Simple Devotion to Baptism
We press on today in our attempt to understand the devotions of the church. So far, we have covered the churches devotion to the Apostle’s teaching, and its devotion to sincere Christian fellowship.
Some may assume that our attention now will be on the church’s devotion to the breaking of bread, which is the Lord’s Supper, since that is the very next thing we see the church in Acts continually devoting themselves to. We will, however, break from the chronological order of listed devotion among the church in Acts and fucus on a devotion that has already occurred among the believers, and that is baptism. Notice that before Luke records the four areas of devotion in the church, he records how people responded to Peter’s answer to their question of “What shall we do?” What were they to do since they had just killed the Prince of Life via crucifixion? The very One whom God had raised from the dead three days later never to die again, and seated Him at His right hand until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. As Christ’s enemies, what were they to do? Peter said:
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
What happened? Luke tell us:
“41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
What happened is that all who had believed the message of Peter concerning Jesus did what was required of them.
For the next two weeks we will focus our attention on understanding the two ordinances appointed by Jesus Christ to continue in His church to the end of the world: Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. We will deal with baptism before we deal with the Lord’s Supper because no person should ever partake of Communion who has not first followed Christ in baptism. How can one in good conscience eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus and His self-sacrificing and substitutionary work on their behalf, if they have not been obedient to Him in public identification with Him? The answer is, they cannot! Those who profess saving belief in Christ, but refuse to be baptized have no business binging at His table. They eat and drink unworthily. In a sense, baptism is the prerequisite to communion, so we want to deal with this simple devotion first.
There are several matters we will strive to understand about baptism to really grasp the importance of this devotion. We want to know the meaning of the word baptism and its purpose. Once we understand this, we will begin to understand who are to be the recipients of it, which will further help us to grasp its significance. All of this will help us to better understand the necessity of baptism, which, again, is an ordinance that Christ has commissioned His church to uphold among people from all nations who have turned from themselves and trusted in our great God and Lord, Jesus Christ. As He said in Matthew 28:19-20 when He commissioned His church:
“19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Let us never forget that Christ did not give this commission to us, His church, without out first leading by example and fulfilling all righteousness. Mark 1:9-11 says that Jesus:
“Came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
With this in mind, let us consider what J.C. Ryle once said, a man with whom I disagree with on the time and mode of baptism, but whole heartedly agree with when he says that we ought to:
“Regard the sacrament of baptism with reverence. An ordinance of which the Lord Jesus Himself partook, is not to be lightly esteemed. An ordinance to which the great Head of the Church submitted, ought to be ever honorable in the eyes of professing Christians.”
Let’s Talk Pickles and Dye
Many of us are aware that the word “Baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizō”, which means “to immerse, to submerge, to make whelmed (Fully wet).”
The fact that the word “baptizō” conveys complete and total immersion, thus refuting the idea of sprinkling and pouring as being acceptable modes of baptism, is seen clearly in the writings of a Greek poet and physician in the 2nd Century BC named Nicander. What did he write about you may ask? He wrote a recipe for making pickles. Within this recipe, he says that the first thing one must do is to dip the vegetable into boiling water. After this is done the vegetable must be immersed, “baptizō”, in the vinegar solution, which inevitably produces a permanent change. One cannot pickle an object without complete and total immersion.
Baptizō was also a word frequently used in reference to a person who would dye fabric. In order for them to get the fabric to be the color they desired; they would have to baptize it, or immerse it, into colored dye. Complete and total immersion is the only thing that can accomplish this. The fabric, therefore, would be taking on a completely new identity.
This begins to establish for us the purpose of baptism. It emphasizes one’s solidarity and unity with another. Much like what Paul says of Old Testament Israel coming out of Egypt in 1 Corinthians 10:2, “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” In other words, as they followed Moses through the covering of the cloud and the parted water, they demonstrated cohesion with God, for Moses was His mouthpiece. The purpose of Christian baptism is to identify oneself with the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It is an outward showing of one’s solidarity and unity with His vicarious death for sin, and vindicating burial in a rich man’s tomb, and ultimately in His victorious resurrection from the grave on the third day, for it was impossible for death to hold Him.
The Recipients of Baptism
When we understand this, we will easily realize that baptism is only for those who “profess repentance toward God, and faith in and obedience to Christ Jesus as Lord.” It is a believer’s baptism. It is only for those who have genuinely turned from themselves and trusted in Christ.
This truth alone reveals that baptism is incapable of saving a person. As the Puritan John Trapp once said:
“A man may go to hell with baptismal water upon his face.”
In other words, there are many people who will be dried off from their baptism by the flames of hell, for they sought for salvation in its water and not in the Person and work it represents; Christ, and Him crucified and risen again. It was Charles Spurgeon that said:
“A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved.”
Only those who are in the faith are the ones permitted to publicly identify with it.
When one takes a survey of the book of Acts, this is exactly what we see. It is seen with:
- The believers on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:41:
“Those who had received his word were baptized.”
- The believers in Samaria. Acts 8:12:
“12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.”
- The Ethiopian Eunuch. Acts 8:26-38:
26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 “In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who will relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.”
34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”
- The Apostle Paul after His encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus which left him blind for three days until a disciple named Ananias came to him in Acts 9:17-18 saying:
“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized.”
- The household of the God-fearing gentile, Cornelius, who received the gospel preached by Peter. Acts 10:44-48:
“44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
- The woman named Lydia of Thyatira in Acts 16:14-15, who “had been baptized” after “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
- The Philippian Jailer that was tasked with securely guarding Paul and Silas. Acts 16:24-34:
“24 and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.”
- The Corinthians and Crispus, the leader of the synagogue. Acts 18:8:
“8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.”
- The twelve men of Ephesus who had been baptized in the baptism of John. Acts 19:4-5:
“4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Again, baptism is only for those who profess genuine repentance toward God, and faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Baptisms Significance and Necessity
May we take a moment to consider the significance and necessity of baptism. Baptism is an outer sign of the believers:
- Forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:38 says:
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”
As has been stated in a pervious sermon, there are some who wrongly interpret Peter’s words here in Acts to teach baptismal regeneration. This means that they teach baptism is necessary for salvation. This is wrong for several reasons:
First, its failure to apply one of the principles of biblical interpretation knowns as the Analogy of the Scripture. This hermeneutic assert that when Scripture is rightly interpreted it will not contradict itself. Scripture is clear that man is justified by faith in Christ alone, and not of works.
Second, The Greek preposition “eis”, which in Peter’s statement is the word “For”:
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”
This word does not only mean “for the purpose of”, but also “because of” or “on occasion of”, which is clearly the intent of Peter’s statement given the rest of the account of the Scripture:
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins”
Baptism is the outer act that conveys an inner reality. The believer is signifying that they have been forgiven all their sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
- Being engrafted into Christ. Galatians 3:27 says:
“27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Baptism signifies ones unity with Christ. It is saying to the world that they are His, and He is theirs. He is in the Father, we are in Him, He is in us. Baptism symbolizes that the believers life is bound up with Christ’s.
- Fellowship with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Colossians 2:12 states that we have been:
“Been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
- Giving of themselves up to God, through Christ, to live and to walk in the newness of His life. This is clearly seen in Romans 6:1-11:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Baptism is significant because it is the external evidence of the inner regeneration of the heart. It is a token of the regenerated soul’s union with Christ. It is the believer’s demonstration to the world that they have indeed counted the cost of discipleship and embraced the consequences of being Christ’s. It is showing to all that they have died so that they might live. They have unashamedly denied themselves. Self is no more, Christ is everything, and they have picked up their cross, and followed Him.
After considering the significance of baptism for a believer, I contend that any person who professes faith in Christ, but refuses the waters of baptism does at least two things:
- They are a walking contradiction and render themselves useless for the kingdom of God. The Great Commission is to go into all the world making disciples, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” andteaching them to be obedient to all that Christ has commanded. An unbaptized believer is incapable of carrying out this commission in good conscience. They will call others to obey Christ when they themselves do not. They, therefore, render themselves useless for the Kingdom of God because their negligent testimony declares that Christ is not worthy to be lived for and followed. One cannot fulfill a commission they do not follow.
- They cast serious doubt upon their salvation. The Spirit’s regenerating and sanctifying work in the Christian is best seen in Ezekiel 36:26-27:
“26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
The new creature that Christ makes and is renewing into His image “will be careful to observe” His commands. This means that professing believers who refuse the simple command to be baptized call into question the genuineness of their faith because they are unwilling to obey Jesus.
Please consider the rhetorical question that Jesus asks in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” The answer is obvious. The reason people do not do what He says is because they do not actually consider Him their Lord. Though they rightly profess Him as Lord they do not possess hearts that acknowledge Him is Lord, thus resulting in a life actively living for Him. He says:
“47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Those who truly love Christ will do as He said they would and keep His commandments.
In the end, people can give many reasons for not being baptized, but none of them hold any water. There are really two reasons a person remains unbaptized: Ignorance (Which can only be claimed once), or sinful defiance (Which is rooted in pride, and is either the result of unmortified sin or the continued rot of an unregenerated heart). With this in mind, an unbaptized claimer of Christ needs to seriously evaluate their heart.
Baptism is truly a significant matter. It is, however, not only a matter of significance for the believer, but a matter of necessity. It may not be necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for living obediently to the One who humbled Himself by becoming a Man obedient to the point of death on the cross, where He shed His precious blood to purchase for Himself a people for His own possession. A people whose lives are no longer their own for they have been bought with a great price, and are therefore to glorify God with their bodies. As Spurgeon said:
“Someone says, “I can be saved without being baptized.” So you will do nothing that Christ commands, if you can be saved without doing it? You are hardly worth saving at all! A man whose idea of religion is that he will do what is essential to his own salvation, only cares to save his own skin. Clearly, you are no servant of Christ’s. Baptism, if not essential to your salvation, is essential to your obedience to Christ.”
To deny the water of baptism is to deny Christ.
- Walk in the Newness of Life
Let me close with these thoughts:
- First, to those who do not know Christ. Realize you have sinned against a holy God and have fallen short of His glory. He will not allow you to go unpunished for He is good and just. Your sin demands your death for all eternity under His wrath. You need forgiveness, and you need a life that is not your own. You need Christ.
He who knew no sin, became sin to bear it on His body on the cross so that He might satisfy its penalty upon Himself. He suffered and died for sin, the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God. He was pierced through for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities. He was crushed under the wrath of God to appease sins penalty so that all who believe in Him experience true forgiveness for sin and not perish, and He willingly laid down His life to do it.
He not only had the authority to lay it down, but He had the authority to take it up again, which He did three days later. He lives! He is, therefore, the life you need. Turn from your sin. Turn from your self-righteousness. Cling to Christ through faith, for He is the only way to God. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Truly all who call upon Him will be saved, because He forever lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through Him. Repent and believe the gospel, and once you have done this, boldly and unashamedly prove it through baptism.
- Second, to those who profess to know Him but have not followed Him in baptism. Why have you not done so? If you truly are His and He has lovingly identified with you by baptizing you with His Spirit and placing you into His body, how can you dare refuse to identify with Him? Examine yourself, and if you truly are His after a thorough search of your soul, I will say to you what Ananias said to Paul after he lay blind for three days, “Get up and be baptized.”
- Finally, to those who truly have followed Him in public identification through baptism. Continue to lose sight of yourself and live for Him to the glory of God. Sinclair Ferguson says:
“We are baptized into (not merely in) the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When faith grasps the significance of baptism it dawns on us that we have been given the privilege of all privileges – fellowship with God. We are His, and He is ours – forever! His grace does not cleanse us from sin simply for its own sake, but to fit us for His company throughout the whole of our lives. So baptism announces to us the overwhelmingly great privilege of fellowship with the triune covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. And because baptism symbolizes this, it calls us to a new life-style marked by ongoing repentance and faith.”
May we walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. May walk in the newness of life, “for we have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, we too shall be revealed with Him in glory.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says:
“14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
May our chant, therefore, be that of Paul’s in Galatians 2:20:
“20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
 Acts 2:38
 Matthew 3:13-17
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; G907: Baptize, baptizō
 The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689; Article 29, Section 2
 Acts 2:38
 Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 3:28;4:5; Galatians 2:16;3:11
 John 14:20
 Acts 22:16
 Ephesians 4:1
 Colossians 3:3-4