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Well, most of you will not be surprised that we’re going to begin by a proclamation. And furthermore, we’re going to let you share in the proclamation, in due course. This one is taken from 1 Corinthians 6:11 which starts with “but such were some of you.” And “such were some of you” refers to a horrible list of all sorts of terrible sins that those people had been guilty of. But thank God there’s a but. I thank God for the “buts” in the Bible. And then it says:
“...but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Well, Ruth and I believe in making it personal so we’re going to leave out “such were some of you” and we’re going to start with the “but” and we’re going to make it our personal testimony.
“But we are washed, but we are sanctified, but we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
So now we’ll give you the privilege of sharing with us. That’s not a difficult one to remember, it starts “but we.”
“But we are washed, but we are sanctified, but we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Amen. God bless you.
Now we’re continuing with the study of the six foundation doctrines that are listed in Hebrews 6:1–2. We have dealt with the first two, repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now we’re going to move on to the third one which is the doctrine of baptisms. I’ll just read those words briefly to be sure that we’re founded on the actual Word of God. Hebrews 6:1–2:
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles [I prefer to say basic truths] of Christ, let us go on to perfection [completion, maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”
And then the third one which we’re going to deal with this morning, the doctrine of baptisms. For doctrine you could say teaching about. And notice that the word baptism is plural, baptisms. There’s more than one baptism. In actual fact, there are three different baptisms mentioned in the New Testament and we will in due course be studying each of them.
I need to say a little first of all—well, let me just mention briefly the three particular baptisms. Number one, John’s baptism, the baptism of John the Baptist. Number two, Christian baptism which is not the same. And number three, the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Those are three distinct baptisms, all of which play an important part in the New Testament.
Now I need to say something about the meaning of the word baptize. It’s not really an English word, it’s a Greek word written in English letters. What they say technically, transliteration. The word baptize is taken directly from a Greek word, baptizo, and just not translated but written over in English letters. As to why that happened, there are various possibilities. It may just be church tradition or it could be that the translators of the King James didn’t want to offend the Anglican Church by coming out with the right meaning of the word. I don’t know and I’m not asserting any particular view. But, if you go back to Greek there is absolutely no question about the correct meaning of the word, it means to immerse, to immerse. And, you can immerse in two ways and both of them are relevant to the New Testament. You can immerse by putting something down into the water so that it is fully covered or you can immerse something by pouring water over it. But whichever way you do it, it’s total, it’s not partial.
Baptism really is a transition. Every kind of baptism spoken of in the New Testament really represents a transition. You move out of one thing into another. The whole of you moves, not just part of you. For that reason I believe it’s important to emphasize that baptism is total immersion. It’s not just a little part of you that’s affected, it’s all of you that is affected by this process of baptism.
Now, the word is used with two or three different prepositions. And so we need to just explain that. It’s used with the preposition in and it’s used with the preposition into or sometimes just to. The preposition in refers to the element in which you are immersed. It may be water or it may be the Holy Spirit. The into describes the end product or result of being immersed. What do you pass into as a result of the transition of baptism? For instance, John the Baptist’s baptism was in water, into repentance or forgiveness of sins. So there’s an in and an into. The baptism in the Holy Spirit, which we will not be speaking about just yet, is in the Spirit and it’s into the body of Jesus Christ. We’ll come to that later. But when you’re considering baptism you need to ask these two questions: What is it in and what is it into?
Now let’s look at John’s baptism, the baptism of John the Baptist who got his name from the fact that he was the baptizer. This is referred to in Mark 1:2–5.
“As it is written in the prophets, behold I send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
That was the ministry specifically of John the Baptist. He was to go before the Messiah and prepare His way. His message basically was very simple; it could be summed up in one word, repent. It says in the next verse:
“John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
But the word is into the remission of sins. So they were baptized with a baptism of repentance that led to the remission or forgiveness of their sins. Baptized in water into the forgiveness of sins.
And the purpose of this was to prepare the way for the coming of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. I think it’s very significant that Jesus could not come; God would not release Him to come, until the hearts of God’s people had been prepared by repentance. I’m inclined to think that the same is true of the coming again of Jesus. The hearts of God’s people will have to be prepared by repentance. I think in some ways repentance is the most crucial single message that God’s people need today. That’s just a suggestion.
John’s ministry was also a very important dispensational link between two different periods of God’s dealings, or two different dispensations: the dispensation of the law and the prophets and the dispensation of grace and the gospel, which came with Jesus. So John is a crucial figure in the whole unfolding of God’s purpose. We know relatively little about him and I myself have been inclined I think to underestimate the importance of his ministry. His ministry was brief but it was crucial. It prepared the way for Jesus. His impact on his people was really tremendous. If you look in the next verse of Mark 1:5 it says:
“All the land of Judea and those from Jerusalem went out to him and were all baptized to him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”
So he reached in a very brief period of time doubtless hundreds of thousands of people, the whole population of Jerusalem, Judea and so on.
I always reflected on the way God does things. He doesn’t hire a committee, rent a stadium, organize a choir and now say, “Well have a meeting.” He does it in the most improbable way. So just one man in a garment of camel’s hair went out into the wilderness, just one man. All the people went out to him. You see, that tends to be the way God does things. He does things in an unexpected way. And what brings people is not organization, although we thank God for organization, it’s not advertisement, it’s not publicity, it is the supernatural moving of God. And do you know what we need? We need the same today. Where the fire of God is burning, people will go. It doesn’t matter what kind of a place it is, it doesn’t matter what the personality of the preacher is, it doesn’t matter whether he’s educated or uneducated. As far as we know, John the Baptist had no seminary training but he was a man set on fire by God. Jesus said later to the people of His day, “He was a burning and a shining light, and you were willing to rejoice in his light.” But unfortunately those people to whom Jesus was speaking never caught the fire. They went to the light, they received the benefit of the light but they never caught the fire. Jesus’ commendation of John is very powerful. He was a burning and a shining light. I believe it’s true scientifically that if you want to shine you have to burn. There is no light without heat. So let’s all take that to heart. If we’re going to shine for Jesus we have to burn. Let’s pray that we will be wherever God puts us a burning and a shining light.
As I’ve already said, John’s baptism was into the forgiveness of sins. He was a dispensational link between the law and the prophets and between the gospel. Jesus brings this out in Matthew 11:13. Speaking about John He says:
“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”
John was the end of that dispensation; he was a transitional link to a new dispensation of the grace of the gospel. But that makes him an important man. In a sense he bisected the history of God’s people. He ended one period and initiated another. I’ve often thought myself that I haven’t fully appreciated the significance of John the Baptist. Because, the Bible doesn’t say very much about him. But all that it says is extremely significant.
Now, John’s baptism here required three things of the people who came to be baptized. Number one, it was a baptism of repentance. We dealt already with repentance. It’s not an emotion, it’s a decision. It’s coming to the end of something, turning around, facing the opposite way and going in the opposite direction. John demanded that those who came to him for baptism would meet that condition. It was first a decision, then an action.
Secondly, John demanded the public confession of sins. This seems to have dropped out of the thinking of so many people in the church today. But I have learned by observation that it’s extremely powerful when God’s people are sufficiently convinced by the Holy Spirit to confess their sins. It has been the key that has sparked various revivals in the past, especially the Welsh Revival in 1904. It was marked by people confessing their sins.
And let me say something to you, you don’t necessarily have to confess your sins in public but you do have to confess your sins. Because the only sins that God is committed to forgive are the sins we confess. John says in his first epistle, the other John, John the apostle:
“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But that sentence starts with a little word “if.” If we confess our sins. If we don’t confess, we have no guarantee that God will forgive.
I’ve dealt with many, many believers over the years who have a pile of unconfessed sin behind them. Then they come for healing or for blessing and they wonder why they don’t get healed. They have a tremendous burden. David said, “My sins are like a heavy burden over me.” Dear friends, there are some of you here today who have a heavy burden over you because you’ve piled up sins which you haven’t confessed. Some of you would do well to get alone with God, open your hearts to the Holy Spirit and say, “God, show me what I need to confess.” But please remember what I’ve said, if you don’t confess, you have no guarantee that God will forgive. If we confess He will forgive.
The third thing that John the Baptist demanded was evidence of a changed life. He demanded evidence that people had repented. When people came to him who apparently had not repented he refused to baptize them. And particularly, those were the religious people of the day—the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees there, He said, “The Publicans, the tax collectors and the harlots believed John and you didn’t.” He said, “They will go into the kingdom of heaven before you.” It’s rather characteristic, it’s very hard for strongly religious people to come to grips with a new dealing of God. I’ve said sometimes when a new move comes in the church it adds a new story to the building. And then, generally speaking, they put the roof on and say, “This is it, no more.” And the next time the wind of God moves the first thing He has to do is blow their roof off. They tend to be rather resentful and find it hard to move with what God is going to do next.
So, this was like the Pharisees. This is what John said. He was a very plain spoken man. I once made a little study; I don’t want to go into it here, of the characteristics of people of whom it was said they were full of the Holy Spirit. The first one was John the Baptist. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. Then Jesus and then Peter and then Paul and then Stephen. I made a rather frightening discovery. Most of them ended their lives as martyrs. Another thing I discovered was they were all people of plain speech; they didn’t use nice religious language. The Holy Spirit cannot endorse anything that is woolly or muffled. He wants plain, clear speech. You listen to what John said; a lot of preachers wouldn’t talk like that today. But in Matthew 3:7–9:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance [or answerable to a change of life]. Don’t think to say of yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father.’ [He said] God can raise from these stones children to Abraham.’”
It’s an amazing statement, isn’t it? So don’t rely on your pedigree, don’t rely on your background. You have to meet God’s conditions personally. So, those are the three requirements of John’s baptism: repentance, public confession of sins and evidence of a changed life.
I want to point out something here because it applies with every place where baptism is used. It says he baptized them into repentance. But, he wouldn’t baptize them unless they had already repented. So, the baptism did not produce the repentance, it was the seal and evidence that they had repented. You’ll find this will be true of every place in which the phrase “baptizes into” is used. It’s not used to indicate that that brought them in but it’s used to indicate that’s the seal upon their being in. We’ll come to this later.
Now, there were limitations to the baptism of John. It only took people a certain distance. First of all, it did not produce the new birth. Matthew 11:11, Jesus says of John the Baptist:
“Assuredly I say to you among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist, but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
So John was born of women but he was never born again. He didn’t enter into the new birth because that was not possible till Jesus came. So, he was one of the greatest of those born of women. But he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John—not because of what we are but because of where God has put us. He has brought us into the kingdom through the new birth. You remember Jesus said “unless a person is born again he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.” So John had his limitations, God-given limitations.
Secondly, this is important, after Pentecost the baptism of John was not accepted any longer as valid. This is revealed in Acts 19, just the first few verses.
“And it happened while Apollos was at Corinth that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’”
Now we’re not told what they were disciples of. Apparently Paul was not clear. But he asked a question which I imagine he asked everywhere he went, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Which proves that it’s possible to believe without receiving the Holy Spirit. My first wife was like that. She was a tigress about receiving the Holy Spirit. Whenever she met anybody she said, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?” And I think we are pretty slow today to raise this issue with people. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
Well then Paul made a discovery.
“They said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ So they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’”
Now, there are different ways of understanding that, but if they said, “We have not heard that there is a Holy Spirit,” why did Paul say, “Into what then were you baptized?” Why the “then”? How come that they could not have been Christians without hearing about the Holy Spirit? One explanation is Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 28:
“Be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
So, if they had had that baptism they must have heard of the Holy Spirit. So, Paul realized that they were never baptized as believers in Jesus, they were only baptized with the baptism of John.
So Paul went on:
“John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on him who would come after him; that is, on Christ Jesus.”
So Paul said, that was a preparatory baptism but now that Jesus has come, died and risen again, it’s not any longer sufficient. So in verse 5:
“When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
That’s the critical thing; you have to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Messiah to qualify for baptism.
“And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them. They spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
So Paul was thorough. He didn’t accept anything superficial. He wanted the real thing and he wanted it thorough so they had to be believers in Jesus, they were baptized in water and after they were baptized in water, as a distinct experience, Paul laid his hands upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
So that’s trying to set the limits to the baptism of John the Baptist.
Now we want to come to Christian baptism, which is the word that I use—what it means to be baptized as a believer in Jesus. I would have to say that this is a far more important thing than the average Christian today realizes. Even the Baptists, generally speaking, have very little understanding of the real significance and importance of being baptized in water. Let me say you are not baptized into Jesus Christ because you’re a sinner. It’s not a baptism of repentance. Let’s look at it. Matthew 3:13–17:
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by you and are you coming to me?’”
Now at that moment John did not know that Jesus was the Messiah because in John’s gospel he says, “I only knew He was the Messiah when the Spirit of God descended upon Him and remained on Him.” So that’s a testimony to Jesus’ life. Even though he didn’t know He was the Messiah he said, “You’re more righteous than I am. I shouldn’t be the one to baptize you.”
“But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed him. Then Jesus, when he had been baptized, came up immediately from the water and, behold, the heavens were open to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him.”
And in John’s gospel it says “and abiding on him.”
“And then there came a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’”
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance that the New Testament attaches to being baptized in water. Because in this scene all three persons of the Godhead endorsed it. Jesus went through it, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and had not descended upon Him until He was baptized in water, and then God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” God, if you might say reverently, bent over backwards to emphasize the extreme importance in His eyes of being baptized in water.
Now, I want to point out the nature of Christian baptism. It is not a baptism of repentance because Jesus had no sins of which to repent. He was not baptized because He had repented, He was baptized by John but He was not baptized with John’s baptism. What was the purpose? He states it Himself:
“Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
He doesn’t say for me, He says for us. He identifies Himself with all who will follow Him through the waters of baptism. And He says it is fitting, it is appropriate, it is becoming in this way to fulfill all righteousness. That’s what you do when you’re baptized in the name of Jesus Christ as a follower of Jesus. You are not baptized with a baptism of repentance. You have repented but that’s not why you are baptized. You’re baptized to fulfill all righteousness, to complete all righteousness. This is such an important point that I want to emphasize it. If you turn to Romans 5:1 Paul says of us as believers in Jesus:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So Paul says through our faith in Jesus we have been justified. That’s one of the most important terms in the New Testament, very little understood. I say it has a number of different meanings: acquitted, declared not guilty, reckoned righteous, made righteous. It has all those meanings. But through our faith in Jesus we have been acquitted, we’re declared not guilty, we’ve been reckoned righteous and we’ve been made righteous. And that’s why we should be baptized. Not because we’ve repented of our sins but because it’s the way to complete our righteousness. We already have righteousness imputed to us through our faith in Jesus, now water baptism is the appropriate way to fulfill, or complete, or carry out that righteousness.
I think this is very, very little understood today. Generally speaking, as I’ve said, the importance of water baptism is very little understood. The sort of answer you get is, “Well, if you want to be baptized, we’re having a baptismal service in two weeks, put your name down.” That is not the way the New Testament dealt with baptism. I’ll show you that.
Now baptism essentially is a commitment. I’m talking about Christian baptism. It’s an identification with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. Romans 6:3:
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
So, Christian baptism is identification with Jesus in death, burial and resurrection. We died with Him, in the watery grave we’re buried with Him, and then out of the watery grave we arise with Him to walk in newness of life, a different kind of life than what we led before. And Paul says He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. But if you go back to Romans 1:4 you find He was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. So, when we are baptized it signifies we’ve come to the end of our own life. We’ve come to the end of doing things in our own strength and righteousness and power. From now on we’re going to be like Jesus. When we come out of the tomb, the watery tomb, it’s to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not raise Himself from the dead. That’s very significant. He was raised from the dead by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Paul says in Romans 1:4:
He was declared to be the Son of God by the Spirit of holiness through the resurrection of the dead.
Two different courts—one Jewish court, one Roman court—had sentenced Him to death as a criminal. But on the third day when the tomb opened and He rose from the dead, God reversed their decisions. He said, “This is my Son. He’s altogether righteous and I’m bringing Him back to life because He’s going to be the author of life and godliness to all who will believe in Him.” Oh, how important the resurrection is! And you see, in water baptism we act out the reality of the resurrection.
I used to be a teacher of African students years ago, training them to be teachers. And basically, I told them this, “People remember thirty percent of what they hear, sixty percent of what they hear and see, and ninety percent of what they hear, see and do.” So, don’t leave your pupils just sitting at a desk listening to something, get them involved in doing something which indicates they’ve understood the lesson. And God follows the same principle. So, He doesn’t just teach us in theory, He lets us see things and He lets us enact things. Water baptism is an enactment, a fresh enactment, every time it takes place of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in the early church you could not get into the church unless you went through that enactment of the faith that you professed. See, it wasn’t enough just to say, “I believe,” they had to act out their belief.
Now, once you’ve been buried and raised again, your life does not belong to you. If you want to go on living your own life you should not be baptized because baptism is your death sentence. And then it’s your resurrection. But when you’re resurrected, your life does not belong to you. See? It’s a commitment to discipleship.
In Matthew 28, at the end of the chapter Jesus told His disciples what they were to do in proclaiming His gospel. Matthew 28:19–20. He said:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So He said go and make disciples of all nations. He never told us to make church members, did you notice that? Do you know the biggest problem in the church today? is church members who are not disciples. Because they misrepresent the truth that we’re trying to proclaim. If you’re not willing to be a disciple, you have no right to be baptized. Baptism is a commitment to discipleship. They didn’t spend a lot of time teaching them before they were baptized, but once they made the commitment then they taught them. See, that makes sense. Why waste time teaching uncommitted people? Let them prove their commitment and then begin to teach them what they need to know.
See, I’ve been through this in a mission in East Africa. They spent weeks teaching the candidates for baptism but in actual fact, at the end of that what they often did was baptize pagans. They got the head knowledge, they never had the heart experience. They never made a real commitment to Jesus. I was led to analyze this and I’ll show it to you in a little while.
But let’s just consider now the requirements for Christian baptism. We’ve studied the requirements for John’s baptism, let’s study the requirements for Christian baptism. Jesus said, first of all, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them. So, a person who is to be baptized must have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. You remember what I said the gospel is? It’s three historical facts: Jesus died, He was buried, He rose again. If you believe that, it’s reckoned to you as righteousness. You are justified. So, we have no right to baptize people who have not been confronted by the simple facts of the gospel.
Second, the next requirement was repentance. On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38 we read the response of Peter when the convicted but unconverted crowd said to him:
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
And Peter answered in verse 38:
You remember what we said, repentance is always the first step.
“Repent and let every one of you be baptized, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
This is God’s program. It’s all in one verse, why should we split it up and separate it by weeks or months? I was so ignorant about the gospel that when I got saved I got baptized in the Spirit. It didn’t happen in a church, it happened in an army barrack room. I only learned later that you’re supposed to wait. At the same time I was baptized in the Holy Spirit I got the gift of tongues and interpretation. Thank God I hadn’t been put together with Christians who said you have to wait so long to get all this. Peter didn’t say that. He said it’s a package deal. Repent, be baptized in water, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And I can tell you, if you present the truth to people that way and they respond, that’s how it will happen. It doesn’t take a long time. It’s not a long, drawn-out process. It’s a crisis, in a way, you move from one dimension to another dimension.
Thirdly, to be baptized people have to believe. In Mark 16:15–16 Jesus said to His disciples:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
And what a reproach it is on us that after 2,000 years we still haven’t done the job. That’s just by the way.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
So you are not qualified to be baptized if you have not believed. You have to be a believer. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Let me point out to you that Jesus never offers any guarantee of salvation to those who believe without being baptized. You may say, “I’ve settled this with the Lord.” Well, that’s up to you. But you have no scriptural guarantee of salvation unless you’ve been baptized as a believer. And baptized, I mean, the whole of you right under and right up. Immersed.
The other condition is stated by Peter in 1 Peter 3:21. 1 Peter 3:21. He’s talking about the days of Noah and we won’t go into that, we’ll just get the application of this. In 1 Peter 3:20 he says:
“When the longsuffering [or the patience] of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls, was saved through water.”
That’s a significant phrase, isn’t it? Peter’s saying God wouldn’t send the flood until the ark was prepared. So, he was waiting patiently until the ark was ready, then He released the flood. And it says out of all the people on earth today, how many were saved? Eight. That’s a very solemn thought. I’ve seen calculations that the population of the earth was probably at least two million. It’s a very, very solemn thought. Out of possibly two million people eight were saved.
Salvation really is not for the majority. So many questions today in our, quote, democratic society are solved by the decision of the majority. God’s issues are never settled that way. They’re settled by God’s decision.
So then Peter goes on, speaking about the ark and Noah and the flood he says:
“There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism.”
Do you understand? He says baptism saves us. And then he says:
“Not the removal of the filth of the flesh...”
It’s not just having a bath to get clean.
“...but the answer of a good conscience toward God.”
So that’s the fourth condition. It’s that you can answer God with a good conscience. In other words, you say, “God, I know I was a sinner. I’m sorry. I repent. I believe Jesus died for me. I believe that through faith in Him I’m justified, reckoned righteous. I’ve done all I can, Lord, in my condition as a sinner. Please accept me.” You answer to God with a good conscience. You can’t do more than God asks. If you’ve done all that God asks, you’ve answered to God with a good conscience.
So let me just recapitulate the four conditions for being baptized as a believer.
Number one, you have to have heard the gospel.
Number two, you have to have repented.
Number three, you have to believe the gospel.
And number four, you have to have a good conscience toward God.
Now, I don’t want in any way to be controversial but I think without all controversy I can say one thing. An infant is incapable of fulfilling any of those four conditions. Is that right? I think no one can deny it, it’s a simple fact.
Now, I’m coming to something that I was referring to before. Teaching for baptism need not take a long time. See, I went through this in the mission that I was with. They would take six weeks to teach the converts and then baptize them. What they were doing was baptizing instructed pagans. The people had never really met the Lord; their lives had never been changed. They were good people but —
So let me just point out certain facts about the length of time. On the Day of Pentecost 3,000 people were baptized the same day they heard the message. The apostles didn’t say, “Now wait and if you bring forth fruit in six weeks we’ll baptize you.” Or, “When you’ve learned all the sermons of Jesus by heart.” They baptized them because they’d met the conditions. They had believed and repented and they were willing to make a commitment. Notice it was an unpopular commitment because they were very much in a minority.
Then in Acts 8 the Ethiopian eunuch heard the gospel from Philip. Well, let’s read it—it’s worth reading. What happened? Acts 8, you remember Philip was on the road to Gaza. He’d left a very exciting revival in Samaria and because the angel sent him he was on the road to Gaza. He had no idea why he was there. And then he saw this Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot and the eunuch was doing, as I said people do, reading out loud. He was reading from the prophet Isaiah. And so Philip went up to him and said . . . or the eunuch said to Philip:
“I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of some other man?”
He was reading the passage in Isaiah 53, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” And the eunuch asked a very reasonable question, is the prophet talking about himself or about some other person? And then it says, verse 35:
“Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning at the Scripture preached Jesus to him.”
In other words, he said it’s Jesus that Isaiah prophesied about. And it said he preached Jesus. Philip was an evangelist and he’s a pattern. His message was very simple. It’s a one word message. In Samaria he preached Christ and on the road to Gaza he preached Jesus. I love the ministry of a true evangelist. I’m not one myself, but every time I see a real evangelist in operation something in me gets excited. The evangelist business is introduce the sinner to the Savior. Having done that, that task is complete. Philip did that in Samaria and moved on. A lot of people would have hung around because it was a very successful meeting. But he had instructions from God, move on, don’t stay. That was a test of obedience. So here he ends up on the Gaza road with this eunuch and his chariot and he preaches Jesus to him. I want you to notice that, he preached Jesus.
“Now as they went down the road they came to some water. The eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he [Philip] baptized him [the eunuch].”
Now it only tells us that Philip preached Jesus but in the preaching of Jesus he must have said something about baptism because the eunuch took the initiative, not Philip. He said, “Here’s water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized right now?” Philip said, “All right, I’ll do it.” And they both went down into the water. Every time baptism is described in the New Testament, the people go down into the water and come up out of the water.
And then Philip had an exciting experience, he was transported by the Holy Spirit and the eunuch didn’t see him anymore. But the eunuch wasn’t worried; he just went his way rejoicing. But let me point out to you that possibly one or two hours had elapsed from the time that the eunuch first heard the gospel until he was baptized. It was not a lengthy period of preparation.
And then in the household of Cornelius, you know the story, Peter went very reluctantly to a Gentile home because it was against his religious convictions. But he started to talk to them about Jesus and a wonderful thing happened. His sermon was interrupted. I say, “God, give us some more interrupted sermons.” The Holy Spirit interrupted the sermon. And while the people were still listening it says, verse 44:
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished [that’s the Jews] as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles.”
Notice, this is an immersion. I’ll come to that in the next session, but it’s an immersion. They were immersed from above. A Niagara Falls immersion. Why were they astonished?
“...for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”
Now a lot of preachers today say, “Well, we’ll hang around for about six weeks and if you really bring forth fruit we’ll know it was real.” Now, no one could have been less ready to believe that Gentiles could become believers than Peter and his friends. The moment they heard them speak with tongues they said, “This is it, they’ve received the same as we.”
“Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’”
And it says he commanded them to be baptized. He didn’t recommend it, he commanded it. It’s an act of obedience to God. How long? Well, maybe an hour from the time they first spoke in tongues till they were baptized in water. There was no delay.
And then the Philippian jailer. This always appeals to me. You remember the story, Paul and Silas had been thrown into prison and there in the innermost prison, the maximum security jail, at midnight, the darkest hour, what were they doing? They were singing and praising the Lord. It says the prisoners were listening to them, they’d never had people like that in that jail before. And at that particular point their praises released the supernatural power of God and the whole jail was shaken to its foundations, every door was opened and everybody’s chains fell off. The jailer was going to commit suicide because under the Roman system if any prisoner escaped, he had to answer with his life for the prisoner. Paul said, “Don’t do yourself any harm, we’re all here. You don’t have to commit suicide.” Then it says in verse 29:
“He called for a light and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.”
That’s really wonderful, isn’t it, when the jailer trembles before the prisoners?
“He brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.’”
So many people leave that out. But as the head of his family he had the right to believe for his family. It says:
“Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his house...”
They were all of an age to hear the word of the Lord.
“And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes, and immediately he and all his family were baptized.”
They didn’t even wait for dawn. It was urgent. I don’t know if I can communicate to you how urgent water baptism was for the Christians of the New Testament. They didn’t hang around, they didn’t wait for a baptismal service, because their salvation depended on it. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.
I don’t want to be controversial. You can decide how you respond to that yourself.
Now, then. Let’s look at the spiritual significance of baptism very briefly. It’s already stated in Romans 6, we’ll just turn back there for a moment. Romans 6, beginning at verse 3:
“Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
Every time Paul says “do you not know” I’ve observed that the majority of contemporary Christians don’t know. It’s remarkable. Every time he picks on something of which he says “do you not know” I discover that today the majority of Christians don’t know.
“Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
So, as I’ve said before, we’re identified with Jesus in death, in burial and, thank God, it doesn’t stop there. If we’re buried with Him we’re also resurrected.
And then Paul says something very significant. He says in verse 5:
“If we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection.”
He’s speaking about being buried in baptism. He says if we have been buried then we can be sure we’ll be resurrected. Then he says:
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
So, the fact that baptism illustrates is that when Jesus died on the cross our sinful, carnal, rebellious nature was executed in Him. This is a revelation. You see, you can have your sins forgiven and still be a rebel. That’s what a lot of people do. They do to church, confess their sins, they get forgiven and they walk out and start sinning all over again. That’s not God’s purpose. One reason why is they don’t know the historical fact that when Jesus died on the cross, our old man, that rebel in every one of us, was executed. That’s the only way out. There is no other solution to the rebel. The only solution is execution. But the good news is the execution took place more than nineteen centuries ago when Jesus died on the cross. So Paul says you have to know that.
Then he goes on in verse 11:
Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Paul says you know it, then you have to reckon it. You have to reckon that you’re dead to sin but alive to God. And the outward process is water baptism. You go down into the grave, come up out of the grave, you leave your old sinful nature behind in the grave, you come out a new creature.
All right. Now, there’s one other passage in Colossians 2 which is important concerning this. Colossians the second chapter. Paul is writing to Christians, he says in chapter 2, verse 11:
“In him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”
Under the Jewish law, circumcision was simply removing a small portion of flesh. But Christian circumcision is putting off the whole sinful nature, the whole body. And when a body has died, what’s the next thing to do? I didn’t hear you. Bury it, that’s right. It’s really an offense to leave a dead body lying around unburied.
I was with the British forces in North Africa and we never left a corpse on the ground, we always put it underground. And that, I think, is something. If you’ve died, don’t lie around unburied. Get buried. You got the point?
Now, Paul goes on in Colossians 2, having put off the body, what’s the next thing you do? He says bury it.
“...with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead.”
Notice, baptism only works for those who believe. It’s through our faith in what God will do that we are raised. If you don’t believe, it doesn’t work.
Now let me just give you certain important facts. Galatians 3:27:
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
What are we baptized into? Christ. We’re not baptized into a denomination or a church. This is a serious error. Again I go back to my days in East Africa, the largest evangelical mission there would not accept anybody as a member who had not been baptized into their mission. A person might have been baptized very validly as a believer but if it wasn’t in that mission they had to be baptized into that. That is an error. It’s carnality. We are not baptized into a church, thank God, we’re baptized into Christ. Nothing less is sufficient than Christ.
Then, as I’ve said, it’s effective only through faith.
And then we need to understand our new life is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead works in us.
Now let us take very quickly two Old Testament pictures of baptism. The first we’ve already looked at in 1 Peter 3:20–21, Noah’s ark. Peter says the antitype to that is baptism in water. What is the message of Noah’s ark? First of all, judgment was coming. There was only one way of escape from judgment and that was in the ark. So, the flood represents God’s judgment; the ark, as always in the Bible, is a picture of Jesus Christ. In the ark you can pass safely through the waters of judgment. Outside of the ark you’ll be submerged. There is no other way of escape but to be in the ark, Jesus Christ. And in the ark you pass through the water in safety and you come out into a new life, a totally different life. The old life has been washed away, a new life has opened up to you. That’s the picture of Noah’s ark.
And then there’s another picture, too, which we’ll just look at briefly. In 1 Corinthians 10:1–2:
“Moreover brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
And then he says:
These things happened as patterns [or examples] for us.
So, Paul is saying every Israelite in the exodus, the deliverance from Egypt, passed through two experiences. The cloud came down over them from above and Paul says they were baptized in the cloud. They went down into the water, passed through the water and came up out of the water, and Paul says they were baptized in the sea. So there’s this double baptism which is appointed for every believer. The cloud comes down on you from above, you’re immersed in the cloud; you go down into the water, pass through the water, come up out of the water. And when they came up out of the water they started a new life with new laws and a new leader. Everything else was left behind.
And, it was the water that cut off the Egyptians. It’s very important. They’d been saved in Egypt by faith in the blood of the lamb but that didn’t separate them from the Egyptians. It was the water that separated them. And it’s baptism that separates us. We can believe in the blood of Jesus and be saved but we’re not separated till we’re baptized.
I’ve dealt with literally thousands of people who’ve been delivered from evil spirits. Wherever possible I always tell them if you want to keep your deliverance you be baptized in water. Because, that’s the cutoff. It’s not the blood. The blood saves you in Egypt; the water separates you from Egypt. Separated by the water and by the cloud. It says they were baptized into Moses. In other words, this brought them under the leadership of Moses. Well, we are not baptized into Moses, we’re baptized into Christ. Christ becomes our leader. But in order to enter into Him in the scriptural way, we have to pass under the cloud, we have to pass through the water. It’s so vivid, so clear.
And then it says in Hebrews 11:29—well, we’ll read it, we’ve just got time, I think. Hebrews 11:29. Because it emphasizes it it’s only by faith. If you’re an unbeliever you go down into the water a dry sinner and you come up out of the water a wet sinner. That’s the only change that takes place. I heard a man testify that once. Later on he really got saved. He was a soloist, he sang in a church. And in order to sing in the church they said, “We require our singers to be baptized.” He said, “Okay.” There he was, a dry sinner. He went down into the water and came up a wet sinner. That’s all that happened because there was no faith. Here it says of the Israelites in Hebrews 11:29:
“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land...”
How did they do it? By faith, that’s right.
“...which the Egyptians attempting to do were drowned.”
Why? Because they didn’t have faith. So, if you get baptized in water but you’re not a believer, all that happens is you get drowned. You can only pass through to the newness of life by faith in Jesus.
Well, this is a very serious subject. Much more serious than most denominations and churches recognize today. I’ve dealt many times with people who became convicted. They said, “What do we do next?” I said, “Be baptized.” “When?” “As soon as possible. Now.” I’ve taken people down to the sea front in Florida. They had to drive to Miami which is twenty miles. I said, “I’m going to baptize you but I’ve got no other clothes.” They said, “That’s all right, we’ll go home wet.” But they had seen the importance of baptism, the urgency of baptism.
I want to suggest to you we need to have a reorientation in the church about our thinking about baptism. It’s part of salvation. I am not telling you that if you’re not baptized but you’re a believer you will not be saved. That’s between you and the Lord. But I have no authority to tell you that you will be saved. It says he who believes and is baptized will be saved.
Let me pray for a moment.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the head over all things, to the church which is your body. We bring to you this company of people now. Only you know the hearts of each and every one. Only you know exactly in what relationship they are to you. But Lord, I pray earnestly, if there are those here who really want to be saved and become disciples but have not yet been baptized in water, that you will put an urgency in their hearts by the Holy Spirit to take that necessary step of obedience. Lord Jesus, may this be for your glory and for the building up of your body. In your name we pray, amen.