Summary: A sermon suitable for May and graduation time that likens baptism to a spiritual graduation.
Text: 2 Timothy 4:6-8
This morning I want us to return to the basics which is really our theme this year. One of the basics is what we must do to be saved. We’ve had sermons on faith and repentance and confession in 2014 – all things that the New Testament says are necessary for salvation. In case you missed those lessons, let me just mention a couple of scriptures for each. I suppose we can all quote John 3:16 which demands that we believe in the Son of God. Another would be Hebrews 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Not only must we have faith, but we must also repent of our past sins. Notice Luke 13:3 and 5 both contain the same words of Jesus: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” And, 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Finally, we had a lesson on confession on the last Sunday of April. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 10:32 that we must confess Jesus as our Lord if we want Him to confess us before His Father in heaven. Of course, Romans 10:10 removes any doubt about the necessity of confession: For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. All three of these are essential to our salvation but there’s more. However, first I want to mention how graduation is such a significant step in our academic lives. About this time of year, there is a graduation for King’s Kids and Sonshine School. To tell you the truth, we have graduations for almost everything. I must confess I didn’t graduate from Kindergarten because they didn’t have it when I started school. Like Jethro, I gradiated 6th grade. And I think I graduated from the 8th grade and then high school. I also graduated from junior college, the university and then again with a masters’ degree as well as several military schools. All of these just coincided with the attainment of a higher level of education or training. But, in our reading this morning, the apostle Paul is giving his valedictory address. Valedictory simply means a farewell. At graduation, the highest ranking student in academics is named the valedictorian and gives the farewell address. The apostle Paul would certainly not claim to be the best Christian who ever lived but he knew he was about to graduate into eternity. Sitting in a Roman prison most likely awaiting his execution by Nero, Paul wrote his farewell: For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. Paul was not looking for a cap and gown to wear to receive a diploma. He was just waiting for a crown. Death transports us to our final spiritual graduation – Hebrews 9:27 – And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. But along the way of our spiritual lives, I believe we graduate several times. Isn’t that what 2 Peter 1:5-11 teaches as we add the Christian graces? But this morning I want to address a specific level of our spiritual growth that is critical to our salvation. So I hope you’ll open your Bibles as we study together for just a few minutes on one graduation we don’t want to miss in our spiritual lives.
Earlier we talked about the necessity of faith, repentance and confession for our salvation. Now I’d like for us to look at baptism as a spiritual graduation – perhaps the first of several graduations along the way. I stated that this might be the first spiritual graduation because we don’t have to know a lot to graduate. The first graduates on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 only heard one sermon. In Acts 2:38 we hear the apostle Peter tell the audience to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. And, notice verses 40-41 of the same chapter: And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Folks, becoming a New Testament Christian is not supposed to be difficult. The Ethiopian eunuch heard one lesson as Philip preached Jesus to him. As a result he requested baptism in water according to Acts 8:36. Cornelius heard one sermon in Acts 10 and Peter commanded him to be baptized in water. In Acts 16, the apostle Paul spent part of a Sabbath day talking to Lydia and she was baptized. In the same chapter, we read how Paul spoke the word of the Lord to the Philippian jailer and his family and they were immediately baptized. My friends, none of these Biblical examples heard any more than a half-day’s worth of lessons before they made a decision to be baptized – and then they were baptized immediately. Like pre-school graduates, you don’t have to know a lot to be baptized. How many sermons have you heard? As I said before, baptism is perhaps the first of several spiritual graduations which brings us to our second point this morning: we still have a lot to learn. I know you high school graduates think you know a lot but you really just have a good foundation to learn more in life – whether in college, a technical school or entering the work force. Life should be a continuous learning process. Jesus makes this very clear for new disciples in the great commission – Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Notice that baptism comes first – then learning to observe all things Jesus commanded His disciples. Several passages point to our need to study God’s word and grow beginning with the text on this year’s theme slide – 2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. We must be good students of the Bible to rightly divide it. We should always be eager to learn from God’s word as expressed in 1 Peter 2:2 – as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. We can’t gain knowledge except by studying, hearing or experiencing. We must never stop growing in the faith. Listen to 2 Peter 3:18 –