Summary: The order is always belief, followed by baptism. A sermon that pulls together verses on baptism so that beleivers will take the plunge and obey the Lord.
Taking the Plunge 2.0
Rev. Brian Bill
Note: This manuscript provides a more in-depth treatment of baptism than previous sermons called, “Proclaiming God’s Purposes in Baptism,” and “Taking the Plunge.” I’m grateful to Ray Pritchard, John MacArthur and John Piper for their insights on this topic.
The story is told of a pastor who had just starting serving a new congregation. For eight Sundays in a row he preached about baptism. Finally, the chairman of the elders approached him and said, “Preacher, we get the point about baptism and so I’d like to pick your text for next Sunday’s sermon. Please preach on Genesis 1:1.” The elder thought that there was no way the pastor could preach on baptism from the very first verse in the Bible. The next Sunday, the pastor got up in the pulpit and read Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He then added, “The earth is two-thirds water. Today’s subject is water baptism.”
Don’t worry. I don’t have a preoccupation with baptism. In fact, this is only the second full message I’ve ever preached on the topic. I say that as a confession because baptism is a vital command that must be obeyed by every vibrant Christian. My sermon today is an updated revision of a message I preached back in 2003 called, “Proclaiming God’s Purposes in Baptism.”
Of all the issues that divide Christians, none is more hotly debated than baptism. For centuries, godly men and women have come down on different sides of this question. Entire denominations have sprung up as a result of disagreements over the mode, meaning, and purpose of baptism. I came across a book title some time ago that sums up what is far too often the case: “Baptism: The Water That Divides.”
The widespread response to such controversy and confusion has been predictable: many believers refuse to enter the discussion. Clearly, the Bible does speak about baptism and those of us who believe the Bible must search the Scriptures until we find satisfactory answers. There is no virtue in ambiguity when the Bible speaks with clarity. By the way, now that we have our own baptistery here at PBC, we’re going to hear more about the beauty of baptism and we’re all going to witness more and more people taking the plunge for Jesus.
John MacArthur observes: “We have a largely unbaptized church which includes some of you…it’s amazing how many people who proclaim Christ and confess Christ have never been baptized…there’s been a sort of indifference to this very, very important matter…May I be so bold as to suggest that a failure to be obedient in the matter of baptism…is at the root of some of the immense problems in people’s lives and in the church in general because it allows the church to fill up with people who are unfaithful to the simplest commands of the Lord and of His Word and that’s serious.”
I joyfully affirm our doctrinal statement under Article VI (Ordinances): “We believe that Christ instituted two ordinances for believers to observe until He returns: Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” Under Section I we read: “Those professing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior shall be encouraged to give testimony of their faith and commitment through baptism by immersion…”
Jesus has given two ordinances to the church – baptism and communion. We’re baptizing today and taking communion next Sunday. That reminds me of the story of the young pastor who was fresh out of seminary and was conducting his first baptism service. In his nervousness, he got his Scriptures confused concerning the two ordinances. This is what he said while he was in the baptistery: “I now baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” As he lowered the new convert into the water, he added, “And drink ye all of it.”
One of the best ways to study a biblical theme is by simply doing a Scriptural survey. While my preaching preference is to study a book of the Bible verse-by-verse, or to focus on one primary passage, there is great merit in pulling together the various verses that have to do with a topic and then drawing some conclusions from them. If you have your Bibles with you, we’re going to “let our fingers do the walking” this morning.
Baptism in the Gospels
Let’s begin by looking at Mark 1:4: “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Ceremonial purification and washing with water was common among the Jews. Drop down to verses 7-8: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We see here that John the Baptist was calling people to repentance from the way they had been living. God used John to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus, who would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit when they put their faith and trust in Him for salvation.