Sermon: Believer’s Baptism

 

Selected Texts 20130519FBCPM

I. MY BAPTISM STORY

Iʼve been baptized three times (some of you probably wondered why I am all wet). As an infant still in the hospital, I was not expected to live long, so a priest came and baptized me. I would know nothing of this baptism until the day before my second baptism when I was finally told about it.

When I was saved, I had a limited knowledge about Christianity, much less about what the different denominations taught. I attended a Lutheran Church after I was saved. After witnessing a baptism, I felt the need to be baptized—which meant that I was sprinkled, of course.

I attended for 3 years a Lutheran Bible college. In my Junior year, I began to question Lutheran theology, and I did not return for my Senior year. Over the next two years, the baptism issue smoldered on the back burner.

Then I was typing the constitution for First Baptist Church in Bemidji, MN, and after reading carefully the statement on baptism, I did not feel that I had been baptized scripturally, and so finally, I was baptized by immersion Lake Bemidji (pronounced Burr-midji).

My story illustrates the confusion that exists in churches today concerning baptism. Which way is the right way? I believe that the confusion has led to an indifference concerning baptism. Many in the church as a whole have not been baptized. Baptism is said to be a minor doctrine, hardly worth talking about much less disagreeing about.

What are the views on baptism?

II. TWO MAJOR VIEWS ON BAPTISM

A. GRACE-IMPARTING BAPTISM:

God imparts some sort of Grace when the person is baptized, whether as an adult or an infant. People differ on what happens, at least theologically. Some say salvation begins with baptism; others that it is some sort of promise of salvation.

Practically, and I donʼt have firm numbers here, but it seems that many more people view their infant baptism in terms of a means of salvation.

B. BELIEVERʼS BAPTISM:

This view says that a person should be baptized after professing faith in Christ by immersion as a symbol of faith in Christ and identification with His death.

Those, very broadly, are the two views on baptism. You can see that it is more than just a sprinkle or dunk debate. The very idea behind baptism is different in each case. One is simply a symbol of oneʼs faith; the other has God working in a special way in the person.

III. FOUR ASPECTS OF BELIEVER’S BAPTISM

I want to focus on four aspects of Believerʼs Baptism: The Mandate, The Moment, The Method, and The Meaning of Baptism.

A. THE MANDATE OF BAPTISM

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20)

I mentioned earlier that many Christians are complacent about becoming baptized, whatever the reason(s) are. This is sad, because baptism is mandated, commanded, by our Lord Jesus Christ. These verses are known as the Great Commission, a command given by Christ to evangelize the nations. It has three parts to the command or mandate.

  1. Go…we are to go and teach the truth about Jesus (in the sense of making disciples), much emphasis in the church is rightly placed on supporting missions and witnessing.
  2. Teaching, so that believers will know how to follow Jesus. We believe that public teaching and private study of the Bible is very important.

Included with these two important commands is the command to baptize. We are very concerned with 2/3ʼs of the Great Commission, but we hear little of the mandate to baptize.

It seems clear that, since Christ included baptism in the Great Commission, He was serious about it being done. This is the Mandate of Baptism. We are to be baptized, it is the command of Christ, and his commands ought to be obeyed. So to be baptized, as I discovered personally, is a matter of obedience.

B. THE MOMENT OF BAPTISM

This is a critical point for Believerʼs Baptism. You must be a believer to be baptized. We saw this in the Great Commission (make disciples precedes baptizing them) and in every instance of baptism recorded in the book of Acts, belief preceded baptism.

For example, Acts 8:12, “Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip,” follows this pattern of belief and then baptism.

When we lived in Minnesota, a Lutheran woman approached me in the Post Office and asked me what was the difference between Lutheranʼs and Baptists. Not an easy question to answer briefly in a Post Office, so I focused on the baptism issue. I said, “In my church, baptism is a choice that the person makes; in the Lutheran church, itʼs a choice that is often made by the parents.”

Now, of course, the Lutherans and other denominations that teach that infants should be baptized have their reasons. Letʼs look at a couple.

First, they will argue that infants were indeed baptized in the book of Acts. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. (Acts 16:14–15)

Now, of course, you didnʼt see it specifically say that infants were baptized that day, but Lydiaʼs household was. The argument is that “household” must include infants, esp. considering the size of families in that culture.

But that is not necessary. It doesnʼt say her whole household, and even with large families, not every household would have infants in them, because, babies grow up.

The descriptive narrative of Acts indicates that the moment of Baptism is after one believes, so the only reason to suppose that Lydia had an infant baptized that day is that because you want it to be so.

Another argument for infant baptism, and perhaps the strongest one, is the circumcision argument. Circumcision was the Old Testament sign of the covenant with God. Baptism is the New Testament sign of a covenant with God.

In the Old Testament, the Lord commanded that every male infant should be circumcised when he was eight days old (Genesis 17:12). If Israel circumcised their baby boys at eight days old, why shouldnʼt the Christian church baptize their infants also?

Now, thereʼs a great deal we could talk about here, but to be brief, let me point you to a verse in Galatians.

29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)

Paul was arguing here that the true sons of Abraham are not the physical descendants, but the spiritual descendants; that is, the ones who had faith.

7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7)

It all makes sense if you think of it this way: circumcision was administered to the physical descendants of Abraham eight days after they were physically born. Baptism is to be administered to the spiritual descendants of Abraham (those who have faith or belief), after they are spiritually born again.

The Moment of Baptism isnʼt when you are born, itʼs after youʼve been born again. So once again, I say, baptism is something that believers in Jesus should do.

C. THE METHOD OF BAPTISM

Another major dividing point concerns the method of baptism. Are we to sprinkle or to immerse? The Greek word for baptism is baptizo, which when used in the NT means (according to the best Greek dictionary in the world, the BDAG) to dip, immerse, or wash. In Greek works outside the New Testament it also means plunge, sink, drench, or overwhelm.

A. T. Robertson, on anyone’s scale one of the greatest Greek scholars America ever produced, went so far as to say that he questioned either the honesty or the scholarship of anyone who said that baptizo meant anything other than “to dip, plunge, or immerse.”

It never means to sprinkle or to pour, as many who disagree would have to admit:

Martin Luther himself wrote,

On this account…I could wish that such as are to be baptized should be completely immersed into the water, according to the meaning of the word, and to the significance of the ordinance, not because I think it necessary, but because it would be beautiful to have a full and perfect sign of so perfect a thing; as also, without doubt, it was instituted by Christ ( Luther’s Works, 1551 edition, Vol. 2, p.76)

John Calvin wrote that “… it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive church” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter XV, Paragraph 19).

John Wall, an Episcopalian, wrote, “Immersion was in all probability the way in which our blessed Savior was baptized, and certainly the most used way of baptism” (History of Infant Baptism, Vol. 1, page 571).

In addition, the cases of baptism were performed in the New Testament in rivers. It is pointed out that the rivers in Israel are small, more like a creek than a river, so immersion would have been impossible. But turn to Acts 8:38–39.

38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:38–39)

“went down” and “came up.” You might argue, “they both did that, were they both immersed” But if they were just sprinkling or pouring, why get in at all? Why not stand on the shore and do it? Why not use a water jug?

Others, starting with the opposite stance, have come to the same conclusion Iʼve reached in my spiritual life. Adoniram Judson was a missionary to Burma in the early 1800ʼs. During the long journey (several months) to Burma, Judson translated the New Testament from the Greek.’

Along toward April he became interested in the Greek word [baptizo] which is usually translated as “baptism.” Adoniram had been baptized as and infant in the Congregational way, by the sprinkling of water on his head. But as he [examined] the New Testament he could find no indication that anyone mentioned there had ever been baptized by sprinkling. In every case in which it was described, baptism had been performed in a river, and the people baptized actually went down into the water. Studying the word itself, he could not find that it was ever used to mean anything but immersion (To the Golden Shore, 127).

The method of baptism in the Bible is most clearly, immersion. Have you been baptized by immersion? If you are a believer, then you should be to bring yourself in line with the teaching of the Bible.

Weʼve seen the Mandate of Baptism, the Moment of Baptism, and the Method of Baptism…and now, what is the…

D. THE MEANING OF BAPTISM

An important passage in establishing the meaning of baptism is in Romans 6. Here Paul speaks of a spiritual baptism, but this is what water baptism symbolizes. God often teaches His people with symbolism—baptism is one of His finest visual teachings.

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3–4)

In this passage our baptism is identified with Jesusʼ death, burial and resurrection: We were baptized with him into his death. We were buried with him by baptism…burial sets the seal on death; you are really dead if youʼve been buried. Thatʼs why immersion is the best method, because it symbolizes burial. Link that thought with Romans 6:6.

6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)

When we are baptized, we go down into the water so as to say, “My old life is gone…itʼs buried with Christ.”

But we donʼt stay under the water, just as Christ did not stay in the grave. “…like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life…“

When you trust in Jesus, your old self is crucified with Christ, and you are given a new self. From then on, you can live life differently. You wonʼt live your new life perfectly, but little by little you will appropriate that new life into your daily living.

But even at the beginning of your new life, people will notice something different about you. People who have become Christians have stopped smoking or drinking or swearing on the spot. Others have become more interested in the Bible, church, or witnessing to others. Thatʼs the new life manifesting itself.

When you come up out of the water of baptism, you are saying, “I have a new life because Jesus rose from the dead.”

Baptism symbolizes our union as Christians with Christʼs death, burial and resurrection. This union with Christʼs death, burial, and resurrection best represented by immersion, as Christ went down to the grave and rose up, so we also go down into the water and come up.

IV. SUMMARY

The Mandate of Baptism: Jesus and the Apostles both commanded that baptism be done and that the Moment of Baptism be as soon as possible after a person became a believer. We see in the New Testament that the Method of Baptism was immersion (why even go to a river otherwise) and because it best represents the Meaning of Baptism, the Christianʼs union with Christʼs death, burial and resurrection.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s