Summary: The proper attitude toward baptism.
Rev. David Holwick
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey
November 10, 2002
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed for me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this. One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas” [that is, Peter]; still another, “I follow Christ.” 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 for Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel -- not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
(1 Corinthians 1:11-17, NIV)
Listen ... do you hear that gurgling sound? That gurgling means we are a compassionate Baptist church. It’s not really for our church, it’s for the Congregationalists. They built a beautiful new church in Chester but they neglected one thing, a baptistery. And the reason is that Congregationalists baptize babies. It turns out that Kevin Fiedler, their pastor, went to my seminary and so he knows that Baptists are right. And so they decided to have a believer’s baptism by immersion in our church. That gurgling sound is the heater which is put in there so when they step in it’s not 32 degrees Fahrenheit [i.e., freezing]. We are a loving Baptist church.
Baptism is something that many people will associate with us, for an obvious reason -- that’s where we derived our name. We are Baptist. There’s a lot of humor attached with baptism, perhaps because it’s a rather dramatic event and a lot of things can go wrong with it. But it is distinctive for us as it was distinctive for Jesus Christ himself. As many of you know, he had a cousin 2,000 years ago. His cousin’s name was John, better known as John the Baptist, and John started something unique, or at least partially unique.
The Jews at that period did have a baptism service of sorts. When a “dirty” pagan wanted to become a Jew they had to wash off all that dirty crud from their former life, so they were baptized. But John came along and he said, “You know what? In God’s eyes, every single one of you is dirty. I don’t care if you’ve been a Jew all your life. You need to be washed.” So he began something that Jesus continued, that baptism is for everyone who says they believe. You can’t just be born (in a human way) into God’s family. You have to make a decision about it. And when you make that decision, you show it by being identified with him through that ceremony.
Baptism has been done to a lot of people down through the years. Is baptism something you should consider? It can certainly be a divisive issue. For many Christians, it’s required for membership in the church and many other functions.
This week I took my bride on a date night, and we went to see “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I can tell some of you have seen it as well. There is one part of this movie that really got my interest. A young American man wants to marry this good Greek girl, and all good Greek girls go to the Greek Orthodox Church and want to get married there. The premise of the whole movie is they must get married or her life will be an empty loveless tragedy.
Well, she finds her handsome hunk but he is a Plain Jane Protestant, not even an active Protestant, and her family is heartbroken. He can’t be married in their church because he isn’t a member of their church. So, he submits to their baptism. They have a little kiddie pool that they put in this beautiful sanctuary, and he kneels in it, and he is wearing what looks like swimming trunks, and they pour water on him and it appears they do a three-fold baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And it’s only the family watching this, and one of them turns to the other and says, “Can you believe the garbage he’s putting up with?” It’s obvious he’s only getting baptized for one reason. He loves this girl. He’s not professing any faith in anything. It’s like, if she wants it, I’ll do it, so she can have her big fat Greek wedding. Many people think that we kind of have that attitude. You know, you’ve got to do it our way or it’s the highway. You want one of our girls? Well, you’ve got to get dunked.