Love God, Follow Jesus

Today, my message is about water baptism. Baptism is vital to your spiritual journey. My goal today is that you understand the priority of baptism. The Lord gave us two ordinances, two ceremonies, that he wants us to observe as we worship together. One is holy communion and the other is water baptism. Matthew 28:19 (NLT) speaks of Jesus commanding, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” You could say baptism is as important as the great commission because it is part of the great commission. So why do so many believers go without being baptized? 

First of all, I think some may not understand the importance of water baptism. Maybe they haven’t been taught what the Bible says.

Secondly, I think a lot of people aren’t baptized because they’re part of a church tradition where infants are baptized. Going through water baptism at a later time can seem like you are turning your back on your religion and your parent’s faith. But if you have your own relationship with God and want to get baptized, this is a personal decision, not a reflection of your parent’s choices.

In regard to scripture, I will tell you infant baptism and sprinkling are not found in the Bible. This is critical for you to understand. Until the middle ages, the Roman Catholic Church baptized infants by immersion, and it was only in 1311, at the Council of Vienne that they began to sprinkle. They teach that the infant is saved through baptism and that if a child is not baptized and dies, the baby goes to a place of limbo, deprived of eternal happiness with God. This teaching is not in the Bible and certainly it is not reflective of the heart of God. 

Martin Luther, the reformer and the founder of the Lutheran Church was strong on justification by faith, but never disentangled himself from infant baptism. He believed that baptism cleanses the baby of sin and that somehow the infant must be able to believe. There’s nothing in the New Testament about salvation apart from a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is no infant baptism in the Old Testament or in the New Testament. 

Presbyterianism would say baptism or infant baptism is to the New Testament what circumcision was to the Old Testament, and that we baptize infants as a sign of the covenant of which their parents are a part. This doctrine of man is also not found in the Bible. I would appeal to every single one of you to consider, if it is not in the Bible, then we should not build a doctrine on it. 

Another reason people are not baptized comes down to pride. Maybe you’ve gone so long without being baptized and have reached a certain age or place in life that it would be a humiliating admission to a long-term disobedience or ignorance of understanding. Pride can also be of a physical nature. I’ve known people who don’t want others to see them wet. I can tell you that all we’ll be doing is rejoicing and praising God, celebrating with you.

A fourth reason people are not baptized is because, and this may be a little sobering, they thought they were a Christian and they’re not. There’s no moving of the Spirit in their life that would convict them, or compel them to fulfill the commands of Christ. Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments. If you are a believer, then baptism is a command. It is not something you do when you feel ready. It’s something you do after you’ve been saved and as soon as you can. 

So what is baptism? It is a ceremony in which a person is immersed, submerged, into water. The primary word used in the New Testament is the Greek word, “baptizo”.  Used  77 times in the New Testament, it always means to dip completely or to submerge

Maybe you’ve made a decision to make Jesus your personal savior and you were baptized or sprinkled when you were younger as a child. I would encourage you to be baptized by immersion in water. It is the New Testament pattern. “John the Baptist…preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven…And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River ” (Mark 1:4-5 NLT). His ministry was near the river Jordan because he was submerging people into the water. When Philip baptized the eunuch in Acts 8:36, 38, it says they came up out of the water. This is the New Testament version of that baptism. 

You may wonder what the purpose of baptism is. Baptism is important not only because it is a command of Christ, but it is a public declaration of your faith, that you identify with Christ, that you are his follower. Remember WDJD - what did Jesus do? John baptized multitudes, and “one day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River" (Mark 1:9 NLT). “But John tried to talk him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’…Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize him” (Matthew 3:14-15 NLT).

OK, so what does that mean? How did he fulfill all that God required? He did that by dying on the cross. Baptism is connected to what Jesus did in carrying out all God required. Baptism in water is symbolic of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. It is a physical picture of a spiritual reality.  “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead” (Colossians 2:12 NLT). When you go under the water, it’s like a picture of what happens when you’re buried. The old you has died. When you come up out of the water, you are raised to new life. 

Do you have to be baptized to be saved? Some people will say that baptism is what saves us. Mark 16:16 (NLT) says “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.“ Pay attention to the operative word in this verse. It is “believe.” If you believe, you're saved and if you don’t believe, you're condemned. The real issue here is belief, not baptism for salvation. The relationship between baptism and salvation is similar to the relationship between obedience and salvation. If you are saved, you will obey Christ. If you are saved, there will be fruit from your life that reflects your relationship with Jesus. 

The early church understood. Peter preached that first sermon according to the book of Acts and 3000 people believed. Then 3000 people were baptized. Baptism was directly linked to salvation. “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5 NLT). If you were saved, you got baptized. We are saved by grace through faith, plus or minus nothing. Baptism does not save you, but it does show your willingness to obey Christ and declares your connection with him.

When should you be baptized according to the Bible? Please know, delayed obedience is disobedience. At any point that you and I knowingly are not obeying Christ, especially at a basic level like baptism, over time there is a diminished experience of God‘s blessing in our life and the enemy loves that. There’s nothing to really think about. It is about your personal obedience. You can read more about baptism in Acts, chapters 2, 16, and 22. People were saved and got baptized.

In 2 Chronicles 16 we see that the eyes of the Lord are going to and fro, looking for those who are totally committed to him. When you make the decision to take this step in your journey, God sees and says that he will put his hand on you in a whole new way. Do you want a fresh touch from God? He will strengthen you, help you, and bless you. This is why I am so passionate about seeing people get baptized because I want to see you experience God‘s favor in every possible way.

When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the heavens split apart and the Holy Spirit descended on him. I believe in the same way, when you come up out of that water, the heavens will open over your life and the hand of God will come  upon you in a new way.

Mark 1:9-11 (NLT) states that, as Jesus was baptized, God proclaimed from heaven that Jesus was his dearly loved Son and that he brought God great joy. He will do and say the same over you at your baptism. You will sense the pleasure of heaven and the grace of the Lord. You are going to know the Father’s pleasure and it will be a new season of moving into his glory and experiencing his goodness, because of your obedience. To sign up for baptism, register HERE. We will celebrate with you!