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Baptism

26th April 2008, mgh

 

3) The Necessity for Baptism

Those who seek eternal life must be baptised. This is the Lord's command. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went from Galilee to Jordan to be baptised by John the Baptist. When John hesitated and declared that Jesus had no need of baptism, Jesus told John that he had to fulfil all righteousness. It was then that the people, including some who were to become his disciples, witnessed God's first public recognition of Jesus as his son.

And Jesus answering said unto him, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:15-17)

Jesus' was obedeint and so 'pleased' God.

During Jesus' three and a half years ministry, Jesus' disciples, not Jesus, were the ones who baptised those who believed. The disciples learnt that it was necessary to preach and persuade first, with baptism as the evidence of the conviction of the person.

When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. (John 4:1-3)

Jesus' final words to his disciples were a command that those who believed were to be baptised.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

After Jesus' ascension the book of the Acts of the Apostles records how the Gospel message was spread to Gentiles, who are non-Jews. Together with the good news of the Kingdom of God went the necessity for believers to be baptised. The Apostles engaged in teaching people and those who believed, whether they were Jews or Gentiles, were baptised. As noted before, Peter was very specific about baptism.

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, (Acts 2:36-38)

An account of a Gentile being baptised occurs in Acts 8. A eunuch travelling from Jerusalem to Ethiopia after woshipping in Jerusalem, was reading from the book of Isaiah. He was met by Philip who explained that Jesus was the Messiah from the place he was reading in Isaiah.

And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 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. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 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. (Acts 8:34-38)

Saul, also known as Paul, was a persecutor of the Christians, but was called to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. He knew the claims of Jesus but opposed them until stopped by a revelation on the road to Damascus. When he learnt of his great error he was immediately baptised and began his great work of preaching to the Gentiles.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. (Acts 9:17-19)

Having accepted Jesus as Israel's Messiah, Paul follows the same principles as the disciples and travels extensively, teaching and baptising those who are persuaded that there is no other way of salvation. The Corinthians “believed and were baptised” (Acts 18:8), Lydia had her “heart opened” and was baptised (Acts 16:14) and the gaoler at Philippi was impressed by God's power in the earthquake, realised his need for salvation, listened to the word of the Lord, believed the word and was baptised “he and all his, straightway”

Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. (Acts 16: 29-34).

In all these examples, the importance of belief and understanding of the word of God as in the Bible is essential before baptism. In the Biblical records those being baptised were adults with understanding and recognised the meaning of baptism and the responsibility related to baptism.

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