. What’s Jesus trying to tell us here?
Well, in the days of Jesus, God had built baptism into society’s thinking. Many people read about John the Baptist immersing people in the Jordan river and get the mistaken idea that this practice was unique to John (and later the church).
In my "Reader’s Digest - Jesus and His Times" (copy write 1987 - from which much of this information is derived), there is a picture of a "Mikvah" that has been discovered in Masada (the ancient fortress built by Herod which held off the Romans for so long after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). Mikvah’s were used to immerse things and people to cleanse them of sinful influence.
The Essenes, for example washed daily in their pools to cleanse themselves from sin. Worshippers immersed themselves for ceremonial cleansing before entering upon the Temple Mount. There were mikvah’s for the priests including two reserved for the High Priest.
Private homes had these "mikvahs" as well and they would use them for (among other things) cleansing the dirt from items purchased from Gentiles - items such as dishes and tables (Mark 7:4).
So, when John came baptizing for repentance, people had long since grown used to the idea of baptism being associated with cleansing.
BUT another idea was associated with baptism - identification. Converts to Judaism who couldn’t be circumcised (such as women or eunuchs) were baptized. The purpose? To identify with Judaism. These people were baptized into the faith of the Jews.
In His command to the Church recorded in Matthew 28 – Jesus was in essense saying: “I want you to have new believers identify themselves with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." That’s what converts to Christ were to be baptized into.
IV. Now, you might think that the identifying with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would be obvious… but when it comes to this issue of baptism, there have been some weird stuff happening in some churches.
ILLUS: A man I once talked with asked what he had to do to be part of our church. I explained that the only requirements were those of becoming a Christian: he had to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; he had to acknowledge that he was a sinner and repent of his past sins; he had to confess Jesus as his Lord and Master; and he had to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
He groaned: "Oh, not again – I’ve been baptized 4 times now!" Puzzled, I asked him why? He explained that 1st time, he’d been sprinkled as an infant. Then when he wanted to join another church, they said that his baptism was invalid and he needed to be immersed into their church. The next church refused to accept that congregation’s baptism and baptized him again into their church. And again, another church did the same. But they all explained the same thing - he was being baptized into their church, not into Christ.
I had heard of this happening before, but had never met someone who’d been through so many baptisms - all of which were intended to have him identified with "their church."
ILLUS: Paul ran into a similar problem at Corinth.
“One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
(appalled) Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were BAPTIZED INTO MY NAME.
These people in Corinth were identifying with their baptizer so that they were literally being baptized into the name of Apollos, Cephas, & Paul.
In His final parting instructions to His followers, Jesus wanted to drive home:
1. You’re not baptized into a church
2. You’re not baptized in a “someone’s name”
3. You’re not a follower of mortal teachers
4. You are to be followers of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
V. Even pagans understand this
ILLUS: I’m told that in the orient, a man or woman from a Buddhist family can attend a Christian church every week of the year, take part in church services, pray in the name of Jesus Christ… No problem.
But once that person is baptized – their family will ostracize them. They will have nothing to do with them.
WHY? Because at the time of baptism, the convert’s family realizes this person has made a decision to identify fully with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Up until that point, the family member who goes to church is still a Buddhist who is experimenting with Jesus.
ILLUS: Similarly, back in 1989 the missionary: Gene Dulin wrote:
A Romanian Christian told me of a communist government restriction on baptisms. One restraint was that proselytizing - baptizing someone from a non-church family - was forbidden.
Another law required that the names of all who were to be baptized were to be reported to the authorities several weeks before the baptism, thus allowing time for the Party to try to dissuade each person from being baptized. Baptizing children or young people was also forbidden.
(Dulin wrote): My immediate question was, "What do you do!?"
The Romanian replied: "A sinner and a Christian go into the mountains, and two Christians return!"
SERMONS IN THIS SERIES
Learning to Play the Harmonica = Matthew 28:18-28:20
Baptizing Into the Name... = Matthew 28:18-28:20
What Do We Teach? = Matthew 28:18-28:20
The Memorial Day = 1 Corinthians 11:23-11:34