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Baptism

26th April 2008, mgh

 

1) Baptism and Salvation

For Jesus Christ and his followers salvation was a vital concern and they had no doubt that salvation was salvation from sin and its consequence, which is death. God requires a person to acknowledge sin. In the Garden of Eden a lamb was offered to cover the disobedience and sin of Adam and Eve. By the Law of Moses, the people of ancient Israel gained forgiveness through the sacrifice and pouring out of the blood of unblemished animals, and, a confession of their sins. With the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the perfect and sinless son of God, this practice was no longer required, as Jesus fulfilled the requirements of all the sacrificial offerings for sin under the Law.

However a new way was instituted for the acknowledgement and forgiveness of sins and the first step along the way to salvation and the hope of eternal life. The Apostle Paul explains that there is a need for a covering for sin.

Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:7-8)

Paul explains that Adam's disobedience was sin and brought condemnation on Adam and death, which passed on to all, because “all have sinned”.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)

The Apostle Peter told the Jews who had crucified their Messiah about the way their sins could be forgiven and blotted out.

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)

Peter also explains that the prophets had long ago prophesied that their Messiah would suffer at the hands of the Jews and that baptism would be the means of forgiveness of their sins if they truly repented.

But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. (Acts 3:18-22)

Paul taught that through baptism, one puts on Christ as a covering and is figuratively clothed in the skin of the sacrificial animal provided by God, in a similar way that Adam and Eve were literally clothed with the skin of the lamb that was slain in the Garden of Eden. As well as baptism, faith was an important requirement of the faithful.

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)

Baptism as a Burial

Paul explains the significance of baptism. as a burial to past sins and a resurrection to a life of dedicated to service to God.

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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:3-6).

Baptism is a symbol of sacrifice. Just as Jesus gave up his life on the cross, the true believer, by submitting to baptism publicly shows that he will figuratively “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof.” (Galatians 5:24) This is the person's declaration that he/she will subordinate their will to perform the will of God. Baptism becomes the first act of obedience by which the believer humbles self to please God.

In explaining the act of baptism as representing a burial, the apostle Paul had shown in Romans 6 that just as Christ died and was buried, and rose again to a new life, the believer, acknowledged that he is a sinner and that the wages of sin is death. Desiring to be associated with the risen immortal Christ, baptism symbolised death to sin and a symbolic burial with Christ and thus “baptism unto death”. (Romans 6:1-11) Having risen from the waters of baptism it is then imperative that one walks according to God's requirements.

2) Meaning of the word 'Baptism'

The word 'baptism' comes from the Greek 'bapto', which authorities say signifies to 'immerse', 'dip' and 'plunge'. It is also more than than just an immersion. The word 'bapto' also signifies the act of 'dyeing', in which process there is a change in the colour or appearance of a garment. No authority translates the word as 'sprinkle' or 'pour'. This means that the practice known as 'christening', is not a Biblical baptism.

Baptism requires more than total immersion in water. An understanding of the will and purpose of God is essential. It is a person's beliefs that transform an immersion into a “baptism”, by which a person is figuratively “dyed” with the blood of Christ. Immersion without knowledge could be paralleled to trying to dye a garment in clear water. Only the knowledge of God's purpose and expectations will transform a person's perspective and way of life. The person will desire to understand God's purpose with the earth and attempt to live a life of obedience in accordance with God's commands, developing faith and trust in God.

Salvation from Death

Baptism is identified with Christ's sacrificial death.It is stated in the Bible that Christ came into the world to save sinners. In Matthew's gospel record before the birth of Jesus, it is plainly stated that Jesus was to save people from their sins.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

The Apostle Paul made the same observation to Timothy, and remembering his past admitted that he was a sinner who needed redemption and forgiveness for his persecution of the followers of Jesus before his conversion.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1Timothy 1:15)

Peter clearly states that salvation from death can only come through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Paul emphasises that there is a need to become wise about salvation through a wisdom that can only come through a knowledge of the Bible and a faith in Jesus Christ.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2Timothy 3:15)

Peter and the Apostles taught the word to the people and those who believed the word of the scriptures were baptised.

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)

Jesus was the first to gain eternal life and his life and sacrifice opened the way for faithful men and women to also obtain life, providing they obey his words and follow his example.

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:9)

The Need for Repentance

The thinking of the mind is in its natural state at variance with the requirements of God, as shown by Paul in his letter to the Romans.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

In pursuing one's natural desires, one is destined to die. To please God and receive His mercy, it is essential to change the way in which one thinks and encourage spiritual thinking, which is the wisdom from God obtained by a study of His word found in the Bible. Trust in self has to be replaced by a dependence on God and all our worldly ambitions replaced by the expectations and patient waiting for the coming Kingdom of God and the return of Jesus to the earth to reign as King.

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2Thessalonians 3:5)

We must not think as the world in general all around us thinks, but we should be transformed to think as Jesus Christ did in obedience to his Father's will.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:2-3)
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)

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.

4) After Baptism

A person's responsibility does not end with baptism. The person must live in accordance with the principles and precepts outlined in the Bible and the commandments of Jesus Christ. Paul states that having risen from the waters of baptism, there are clear instructions about behaviour and attitude to the Creator, His son and fellow man. Firstly the principle thing in one's life is the love of God and Jesus Christ. The reward of faithful service is eternal life when Jesus returns to reign as King over a subdued world.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Paul writing to the Ephesians clearly tells them that immorality will most definitely exclude a person from an inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:2-5)

Peter explains that having been baptised, one becomes a part of the wonderful promises extended to the patriarchs and of the divine nature. It is important to acquire knowledge, but personal character building is also necessary, culminating in love.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Peter 1:4-8)

There are many passages that deal with moral issues and behaviour. Consider Paul's advice about relationships with others on a personal and business level, acquiring patience, honesty, sympathy and kindness, helping those in need, control of the tongue, dealing with adversity and in all aspects of life the imprtance of prayer for guidance.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (Romans 12:9-17)

5) The Way to Salvation

Baptism is necessary for salvation. There has long been an attitude among Christians that a complete immersion is unnecessary, based on what they perceive as God's overriding mercy. However, there is overwhelming evidence that for many centuries the Aposolic practice of a complete immersion was followed, to be replaced in more recent times by the sprinkling of water as in the christening of babies, which is not in the true sense of the meaning of the word 'bapto', nor in accordance with the examples set by Jesus and his disciples and the clear command of Jesus to his disciples.

The three thousand at Pentecost gladly received the word and were baptised (Acts 2:41), the Eunuch, guided by Philip believed, was baptised and went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:30-39) and the Philippian Gaoler asked what he had to do to be saved (Acts 16:30-34) and having submitted to baptism also rejoiced in the hope of salvation and eternal life.

Belief in the promises of God and the symbolic death and rising to a new life of service to God through the waters of baptism, acknowledging Jesus' sacrificial role in opening the way of salvation and forgiveness for sins, are the first requirements for those who seek the amazing gift of eternal life.

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