The Church Part 8: Baptism

Baptism is the first of two ordnances (also called “sacraments”) that were ordained by Christ the second of which is the Lord’s Supper (also called Communion).  Between denominations there is much disagreement on the meaning and the mode of baptism due to many different factors.

Mode and Meaning of Baptism

Baptism is the practice of immersing an individual under a body of water as a public profession of faith that pictures their regeneration and ushers them in as members of the local church community.

  1. Βαπτιζω means “to cause someone to have an extraordinary experience akin to an initiatory water-rite, to plunge, baptize[1] both inside and outside the Bible though it can also refer to a “wash ceremonially for purpose of purification, wash, purify, of a broad range of repeated ritual washing rooted in Israelite tradition.”[2]
  2. There are several places in the NT where “immerse” seems to be the meaning of baptize.
    1. (Mk 1:5) -And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
    2. (Mk 1:10) -And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
    3. (Jn 3:23) -John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized
    4. (Ac 8:36–39) -And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
  3. Baptism is symbolic of our union with Christ. The Bible tells us that baptism pictures Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, all of which require immersion.
    1. (Ro 6:3–4) -Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
    2. (Col 2:11–12) -In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
  4. Baptism as immersion also is symbolic of the judgment on Christ.
    1. (1 Pe 3:20–21) -because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
    2. Water coming over someone is a picture of judgment (Gen. 7:6-24, Ex. 14:26-29, and Jonah 1:7-16) and in Baptism, (according to 1 Pe 3:21) we picture Christ taking the judgment that we deserve.
  5. The washing away of sins is only part of what baptism pictures and is better pictured in believers by immersion underwater.
    1. (Ac 22:16) -And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Who Can be Baptized?

Baptism should be given to those who understand the gospel and have made a believable outward profession of faith with genuine repentance of sin. It is unavoidable that some will make false professions of faith but this is where church discipline comes in at a later date.

  1. (Ac 2:41) -So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
  2. (Ac 8:12) -But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
  3. (Ac 10:44–46) -While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,
  4. (Ac 10:47–48) -“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
  5. (Ac 16:14–15) -One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
  6. (Ac 16:32–33) -And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

When we look at the NT, it seems clear that baptism is a symbol of beginning the Christian life and an outward commitment to Christ.

  1. (Ga 3:27) -For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
  2. (Ro 6:3–4) -Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  3. (Col 2:12) -having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

None of these verses seem to makes sense if children in the congregation were baptized.“Those who argue for infant baptism at this point resort to what seems to the present author to be vague language about infants being adopted ‘into the covenant’ or ‘into the covenant community,’ but the New Testament does not speak that way about baptism. Rather, it says that all of those who have been baptized have been buried with Christ, have been raised with him, and have put on Christ.”[4]

Salvation in Baptism?

The Romans Catholic Church says that baptism should be given to infants and is necessary for salvation because it causes regeneration (new birth). To the Catholic Church, baptism, along with its other sacraments, are means of saving grace.

  1. “Baptism is the Sacrament in which man being washed with water in the name of the Three Divine Persons is spiritually reborn.[5]
  2. Furthermore, “Every validly baptized person, even one baptized outside the Catholic Church, becomes a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”.[6]
  3. “If anyone says that the sacraments of the new law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer that grace on those who place no obstacles in its way, as though they are only outward signs of grace or justice received through faith and certain marks of Christian profession, whereby among men believers are distinguished from unbelievers, let him be anathema.[7]

The big distinctions between Protestants and Catholics have to do with the basic issue of salvation and the gospel itself. The reformation was largely focused on this vital issue.  The reformers proclaimed a salvation that depends on faith alone, not on faith plus works. If baptism is necessary for salvation as the Catholic Church teaches, that means salvation is based on faith plus works.  Therefore, the protestant disagreement on baptism comes largely down to the issue of soteriology (salvation) more so than the practical outworking of biblical texts relating to baptism.

  1. (Ga 3:10) -For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
  2. (Ga 5:4) -You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
  • (Ga 1:6) -I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

What about John 3:5?

John 3:5 -Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Some argue that this text refers to baptism, but this argument does not hold water.  Jesus is talking to Nicodemus before he departed from the earth meaning that Christian baptism was not yet established as it is today. If this text were referring to baptism, this would contradicts witness of the rest of the scriptures that make clear that salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 3:20,22, 25, 28, Eph. 2:5, 8-9).  Furthermore- If salvation was necessary for salvation and causes regeneration, then the early church in Acts would have emphasized the need for baptism just as much as the need to repent and believe, but they rather see it as a call for the Christian after they repent and beleave.

  • (Ac 8:36) -And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Baptism seems important here, but not necessary for salvation.

Here is a better explanation of John 3 that takes the context into account. Jesus here is referring here to Ezek. 36:25-27

  • (Eze 36:25–27) -I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness’s, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The water in the text is referring to the washing of regeneration, not the washing of christening. Jesus is referring to Ezekiel 36 which is referring to regeneration, not baptism. This explains why Jesus then responds to Nicodemus who does not understand, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (Jn 3:10). Furthermore, immediately after this text we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Notice it does not say that whoever is baptized shall have everlasting life, but whoever believes. Here are some more important texts.

  1. (Tt 3:5) -he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
    • Once again the water here is not talking about baptism but “by the washing of regeneration”.
  2. (1 Pe 3:21) -Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
    • In this text it says “Baptism…now saves you”, but it specifies, that baptism is “not the removal of dirt from the body” (in other words it does not remove sin), but rather it is “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

Thank you for reading this article.  Feel free to post comments and question, just make sure they are respectful and sincere.

[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 165). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[2] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 164). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology 971.

[5] Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Trans. By Patrick Lynch, ed. By James Bastible, 4th ed. (Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books, 1960).

[6] Ibid 355

[7] Counsel of Trent, Canons on the Sacraments in General (1547) Canon 6

Two Roads Leading to Hell

You may be reading this article because the title caught your eyes.  To Roads Leading to Hell… that seems a bit serious.  I want to reassure you; it is that serious. To begin, we see in the Bible that there are two options to chose from when it comes to Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13).  Those who reject God in Christ are sentenced to eternal death for their sin, but those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus in faith receive eternal life (Read John 12:44-50). I want to argue that in the Bible we look closely at this road to destruction and see that there are two ways we can reject God in Christ and therefore two “lanes” or “roads” leading to hell.

Road One: Irreligion/Paganism

This road is quite obvious and is what we generally think of when it comes to rejecting God.  What probably comes to most of our minds is God’s indictment on those who reject God in Romans 1.  This is the one who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (v. 23).  Those who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator” (v. 25).  On this road to hell are those who reject God by being “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (v. 29-31).  For those who reject God and live in sin openly, it is obvious they are on a road to destruction.  It does not take much to see that they are full of sin and in need of a Savior.  This is not a good place to be, but in reality, it is not as terrifying as those who are taking the second road leading to hell.

Road Two: Religious Moralism/Works Righteousness

Here is the simple reason why road two, moralism, is even more dangerous than road one, paganism. The first road of paganism is marked by signs warning them they are heading for hell unless they turn to Jesus.  Not so with the religious moralist.  This person (maybe it’s you) is on a road with the wrong markings.  Though they are headed straight for eternal suffering, all signs say that they are heading for paradise.  People tell them “keep it up” and “I am so proud of you that you have turned your life around.”  Those on this road are present in churches, and placed next to true believers, they look exactly the same.

Have you ever entered a highway on the wrong ramp?  You intended to go east instead of west but you take the wrong entrance.  You get on the highway thinking you are going EAST but most likely, eventually, your eyes catch a sign that says WEST.  Then you know, “I am going the wrong way, I better turn around.”  Well, with the religious road of works righteousness, the signs have been changed.  The wicked enemy of God, Satan himself has switched the signs and instead of them saying “wrong way” or “road to destruction” they say “keep going, paradise 20 miles, no U-turns.”

This person is addressed in Romans 2.  In Romans 1 as we saw, Paul addressed the Pagan who is on the first road headed to hell.  In Romans 2, Paul begins addressing the “religious person” pointing out that they are on the same boat, or better yet, are on a similar road to destruction.  He points out that no matter how moral you try to be, you will always fall short.  You will be caught judging other people while you are practicing the same thing, just more discreetly (Romans 2:3-5).    Paul then concludes chapter 1 (the judgment of God on the Pagan) and chapter 2 (the judgment of God on the religious) in this way:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 (ESV)

Both of these roads lead to hell.

Alternative: The Gospel of Grace

This has been a depressing blog post so far, and I pray you are now hungry for the Gospel of Grace- the only road to eternal life.  Paul has clearly established that we have no hope in ourselves.  If we give up on obeying God’s rules and run to paganism, we are headed for hell.  If on our own we seek to live a moral life, we are also headed for hell.  But Paul gives us a third option, a third road in Romans 3:21–27; the free gift of righteousness through faith.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

This is our only hope in life and in death, to cling to the cross of Christ, to run after our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ.  Our own righteousness is filthy before God, but the righteousness of Jesus is able to cleanse us, make us whole, and gives us new life, namely eternal life.  This eliminates boasting and all glory goes to God.

If you find yourself on the wrong road, headed the wrong way, listen to Peter: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” -Acts 3:19

 

 

 

Sermon: God Saves the Humble 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Listen to more Sermons Here.

Text:

1 And Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;

my horn is exalted in the Lord.

My mouth derides my enemies,

because I rejoice in your salvation.

“There is none holy like the Lord:

for there is none besides you;

there is no rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,

let not arrogance come from your mouth;

for the Lord is a God of knowledge,

and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken,

but the feeble bind on strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,

but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.

The barren has borne seven,

but she who has many children is forlorn.

The Lord kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low and he exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the ash heap

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,

and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,

but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,

for not by might shall a man prevail.

10  The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;

against them he will thunder in heaven.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;

he will give strength to his king

and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

 

 

It Is Finished

The last thing that Jesus spoke before He breathed his last breath was “It is finished”.  In English, this phrase takes up three words but in the original language, Jesus spoke a single verb which we in English translates “It is finished”.  This word that Jesus spoke before He breathed his last breath, “it is finished,” is an interesting word, because it is not a past tense word such as “It finished”.  It is not a future tense word such as “It will be finished”.  It also is not a present tense word such as “I am finishing”.  It is what we call a perfect tense word. This is hard to translate in English but it is edifying to understand.  A perfect tense action is an action that was completed in the past but has present effects in the present and into the future.  This is the thrust of Jesus’ statement as He dies on the cross.  Two central aspects:

First: The work that I have come to accomplish is done: The wrath of God that sinners deserve is finished being paid for on the cross.  The obedience to the father that He was supposed to do perfectly is done.  No more payment for sin must be bore.  It is finished.

Second: This finished work of redemption has present effects that continue into the future.  The finished work on the cross means, you don’t have to go searching for forgiveness anymore.  You don’t have to work your way to right standing with God! It is finished! Jesus has finished defeating the power and penalty for sin.  You can now walk in newness of life for all the was required is finished on the cross.  As Hebrews 10:14, “By a single offering he (Jesus) has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

This changes the way we live life.  There is no longer a need that was not addressed and taken care of as Jesus suffered for us.  Do you need healing?  Jesus says, “It is finished.”  As a sinner, you need forgiveness.  Jesus on the cross says to you who have turned to him in faith, “It is finished.”