Summary: Baptism is a step of obedience, a public declaration and a personal commitment.
WHAT IS BAPTISM
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 have not!" 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 have not." 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 wiped his eyes and said to the preacher "No… but are you sure this is where he fell in?"
In Acts 2:38, Peter said to the crowds, "Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
In the New Testament we see many examples of the importance of Baptism: In Acts 8:38 the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized by Philip. In Acts 9:18 Saul was baptized by Ananias. In Acts 10:48 Cornelius and his family was baptized by Peter. But what is Baptism?
1. A STEP OF OBEDIENCE –
In being baptized we are following the example of Jesus who Himself was baptized as an example for us in order to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matt 3:13). We are also following His command:
Matt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
In baptism faith and obedience come together. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, but faith is different than just belief. True faith is not simply believing something but, as James points out, it is acting and moving forward based upon that belief.
1 John 2:3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands… 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did
In the Mark account of the Great Commission, Jesus said:
Mark 16:15 Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned
Jesus is not saying here that baptism is essential for salvation. He is saying that belief must be more than simply intellectual agreement. True faith is belief plus action.
How many people remember where they were and what they were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001? There are events that happen in our lives that become marking points in our memory. When husbands and wives struggle in their marriage – their wedding and their vows become, or should become, an anchor point for them – a reminder that they have made a commitment and they can work it through. Their wedding is a marking point in their life.
When pastors feel like throwing in the towel because of discouragement or disagreement, the marking point of their calling and ordination reminds them that it was not man who called them to the ministry but God himself – and until God calls them out of the ministry they need to keep at it. It’s not that something “magical” happens at a wedding or ordination, but they do serve as significant marking points in one’s life because they sort of establishes who a person is. This morning, I want to suggest that baptism is one of those marking points in a persons life. It is not a “turning point” (baptism does not save you) but it is a significant milestone.
Not to be confused with the Greek word BAPTO, the clearest example that shows the meaning of BAPTIZO is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ’dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ’baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!