II - Baptism
(Pastor Ian C. Kurylyk)
“Arise And Be Baptized”
Baptism is an important New Testament word about a practice of Christians since the beginning of the church. Occasionally the word is used in the Bible in other contexts such as in Spirit baptism. This has to do with the unseen work of the Holy Spirit at salvation toward those who believe in Jesus Christ. Our concern here is to understand and be obedient to God's plan for water baptism.
Baptism is an Ordinance
a. By this we mean it is an acting out of spiritual truths in a symbolic way as a kind of object lesson. It is something God wants us to do to testify of truth.
b. It is not to be thought of as a channel of grace or a means of salvation. Grace comes by faith alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8).
c. By baptism, the saved person bears witness to something already accomplished in him by God's grace. It is a picturesque, visible demonstration of the salvation that one has already received.
Baptism is about The Gospel
a. The message it conveys is about the saving work of Jesus Christ, revealed to us in the gospel. Like any object lesson, it tells a story. Baptism tells the gospel story.
b. The gospel has been summarized for us by Paul. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand ... For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1,3,4). The Gospel is the record of the saving work of Jesus Christ that He completed for us when He came to earth.
c. In baptism, one is dipped in water and brought up again as a powerful portrayal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The one being baptized is thereby testifying to his personal faith acceptance of that provision for his own salvation.
Baptism is a Public Declaration of Commitment
a. In some places of persecution or for extenuating circumstances the public aspect may have to be somewhat restricted.
b. The principle of commitment is in the very nature of baptism as an ordinance. We learn that in ancient times baptism was used in other contexts besides church use, and that it always portrayed a deep commitment to a particular way that was being embraced. It was practiced when a man received a message from a teacher or leader and wanted to show himself a disciple, a follower.
c. Baptism is a way of saying, “The old me is dead and now I am living a new life in this new way”. Baptism is especially appropriate in its Christian use since only through Christ can there truly be a fundamental change from the old life to a new one.
d. The command to baptize is closely tied to the command to preach salvation in Christ. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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). Salvation is a call not only to forgiveness of sins, but also to a new life to be lived for God. A call to Christ without the call to be baptized minimizes the significance of discipleship as part of Christianity.
Baptism Is for Those Who Are Saved
a. Since it is a testimony of personal faith in the Lord's saving work and shows a commitment to the Lord, it is only meaningful for born-again believers.
b. Sincerity and reality in one's spiritual experience is the standard given for the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-40. “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest” (Acts 8:36-37a).
c. This means that many popular practices related to baptism, such as the baptism of babies, are unbiblical and not to be accepted in the place of believers' baptism.
d. The candidate for baptism must be able to meet the requirement of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. In the New Testament all who were baptized were old enough to understand and have a personal faith relationship to the Lord.
Baptism is Required for All Believers
a. Though baptism is not the means to receiving eternal life, yet because it is commanded by the Lord neither is it optional. It is God's will for every true Christian.
b. In fact, we may say it is the first major step of obedience in the new life of following the Lord after being saved. We see this in the example of the apostle himself. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The sense here is the need to come clean publicly. As Saul of Tarsus he had hated believers and Christianity, persecuting them and opposing the gospel. Now, as a new believer, he was to identify himself with Jesus Christ by this testimony ordained by God. Though his heart was already clean by faith, he was to come clean in his public testimony.
c. The apostles were commanded originally to include baptism with their work of making disciples by preaching in His name. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19).
d. The first church, under the leadership of the apostles, established the order for us to follow. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
e. Many examples can be seen in the record of the early church in Acts. Read Acts 9:18, Acts 8:35-36, and Acts16:30-34. All that receive God's free gift of salvation are required by God to take part in this program of bearing testimony before others.
Baptism Is By Immersion
One must be immersed to signify death, burial, and resurrection. The very word baptize is a form of the Greek word meaning dip. Those who change it to sprinkling are changing the act God prescribes and are therefore tampering with the symbolism. If a person becomes saved who was incorrectly baptized in the past he should submit himself to the Biblical pattern. Only God has the right to establish the symbols of His ordinances and worship order.
Baptism Is Prerequisite to Church Membership
a. We see the order clearly in Acts 2. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41-42).
b. In the early church they recognized the importance of the order of God's ordinances. Before they would accept a person into a church body, that person had to believe AND testify to it by water baptism.