IMPORTANCE OF BELIEVER’S BAPTISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT”
1. I am profoundly honored to once again stand before you to preach the Word of God. And so much the more on this occasion of the Christian ordinance, rightly understood to be the historic Baptist practice, of believer’s baptism by immersion in water. That, of course, is Bible baptism.
2. There are so many churches in the world today, but only Baptist churches like this one have tenaciously clung to the scriptural requirement that only believers are qualified for baptism in obedience to Christ’s command.
3. Oh, to be sure, churches the world over make a show of baptizing only those who claim to be converted. But there are very, very few pastors in this present apostasy who recognize the value to a church ministry of a truly converted membership as have Baptists over the centuries. It is a Baptist distinctive since biblical times to insist that baptismal candidates be truly born again.
4. Whatever the reason for it, when you baptize anyone and everyone like evangelicals do, without doing your dead level best to make sure that you are baptizing only converted people, you end up denigrating the ordinance of baptism, you end up diminishing its importance in the eyes of both the truly saved and the lost.
5. Why so? Because if anyone can get baptized, no matter how they live, no matter how they testify, then baptism loses much of its profound significance. Tragically, this is an increasingly serious problem in the apostasy of these last days.
6. But I am here this evening to rejoice with you on the occasion of the baptism of these candidates. I have read their wonderful testimonies and am here this evening to rejoice with you at this important milestone in the life of this church and in the lives of those who have given good evidence of genuine conversion.
7. I want to take the time given to me to declare to you afresh and anew what you already know, what the Bible has long shown to be true (but what we need to be reminded of from time to time), that the baptism of believers by the authority of the local church is important in the New Testament.
8. Why is baptism important? Why is baptism so very important? Baptism is important because God made it so. More than 100 years ago, in London, England, there was a prominent pastor named Joseph Parker, who was impatient with this ordinance of baptism. In his book on Matthew he indicated that the sooner we forgot about baptism and went on to other matters, the better for us. No wonder. All he had was baby sprinkling, which meant very little to him.
On the other hand, the other prominent pastor in the city, the well
known Baptist, Charles H. Spurgeon, made much of baptism.
As a matter of fact, so does the New Testament.
Let me remind you, from the New Testament, the importance of
1A. #1, EACH OF THE FOUR GOSPELS REPORTS THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD JESUS
Matthew 3.13-17, Mark 1.9-11, Luke 3.21-22, and John 1.33, we find four
accounts of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. If something is found once in the gospels it is significant.
If something is found twice in the gospels it is important.
If something is found three times in the gospels it is very
important. But something found four times in the gospels, especially
something that was the experience of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus
Christ, makes it a matter of profound importance.
Baptism is important.
2A. #2, EACH OF THE GOSPELS MAKES MUCH OF THE MAN WHO BAPTIZED CHRIST
the Baptist, you will remember, was prophesied in Old Testament
scriptures, was announced before his birth, was named before birth by an
angel, was Spirit-filled from his mother’s womb, was sent from God to be
an evangelist, and was divinely endorsed by the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit. The fact that
such a man is so closely identified with believer’s baptism, and with
the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, makes baptism a matter of profound
3A. #3, THE FORERUNNER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST WAS IDENTIFIED AS A “BAPTIST” BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO INSPIRED THE BIBLES YOU NOW HOLD IN YOUR HANDS
Matthew 3.1, this man named John was called “the Baptist.”
Why was John called “the Baptist?”
Because he baptized people. That
is, he immersed them in water. But
he did not just dunk everyone in sight under water.
First, he preached to them. And
those who were evangelized were then baptized by him once he was persuaded
they were truly converted. That
is why he was called “the Baptist.”
And that, my friend, is why we gladly wear the label, Baptist.
Baptism was important to John the Baptist, who recognized that it
was important to his Lord. Baptism
is also important to us.
4A. #4, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST BEGAN HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY BY REQUESTING BAPTISM
Matthew 3.13-17, the Lord Jesus Christ left Galilee and journeyed to the
Jordan River site where John the Baptist was baptizing, “to be baptized
of him.” What is most
significant is that the Lord Jesus Christ actually began
His public ministry by being baptized.
As well, I believe it to be true that real ministry, on the part of
one who is genuinely converted, begins with baptism in obedience to our
5A. #5, CHRIST’S BAPTISM WAS “TO FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS,” THUS PREFIGURING HIS DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION
the Lord Jesus Christ approached John about baptism, the Baptist was
shocked and forbad Him. He
said to the Lord Jesus, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest
thou to me?” But then the
Savior said, “Suffer it to be so
now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”
I wonder whether John understood what the Master meant by what He
said. In any event, he
complied with his Lord’s wishes and baptized Him.
In retrospect, and with the benefit of the entire body of New
Testament truth, we know that the Lord Jesus Christ’s baptism at the
hands of His cousin, John the Baptist, prefigured His death, burial and
resurrection. What an
important figure of Christ’s saving work His baptism proved to be.
6A. #6, THE HOLY SPIRIT HONORED CHRIST’S BAPTISM BY THEN COMING UPON HIM
the Old Testament, under the Mosaic Law economy, a priest would be
consecrated for his priestly office by a washing with water and then an
anointing with oil. Of
course, oil is widely recognized in the Bible as a symbol for the Holy
Spirit. Did our Lord’s
baptism and then the coming upon Him of the Holy Spirit signify the
beginning of His priestly office and duties?
Perhaps. At the very
least, His baptism is seen to be even more significant by the Holy Spirit
coming upon Him, in John 1.32-33, on the occasion of His baptism.
7A. #7, GOD THE FATHER ALSO HONORED CHRIST’S BAPTISM, BY AUDIBLY PRAISING HIM IN PUBLIC
1.11 informs us that when the Lord Jesus Christ came up out of the water,
at the time the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, there came a voice from
heaven: “Thou art my
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
How glorious that must have been.
What an attestation of Christ’s sonship to the Father.
What a way for us to see the importance of baptism.
8A. #8, BAPTISM IS CONNECTED WITH CONVERSION, BUT IT IS NOT ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION
This is something that many groups in Christendom have historically been confused about, but which Baptists have always been right about.
1B. Is baptism connected with conversion? Of course, it is. In Acts 2.38, Simon Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
2B. But being connected to conversion is not the same as being required for conversion. In Luke 23.43 we read of the salvation of the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who obviously had no opportunity to be baptized.
Was the thief on the cross saved?
The one who believed in Jesus was saved.
Was he baptized before he died?
No. Then where does
baptism fit in? In the Bible,
baptism is shown to be connected to conversion, but not necessary for
conversion. And why is it
connected to conversion? Because
baptism is a picture of salvation. More
on this in just a moment.
9A. #9, IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES A REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE OF LIFE AND BELIEF WAS REQUIRED BEFORE BAPTISM
chapters 8 and 9 in the book of Acts.
Pay particular attention to the narratives that deal with the
Ethiopian eunuch and Saul of Tarsus, later famous to us as the apostle
Paul. In those narratives you
will see first hand that before those men were baptized they gave
satisfactory evidence of the new birth.
Go to Acts chapter 16 and read of Lydia and the Philippian jailor.
In their experiences, too, evidence of genuine conversion preceded
their baptisms. That is the
Bible way to do things, and I am glad that’s the historic Baptist way of
doing things. Why do things
that way? Because baptism is
too important to do any other way, that’s why.
10A. #10, BAPTISM IS MADE A FIGURE OF CHRIST’S DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION
1B. Earlier I mentioned that Christ’s baptism prefigured His death, burial and resurrection. Just a few moments ago, I mentioned that believer’s baptism is connected to baptism as a picture of salvation, but not as necessary for salvation. Now let me explain to you why your baptism is made a figure of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
2B. The last half of First Peter chapter 3 addresses the issue of a sinner’s salvation by means of two pictures of salvation. The ark of Noah, First Peter 3.20, is a picture of salvation, in that Noah’s family experienced physical deliverance through the waters of the Flood, as a figure of sinners being saved from their sins.
But in First Peter 3.21, baptism is described by the apostle as
“The like figure.” In
other words, baptism, too, is a picture of the salvation of a sinner.
But I would say that it is a more complete picture of the
sinner’s salvation, in that it shows the convert’s identification with
Christ’s saving work of dying for sin, being buried, and then rising
from the dead. That makes it important.
11A. #11, BAPTISM IS INTEGRAL WITH THE GREAT COMMISSION
1B. You are familiar with Matthew 28.19-20: “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.” It is very clear that Christ commanded that disciples be made involving three activities: going, baptizing, and teaching to observe all things Christ has commanded.
2B. How can anyone in his right mind deny that baptism follows evangelizing the lost, and that it comes before training converts? Yet, all over the world there are those parachurch ministries which ignore baptism altogether, or those infant sprinkling groups which rearrange the sequence of events that are supposed to take place, sprinkling babies in order to baptize them before they can be converted, and typically never really evangelizing them at all.
3B. The only possible way to obey the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is to do what He said to do, in the sequence He said to do it. Churches are to make disciples (since only churches are authorized to baptize) by going, then by baptizing those come to Christ as a result of the going, then by training those come to Christ and subsequently baptized.
The process is important to the product, in the Great Commission as
in baking a cake. Imagine
someone throwing flower in a cake pan, putting it in the oven at 350
degrees for 45 minutes, and then tossing in the eggs, milk and other
ingredients. Ridiculous. But
that is just the approach taken by those who do not baptize at all or by
those who sprinkle babies. Baptism
is important, but only in its proper place.
And without baptism in its proper place, you cannot obey the Great
12A. #12, BAPTISM IS INTIMATELY CONNECTED WITH THE TRINITY
1B. You will remember my earlier comments about the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ by John, the descent upon Him by the Holy Spirit, and the audible voice of God commending Him? Folks, that was the first overt revelation of the tri-unity of the godhead found in the Bible, with the Father speaking, the Son being baptized, and the Holy Spirit descending.
2B. How important is that? There can be no gospel apart from the doctrine of the tri-unity of God, since the good news that Jesus Christ saves sinners is the good news that He saves sinners from their sins, which is to say that Jesus Christ saves sinners from the wrath of God. God the Father is angry with sinners for their sins and Jesus Christ saves sinners who come to Him from their sins. If God is not a triune Being there can be no salvation for sinners.
So, the trinity is an extremely important Bible truth, one of the
cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.
And that doctrine, though implied frequently in the Old Testament
scriptures, is first explicitly revealed at the Lord Jesus Christ’s
13A. #13, BAPTISM FOLLOWS THE NEW BIRTH
2.41, Acts 10.47-48, and Acts 16.33.
The 3000 on the day of Pentecost, the Roman centurion named
Cornelius, and the jailor in the city of Philippi.
Whether it be a large number of Jews or individual Gentiles, the
pattern shown in these passages holds true throughout the Bible; baptism
follows the new birth. Some
believe baptism should be administered before the new birth, but this
violates our Lord’s clearly set forth sequence in the Great Commission.
Some believe baptism should be administered in order to bring about
the new birth, but this contradicts the Bible doctrine of justification by
faith, apart from any works of righteousness.
No, baptism is important because it is a congregation’s obedience
to Christ’s command to baptize candidates following their new birth.
14A. #14, BAPTISM ILLUSTRATES OUR DEATH TO SIN, OUR PUBLIC RENUNCIATION OF THE SINFUL NATURE, AND OUR NEW LIFE WITH CHRIST
turn to Romans 6.3-4: “Know
ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were
baptized into his death? 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.” Among
other things, this passage illustrates what baptism accomplishes.
How powerful and potent an ordinance of the church, when observed
properly and administered to properly qualified candidates.
Those of you who will be baptized tonight are hereby showing that
you are already dead to sin, that you renounce your sinful nature, and
that you are a joyful recipient of the life which only Jesus Christ, Who
is the resurrection and the life, can give.
15A. #15, BAPTISM IS A BOND OF UNITY AMONG BELIEVERS
1B. The Corinthians were a congregation that was riddled with strife. They had no unity. Paul sought to unify them by asking them three questions: “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” The point that I seek to make at this time is that Paul used their baptism to rally them, to remind them that they were a unified body of believers. Baptism, rightly understood and properly administered is a wonderful bond of unity among believers.
In another epistle, Ephesians 4.5, in perhaps the most famous
passage in the Bible on the subject of spiritual unity, Paul reminds the
Ephesians from his Roman imprisonment that, among other important
realities, there is “one baptism.”
Thus, Paul again uses church members’ baptism to remind them that
a spiritual unity exists that they should be aware of, should act upon,
and should not forget.
1. In this room you are surrounded by a number of friends, loved ones, and perhaps family members. You have established relationships with each and every one of them. But whether you realize it or not, when you are baptized things will change.
2. This profoundly important ordinance called baptism, its importance so frequently overlooked by so many, but illustrating spiritual realities that we will only fully appreciate once we get to heaven, will created new relationships.
3. When you are baptized you will become a part of the body of Christ which is this church. When you are baptized you will become subject to the discipline and authority of this church in a way you’ve not experienced before. And as a church member you will enter into that place of service where spiritual rewards are earned and which will result in spiritual crowns given to you at the judgment seat of Christ.
4. As well, your relationships with other people will change. You will become a member of this body, and thus joined with some here in a way you’ve not known before. But you will also step apart in some way from those who are not members of this body, who are not converted, or who have not demonstrated that they are qualified for believer’s baptism.
5. Baptism is important. It is important to God. It is important to the Lord Jesus. It is important in the New Testament. It is important to this church. It is important to you. And it should be seen by everyone else here as being important.