Baptism: A Flood of ConfusionRelated Media
This study is a modified transcription from the audio.
I. Series Introduction
The Body of Christ is the name of this series. Today we will be talking about the body of Christ, and for the next four weeks we will be talking about the church. The word “church” in English comes from a Greek word, kuriakos, which means “those who belong to the Lord.” You have probably heard the Greek word kurios, which means “Lord.” Kuriakos means “those who belong to the Lord.” Kuriakos is translated into English as “church.” In your English Bible translations, when you read the word “church,” it is not the Greek word kuriakos; it is the Greek word ekklesia. It occurs one hundred fourteen times in our New Testament. It simply means “a gathering or an assembly” – the ekklesia -- and it is almost always translated as “church.”
II. Sermon Introduction
Today we kick off the series by talking about baptism. Today’s message is very non-traditional for me. This is an instructive message. We will look at several passages, rather than one central passage. We will be looking at the notion of baptism. Eighty percent of you probably already understand baptism. You believe what the church teaches you. You have been baptized as a believer, and you are wondering what the relevance of this message is. For twenty percent of you, this is a hot topic. Perhaps you are a believer, but have not been baptized. Perhaps you wrestle with a tradition you were raised in that has different views on baptism. For all of you, this is an important message. If you are part of the eighty percent that does not think this is relevant, think about the people that you are around, the people that you are going to influence, and the people who are going to have questions for you. One day you are going to have to answer someone’s question about what they believe and what you believe about baptism. Hopefully, today we will equip you with some of those things.
Here are some general questions about baptism that I am going to try to answer today:
Why do some churches sprinkle or pour water? Other churches we know of immerse or dip in water. Why do different churches have different practices when it comes to the mode of baptism?
Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven? Is it part of the gospel or is it a prerequisite for salvation?
Why do some people get baptized when they are infants? Why do others wait until they are older in life to be baptized? What does Trinity Bible Church believe about paedobaptism (infant baptism)?
III. Explanation of Baptism
I will tell you what our constitution says about baptism. It is pretty simple. The doctrinal statement of the Trinity Bible Church constitution says this: “We believe that water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only sacraments and ordinances of the church and that they are a scriptural means of testimony for the church in this age.” That is all it says about water baptism in our constitution -- just that it is one of the two sacraments and ordinances of the church. We believe that baptism and communion, or the Lord’s Table, are the two sacraments and ordinances. Incidentally, next week we are going to tackle what the Bible teaches about the second of those, communion.
A. “Baptism” in the New Testament
The word “baptism” occurs one hundred sixteen times in the New Testament. We are not going to look at all of those. Many of those, in fact, are describing John the Baptist. It calls him “John the Baptizer,” John the one who baptizes, using the root word for baptism. However, we do not get a notion of what is meant by baptism from those instances. The definition of baptism is “to dip or to immerse.” Baptizo in Greek is “to dip or to immerse or to destroy,” and we will talk more about that later. That is probably a definition many of you have never heard – “to destroy.” What do I mean by that? If you dip or immerse an individual human being into water and hold him or her there, that person will be destroyed. That is the picture. If a ship sinks in water, is immersed with water, it is destroyed. Certain things, when put under water and left there, are destroyed. “To dip, to immerse or to destroy.” The word or the root of baptizo occurs sixty-nine times in the Gospels, and in many of those, the title “John the Baptist” is in view; twenty-seven times in the book of Acts; sixteen times in Paul’s writings; two times in the Book of Hebrews, both times dealing with ritual washings (ceremonial purification); one time in 1 Peter; one time in the book of Revelation.
B. Baptism in the Church Constitution
There is much on baptism that we are not going to be able to cover today. I have about 35 minutes to scratch the surface of baptism and to expand upon our limited understanding from the constitution of what Trinity Bible Church believes about baptism. If you have specific questions about baptism, please talk to me. Talk to one of the pastors. Talk to one of the elders about how we biblically justify these views of baptism, or what our particular views are on baptism, or what passages we can take you to. Please come and talk to us if you have researched baptism, and you have come to different conclusions from what I will today. That is perfectly fair. Some of you have discussed this and thought about this a lot and you are going to want to go deeper than time allows me to go today. Seek me out. Let’s dialog about these things.
1. Spirit Baptism
We are going to learn today four things that Trinity Bible Church believes the Bible teaches about baptism. The first one is this: we believe in Spirit baptism. We believe in Spirit baptism, and all the Pentecostals said, “Amen.” For some of you this might be confusing. Wait a second. You are a non-charismatic, non-Pentecostal church, so what do you mean when you say you believe in Spirit baptism? Well, that word “baptism” does not always imply “water” in the New Testament. Sometimes it has other meanings than being dipped or dunked or sprinkled or poured with water. Sometimes it is completely divorced from the notion of water. Let me give you a couple of examples. First of all, in Mark 10:37-38, James and John come to Jesus and say, “’Permit one of us to sit at your right hand and the other on your left in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I experience?’” Well, this was long after Jesus experienced water baptism. What is he talking about? He is talking about his suffering. Jesus is talking about his own destruction, his own death, when he says, “Are you able to be baptized with the baptism I experience?” He is not even implying “water” in this context. Incidentally, he is talking about his death and he uses Trinity’s two sacraments and ordinances to symbolically represent his death -- “the cup I drink” (communion, the Lord’s Table), and “the baptism with which I am baptized.”
Another passage of the same vein that runs through this passage is Luke 12:50: Jesus says, “’I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is finished!’” Again, water baptism is not in view here. Something else is in view and the context would demand that he is talking about his death. He is talking about his suffering. He is talking about his own destruction. He is talking about hanging on the cross and receiving the sentence of the world. That is the baptism he is talking about. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the term “baptism” is seen as not referring to water. In those other contexts it talks about Spirit baptism. We will slip in a couple of those.
In Mark 1:8, John the Baptist says, “’I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” It is John the Baptist who first talks about water baptism, which is John’s ministry. Oh, but Jesus’ ministry is different. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Water is not in view here. A Spirit baptism is in view. This same notion is repeated in all the synoptic Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is also repeated in Acts 1:5, right before the Spirit of God comes on Pentecost and the saints there, the community of believers, are baptized by the Spirit. They receive the Holy Spirit. He is poured out on them. It is also repeated later in the book of Acts, as looking back at what Jesus’ ministry was. He was going to baptize them with the Holy Spirit.
For any Bible church, 1 Corinthians 12 draws the doctrine for Spirit baptism. It says this in verse 13: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.” All of us have been baptized in the Spirit. The Spirit has baptized us into one body; and so, Trinity Bible Church believes in Spirit baptism. There are a couple of points of clarification, however. We believe that at conversion, the Spirit baptizes an individual. When you trust Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord, you receive the Holy Spirit -- as much of the Holy Spirit as you will ever receive -- at that moment of salvation. The Spirit of God comes to indwell the believer. He is “the seal, … the down payment of our inheritance,” according to Ephesians 1. He comes to reside within the individual believer. We will never receive more of the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a second baptism or a second blessing later on. Salvation is the point where we receive the Holy Spirit. We do not receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized in water. There is no relationship between being baptized in water and being baptized by the Holy Spirit. A person is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation.
Another point of clarification is that when a person is baptized by the Holy Spirit at conversion, he or she does not necessarily speak in tongues. I am dispelling a lot of the doctrines of a lot of churches. Some of this may be over your head because you do not have those church backgrounds. I am telling you Trinity Bible Church’s distinctives (what we believe the Bible teaches). When a person is baptized by the Holy Spirit at conversion, it is not evidenced by speaking in tongues. Sometimes it was in the book of Acts, at that time, for those reasons. But sometimes it is not evidenced in the book of Acts by speaking in tongues. So, we do believe in Spirit baptism, but we define that carefully. An individual is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation, and will never have more of the Spirit later on. That is apart from water baptism.
2. Water Baptism
Second, we believe in water baptism. Trinity Bible Church embraces the mode of baptism by water. In fact, about the only thing our constitution is clear on is that we believe in water baptism. We believe that water baptism is the proper mode for baptism. Matthew 3:16 says, “After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water….” It was pretty simple. Jesus was baptized using water. It is the mode of water. Another passage is Acts 8:36: “And the eunuch said to Philip, ‘Look, there is water! What is to stop me from being baptized?’ So, he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water….” In this case, again, water is involved. All I am trying to say here, very simply, is that water is involved. Water is the mode for baptism. Every time in the New Testament, when a person is baptized as you and I think of “baptized,” water is used.
I am also going to argue for immersion baptism. The proper mode of baptism in the New Testament that is modeled for us to follow today is that of immersion or dipping -- putting a person under water and bringing them back up out of the water. However, I am not sure that is what these two passages teach. In the church I was baptized in 12 years ago, these passages were brought out as evidence that I should undergo immersion baptism. I support immersion baptism, but I do not think these passages say as much. The individual told me, “It says when Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water.” That means he was submerged and he came up out of the water. Then they went to Acts 8 and they said, “And the same thing happens with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.” But if you read this carefully, you read that Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch both came up out of the water. Does that mean they were both submerged? No, no one would argue that. What it probably means is that they left the area of the water and they went back onto shore, right? So, probably the same thing is in view with Jesus in the synoptic Gospels -- he is baptized and he comes up out of the water. Probably, it does not mean that he comes out of the water and he is not submerged anymore. Probably, it means that he walks up onto the shore.
But there is something here. If sprinkling or pouring is in view, why do you have to go down into the water in the first place? Well, that is a legitimate question. If sprinkling or pouring were the mode used in the New Testament, why would both of you need to enter into the water together? You could simply get a cup and bring it out and pour it over the person’s head, or sprinkle the person outside of the water. For some reason, every time an individual is baptized, they have to go down into the water. I believe in immersion for a couple of other reasons, as well. Let me show a few more passages that show why I believe in immersion baptism, or the question of how much water is enough water.
John 3:23 is an interesting passage about John the Baptist. “John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was plentiful there ….” Why would he need plenty of water? If he were sprinkling or pouring, why would he need plenty of water? If a river is flowing and it is only six inches deep, that is plenty of water to baptize thousands of people by dipping or by pouring or by sprinkling. Probably, what is in view here is deep water. There was plenty of water for the person to be immersed. Immersion is the only thing that would require plentiful water.
There is also the symbol of baptism. What baptism represents also supports immersion baptism. I am going to show you a couple of passages. Let’s start in Romans 6:3. Paul writes this: “Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we, too, may live a new life.” Some of your translations may say, “…so, we, too, may walk in newness of life.” Do you get the picture here? The imagery? There are a couple of images that baptism tries to evoke for us. One of them is the cleansing of sins, but another of them is that we are united with Christ in his death. We were buried with Him and raised again. It is a good symbol if you immerse someone, but if you pour or sprinkle onto someone, the symbolism breaks down. This is where the notion of dipping someone backward into the water comes from. We do not see that in the New Testament. You are never told to clasp the hands over the nose, to dip the person backward into the water, and bring them back up. That is not essential to do. Why do we do it that way? Because of this verse, we do it that way -- because it is as though you are being buried. When you are buried you are laid on your back, and then you are brought back to life, representing the resurrection.
A couple of other passages – Galatians 3:27: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Again, there is immersion imagery there. You are completely clothed with Christ. Another burial symbol is found in Colossians 2:12: “Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” Again we see the symbolism of being buried with Christ and raised with Him.
The Bible is not clear on the mode of baptism. Water, absolutely. No question there. Water is the proper mode of baptism. But what about sprinkling and pouring and dipping and immersing? It appears as though the proper New Testament means of baptism involved immersion or dipping, not sprinkling or pouring. But we cannot be entirely dogmatic about that. It is never completely spelled out for us, so the words we like to use are that we encourage immersion baptism as a church. Trinity Bible Church encourages immersion baptism, but we also understand that there are extenuating circumstances where a person might have to be baptized in a different way. I understand that in the Middle East right now many soldiers are coming to faith in Christ, and that the gospel is having an impact in different areas of the world where it is being taken. There is not always a proper supply of water that will allow for immersion, and so they are pouring or sprinkling new converts. That is great! Praise God that people are coming to faith in Christ and that they are experiencing a water baptism in obedience to the Lord. If someone were bedridden, Trinity Bible Church would have no problem sprinkling this person or pouring on this person. We would probably frown upon someone who wants to be baptized by another mode, just for novelty, just to make it interesting, just to be unique, but we understand extenuating circumstances exist when it comes to baptism. The earliest church teachings outside the New Testament were the Didache and Tertullian. Both of them were written within one hundred years after the close of the New Testament. They both talk about immersion. The Didache says that is also permissible to pour on the new believer. Both of them, incidentally, talk about immersing three times -- in the name of Father, the name of the Son, the name of the Holy Spirit. We encourage immersion baptism, and baptism should always involve water.
3. Believers’ Baptism
There is a third thing Trinity Bible Church believes in when it comes to baptism is believers’ baptism. We believe in believers’ baptism. That says a couple of things. First of all, it means that we do not encourage infant baptism. We do not practice paedobaptism, or infant baptism. The second thing it means is that we do not embrace baptismal regeneration. We do not believe that baptism is part of the gospel, or a means to salvation. Let me come back to those two in time.
First, let us turn to the subject of infant baptism. Were infants baptized in the New Testament? Why does Trinity not encourage infant baptism? I was baptized as an infant. In the Lutheran Church, ELCA, I was baptized when I was only a couple of months old. I was baptized again 19 years later after trusting Christ as my Savior and Lord. Let me show you a few passages. I want to show you the only passages that certain denominations use to support infant baptism, and you draw our own conclusions. Acts 16:14-15 says this: “A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she and her household were baptized,” etc. Lydia trusts Christ, and she and her household are baptized. Did you see infants in this passage? I did not see any infants in this passage. I saw “household.” “Household” could mean a lot of things. It could mean her and her husband. It could mean her and her husband and their parents. It potentially could mean cousins. It could mean grown children, teenagers, children and infants, but it does not necessarily mean infants. It is only possible that infants were involved in that baptism.
In Acts 16, a little bit later in that chapter, starting at verse 30: (this is the jailer talking to Paul and Silas) “Then he brought them outside,” and he asked Paul and Silas, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Just as an aside, notice that he did not say, “Believe and be baptized.” He said, “’Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.’” But let us keep going. “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him, along with all those who were in his house. At that hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized right away.” Again, the jailer trusts Christ and he and his household are baptized. Did you see infants there? Maybe, maybe not. It is not explicit that infants were there. Is it possible they were? Sure. Is it possible they were not? Of course.
Let us keep going, Acts 18:8: “Crispus, the president of the synagogue, believed in the Lord together with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians who heard about it believed and were baptized.” This is talking about household salvation, not necessarily household baptism, but I have heard this passage used in support of infant baptism. Here is an individual, Crispus, the synagogue president. The Bible says he and his whole family believed, which tells me there were no infants there if they in fact believed, and this is, again, a household.
And then, finally, Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:16: “I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Otherwise, I do not remember whether I baptized anyone else.” Those are the four passages that talk about household salvation, or household baptism. Infants are not mentioned explicitly in any of them, and these are the only passages that even imply the doctrine of infant baptism.
There are some denominations that practice infant baptism. The Roman Catholic church practices infant baptism (paedobaptism), along with the Lutheran church and the Presbyterian church. A few other major denominations practice infant baptism. Let me draw a distinction between them before we jump into a few more passages about baptismal regeneration, or believers’ baptism. The Roman Catholic church believes in baptismal regeneration of infants. Baptism is one of their seven sacraments or ordinances, and it confers grace. When you receive baptism in the Roman Catholic church, they believe that you are receiving grace that will assist you in your journey towards salvation. It is one of the necessary steps toward salvation. They baptize infants and believe in baptismal regeneration, but they also believe that through baptism a person receives grace toward salvation.
The Lutheran church has a similar view. The Lutheran church teaches baptismal regeneration from the time of Martin Luther even through today. That is one of the areas where Martin Luther left the Roman Catholic church, but not all the way. He held onto certain of their doctrines. The Lutheran church embraces baptismal regeneration, but they also teach that we are saved by faith alone. How do you reconcile those two? Luther came up with the idea, and Lutheran theologians have maintained this idea ever since, that infants have a mysterious ability to exercise unconscious faith. Infants can actually trust Jesus Christ unconsciously, and therefore they can be baptized, and they are saved.
The Presbyterians, however, have to be put in a different camp. The Presbyterian church by and large does not teach baptismal regeneration, although they do baptize infants. The Presbyterian church views present-day infant baptism as being similar to Old Testament infant circumcision. In the Old Testament, when an infant was eight days old, he went for circumcision. It was a sign of the covenant, and it brought that infant into the covenant community. Was that infant saved by circumcision? A biblically literate Jew would say no. He was not saved by that circumcision. It just meant that he was a member of this community. It was an outward sign of this covenant that they have with Yahweh. Well, in the New Testament, Presbyterians say the same thing goes for baptism. Baptism of infants is a way of entering them into the covenant community. It is a sign of the covenant. Are they saved because of that baptism? No. A good, biblically literate Presbyterian today would say no. The baptism of that infant does not save them today.
Let us look at a few of the difficult passages when it comes to believers’ baptism: a person believes, trusts Christ, is saved and then is baptized; or, baptismal regeneration, where baptism is part of our salvation. Which is right? Let us look at a few of the difficult passages. Some of you have struggled with this. Some of you will struggle with this in the future. You might want to write down a few of these passages. These are the most difficult passages to understand when it comes to baptism in the New Testament. First of all, look at Acts 2:38. This is Peter’s first sermon in the book of Acts. “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Now, verse 41: “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.” What is Peter preaching here? Is he preaching that repentance plus baptism equals salvation, or is he emphasizing the need to be baptized in the name of Jesus? It is in Jesus’ name that we are saved.
This is a troubling, difficult passage for a lot of people who do not embrace baptismal regeneration. What is Peter teaching here? Is he highlighting that repentance and faith are necessary for salvation, and that baptism is the immediate outward symbol of this beautiful regeneration; or is he teaching that baptism is part of the salvation equation? That is an important question that we have to answer. Let us go elsewhere to help us figure out what is on Peter’s mind when he says that. He uses the term “forgiveness of your sins” there in Acts 2. Incidentally, he uses the same term in Acts 10:43. He uses “forgiveness of sins,” almost identical in the Greek with the terms that he uses here. Listen to what he says later on in Acts 10:43. “’About him [Jesus] all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”” Well, which is it, Peter? Is it repentance plus baptism equals forgiveness of sins, or is it just believing equals forgiveness of sins, and you were trying to highlight, perhaps, the importance of what baptism symbolized in your first sermon.
In his first sermon in the book of Acts, Peter says, “’Repent … and be baptized.” Let us look at his second sermon in the book of Acts. In Acts 3:19 Peter says this: “’Therefore, repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out ….’” He did not say, “Repent and be baptized and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out.” Peter, are you leaving out part of the gospel? Are you leaving out part of the gospel when you are preaching to these people? Once you included baptism plus repentance. Now you are just saying to repent or just to believe. Are you omitting part of the gospel, or, Peter, are you asking the people to believe for salvation? Are you asking them to repent for salvation, and stating that their baptism, a symbol of that regeneration, is the most immediate outward expression of that faith? I think he clears it up for us in I Peter 3:21. Listen carefully to what he says. He is talking about Noah and the ark -- the ark’s saving them through the flood. “And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you -- not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ ….” When you first read this, you say, “Oh goodness, baptism saves you.” But then he immediately turns around and clarifies -- and I am thankful for this parenthesis here, “not the washing off of … dirt.” That is not what saved us. It is what baptism represents that saves us, a pledge toward God of a good conscience “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That is what saves us. We are thankful for this verse because it brings clarity to Peter’s theology. He says it is not that act of being dipped or immersed or sprinkled or poured -- it is not the act of the water -- that saves us; it is what that beautifully represents in our salvation in Jesus Christ.
Let us look at one particular difficult passage in Paul. You may want to write this one down. This is Paul recounting his own testimony. He is recounting his own experience with Ananias. Ananias is the man that the Lord led Paul to after Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Here is what he says later on, recounting that testimony, that experience. In Acts 22:16 he is quoting Ananias: “’And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’” Is Paul saying here that Ananias implied that washing away of sins took place at baptism, or is he saying that baptism is a beautiful symbol of the washing away of sins? Here is what actually took place. Listen to Acts 9:17-18. This is right after Paul’s Damascus Road experience, when he is led to Ananias; or, more properly, Ananias is led to him by Jesus. “So Ananias departed and entered the house, placed his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul ….’” That’s our first hint. He has already had the Damascus Road experience. Now Ananias, a converted Christian, is saying, “Brother Saul” to him. “’… The Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see again,” which often in scripture is a picture of redemption. Whereas I was blind, now I can see. Now you can see clearly. It is an image of having been saved. In the very next clause, “He got up and was baptized ….”
Did Paul believe that in baptism you were a believer first, and then in a response of obedience you were baptized in water; or did Paul believe that you were baptized in water as part of the gospel? Listen to his teaching elsewhere. We have just a couple of more passages on this. This is important. In 1 Corinthians 1:17 we read: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel ….” Isn’t that an awesome passage, the way he divorces those two? If baptism were necessary for salvation, that would be part of the gospel. Paul says, “… Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel ….” Wait a second, Paul. Don’t you have to be baptized to be saved? He’s saying no; they are different animals entirely. The gospel stands alone. It’s by faith alone, by grace alone, that we are saved. That is why I’ve been sent; not to baptize.
Think about the presumptions, or the assumptions, behind these passages. Think about the Great Commission, for example. Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Did you see it? Go and make disciples -- believers, converts, followers of Jesus Christ. And then do what? Baptize them. Autous is the Greek word. The antecedent is “disciples.” Baptize them. Baptize whom? Baptize seekers? Baptize the unsaved? No. Baptize disciples -- people who are already followers of Jesus Christ. If baptismal regeneration is what the Bible teaches, then why didn’t the text say, “Go and baptize people in order to make them disciples”? It doesn’t say that. The assumption is that you become a disciple (a follower of Jesus Christ), and then you are baptized.
In many other passages, there are implications. John 1:12: “As many received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name. It’s not “to as many as received him and were baptized.” “To those who believe in his name” are baptized. Baptism was left out of these formulas. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him and is baptized will have eternal life.” It doesn’t say that. It just says “believes in him.” Romans 10:9: “… If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It doesn’t even mention baptism. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and baptism.” No. It is through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Is there anyone in the New Testament who definitely was a believer before being baptized in water? Yes. It was Cornelius, in Acts 10. He hears Peter’s words. He trusts Christ, and the spirit of God indwells him. He even gets to speak in tongues as evidence that he had received the Spirit of God among the first Gentile converts, and he’s later baptized in water. He became a believer, fully a believer, before he was baptized.
How many of you have undergone believers’ baptism? If you have not undergone believers’ baptism, then I would ask you the same thing that the eunuch asked Philip. What is to prevent you from being baptized? What is it that hinders you from undergoing believers’ baptism, even as an adult? A few years ago at Trinity Bible Church we baptized an eighty-six-year-old woman. She was eighty-six years old, and she was convicted and felt led by the Lord to follow him in obedience in a public baptism -- not to be saved, but to symbolize her relationship with the Lord. We believe in believers’ baptism.
4. Public Baptism
And then, finally, we believe in public baptism. I want you to pick up on this in Mark 1:5. This is a little bit different from the way things had been done. John the Baptist stirs things up again. “People from the whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem were going out to him [John the Baptist], and he was baptizing them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.” There are a couple of things that were unique about John the Baptist’s baptism that Jesus embraced. Jesus liked the way that John the Baptist did it. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and then his disciples baptized others. The Book of John tells us that Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were. Paul himself was baptized by Ananias, and then Paul himself baptizes a few others. He mentions some of their names in the book of 1 Corinthians.
We see uniqueness in the way John does baptism. First of all, his is a once-for-all baptism. In the Old Testament, the word baptizo is used a few times of purification or ceremonial washings, but it was something you had to do over and over again. John’s baptism was a once-for-all baptism. The second thing John inaugurates that Jesus picks up on is that you don’t baptize yourself. You did in the Old Testament -- you washed yourself. With John’s baptism, you were baptized by someone else. In the New Testament, there is never an incident of someone’s becoming a Christian and then baptizing themselves. It never happens. Each one is baptized by someone else. That is second nature to us, but to them it was all brand new. Why? It was not really necessary. I think it is God’s way of saying that you need to have a community there for this baptism. There needs to be more than just you alone. There needs to be something that is somewhat public, even if it is just you and one other person. Ideally, you are baptized in front of your community of believers so that they can see your witness (your testimony) to your relationship with Christ, and so that they can hold you accountable. Now they know that you are a believer. You have publicly proclaimed it. In fact, that is what we see them doing in the early church.
Lent, this season that we just began this past Wednesday, starts 40 days before Easter and culminates on Easter Sunday. Part of the history of Lent was preparation for baptismal candidates. In the early church, they would baptize baptismal candidates on Easter Sunday and also on Pentecost. Later they started to integrate more baptismal ceremonies during the calendar year; but especially the Easter Sunday baptism was a really, really big celebration in the early church. The baptismal candidate was asked to fast and to pray for forty days leading up to his baptismal ceremony. That is how important it was. If a person were going to be baptized in front of his local community of believers, as a public testimony of his inner faith, for forty days leading up to his baptism, he would pray and fast. The awesome thing is that he did not pray and fast alone, but the entire community of believers joined him. Those who were saved and who had been baptized publicly joined this baptismal candidate, prayed for him or her, and fasted with him or her. They joined with them in preparation. Imagine the rejoicing on that Sunday morning when this baptismal candidate was baptized in front of them. They had been praying with this individual. They had been fasting with this individual and they celebrated.
IV. Application and Conclusion
What is my application for a message on baptism? Get baptized if you are not already a believer who has been baptized. Get saved and then get baptized, okay? That is the application. We are going to have a public baptism in late April. What we are trying to do for this particular baptism is to bring a baptismal into the sanctuary. Our prayer is that we can have a Sunday morning celebration here, publicly, with this community of believers, and with all those who want to be baptized. If you are an adult, you are a believing Christian (you have faith in Jesus Christ; you have trusted him as your Lord), and you have never been baptized, I encourage you to be baptized. It is the question that the Eunuch asked of Philip. What hinders me? It is the question I would ask of you. What hinders you from being baptized? If you have children who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, but they have never undergone baptism, consider their age. Do they understand what is going on? If you are uncertain about the age appropriateness of baptism, come to talk to me, or one of the pastors, or one of the elders about whether or not your child is old enough to experience baptism. But strongly consider, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, being baptized here in a couple of months.
Few Christian practices are as misunderstood as baptism. And few doctrines are as controversial. Some churches practice infant baptism; others practice believer's baptism. Some teach that baptism is necessary for salvation; others, in an effort to not confuse baptism with salvation, downplay the importance of baptism altogether. Should infants be baptized? Is baptism necessary for salvation? Why do some churches immerse people in water while others pour or sprinkle the water over the head? These and other questions will be answered during this instructional message. We will look at the Bible's teachings on water baptism and how it was practiced by the early church. Furthermore, we will encourage--as the Bible encourages--believers who have not undergone baptism to follow in obedience to our Lord's model.