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).
Baptism, the Visible Word
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 24, 2014
Today we are stepping away from our journey through the Sermon on the Mount to talk about something that I believe is fundamental to your sanctification, to your becoming like Jesus in your life, and that is baptism. Next Sunday, immediately following Church, all of you are invited and encouraged to re-congregate at Central Park to celebrate the work of Jesus Christ through at least two of our members. My hope for today is that this sermon will spur more of you to consider your need to be baptized, not as a baby, but as a born again Christian.
Now with this said, there is not enough time for me to speak exhaustively about all the theology as it relates to baptism in one sermon. Therefore, I ask for your grace if he do not hear me saying something that you wish would be said. The hardest part of preaching is not coming up with 40 minutes of material; it is limiting it to only 40 minutes, which as you know I fail to do from time to time.
Our text for today is Romans 6:1-14. As always, let us read our text and pray that God’s Word would shine on our hearts are reveal to us His truth.
Having said this, if baptism is not necessary for justification before God, why did Jesus himself implement it, and not only implement it, but command it? If you recall, baptism is a part of the great commission, which are the last marching orders of Jesus.
What is Baptism?
To keep it simple, baptism is a symbol. What is a symbol? It is something that represents or stands for something else. A symbol is not the real thing, but it reminds you of the real thing.
When you think about it, the Bible is full of symbols. The rainbow is a symbol of the covenant between God and man regarding not flooding the earth. Circumcision is a symbol of God’s covenant with ethnic Israel. The ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s covenant presence with ethnic Israel. Communion is the symbol of the new covenant of the blood and body of Jesus.
Our God frequently speaks to us by using symbols, and this is how I want you to think about baptism. I want you to think about it as God speaking. It is his ceremony, and he wants his ceremony to tell you and tell the world something. This is why I have titled my message today Baptism, the Visible Word. For those who are taking our systematic theology class on Sunday mornings you will recognize that I borrowed that word from Dr. John Frame. But this is how I want us at Cornerstone to understand baptism, it is God's visible Word to the World and to us.
So with that said, what is God saying through baptism? What does this visible word proclaim? Simply put, it proclaims the inward reality of a believer’s union with Jesus Christ, and this union begins with your death.
Baptized into Death
Look at Romans 6:3-14 and see the times that death is mentioned.
What is the old self? Look again at verse 6. The best description of the old self is a slave to sin. Before my union with Christ, the best and most comprehensive way to describe who I was, was to say that Phil Parsons was a slave to sin. Sin had complete and utter authority in my life. I was chained to it. Nothing I did, glorified God. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-2 which is a great description of the old self.
Raised to Life
The second part that God is proclaiming through Baptism is the newness of life.
And all of this happens at the moment of conversion. At that moment that you hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and you place your entire life in the hands of the son of God there is a cataclysmic change in your life. One minute you are dead, and the next minute you are alive. The old self is gone and a new life has begun, and this is what baptism is a symbol of. This is what baptism is pointing to. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality of a born again, believer of Jesus Christ.
However, the questions remains, why did Jesus implement a ceremony that points to this internal reality. Why does he command that each and everyone who becomes a disciple to find water, be dunked under and be lifted out? As I said earlier, baptism is a symbol of our justification but is for the purpose of sanctification.
Having said that these people were not perfect. They were redeemed yes, but they still struggled with their flesh, there sin. These people were justified before the Lord, but they were not perfect. They struggled with living a holy life to the Lord. God had begun a good work in them, but He had not completed it. This struggle with sin is true for every Christians who has accepted Christ. We are eternally saved, but we are not instantly perfect. Listen to what Jesus prays for the night of his arrest I regards to his disciples.
It is the visible Word of baptism that Paul is telling those is Rome to remember as they struggle with their sin. He wants them to look back and remember who they are. He wants them to remember that they are no longer of the World. They are no longer slaves to sin. Paul wants them to consider themselves dead. They must instead live their life as if sin has no dominion over us. They must walk in newness of life and present ourselves to the Lord, not to Satan.
And this is why Jesus commands that all disciples to immediately participate in this act of baptism, not because Jesus is all about rituals, but because he is all about sanctification. For some reason, we in our weakness tend to forget who we are in Jesus. We, at times, struggle to act in a way that matches our identity in Christ. Baptism helps us to remember. When we accept Jesus into our hearts it happens on the inside. Baptism brings that internal reality to the outside so that you can look back and understand that the old self is dead, so leave him dead.
And this is why all believers should participate in a believers baptism, not just an infant baptism. You are undermining the gift of God's visible word. Infant baptism carries no message for you. It is not a symbol of your conversion, it is a symbol of your parents religion. If you have given your life to Christ, allow that visible Word of God to be proclaimed so that when Satan comes knocking on your door you can look back and remember who you are in Christ.