There is no particular focus passage this week, though it would help if you read Romans 6 and 7, and Colossians 2 and 3. These passages do focus on baptism quite heavily.
Anyway let’s begin.
In Christianity there are two important rituals that have been given by Christ to us, his Church.
Firstly, we’ve the been given the Lord’s Supper. And over the last twelve or so months we have partaken in the Lord’s Supper regularly and have explored it’s rich and wonderful symbolism often.
The second important ritual that Christ has given to his Church is Baptism. But unfortunately this hans’t got much of a focus in my messages, nor have we witnessed any of late. Unfortunately, for me, it has slipped into the background of my mind and out of sight.
And so today and for the next few weeks I want to bring baptism to the foreground. Baptism is such an important aspect of the Christian faith. When Jesus began his ministry the first thing he did was be baptized by John the Baptist (the baptizer).
After Jesus death and resurrection when he gave his disciples the great commission he said to them, “ All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:18–19 NIV11-GK)
In the first sermon after Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came down, Peter gives the appeal. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38 NIV11-GK)
The first Gentile to become a Christian was the Roman centurion Cornelius. When the Holy Spirit came on him, Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of [Cornelius and his family] being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we [circumcised believers] have.” and so what did Peter do? “He ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:47–48 NIV11-GK)
Saul, after being blinded by Jesus was visited by Ananias who was sent by God, “so that [he] may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17 NIV11-GK) And what was the first thing that Paul, who was then Paul, did after regaining his sight? “He got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18 NIV11-GK)
Now all of these stories show us just how important baptism is. Jesus, the reason we are here, was baptized, Paul was Baptized, and throughout the whole new testament everyone who put their faith and trust in Jesus was baptized.
For the Early Church and the Apostles baptism was such an important aspect of the Christian faith, and it’s still just as important today.
We make a big deal out of baptism. It is a very significant ritual. I remember my baptism date just as well as I remember my wedding date, which was… 10/10/2009. I was baptized on the 24th of December 2000, with my friend Richard and my two sisters Claire and Nicole. It was a very special day. I remember the big turnout of friends and cousins, and aunties and uncles, and grandparents. And afterwards we had a big celebration meal.
We made a big deal out of it. And I’m sure if you have been baptized you can remember back to the day of your Baptism with joy and fond memories of all the celebration.
See Baptism is important, but the question I want to spend the next four weeks answering is, “Why is Baptism important? Why do people make a big deal of it?
Why is Baptism important?
So why is Baptism important? Well actually baptism in and of its self is nothing, it’s just someone being dunked under water. It’s not a magical formula used to manipulate God or to get something for ourselves; if we put x into the water x comes out of the water. Someone once put it this way, “If you enter the water unrepentant you will come out unforgiven.”
See the thing about Baptism is what it signifies, in some sense Baptism is a physical sign-post pointing to a spiritual reality. Just as a sign-post pointing to Perth is not Perth, neither is the sign-post of Baptism the spiritual reality it points to. However the sign-post is important because without it we’d miss what it is directing us to.
The outward sign of baptism is so important that this Church’s constitution makes it a legal requirement for membership. Again not because of the sign itself but because of what it points to.
What’s it pointing too.
So the question is: What does Baptism point to? And if we can answer this question the again we highlight the importance of baptism.
Baptists believe that the membership of the local Church (the family of God in a particular area) is made up of people who have been spiritually born again, intentionally entrusting themselves to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
In this sense the Church is not like a football club or a golf club where you can get different levels of membership. There is no non-playing members within the Church, nor are there social-members.
Become a member of the Church and you become a full member no matter what background you come from or what skills and abilities you bring, all are equal.
The only condition that needs to be met in order to become a member of the Church is that you have been spiritually born again confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
That is the spiritual reality, baptism is the act through which people who are born again testify to it. So to say it differently, Baptism is the sign-post that people who have believed and accepted Jesus as their lord and savior use to point to that Spiritual reality.
Back on the 24th of December 2000 I was baptized to declare to everybody that I believe in Jesus, and that he is my lord and savior. So in a sense the act of baptism is a declaration to the world that I have chosen to follow Jesus.
Baptism also points to something else. Baptism points to the Gospel, points to Jesus. Baptism is a gospeling event. By going through the steps and by saying the words, baptism proclaims to the world the Good News of Jesus.
You man be wondering to yourself how baptism can be a gospeling experience? Well if we look at the act of baptism itself we can start to understand how it proclaims the Gospel.
In a pool of water the baptizee (for want of a better word) comes to join the baptizer. The baptizer asks the baptizee to declare their belief and faith in Jesus, and once the baptizee has done that the baptizer says, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, the way Jesus told his disciples to do it in the great commission. And then the baptizer dunks the baptizee under the water and then brings the baptizee back up again. That’s it, that’s baptism. So how does this declare the Gospel.
For a clue to help us understand how baptism proclaims the Gospel let’s look at Romans 6:3-5, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
The Gospel is about Jesus dying, being buried, and then being raised from the dead, for the forgiveness of sins, and eternal resurrection life for those who believe. Death, Burial, Resurrection. Three parts to the Gospel story.
In the act of Baptism, by being submerged and put under the water, we proclaim the death and burial of Jesus. As we come up from the water we declare to everyone that Jesus rose from the dead.
But also baptism demonstrates what was achieved through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We’ve heard people say that Jesus’ death means that our sins have been washed away. The waters of baptism then represent the cleansing/washing away of sins that took place on the Cross.
We go into the water dirty, and as we are put under, we are cleansed, and come out clean and anew. All because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is another account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 22. In this account once Paul regains his sight, Ananias says to him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:16 NIV11-GK)
Sign-posts of Baptism
So Baptism is the sign-post that points us to the Gospel, the sign-post that points us to Jesus. Baptism declares that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. But it also tells us that on the cross our sins have been washed away, and that we have been cleansed.
Baptism also is a testimony that the person being baptized has been born again and that they have put their faith in and are following Jesus, their lord and savior.
But that is not all, baptism represents a lot whole lot more than that as well. If we take a look back at the passage in Romans 6, we see that baptism symbolizes some very important truths about the Christian Faith and Life.
Romans 6:3-5, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Those of us who are baptized have died with Christ. This goes beyond merely proclaiming that Jesus did die, we have been united with him in death. We have also been buried with him. And finally as Paul writes, if we have been united in death we will certainly be united in life.
So not only does baptism point to Jesus death, burial, and resurrection; it also points to the believers death, burial, and resurrection.
Now there is a lot for us to understand and to take to heart. What does it mean to die with Christ? What does it mean to be buried with Christ? And what does it mean to rise with Christ? All of these questions have wonderfully rich answers.
And so each week for the next three weeks we are going look at each of these aspects of baptism; death, burial, and resurrection. But for today I want to close with an invitation.
At the end of this series on Baptism, on the first Sunday in July, I want to give anyone who hans’t been baptized the opportunity to do so. To both publicly profess their allegiance to Jesus, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, and to be a sign-post pointing to the spiritual reality of sharing in Jesus‘ death, burial, and resurrection.
So if you haven’t been baptized, here is your invitation to do so. Think about it, pray about it, talk to your family about it, and if this is something the Holy Spirit is telling you to do then I want you either after this service, or on the phone or in person tell me your intent. I will need to know by Friday the 15th of June, so that we can finalize the plans.
And for those who have already believed and been baptized, and those who have yet to believe, I want to encourage you to think about and reflect on the Good News that baptism points to.