Summary: A study on the New Testament Church.
Any time when we begin to approach the subject of baptism we need to issue a disclaimer: “Baptism does not stand alone as the means to salvation.” Many people over the years have distorted the relationship between baptism and grace. We must always keep in mind what baptism is not: a work by which one earns his salvation, a meaningless sign that can be dispensed with nor is it strictly related to church membership and meaningless to one being in Christ. As we work through this study we will see many purposes for baptism; however we can safely say it is at least a twofold sign. First it is a sign of what God is doing for us. As we are immersed in the water so God immerses or surrounds us with His Holy Spirit. Secondly it is a sign of what we are doing. Basically, in baptism we are doing nothing except yielding ourselves to the water and the one who is doing the baptizing. There is no work involved in baptism at all. The candidate is a passive recipient just as they are the recipient of the grace of God that saves them. Our understanding of baptism can be greatly enhanced by study the many Scriptures on the subject. With their help we can see the complex meaning of this simple act. Paul in Ephesians 4:5 reminds us that there is “one baptism”. Today we are going to take an in-depth look at the subject of baptism and the two gifts from God that follow: the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I. A view of Baptism from Scripture and history.
A. Early Christians were baptized into Jesus Christ.
1. The fact that is beyond date was the Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples throughout the world and the discipleship process involved baptism and teaching.
2. Baptism was obviously the turning point in the new believer’s life.
3. Before baptism they were seen as belonging to the world; after baptism to Christ.
4. Pat Summerall, the well known sports announcer, overcame alcoholism and became a follower of Christ in his late sixties. He said this about water baptism: "I went down in the water, and when I came up it was like a 40-pound weight had been lifted from me. I have a happier life, a healthy life, and a more positive feeling about life than ever before."
B. Immersion has been assumed to be the correct mode of baptism since it was the only form of baptism in the beginning.
1. The verb baptizo means in pre-Christian as well as Christian Greek means to dip, plunge, drench, drown or overwhelm. Never does it mean to pour or sprinkle.
2. Paul used the verb baptizo in its usual sense in referring to Moses being immersed in the cloud and sea. (1 Corinthians 10:2)
3. A person does not need to be a Biblical scholar to understand what is being demonstrated when a believer is immersed. (Romans 6:3-6)
4. No substitute can communicate as much about what’s happening to a person as does immersion.
5. Immersion remained the mode of baptism for more than 1200 years even in the Roman Catholic Church.
6. In 1311 the council of Ravenna made sprinkling legal in the Roman church but left the choice between immersion and sprinkling to the one performing the baptism.