What Is Christian Baptism? (Romans Sermon 35 of 120)
July 29, 2001 | Andrew Davis
I. A Long Voyage in the Scriptures
Take your Bibles if you would and open to Romans chapter six, we're going to be looking this morning at the topic of Christian baptism. We're going to be starting in Romans 6:1-4, but actually our journey is going to take us in many different places today. A little bit more unusual approach to preaching than I usually do. But I think it's important for us to understand water baptism and what the Scripture says, and there's no better place in my opinion to begin than in Romans 6:1-4. One of the things that I'd like to accomplish this morning is to give you a sense of just what people in the past have suffered for this doctrine, the doctrine namely of believers' baptism. In 1526, two men, Conrad Grebel and George Blaurock baptized each other in a house in Zurich. In doing so, they immediately became outlaws. It wasn't long before the order went out from the city council that anyone that received what they considered to be re-baptism or Anabaptism would be drowned, executed by drowning. The idea was that the baptizer should be baptized themselves. "If they want water, let's give it to them." And so they were put under a death sentence, and yet these two were willing to stand up for what they believed, namely that the church should be comprised of believers. The church should be made up of regenerate people, and that baptism was not to be given to infants, but rather to those who have heard the Gospel and have made a creditable profession of faith.
The whole incident started when Grebel refused to baptize his newborn child. And pretty soon we are going to have a newborn child and we will not be baptizing that child. I was raised in the Catholic tradition myself. And I have come to Baptistic convictions by searching scriptures. And that's the way it was also for Conrad Grebel and for Manz and a number of others that we call Swiss Anabaptists. And they were persecuted from pillar to post. Everybody persecuted them: The Roman Catholics did, the Lutherans did, the Reformed did. Everybody persecuted these believers, but they stood up for what they believed because they knew it was scriptural, namely that baptism, water baptism, was to be given to regenerate people, to born again people.
And so we've come to that conviction that we are a Baptist church and we testify in the line of that conviction that it is believers, it is those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, who have believed the Gospel, who are to be the proper subjects of baptism. But it's not just the Anabaptists of the 1600s or 16th century, it also is the English Baptists of the 17th century and on that did the same things. And time and time again, we're seeing the same thing, namely that people troubled by the issue of baptism would open up the scriptures and the New Testaments and they'd search and they would find no evidence whatsoever for infant baptism, but rather for believer baptism. And they came to understand what baptism was all about, water baptism.
Adoniram and Ann Judson
Two of my heroes from church history, Adoniram Judson and Ann Judson, got on a boat in 1812 along with Luther Rice and some others, and they were sailing over to the part of the world where God's work was being carried out by William Carey. William Carey was the first modern missionary from the Protestant world. Going to that part of the world, he was a Baptist and he had set up shop there and was ministering. And the news of his work had reached the shores of the new formed nation of the United States and the Judson’s were our first missionaries. They set sail from Salem…When Christi and I lived up there, we went and looked at the area, the pier where they took off from, and there's a little plaque there. And Adoniram and Judson set sail. Now, it's a long voyage to Burma, isn't it? And you've got all kinds of hours to spend on the ship, and what are you going to do with that time? There were no in-flight movies at that point such as we enjoyed recently on a long flight to the other side of the world. There was nothing but the books to read and prayer and fellowship together. And so as they were sailing, they began to investigate the scripture specifically on the issue of baptism. And the reason why is that they were congregationalists. They were sailing as congregationalists, they were sent out by congregational churches in New England and they were all infant baptizers. And so when they got on that boat, they believed in infant baptism.
Well, they had time to begin to investigate and their whole purpose is that they wanted to prove William Carey wrong. And so they were searching through the scriptures so that they could prove that William Carey was wrong. Well, the opposite happened. As they were searching through scriptures, they came to realize that the preponderance of evidence is clear that it is only believers who are to be baptized in the water, not infants. Well as it went on, Adoniram Judson became more and more convinced of this, and Ann Judson became more and more anxious. So what are we going to do? Once we come baptist, they're going to cut off our support. We're going to be left all alone, none of our other missionaries are going with us, will fellowship with us. We'll be totally alone. And Adoniram Judson said that we have to follow the Scripture wherever it leads. And so he was willing at that point to be cut off from all financial support, missionary support. And Ann Judson, though she didn't really believe in infant baptism, she was willing to argue with him and fight against him until finally, she said, "I've got to read the scriptures myself." And so she searched it and she came to those same convictions. And so also did Luther Rice, and when they arrived there the three of them were baptized as well.
Now, nowadays, I wonder sometimes if baptists still have those same strong convictions. If we be willing like Conrad Grebel to die for our beliefs on baptism or willing like the Judson's were to be cut off from all financial support, missionaries in a distant land with no network or support because of a doctrine. I wonder that sometimes I've been reading a book entitled, "Why I'm a Baptist," and in it, it talks about some attitudes toward baptism that have crept in even to the Baptist church. Harry Emerson Fosdick who was a liberal at the beginning part of the 20th century, said this about baptism, he said, "Why should baptism divide? If I had my way, baptism would be all together an individual affair. Anyone who wanted to be immersed, I would gladly immerse. Anyone who wanted to be sprinkled, I would gladly sprinkle. If anyone was a quaker and had conscientious scruples against any ritual, I would gladly without baptism welcome him into the church on confession of his faith, why not?
Well that's what Fosdick said, why not? Because scripture says that's why. And that's why we will continue to uphold believer baptism despite what people are saying. Meanwhile Will Campbell who is a liberal Baptist wrote this, it's a testimony about his baptism of his infant grandson. This is what he said.
"My daughter Bonnie asked me if I would baptize her three-year-old son Harlan on Christmas. My daddy was here, at that point he had been a Baptist Deacon for 60 years and I was afraid because in Baptists circles, infant baptism is quite a scandal particularly if not by immersion. So I asked in deference to him "Daddy do you believe in infant baptism?" And he said "Believe in it son? I've actually seen it." That was his way of saying, "Don't be silly, baptize your grandson." So we did at the breakfast table. Harlan got to giggling while we were doing this and when we got finished he said, (he called me Papa) "Papa what did you put on my head?" I said "Water." And he said "Why?" Bonnie was squirming she didn't want her three-year-old son traumatized by her daddy's horse and buggy theology, but it was a fair question I was glad to answer it. I talked about guilt and forgiveness. He said "What is guilt?" I said "You know that big lump you get in your throat when you and your mama quarrel." Well when I got through with the little homily he jumped down from the table wiped off the last of the runny egg with his biscuit and started off toward the door with the television room, then he came back and grabbed me around the knees and looked up and in the throes of a deep belly laugh said "Well well Papa thank you then." "
Is that all baptism is? A little three-year-old who doesn't have the first idea about conviction of sin, doesn't know what Jesus did. Is that all baptism is meant to be? I think not. But in Romans chapter 6:1-4, baptism is held up as a symbol of a union with Christ in his death and also in his resurrection.
II. Context in Romans
Look with me at that text, Romans 6:1-4. "What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means. We died to sin how can we live in it any longer. Or 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." Now Romans 6:1-4 is perhaps the chief doctrinal basis that many Baptists have for believer baptism, but I think it goes far deeper than that. I believe in context of Romans that what's being discussed here is an attitude that some may have toward the doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from works. Now we talked about that last time, but our gospel is the gospel of free grace is it not? It's a gospel in which God reaches down to us in our need there is nothing we can do for our salvation. There is no hope for us to be justified before a holy and righteous God, who has a full record of all of our sins and who for one sin cast Adam and Eve out of the garden (that is the holiness of God), and we have no hope before such a holy God for salvation, if God doesn't work it. And because God is looking for righteousness on Judgment Day and we have none we must receive an alien righteousness, a gift of righteousness coming to us through Jesus Christ.
A righteousness purchased for us on the cross where Jesus took on our sins and suffered the wrath of God and died that death penalty that we might have eternal life. And Jesus stood in our place and the sins that we had were given to him, and the righteousness that he had was given to us. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, and on the basis of that we will stand. And so therefore it is impossible to sin your way out of righteousness, sin your way out of God's justification, for where sin abounds grace abounds all the more. Well if that's the true gospel, what's the natural thing that pops in your mind? Well then let's sin all we want. What difference does it make if we're saved by grace, justified by something that someone else did, we can sin as much as we want right? And that's what Paul brings up here in Romans 6. He says: "What then, shall we go on sinning or continue to sin so that grace may abound, may it never be." he says. And then he says in effect, he puts it in question form but he says: "We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?" We died to sin how can we live it in any longer, and then he brings up this image or this picture of baptism.
Now in the Christian life there are two different ways of understanding baptism, there is water baptism and there is the baptism by the spirit. And it's so important for us to understand as Baptists, (those who believe in believer baptism that it is the baptism with the spirit), the union, the spiritual union we have with Jesus Christ that saves us, not the water. But that must come first. The public testimony that we have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ comes first and then the water comes next. So he says in verse 3: "Don't you know that all of us who are 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."
III. New Testament History
John the Baptizer
Now in order to understand baptism we have to kind of go back in New Testament history. The first time that water baptism enters the scriptures with John the Baptizer. Now you know him as John the Baptist but I don't want you to misunderstand, he wasn't a Baptist the way we understand. He was a Baptizer, he was someone who came under command from God to baptize in water. And so it says in Mark 1:4-5, "And so John came baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him confessing their sins. They were baptized by him in the Jordan river."
And so this man John was sent by God. It says at the beginning of that verse, "And so John came." What does that mean? "And so John came." Well, he came in the direct fulfillment of prophecy. "It is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet, 'I will send my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way' - 'a voice of one calling in the desert "prepare the way for the Lord, make straight path for Him."' And so John came baptizing." You see the water baptism came to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ who was sent by God. The testimony in John 1 is clear that God sent John to baptize. John 1:29 and following it says this: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward Him and said, 'Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' This is the one I meant when I said a man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me. I myself did not know Him but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel." Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the spirit, descend like a dove and remain on Him. I would not have known Him except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me the man on who you see the spirit come down to remain He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is the son of God."
A Baptism of Repentance
And so John came baptizing with water and he preached it says, "A baptism of repentance." John preached day after day and people came out to hear him; people from all Jerusalem and Judea and all the whole countryside would come out to hear John the Baptist and he would preach and he would preach boldly, and he would preach a baptism of repentance. Now, this was rather shocking to the Jewish establishment, and why is that? Because up to that point baptism had only been done to gentile converts to Judaism. That's what it was used for. It's not a ceremony or commandment given in the Old Testament, but it's something that they had established that if a gentile wanted to come into Israel and become a Jew they would of course, if a male, had to be circumcised but also would have to go through this baptism to kind of purify them from sin. And so this was picked up by John the baptizer and he was saying you Jews have to be purified you're not truly Jewish. You're not living according to the commands of the law of Moses you were treated like gentiles you must come in in the same way. And so he was baptizing Jewish people, and it was shocking to people. They were very surprised. But it was a baptism of repentance. Now what is repentance?
Repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart about sin. It's the very issue that Paul's dealing with in our passage in Romans 6. We're going to have a new attitude, a new relationship with sin, In Christ we died to sin. How can we live in it any longer. There's a new way of thinking about it. And so John was calling the people to a new way of thinking about sin; that they would hate sin; that they would fight against sin; that they would yearn to be righteous and free from sin forever. And so he preached the baptism of repentance and confessing their sins they were baptized. It was their way of saying, I want to be done with sin. I come with sin into the river. I want to leave the sin behind and come out pure and clean. And so it was he preached a baptism of repentance. Now true repentance always leads to a change life, doesn't it? Isn't that Paul's point here in Romans 6?
If you died to sin you can't live in it any longer. You're going to live a changed life. Things will be different for you from now on. And so John preached the same way in John 3:7-9. Luke wrote, "John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit and keeping with repentance and do not begin to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. He axe is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'"
And so he was calling on them to change their lives whether they were soldiers or tax collectors or any member of society that they were to live differently. There was to be a new life, a change of heart. They were to prove their repentance by their deeds. Now John's baptism, ultimately, was simply to prepare the way for Christ, to reveal Christ to Israel. And John 1:31, we already read. He said, "I myself did not know Him. But the reason I came baptizing with water was that Jesus Christ might be revealed to Israel." It was to get the people ready for Christ to come. And so in the midst of his preaching, in the midst of his baptism, he said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." It isn't this water baptism that takes away the sin of the world. It is Jesus and his blood and his ministry that takes away the sins of the world. And so therefore, he consistently denigrated. He considered his water baptism to be inferior to that which Jesus came to do. Said it over and over. He compared himself to Christ, and he said, "I am not worthy to stoop down and untie his sandals."
That's what he said. "I'm not worthy to touch his feet." I just stop there and think about that. Sometimes I just think we're too familiar with Jesus. I think Jesus loves us with the love we just can't imagine, but John the Baptist said I don't even deserve to touch his feet. Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest man that had ever lived up to that point. "I don't deserve to untie his sandals." And people were wondering about John. They were waiting expectantly. They were wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ Luke 3:15-17, John answered them all. "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I is coming who's sandals I do not deserve to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into his barn but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire."
So Jesus comes bringing two baptisms. Doesn't he? The baptism of the Spirit and the baptism of fire. One of them for salvation and one of them for judgment. Water baptism is just a symbol. Jesus brings the real baptism. Baptism of the spirit and fire. Now it's amazing each of these four gospels underscores this very strongly. The water baptism of John was inferior to the baptism that Jesus brought; the baptism with the spirit. Now Jesus Christ himself submitted to water baptism. In Matthew chapter three we have the account Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John tried to stop him and said, "I don't deserve to baptize you. " "'I need to be baptized by you and you come to me?' And Jesus said, 'Let it be so now. It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness,' and then John consented. And as soon as Jesus came up out of the water…" And by the way every time it says that, I keep thinking about immersion but you don't need all this water if you're just going to be sprinkling...
And so Jesus came up out of the water and at that moment heaven was opened and the spirit descended on him like a dove and a voice came from heaven saying, "This is my son whom I love." And so we believe Jesus received water baptism. And so Baptist tend to speak this way. We follow the Lord in baptism. Jesus was baptized with water. We follow him. And he was baptized with water too. Now, Jesus had no sins to repent from, did he? But he was showing his unity with us, and with John's message. Total identification with the purposes of God. We must fulfill all righteousness. And now it's reasonable for us to understand what baptism is. Baptism, the word literally means immersion. It means a complete immersion into something. It was a word used by someone who is dying wool or some kind of cloth. You're going to immerse it in the dye. If you're going to dye it purple or dye it blue, you would completely immerse it in the vat where the dye was. And so that's the word used. Baptism. Baptidzo. It's a total immersion. And so, Jesus in effect was immersing himself in righteousness. He was immersing himself in John's message. He was immersing himself in unity with us though he had no sin. And so in that same way, he spoke of his crucifixion as a baptism.
In Luke 12:49-50, he says, "I have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled. But I have a baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed." What is he referring to there? It's his crucifixion, his death. He would be completely immersed in the wrath of God. He would drink totally the cup of God's wrath for us so that we would not have to. Jesus was immersed in that. There was a time also in Mark chapter 10 when James and John, the sons of Zebedee came up to Jesus and they had a request. And Jesus said, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and one on your left." The mother made the request and then Jesus turned to the sons, James and John and says, "You don't know what you're asking." "Can you drink the cup that I'm going to drink or be baptized with the baptism I'm going to be baptized with?" "We can," they said, not knowing what they were speaking of. "Yes, we can be baptized with your baptism." Jesus said, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with. But to sit on my right or left is not for me to grant. Those places belong to those for whom they're prepared."
Now how did James and John get baptized with Jesus's future baptism? Our text answers that question I believe. We are united with Christ in his death and we are united with him also in his resurrection. A total union between us and Jesus Christ. Paul put it this way, Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live." That's total identification. I've been immersed in Jesus's death. Totally one with it. His death is my death. And so also his resurrection is my resurrection. So just as I died with Christ to sin. So now I have been raised with Christ to a whole new life. And the water baptism is just a symbol of that, just a picture of that. But the real baptism is being baptized with the baptism with which Jesus was baptized. That death on the cross and also his resurrection. But Jesus also commanded not just did he receive water baptism himself and not just did he speak of his crucifixion as a baptism, but he wanted his disciples to do water baptism, to pick up with this symbol from John the Baptist and carried on into his ministry, into their ministry. In John chapter 3, this is recorded after this Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside where he spent some time with them and baptized, it says.
John 3:26, some people came to John and said, "Rabbi, that man who is with you on the other side of the Jordan, the one you testified about. Well, he is baptizing and everyone's going out to him." And so the whole countryside was going and so baptism is being carried on around Jesus. Now I speak of it that way because we learn in John chapter 4 that Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were. Jesus didn't do the water baptism. He had a greater baptism to give, the baptism of the spirit and he would give that. But the disciples were to do the water baptizing and so they did. They baptized with water, John 4:1-2. And so he had it started early in his ministry. I assume it continued right on through and then he gave the command in the great commission. He said, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I've commanded. And surely, I am with you always, to the end of the age." So water baptism was going to be part of the great commission. That the disciple-making would come alongside this symbol, this water baptism. Baptism into the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit. And then, finally, Jesus baptized his disciples with the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:4-5, "On one occasion," it says, "while he was eating with them, he gave them this command, 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about, for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." And so it happened. On the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), the Holy Spirit descended on that assembled body, 120 of them there. And the Holy Spirit came and they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. After the Holy Spirit came, they were filled with the spirit and they went out on the streets and Peter preached to a huge throng there. And this is what Peter said, "God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God he has received from the father, the promised Holy Spirit, and has poured out, which you now see in here." The Holy Spirit has been poured out. And so Jesus in baptism. And then the apostles continued that baptism in their ministry right that same day of Pentecost. Acts 2:37 and following, "when the people heard this [the message of the Gospel], they were cut to the heart." They were convicted, there was a conviction of sin, and they said, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
There was a cry from the heart saying, "I want to be saved. The wrath of God is against me. I'm under my sins. Is there a refuge for me? Is there a place where I can go?" Yes there is, the blood of Jesus Christ has been shed for you. And he said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you also will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all of whom the Lord our God will call. With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation'." And, "Those who accepted his message were baptized." Just a moment. What did I just say? Those who accepted the message were baptized. No infants. Those who accepted the message, those who believed the message were baptized. And the number of disciples grew to about 3000 that day. So it was also with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. "Here's water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And so he was baptized. And Paul and Silas with the Philippian jailer. Water baptism. But yet the apostles consistently considered the baptism of the spirit more significant. That's what mattered more than anything else. In Acts chapter 10, Peter is speaking to the first Gentile convert, Cornelius.
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the gift of the Holy Spirit just as we have.'" They'd already been united with Christ. They'd already believed, it had already happened. Let's do the water baptism because God's commanded it for us. You see the order? And so it was. Now, what do we learn from this survey? Well, first, water baptism is significant, isn't it? It's important. If it weren't important, Jesus wouldn't have been baptized. If it weren't important, Jesus wouldn't have commanded us to baptize in water. But it's not ultimately important. The baptism of the Spirit, the union that we have with Jesus Christ in his death and in his resurrection by the spirit, now that saves. That saves you from sin. So what is baptism, then?
IV. What Baptism Is
Baptism is a Symbol of Union with Christ
Baptism is, number one, a symbol of union with Christ. A symbol. It's not reality. The Catholic church teaches that there is a reality about their sacraments. Something really happens to you when you go through their sacraments. So they believed that I, when I was baptized as a two-week-old infant or however old I was, I don't remember it, but I was baptized, that something happened to me. I became a Christian that day, so they teach. But we believe that water baptism is just a symbol. It's a symbol of an internal, spiritual union, isn't it? And what really matters is that internal spiritual union, it must come first. It's prior, it's more important. It's an immersion. We're baptized into the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit. We are united with him through faith. That's what it is. And water baptism is a symbol of that union. Romans 6:3-4. "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 walk in newness of life." So if you're a Christian, you are united with Christ in death and united with him now in a new life. And therefore, you cannot sin that grace may increase. It's impossible for you. Water baptism, therefore, a symbol of union with his death, union in his resurrection, union by the Holy Spirit. But it's also a symbol of union with the body of Christ, with the church.
Baptism is a Symbol of Union with Christ’s Body, the Church
You don't baptize yourself, do you? Did any of you baptize yourselves? I need to talk to you afterwards. Baptism is done by someone else, isn't it? Someone baptizes you. And why is that? Well, it's because it's a symbol that you're coming into a community, into a fellowship of faith. There's a continuity, a sense of a growing church of Jesus Christ. And so it's a symbol of union with Christ's body. You're being baptized into a body, is what's happening. 1 Corinthians 12:13. Write that one down. It's an important verse. 1 Corinthians 12:13, it says in verse 12, "The body is a unit though it is made up of many parts, and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one spirit into one body." Did you hear that? "We were all baptized by one spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greeks, slave or free. And we were all given the one spirit to drink." What's really going on is the spirit baptism, a spirit drink. And by the spirit we are made into one body worldwide. Jew or Greeks, slave or free. It doesn't matter what nation you're from, it doesn't matter your national origin, it doesn't matter your gender. None of that matters, you are baptized all into one body by one spirit. There is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is overall, and through all and in all," Ephesians 4:5. So we are baptized into a body, the church.
Pledge of a Good Conscience
And then finally water baptism is the pledge of a good conscience. Now, in the days of John the Baptist, you came and you were saying, "I repent from sin. I'm turning away from sin. I hate it. I don't want to live in it any longer." Well, the same thing happens here, isn't it? When you come up to this baptismal font, in this baptistery here, you're coming in, you're saying, "I want to be done with sin. I want to live a new life. I repent, and this is a symbol of my repentance." It's the pledge of a good conscience toward God. 1 Peter 3:21-22, "Water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand with angels, authorities and submission to him." So you're making a pledge of a good conscience toward God who rules over all things. Not the removal of dirt from the body.
V. What Baptism Is Not
Not for Unregenerate
But what is baptism not? Well, baptism is not for the unregenerate. It's not for the unbeliever. And so, Baptists have always had a procedure you have to go through before they'll baptize you. They want to know for sure whether you're born again or not.
The point is not the water, the point is your eternal soul before God. That's what matters, want to be sure that you're saved, want to be sure that you're justified by faith in Christ alone, and that you will not have to bear the wrath of God on judgment day, but rather that you're free forever from sin through faith in Christ. And so, we are seeking, reaching out for believers, not for the unregenerate. Do you realize folks, you Baptists, that we're in the minority on this one? Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, on and on. Are you also sure of this now? Are you so sure about believer baptism? Can you stand up and give a testimony for what you believe? We're in the minority, but we believe that the scripture is teaching that you hear the message, you repent and believe and then receive water baptism as a symbol of what's already happened in your life. But behind this is a larger ideal, isn't it? And that's what we call a regenerate church membership. What do I mean by regenerate church membership? I mean that the church, the local church should as much as possible be comprised of believers in Jesus Christ. You don't seem shocked. The church is meant to be made up of believers. And so we desire to see regenerate born-again people to be believers of this church and no others. That's our goal.
But why is that? Because of the ultimate issues that we're facing here. We're facing the fact that apart from Christ, we're under the wrath of God, but furthermore because unregenerate church members affect the church life, don't they? They affect the way that things go around here and in other churches too. And so we seek only regenerate church members and believer baptism is the front door of that. So we're seeking people who have made a creditable profession of faith. Basically, the ideal is that no one should have a voice or a vote in this church if they're not born-again. That's a regenerate church membership. Believer baptism is the front door of that. Now these days, we have a kind of a problem in the Baptist circles. It's called baptizing children. We're always baptizing, it seems earlier and earlier and earlier all the time. I know actually of a southern Baptist church, this is not a joke. Southern Baptist church that has a red fire engine baptistery that children can use. And it's got little cannons on either side that shoot off confetti when the child gets lowered under the water and brought back up. Some of those kids are lining up to do it again and again. It looks like fun. This is tragic. Baptism is too serious for that.
What are we saying we go into that water that we have been united with Christ in his death. We're done with sin forever. Does a child understand that? Does a child understand what it cost to be raised up out of that water? Raised up to newness of life in Christ. Does he understand the price that was paid? But what's happening is there is a pressure always to baptize earlier and earlier. And then guess what happens to these little ones? They grow up to bigger ones, don't they? And then what? They're still members of the church, and what's happening then? Unregenerate church membership, and it's affecting the life of the church. We don't want a red fire engine baptistery for children here. We want to be sure that everyone that we baptize is truly born-again. So baptism is not for the unregenerate.
Not a Guarantee of Salvation
It's also not a guarantee of salvation. Just because you've been baptized, doesn't mean that you're going to heaven. Just because you've received water baptism. There needed to be a life lived. There needed to be engrafting into the vine and then fruit flowing from that life. That's what Romans 6 is all about, we're going to keep talking about it. You show who's your master by how you live. So water baptism alone doesn't guarantee that you're going to heaven. Thirdly, it's not required for salvation.
Not Required for Salvation
There are groups out here that teach that baptism is required for salvation. They teach that you must be water baptized to be saved. As a matter of fact, they say it is the moment of salvation. The moment that you receive that water baptism, that you are saved, is that true? Absolutely not, we believe that regeneration precedes baptism. And that water baptism is simply a symbol of it. Was the thief on the cross baptized? And Jesus said, "Truly I say to you today, you'll be with me in paradise." And then Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:17, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. Not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." You put works like that on top of, you've emptied the cross of Christ of its power. "I didn't get sent," Paul said, "to baptize, but to preach the gospel." Let me ask you a question. Would Paul ever have said that if water baptism was required for salvation? No way. "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel." He wouldn't have made a division. What he's saying is that water baptism does not save you.
Not to be Disregarded
And then finally water baptism is not to be disregarded. The great commission says that we are to teach them to obey what? Everything that I have commanded. What happens is somebody comes to faith in Christ, we say, "Praise God, you're saved. You now have a new lord, a new master, he's going to be asking many things of you." People say to me, we're talking about water baptism, "Do I have to get up on front of all those people and give my testimony?" I say, "Yeah you do, but you know something, God is strong and powerful and he's going to give you the ability to do that. As a matter of fact, he's going to ask many hard things of you in your Christian life, isn't he?" That's just the first. By the way, if you had known just how hard the journey was, would you have ever come to Christ? He doesn't show you right up front but we know that through many hardships we enter the kingdom of heaven. It is a difficult journey we're called on, but it's a journey of obedience to a lord and master who gives us commands and we obey. This is a simple one, isn't it? Just stand up and give a credible profession of your faith in Christ and go into the water and come back up. That's pretty easy, anybody can do that. But if you're not willing to do that, what does it say about you? There's something amiss you don't understand. It's not to be disregarded. Jesus said, "If you love me, you'll obey what I command." And he commanded that we baptize the nations as we make disciples.
Spurgeon said this, "If our congregations were what they ought to be, it would be a very simple matter to preach. For a sermon would then only need to be like the orders given by a commanding officer to his troops, short, sharp, plain, clear, distinct. Our hearers would not want illustrations and metaphors. They would simply ask to be told what they must do to be saved. And the more plainly they could be told, the better pleased they would be."
So it's a simple command. Repent, be baptized, trust in Christ and walk with him. And so water baptism is really the first step of obedience. Can I apply it to you? Have you taken that step? Have you come to personal faith in Christ and received water baptism as a symbol of that? There are some people even in our midst that have paid a price to be baptized, even in front of all of you. Perhaps they were holding an office in the church, at some point they recognized that they weren't really saved. And they repented, and they stood up in front of you, and gave a testimony that they have now come to faith in Christ. Was that hard to do? Yeah it was. But they received the water baptism as a testimony of what God had done in their lives. Have you received baptism after you repented and believed? Have you received this?
If he is calling you, if today you hear his voice, don't harden your heart, but come and follow and receive this ordinance, this symbol of water baptism. But for those of you who have been baptized as believers, but you're just not living up to it. It's kind of like a husband and wife. They stand up in front of God and each other, and they make promises to each other. If they're not living up to the promises the way they should, should they get married again? Should they stand up and do it all again? No, they need to live up to what they promised, that's all. The beauty of Romans 6, is that any moment a true Christian can repent and start walking with Jesus and stop sinning, because we're not under the authority of sin any longer. We're free from it forever. So if you are a Christian who is not living up to the promise you made to follow Christ and to obey him, live up to it, that's all. Walk by the power of the spirit. We're not going to sin all the more so that grace may increase, but rather we died to sin. We're going to never live in it any longer. God has raised you up to a newness of life, walk in it.
Now we have had the opportunity today to hear from God's word. Our desire is that you hear and obey. If God has spoken to your heart, come and talk to me after the service. If you don't know for certain whether you've ever been saved, if you don't know for sure whether you're free from the guilt of your sin, come and talk to me. It's too important to put off. Won't you close with me in prayer?
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the commands that you have given us, that they are clear and understandable. Father I pray in Jesus name, that you would enable us to hear and to obey. Thank you o Lord, for the doctrine of water baptism. We thank you for the symbol that it is of dying to an old life, dying to sin and rising again to newness of life. Help us to walk oh Lord, in that newness of life. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.