What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? Clarence Sexton First Edition Copyright
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What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? Copyright © 2010 Crown Christian Publications Powell, Tennessee · 37849 1-877 At-Crown CrownChristianPublications.com FaithfortheFamily.com ISBN: 978-1-58981-567-4 Layout by Stephen Troell All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form–electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other–except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles or printed reviews, without the prior permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.”
he New Testament reveals that believers were obedient to Christ in the matter of baptism, with the exception of those who, like the thief on the cross, were physically incapable of being obedient in believer’s baptism. The Bible says Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. More than forty years ago, a man took the Bible and explained to me that I was a lost sinner and that Christ paid my sin debt. I was told that the Lord Jesus Christ became a man without ceasing to be God. He came to this earth to bleed and die on the cross for my sin. He was buried and rose from
Solid Answers Series the dead and is alive forevermore. The Lord convinced and convicted me of my sin, and the soul winner invited me to confess my sin to God, to repent of my sin, and by faith to trust Christ as my personal Saviour. That day I came to the Lord and the Lord came to me. He revealed Himself to me and became my Saviour. He gave me new life, and I have that life in Him. It is eternal life; it is a present possession. Eternal life is the life of the Eternal One in me. This is something I will never lose. God will keep me safe and saved forever. I am one of His sheep; I have heard His voice. I know Him; He knows me. I am in His hand and nothing can pluck me out. I will forever be a child of God. When I came to the Lord and trusted Him as my Saviour, the kind man who told me of the Saviour said, “Now you ought to be obedient to the Lord in believer’s baptism.” I had very little idea of what it meant to be baptized. He took the Bible and explained to me from the Word of God what I was to do and why I was to do it. I came to the church service on a certain Sunday, and at the conclusion of the meeting, I came forward just as the pastor instructed me. The pastor prayed with me and announced to the church that I was making public my profession of faith in Christ and that I had come because I wanted to be obedient to Christ in believer’s baptism. I was baptized. I remember it as clearly as if it were something that happened just yesterday. I rejoice that God gave me the privilege to confess Him publicly and follow Him in believer’s baptism. I desire to help you understand and enable you to help others understand the meaning of Christian baptism. There are certain things we find true every time we read about baptism in the New Testament. 6
What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? The Bible says in Acts 2:41-42, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” When they were baptized, they “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” When the Lord established the New Testament church, He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall The Bible says not prevail against it” (Matthew when they were 16:18). It is His church—His called out assembly. Remember, baptized, they He left us a body of doctrine, that “continued is, our beliefs and teachings. He stedfastly in also left us ordinances, the things the apostles’ He ordered that we do.
Our Lord has all authority. The two ordinances He left us are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is to precede the Lord’s Supper. The Bible says when they were baptized, they “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” It is altogether proper to connect our baptism with the local assembly of baptized believers and with the body of doctrine held by that local church. We should adhere only to Bible doctrine, and we should understand that any teaching that is not clearly founded on the Bible is something with which we should not be identified. For example, someone may have been baptized, and in doing so he may identified with a doctrine that teaches that baptism is a requirement for salvation, not an act of obedience following 7
Solid Answers Series salvation. These people may be sincere who believe this, but when we rightly interpret the Word of God, we understand that baptism comes after salvation; it has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is the reality; baptism is a picture of what has happened. There may be someone who has been baptized and has identified with a doctrine that adds conditions to salvation. In other words, you have salvation, but you must meet certain conditions continually to keep salvation. However, the doctrine of the Bible teaches that salvation is of the Lord; it is God’s gift to us. Every believer should live in a way that pleases the Lord and honors the Lord, and there should be evidence in our lives that we have been born into God’s family; but we are not saved by works, and we do not keep our salvation by good works. In the Bible we read of Philip and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. When that particular man came to know the Lord Jesus as his Saviour, he was baptized. The Bible says in Acts 8:35, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” Remember that there is “none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It is the name of the Lord Jesus. The Bible continues in verses thirty-six through thirty-eight, 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:
What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. The Bible teaches that this man had to be a believer before he could be baptized. When we speak of Christian baptism, it has no significance if it is not the baptism of a believer. You may have gone through some ritual of Every believer baptism that had no requirement should live of being a genuine believer in in a way that the Lord Jesus Christ, but that is pleases the Lord not believer’s baptism. The Bible teaches that a person must be and honors saved; that person must know the the Lord, and Lord and give a clear testimony there should that he knows the Lord before he be evidence in is to be baptized.
our lives that we have been born into God’s family; but we are not saved by works and we do not keep our salvation by good works.
The Bible teaches in the account of the conversion of the eunuch, and it is confirmed in every other account, that when people were baptized, they went into the water—down into the water. There are those who believe that it is sufficient to sprinkle or to simply touch someone’s body in a certain place with water. We find the biblical record that they went down into the water, no doubt under the water, and back up out of the water. That is the Bible pattern we are to follow.
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Believerâ€™s Baptism Identifies the Believer With the Lord Jesus Christ The Lord Jesus was baptized. Notice two accounts of His baptism given in the Gospel Records. Matthew 3:13-17 says, Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 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. The same account is given in Mark 1:9-11. The Bible says, And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? We understand from the Bible that when a believer is baptized, it pictures the fact that he has repented of his sin and by faith has come to know Christ as his Saviour. But there was no sin of which Christ had to repent. He tells us why He was baptized. Verse fifteen of Matthew chapter three tells us He was baptized to “ fulfil all righteousness.” He gave us an example. He identified Himself publicly. When our Lord went into the water, John baptized Him, and John placed Him beneath the water and the water covered Him. It closed over His body like a grave. It pictured a death. When He came out of the water, He Christian came out like someone coming baptism is out of a grave.
The Bible says at the moment identify the of His baptism there was the believer with evidence of the Trinity—God Jesus Christ. the Son being baptized, God the Father speaking from heaven, and God the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. When we are baptized as believers, we are identified with the Lord Jesus Christ because we are baptized just as He was baptized. We are instructed to baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:14-20). Christian baptism is designed to identify the believer with Jesus Christ. We are to follow Him. The Bible says in Revelation 14:4, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” If our Lord was baptized, and we are to follow Him, then we should be baptized. He has set this example for us. Believer’s baptism identifies the believer with Christ.
Solid Answers Series Often people get the wrong idea when someone is speaking to them of being baptized. We think of it simply as a church ordinance, or we say that this will please someone if done. It is a beginning of public identity with Christ. We are telling and testifying that we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We identify with the Saviour who came to this earth, bled and died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead and is alive forevermore. Everyone who has been born of God’s Spirit should rejoice and count it a great privilege and wonderful honor to identify with our Saviour by following Him in baptism. Christian baptism is designed to identify us with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Believer’s Baptism Is a Command to God’s Children For the Christian, baptism is not an option; it is a command. It is not a preference; it is a command. It is not a suggestion; it is a command. The Bible says in Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. This command brings us into closer fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a matter of whether or not we will obey
What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? what God has said. There is no question that it is a command. In other words, if you are a Christian and you profess faith in Christ and you know that you have genuinely been born of God’s Spirit and you have not obeyed the Lord’s command, then you are a disobedient child of God. According to the order that we find in Scripture, you should not come to the Lord’s table and partake of the Lord’s Supper until you have been scripturally baptized and identified yourself with the Lord and the Lord’s people in the local church. The Bible says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” As the believer obeys the Lord’s command and identifies himself with the Lord Jesus and with the local church in which he is baptized, he enters into the fellowship of that local assembly. Then we come joyfully and seriously to the Lord’s table to partake of the memorial supper that He left us, identifying again with the Lord Jesus by remembering His shed blood and broken body. Baptism is a command. When I was just a young man and came to the Lord as my Saviour, the pastor said to me, “Now you should obey the Lord in baptism.” He said to me, “Just as you came to know the Lord as your Saviour, you should never have the first question about whether or not you should be baptized.” Once he showed me from the Bible that this was what God commanded, and once he gave me examples from God’s Word of what I was to do, I knew it was the very thing that I was to do in obedience to Christ.
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Believer’s Baptism Is a Declaration of Our Conversion Christian baptism publicly tells others of what has been done in our heart. The Bible says in Romans 6:1-4, What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 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. Do you know that you have been born of God’s Spirit? We understand that we were born with a sinful nature, helldeserving, hell-bound, and under the wrath of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, in love and mercy, suffered our death. Not only did He die for us, He died as us. When God punished His own beloved Son, He punished Him as He became sin for us, He “who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21). The sin debt is paid; we owe it no more. As believers we are free. Christ paid our debt. The Devil may threaten us and he may hold false guilt before us, but our debt to sin was paid in full when Christ died and rose again.
What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? The Lord Jesus paid our sin debt in His own precious blood. He died for our sin, was buried, and rose from the dead. When we follow Him into the waters of baptism, when we go in obedience to our Saviour into the water, under the water, and up out of the water, we are identifying with Christ who died for us, was buried for us, and rose from the dead for us. We are declaring that our sin debt is paid; we are dead to that old life, and we have been raised in newness of life. We died with Him. We are buried with Him. We are raised to walk in newness of life with Him. We give a clear, definite, public declaration of our faith in Christ when we obey the Lord in baptism. It is a declaration of our conversion. Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:1-4, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. The Bible says, “Christ died for our sins…he was buried… he rose again the third day.” Often we say that baptism must be by “immersion.” It is more than that. We go into the water— “immersion”—but it also must be “submersion”; we must go beneath the water. Then there must be “emersion”—we must come up out of the water.
Solid Answers Series It is a death experience we are declaring. We died with Christ; our sin debt was paid when He died. Again, He not only died for us, He died as us on the cross. The billows of God’s wrath rolled on the Son of God, and those billows of wrath were for us. We should have been crucified, but He died for us and He was buried. Our sin is gone, forgotten, covered, just as the water comes over our body. It encloses like a grave coming over, closing the sight of our body. The sin life is gone; it is buried. We are submerged We go into completely under the water just the water— as you would completely bury a “immersion”— dead person. In the water we are but it also completely buried. Then we come must be up out of the water, emerged out of the water just as Christ on the “submersion”; third day came out of the grave we must go alive forevermore. beneath the
water. Then there must be “emersion”— we must come up out of the water.
We are making this glorious declaration of our death, our burial, and our resurrection—the new life we have in Jesus Christ. We are preaching the gospel. It strengthens the believer to do this. You and I know that when we give the gospel, it is a blessed consolation to all who hear, but it also strengthens us to give the gospel to people. It strengthens a believer to be identified with the Lord in baptism and to declare this gospel message. Not only does doing this help us, it helps other believers; it strengthens other believers. They identify with us; we identify with other believers. We are one with them because they love
What Is the Meaning of Christian Baptism? the same Saviour who died for their sin, who was buried and rose from the dead. We rejoice when we see someone obey the Lord in baptism; we rejoice because we remember that He died for us, and He was buried for us, and He rose again for us. We died with Him, we were buried with Him, and we are risen with Him. It is also a declaration to those who do not know the Lord, because they wonder, “What is this?” They imagine it as a most humiliating thing that someone would do, to actually go into water and go underneath the water and make some public demonstration of going into the water, under the water, and up out of the water. This kind of humiliation identifies with the humiliation of Christ when He came to this earth and became a man without ceasing to be God. He became not just a man, but a servant; not just a servant, but an obedient servant; and not just obedient, but obedient unto death; and not just any death, but the shameful, humiliating death of the cross. In humbling ourselves, we are declaring to unbelievers that Christ is the only way of salvation. He humbled Himself; He suffered the humiliating death of the cross. We are identifying with our humiliated Saviour who is now risen and ascended and sits on the throne, ever living to make intercession for us. It is a declaration of our conversion. The Bible says in Colossians 2:12, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Remember the expression, “buried with him.” When He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. When He was raised, we were raised from the dead. No wonder the Lord Jesus
Solid Answers Series said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). We have made too little of what God has emphasized. We acknowledge that baptism has no part in our salvation, but it has everything to do with our obedience to the Lord and our identity with Him. What a privilege to identify with Christ publicly in believer’s baptism.
from the Solid Answers Series by Pastor Clarence Sexton