Today we are stepping away from the Gospel of John to talk about baptism. We have done this every year at Cornerstone, and God willing we will continue to do it, for I believe that Baptism is crucial to our walk with the Lord as a Church. And this view is not routed in tradition, or my personal opinion, it is rooted in the perfect Word of God.
My message today is entitled the Weight of Water. The reason that I have chosen this title is that I do not believe that Christians rightly understand the fundamental significance of Baptism. Over the years I fear that Baptism has become hollow, mechanical, casual, optional, and ultimately meaningless to many congregations and many self-proclaimed Christians.
This weak appreciation of Baptism stands in stark contrast to what we see in the Bible. And when we come to the Bible and we see inconsistencies in our life or our Church, it is not the Bible that must change, but our hearts. And that is my goal today, as it is every Sunday, to call us to further submit to God and His inspired Word as is revealed in the Scriptures.
Now before we get into our text for today, let me tell those who are new or who are visiting, at Cornerstone we believe in Believer's Baptism. That means we believe that baptism is reserved for only those who have faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We reject imphant baptism. Why? Because of the Bible. For you who believe in infant baptism, my guess is that you believe it because you were told to believe it by someone, and do you did. My challenge to you is to see for yourself by opening up the Word of God. There is absolutely no teaching and no examples of babies being baptized , and in fact the opposite is true for believer's baptism. It is taught and it is displayed. If you want to here a quick but good sermon on this topic, go to our facebook page and listen to the sermon by John MacArthur regarding this topic. Today, I am not going to address this topic head on, but merely touch on it briefly.
The way in which we will do this today, is by breaking down the significance of Baptism in three sections: The Weight of God, the Weight of Discipleship, and the Weight of Reminder. In looking at these three categories, we will look at three points in redemptive history: 1) The laying of the foundation of the Church with John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus, 2) the Commissioning of the Apostles and Day 1 of the Spirit filled Church, and 3) The church in operation three decades after the Cornerstone of Christ was laid.
The Weight of God
So let us begin by looking at the Weight that God gives to Baptism. Turn with me to Matthew 3:11-17. This is the story of the Baptism of God, and it raises a lot of interesting questions.
Mathew 3:1-17 – “ In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
As many of you know, John the Baptist was chosen by God to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. He did this is two ways: preaching and baptizing. That was it. Preaching and baptizing. He didn’t have a praise team, PowerPoint, a smoke machine, a fancy suit, or comfy chairs. He merely had the commission of God and the word of God. This in and of itself is weighty. John's baptism was one of the hinges on the gate that opened for Jesus Christ.
As we see in Matthew 3:11, the baptism of John was one of repentance. What does that mean? The Greek word behind repentance is metanoia (me-tä'-noi-ä), which means “a change of mind.” In the context of the Bible, repentance means a change of mind relating to ones view of sin. Therefore, when John was providing a baptism of repentance, he was inviting people to change their minds in regards to their relationship with sin. Obviously, John was calling them to stop sinning and start living in accordance to God’s will.
Before we get into what I really want to focus on, I want to make just a few brief observations regarding eh baptism of John The Baptism of John is not the same as the baptism into Christ. John's baptism is a foreshadow of the baptism of the Church that we know of today. John’s baptism was implemented by God to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. We exist on the other side of the cross, therefore Baptism does not prepare for his coming but testifies to his arrival. Having said that, as a foreshadow or forerunner of the Baptism of Christ, we can make some quick observations.
First of all, no one debates, that I am aware of, that the Baptism of John was for adults only. And this makes sense, for the Baptism of John, as we said, was of repentance. That means that it symbolized a commitment to change your mind as it relates to sin. Babies cannot change their minds. A baptism of repentance is not feasible for a baby who has not developed intellectually to the point that their mind can be changed and a head and heart change can be declared publicly. If John was to allow a baby to be baptized it would ruin the entire picture of what God wanted to portray in the preparation of the coming of Christ.
Second, in Mathew 3, we can see the God desired mode of baptism. First in verse 6 we see John baptizing in the River Jordan. Why? Because the River Jordan was the location that the water was deep enough to immerse people in the water. Likewise, verse 16, “16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water.” Jesus went up from the water. John did not sprinkle, he dunked.
In fact, that is what the word baptism means. The Greek word is baptizo which literally means, to dip, immerse, submerge. Baptism does not mean to sprinkle. There is a Greek word for sprinkle, rhantizo. This is not the word used to describe what John was doing. John was not John the sprinkler, he was John the Submerger. I have never thought about it before, but I heard John MacArthur say that he wishes that the translators would have translated the Greek word baptizo, verses transliterate the word. To transliterate means that you don’t translate the word, but you adopt the word and make it English. If people would have translated the word baptizo to its English equivalence, to submerge, or immerse, we wouldn’t have the Church split that we do over the mode of Baptism. But we do, and so I preach.
The area, I want to focus on, however, is not the age or the mode of baptism, but it the baptism of Jesus. What is interesting is what John states in verse 11, “he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” Obviously, John is speaking about Jesus. Jesus is mighty and worthy. Then in verse 13 we see Jesus come to John. Why? To be baptized by him. That is the only reason that Jesus shows up and engages with John. Jesus did not come listen to John preach, or to encourage him, or to give him some pointers about the Kingdom of God. No, the only reason we see Jesus and John on the stage at the same time is for the Baptism of Jesus.
But what is the problem? Verse 14, “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” In the mind of John, Jesus' baptism made no sense. Remember, John’s baptism was for repentance. Look at verse 7 when John rebukes the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?.” This baptism of repentance was about sin. It was about the wrath of God. What sin did Jesus have to repent from? What wrath was Jesus fleeing from? None. We know that Jesus was without sin. He was the spotless Lamb of God. No blemish. Yet here Jesus was, asking John to baptize him. Why?
Look at verse 15, “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Why did Jesus have to be baptized? It was to fulfill all righteousness. What does that mean? Quite simple, it means that the Baptism of Jesus was God’s will, and God’s will had to be obeyed. This is what righteousness means, to do what is right in God's eyes. And the baptism of Jesus was right in God's eyes to launch the Kingdom of Heaven. Andreas Kostenberger says it this way, “While the Messiah does not share with others baptized by John the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, he voluntarily subjects himself to this rite as part of his identification with humanity and of his role as Savior of humankind.”
Let us not forget that Jesus is head of the Church, the Cornerstone of the Church. He is the first block that is laid, and by being Baptized and therefore fulfilling all righteousness he has set the standard, and expectation of those who would follow him. If Christ, who is the last person on this planet who needs to participate in the ordinance of Baptism, submits and does so, shouldn't we follow his example and show our commitment to God's will and do the same.
So how much weight does God place on Baptism? An immense amount of weight. It was God's will for His Son, and it is God's will for you, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
The Weight of Discipleship
The next aspect I want to look at is the weight of discipleship. Turn with me to Matthew 28:18. This are the final words of Jesus before he ascends to the Father and commissions the Church with its primary responsibility. Verse 18, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inb the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When I ponder the words of Jesus, and hold them up against current Christianity, I frequently astounded by the disparity. These are the final words of Christ before he leaves the Kingdom of God in the hands of the Church. Granted those hands are providentially governed by the Sovereignty of God, but what Jesus commands is the ordained means to an ordained end, and what does he say? He says go and make disciples, baptize them, teach them. Does this define us at Cornerstone? Is this the pulse of our fellowship? Are we making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them. In fact, I wonder how many of you have thought about baptism as fundamental to the Great Commission.
Jesus commands his disciples to go make more disciples? What does that involve? Baptism and teaching obedience. But some of you are wondering, what about believing? Yes, believing is rolled up in the great commission, but Biblical believing works itself out in obedience.
Think about it. What does it mean to be a disciple? It means to follow. It is a decision to trust or believe in someone to such a great extinct that you orient your entire life around them. You are committed to their views and their lifestyle. Why? Because in your eyes they have the truth. So how might one begin the journey of discipleship? By pledging yourself to them. You proclaim to yourself and the world that you are committed to the person you will follow. This is what baptism is.
Yes, baptism is a symbol of your union with Christ, but that union is not passive. It is active. Your union with Christ is the beginning of a new way to live, a new direction, a new purpose, a new passion, a new set of priorities. This is how baptism is understood in the New Testament. It is the first step in declaring your complete and total allegiance to Jesus Christ. This is why baptism took place so close to the point of conversion.
Turn with me to Acts 2:37. In this passage we see this is the first day of the Spirit filled Church. Prior to moment, the disciples were waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. And when he did arrive, Peter preached the gospel and this is what happened. Verse 37, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
3,000 jews, who most likely were yelling for Christ's crucifixion 50 days earlier, now felt the weight of their sin and wanted to commit their lives to Jesus and follow Him. What was step one for these new disciples? “Repent and be baptized” Peter did not forget the Words of Jesus that were spoken to him ten days earlier. He knew that baptism was crucial in their first steps in following Jesus. They need to turn to Jesus and then declare to themselves and declare to the World, that they were now disciples of Jesus Christ.
Notice what Peter didn't say. He didn't say bow your heads and repeat this prayer and invite Jesus into your heart. Perhaps this is why baptism has fallen by the wayside in the last 20 years, because be a disciple is not in vogue, instead it is easy believism, or as Dietrich Bonhoffer called it, cheap Grace.
For those of you who have told me that you desire to be baptised, this is the way you need to think about it, not as some ritual, but as a pledge of loyalty to Jesus Christ. Between now and July 6th, you need to count the cost and understand that to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit means to commit yourself to obeying them, not just when it is convenient, but every moment for the rest of your eternity.
The Weight of Reminder
Finally, what about those who have already been baptized? Has this sermon fallen on deaf ears? I hope not, for if it has you have failed in understand the weight of baptism as it relates to your ongoing sanctification. Turn with me to Romans 6:1-3. So far we have looked at from the perspective of pre-Christ, Christ, pre-Church, Church, and now we examine baptism in the realm of the Church after existing for several decades. Romans 6:1-3, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Paul writes this letter to the Roman church around 57 A.D. This is almost thirty years after Baptism was first implemented by God through John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus. The issue on the table in Romans 6 is sin. The issue is not Baptism, the issue is the desire of disciples to fall back into a life of unrighteousness. How does Paul address this major issue within the already established Church? Baptism. Verse 3, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” Paul, by way of reminder puts them right back to the start of their commitment to follow Jesus Christ. He encourages them to dwell upon that moment-in-time when they pledged their allegiance to Jesus Christ outwardly and committed to obey Jesus in all that he does.
Baptism was a weapon to be used against the temptations of the flesh and the temptations of Satan. How many of you view your Baptism this way? How many of you when considering whether to watch pornography, get drunk, use the Lord's name in vain, lie to your boss, covet a better house or a better car or a better spouse think about the day you immersed yourself in the water to display your devotion to Jesus, the Son of God?
To be a Christian means to submit to Jesus. To follow Him. To lay down your life, die to self and live to the Lord. Not just on Sundays, but every day. And every time you feel Satan prowling, you should think of the weight of the water as it rushed over you and symbolized your death to self and life in Christ.
And for all of you who are able to be at the Baptism on July 6th, which I pray that all of you will be there loving, supporting, encouraging, rejoicing with your brothers and sisters, that you would feel the weight of Baptism in your life and reignite your commitment to Jesus Christ. Every Baptism that we are blessed enough to witness, should be fuel on the fire of our faith. If you have been drifting away following the course of this world, this is the time to start swimming upstream again and actually live as a disciple of the Lord, not a disciple of this World. As James says in James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Baptism is a statement that I am dead to the world and the world is dead to me.
So in conclusion, is baptism important? The answer, based once again on the Bible, is a resounding yes. Their is a weight to this ordinance that God has created and implemented in the Church that he established. Baptism, does not save us, the scriptures are clear that is only believing in Jesus that saves, but make no mistake baptism is one of the first fruits of living faith, announcing that you will serve the Lord.
So the question for some of you is, will you submit to the Lordship of Jesus and be baptized as a disciple of Jesus Christ? If that answer is no, then perhaps there are more eternal reasons that you should not be baptized, namely that you are not a true follower of Jesus Christ in your heart. I pray that no one in this room falls into this category. And for those who have been baptized, let us remember who we are, we are disciples of King Jesus.