Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 7, 2015
Today we are stepping away from the book of Philippians to talk about the ordinance of Baptism. This will be the 3rd year that I have intentionally preached on this specific topic. Today we will cover a lot of ground, so if after this sermon, you still have questions that go deeper than what we talk about today, then by all means come and find me and we will tackle each question you have.
Now before we get started, I also want to encourage a majority of you in the room who have been baptized as a believer, and who have heard me preach on this subject, to not zone out. You as much as anyone need to hear this message. And here is why: 1) As humans, we have a tendency to forget. Peter says in 1 Peter 1 that his duty is to stir them up by way of reminder. This is what I am doing today, I am attempting to stir you up in reminding you what your baptism symbolizes. 2) Your baptism is a weapon against the attacks of Satan and the weakness of your flesh. It is not something you do and forget. It is something that we must pull out and sharpen. Today my intent is to sharpen it and ready it for battle. 3) You, as a Christian, are to be prepared to give answers for your faith and Baptism is one way that you could give an answer. So in summary, do not lean back and zone out, but lean in and equip yourself.
Second, I do not want to hide the ball from those of you who have not been baptized as a believer. By that I mean those who have never been baptized or that were baptized as babies. With this sermon, I am intentionally trying to persuade you with Scripture that true Baptism is one that is done after someone places their faith in Christ. If you were sprinkled as a Baby you are not Biblically baptized.
Lastly, I want everyone to know where I come from in regards to Baptism. I was not raised in a Baptist Church. I have, in fact, never attended a Baptist Church that I am aware of. I was raised in a Quaker church. Quaker’s teach no physical baptism, but only spiritual baptism. Therefore, I was not baptized until June of 2012. Why is this important? Because the reason I decided to be baptized is because I could not escape the Word of God. Even though I was saved years before my baptism, I was being disobedient to what the Bible plainly teaches, but shrugging it off. I don't want to shrug off God's Word, nor do I want you to.
What is baptism?
Let us begin with the question, what is baptism? To begin, we need to recognize that the practice of baptism is Biblical. Baptism is not an ordinance of man; it is an ordinance of God. This is important because if baptism is of God, then we must recognize that He is the one who thought of it, purposed it, designed it, implemented, and has authority over it. Therefore, it is not for us to twist, distort, diminish, or ignore. We as Christians should embrace it, understand it, submit to it, implement it, and teach it, for it is God’s ordinance given to his Children, His sheep, His Body, His Church.
The word for baptism in Greek is “baptizó". Baptizo means to dip, submerge, or immerse. Baptizo does not mean sprinkle. Therefore the Word that God specifically chose to describe this ritual, or ordinance, was a word that brings to mind immersion into the water. In John 3:23 you can get a sense of this.
The Significance of Baptism
Regarding the significance of baptism, as we skim the New Testament, we see the thread of baptism weaved throughout. We first see baptism with John the Baptist, the man chosen by God to make straight the path of Christ. As I already mentioned, we next see Jesus himself being baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Then we see Jesus and his disciples in John 4 credited with baptizing more people than even John the Baptist. Then in Matthew 28:19 we see Jesus concluding his earthly ministry with these commanding words “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Next we see the books of Acts basically opening with a mass baptism where 3,000 people are cut to the heart and Peter says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”
From there we see the Church being unleashed into the world and proclaiming the Gospel to the lost and upon belief the next thing that was done was baptism. Time and time again, the pattern is the same, preach the Gospel, believe, baptism. We see it when the Gospel is preached in Samaria and to the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, the conversion of Paul is Acts 9, the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10, the conversion of Lydia and the Jailer in Acts 16, the conversion of Corinthians in Acts 18, the conversion of Apollos in Acts 19. To say that baptism played a minor role in the early church would be an outright lie, for whenever a person placed their faith in Jesus Christ, baptism soon followed.
And this is what was regularly taught in the Church. Baptism was not sidelined, it was encouraged and taught about. In fact, it was assumed, that if you were in the Church you were baptized, and we see this in the teachings on baptism explicitly in Romans 6, Galatians 3, Colossians 2, 1 Corinthians 1, and 1 Peter3, and implicitly in a variety of other passages.
Why have I spent so much time addressing this? Because in our Churches I worry that we are too casual about Baptism. Baptism is an ordinance of God that He repeatedly revealed to us in His inspired Word. We cannot be casual about baptism, for God is not casual about baptism. So with that, let us talk about what is baptism and who is baptism for.
What is Baptism?
The first thing we must understand is that Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Over, and over and over again we are told in God’s word that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ...period.
This is the entire point of the Old Testament, to show us that liturgy, and rituals, and traditions have no power to save. It is only Christ who saves. Any Church who teaches that baptism saves, is no church of Christ. God did not give us baptism to save us; he gave us Christ to save us, and it is baptism that points to union with Christ.
Therefore, what is baptism? It is a symbol that points to a miracle that takes place at the moment you place your faith in Christ. Turn with me to Romans 6.
We see a union with Christ. Upon believing in Jesus we submerse ourselves into him. We are joined with him. We are in Christ. This is why we see the two words “in Christ” all over the Bible. So what does that mean? It means that upon, faith in Christ we are joined to Christ in two ways, in his death and in his resurrection.
First, let us talk about being joined in his death. When Jesus died, what was happening? Jesus was making a payment for our sin. He was dieing in your place. God was pouring out his anger towards humanities rebellion against Him, the Holy God. When we place our faith in Christ we are turning from self, and to Christ. We are laying down our lives and so as to have Jesus. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 16
Next, let us talk about being joined into Christ's resurrection. On the third day, after Jesus died, but he did not stay dead. He rose from the grave. He in this moment is alive. No one on the planet has done this except Jesus Christ. He alone has conquered death.
This story is a shadow of our greater reality, for God's wrath is real. The rain drops will fall, and one day it will come upon you like a thief in the night and if you do not take refuge in Jesus Christ then you better learn how to swim, not just for 40 days and 40 nights, but for all eternity, and not in water, but in a lake of fire. By placing our faith in Christ, he brings us through God's wrath, and we find rest, not upon Mount Arart, but in the presence of our loving Father.
This is what Baptism symbolizes, we are not left under the water to die in our sins, we are lifted through the water where we breath again. We are brought through the water and we walk in newness of life. Our funeral turns into a birthday celebration. Once again, the symolism is completely lost if you merely sprinkle.
Who is Baptism for?
Baptism is for adults who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and placed their faith in his destruction of death on the cross. If you were baptized as an infant, and you have as an adult placed your faith in Jesus Christ, then I encourage you to be baptized according to scripture, not according to the traditions of your parents. For you need to be reminded who you are in Christ. This is why God implemented this ordinance, he wants you to remember You have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. And the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you (Galatians 2:20).