The Blessings and Limitations of Water Baptism (1 Corinthians Sermon 3)
August 12, 2018 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 1:14-17
Baptism and the Lord's Supper
How I Came to Credo Baptist Convictions
Hi, I'm Andy Davis. I'm Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church. I was wondering, with a number of you, if I would remember how to preach, I hope so. Someone likened it to roller skating, which made me a little nervous. I grew up ice skating and I had a mishap the first time I roller skated a few years ago. But yeah, about two months ago, I don't remember the exact number of weeks, I was preaching along in 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 and just making my way through that text and this little thing, this clock was... I thought it was lying to me, but it wasn't, it was like quarter of, and I was about two-thirds of the way through that sermon and I knew I wasn't going to be preaching for about two months, so I said, "Alright, what shall I do?" But I didn't worry about it because I had two months to figure it out.
What I feel led to do is to go right back into that text and to try to pick up on Paul's argument. He is dealing with the factions and divisions in the Corinthian church, but he zeroes in on water baptism. And I want to talk, having laid the groundwork, the context of his comments on water baptism, to talk about the significance of water baptism, the limitations of water baptism and just give you an understanding of that ordinance. So that's what we're going to do this morning.
Now, I myself was baptized in the Ipswich River in Massachusetts in the early summer of 1984 by Mark Dever. He was pastor of a church that we were planting up there. And I'm telling you right now, in the early summer, Ipswich River flows with water that has recently been snow and ice. So it was a vigorous experience that I had. I mean, it was a spiritual experience.
And I have the photo on my phone, I was actually going to bring it, I was going to project that photo on the screen while I preached, but I thought better of it at multiple levels. First of all, I'm just not big on projecting images while I preach. But when I looked again at the photo, it had been a number of years since I've seen it, I was like, "Okay, yeah, we're not putting that up on the screen." First of all, my hair was a lot longer and thicker. It's always tended toward bushiness. Mark Dever was wearing a... If you could call it a graphic tee, you have to understand in 1984 the science of graphic tees hadn't developed much. So Mark was wearing a shirt, a blue shirt that said in very small letters, "Mark." Okay. And I was wearing tennis shorts that were popular back then and if you know anything about what the tennis players wore back then you can picture it. So I'm not showing that picture to you.
But what happened was, I'd been a Christian for a very short time, less than two years at that point, and I was led to faith in Christ while a student at MIT by a parachurch group, Campus Crusade for Christ, and I was immediately discipled by a very skillful man, a godly man named Tim Schuman. And he poured into me lots and lots of helpful things in the Christian life, Bible study, evangelism, concern for missions, so many things. But many parachurch groups do not really focus on local church involvement, it's not really a strength. And so, water baptism just really never came up. Until a year into my discipleship with Tim, we started doing evangelism in the college campuses there in the Boston area, MIT, Harvard, BU, Northeastern, and we kept running into a cult there called the Boston Church of Christ.
Now, the Boston Church of Christ is a cult, they have a branch here in the Triangle region called the Triangle Church of Christ. As a denomination, all churches of Christ are kind of a schismatic group broken off from the baptistic movement that goes beyond to something known as baptismal regeneration. And baptismal regeneration is the teaching that if you are not water baptized you cannot be saved, or more specifically, it's at the moment of water baptism that you are regenerate, that you are born again, that your sins are forgiven, which I think is not true. But I hadn't really developed many convictions and so as we're trying to refute these Church of Christ disciplers and evangelists on these campuses, Tim Schuman and I were going through the Scriptures and we were walking through the New Testament on water baptism, and I came to some very strong baptistic convictions. I came to believe that water baptism should be administered to people who can give a credible profession of being disciples of Jesus Christ, that they've come to faith in Christ, that's a basic baptistic conviction, but that water baptism was not required for heaven.
And there were some verses that we studied and this one today, in which Paul says that, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel," was actually a key to my understanding. And so also some other verses that we're going to talk about today. But in the course of that study, I came to realize that I, having been born and raised as a Roman Catholic, I was baptized as an infant by another church that also teaches baptismal regeneration. Namely, the Roman Catholics. I didn't realize that this was true until as a believer many years into my Christian walk, I think it was already at seminary, I went to the infant baptism of a Roman Catholic family, I was invited to come, and the priest was there and was baptizing the infant and was declaring that at that moment the infant was now born again. And I said, "Wait, what?" I wanted to raise my hand and say, "Excuse me, can I ask a question?" I wanted to do all kinds of things, but it was not the time.
But I came to realize years before that, that I had never been baptized really. Whatever it is that my parents did for me, I could not, in good conscience, call it baptism. And so, I needed to be water baptized as a believer. Now, I wasn't connected at that point with a church, but Mark and some others, including me, were starting a Southern Baptist church there, near Gordon-Conwell. So I started talking to Mark about water baptism, and I was baptized in the Ipswich River.
Return to 1 Corinthians 1.
Now, as we return this morning to 1 Corinthians 1, I want to talk about the issue at hand, what Paul's dealing with here, which is factions and divisions in the Corinthian church. But then I want to go off and talk some about the theology of water baptism. So that's what the sermon is going to be today. Now, in the first number of verses in 1 Corinthians 1, the Apostle Paul greets the church that he helped plant by preaching the Word, and he gives thanks for them, he wishes grace and peace to them, as he always does in his apostolic reading, gives thanks for the sovereign grace of God at work in their lives. He gives them a sense of confidence, that grip of grace by which Christ has seized hold of them, that he will continue and protect them until they are finally saved and in heaven. And so he's confident and he thanks God, he thanks God for their spiritual gifts and speaking and knowledge, but then he rolls up his sleeves, and he begins to address the many problems that we're going to be following in this epistle in 1 Corinthians, and the first is factions and divisions.
Now, these divisions were a huge issue in the life of this Corinthian church, this local church. And indeed, it is a huge issue for churches all over the world: Factions, divisions, disputes, dissensions, arguments, conflicts. This is common in local churches around the world and it's grievous to have to say so, and it's a huge issue. Sinners divide from each other, sinners argue with each other, sinners do not get along with each other, sinners are prideful with each other, sinners force their own way with each other and push their own agenda with each other, and churches are made up of sinners. And so this is going on all the time. Now, in Corinth it's articulated in this way, Paul hears that there are factions and divisions. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul." Another says, "I follow Apollos," and another says, "I follow Cephas," and another says, "I follow Christ."
And you can imagine how the arguments would go.
"I follow Paul, he planted this church to begin with."
"Oh, yeah? Well, I follow Apollos, he's far more articulate and a better speaker than Paul."
"Well, I follow Cephas, Peter, he's the apostle back in Jerusalem, he's the key apostle, he was an apostle before Paul was."
"Oh, yeah? Well, I follow Christ better than all of you."
Factions and divisions. And these divisions were a work of Satan in their midst. Now, the Greek mythology back then, there were lots of stories of the Greeks' gods and goddesses. But there's this one story that all of the Greeks would have known, about how the war between Troy and Sparta started. Some of you are aware of this story. The gods and goddesses were together having a big heavenly party, in Elysium or wherever they were. And there was a goddess that wasn't invited, Eris, the goddess of discord. Gee, I wonder why she wasn't invited.
Can you imagine that being your job description, to sow discord and division everywhere you go? Well, she was so put out with the gods and goddesses that she decided to get her revenge and she crafted a beautiful golden apple and inscribed on it, "For the fairest, for the most beautiful," and rolls it in amongst the goddesses. Well, they immediately started fighting. Here are the queen goddess, and Aphrodite, and Athena, and they're all fighting. And it led eventually to the war between Troy and Sparta. Now, that's all myth, but there is, I think, a god of discord and his name is Satan, and he loves to roll that golden apple of discord in amongst Christian people, he's been doing it for 20 centuries and, as Paul says, "We're not unaware of his schemes," we need to be willing to stand up and fight. So he's dealing with this issue of factions, "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Christ." And he's going to return to this topic, he develops it here and then he's going to return to it and settle it in chapter 3 by really minimizing himself.
“What after all is Paul? What is Apollos? Only servants through whom you came to believe as the Lord assigned to each one his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.” We are nothing, that's what he's saying. So here he says it this way, I follow Apollos, he says, "Is Christ divided?" Look at verse 13, "Is Christ divided?" Are we really rent apart?" What he's going to end up saying is, "You get it all, all things are yours, you get Paul and Apollos and Cephas and best of all, you get Christ." And anything Paul brings to the table, it's really Christ blessing you through Paul and anything Apollos brings to the table, it's really Christ blessing you through Apollos, and anything that Peter brings to the table, it's really Christ blessing you through him. But we're just vehicles, we are nothing. Christ is everything. And so he says, "Is Christ divided?" And he says, "The focus should be on Christ. Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" I wonder what Martin Luther would think about people being called Lutherans. I don't have to wonder at all. It would be appalling to him.
Was Martin Luther crucified for you? That's what he's saying. Paul's saying, "I didn't die for your sins. I'm not the incarnate Son of God who was born of the Virgin Mary, and lived a sinless life and won a perfect righteousness that he's willing to give you as a free gift," this is the gospel. "And not only that, but willing to take all of your sins and rebellions on himself and die in your place at the cross. I didn't do any of that. I just told you about him. Were you baptized in the name of Paul? You were baptized in the Christ's name not into mine."
I. Paul Puts Himself and Water Baptism in its Place
So then he somewhat, it seems, puts water baptism in its place. And this is really interesting. Look at verse 14-37, "I'm thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius so that none of you can say you were baptized into my name."
"Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel." These are amazing statements. He says he's thankful he didn't baptize hardly any of them, Crispus and Gaius. Oh, yeah, also the household of Stephanas. It's a very interesting moment in inerrancy for you. Anyway, any of you that are into this, go ahead and work at that, but at any rate... Oh, yeah, also, but... And he's not saying they all weren't water baptized, they were, but he just delegated that task to others, it wasn't important who did the baptism. That's what he's saying. What matters is what it signified. He somewhat dismisses, "We're just servants." And then he makes his final statement in verse 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."
Now, he's going to develop that over the next number of verses. We're not getting into that today, but how reliance on human wisdom and human heroes and human leaders would empty the cross of its power. We are nothing. Christ crucified and resurrected is everything. Now, I will say that this statement, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel," is a killer statement for baptismal regeneration. It should end it. Because if water baptism is required to go to heaven, then this statement is actually incredibly confusing. They would say water baptism to some degree is the gospel or an essential part of the gospel. Paul would say, "I disagree." So the bottom line alone is, Christ alone is the Savior and human messengers are merely servants.
II. The Origin of Water Baptism
Now, what I want to do is talk about water baptism, the significance of it, so I can try to just explain what it means biblically. Water baptism, immersion in water, the spiritual significance, was unknown in the Old Testament. It's not Old Testament ordinance that was brought over. It came up, it seems, during the intertestamental period when the Jews had been expelled out of the promised land because of their sins, northern kingdom under the Assyrians, the southern kingdom of Judah under the Babylonians, they were scattered, the dispersion, and everywhere they went, they continued to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Gentiles were converted to Judaism. And when they were, the men would be circumcised to become Jews, but they added another ritual, the ritual of washings, it seems, to say, "You Gentile dogs are dirty morally and you need to be washed with water so that you can become clean." And so, the Gentile converts would be washed.
Suddenly, there came into Jewish history a man, unlike anyone who had ever been except one, Elijah, and this man was John the Baptist, and he was out in the desert, and he was proclaiming a whole new message. He was saying to the descendants of Abraham, to the Jewish people, "You need to be baptized too. You're as much on the outside as these Gentiles because of your sins." It says in Matthew 3:1-6, "In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the desert of Judea, and saying, 'Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,' and people went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."
Now, we need to stop and talk about the word itself, baptism. The word, the Greek word, baptidzo, from which we just bring the letters over and get baptized or baptist, means to plunge or immerse or sink or dip. Those are the ways that it's used. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, whenever the word baptidzo or baptisms, that kind of thing comes in, there's always a dipping or a plunging into a container of a liquid. So the priest would baptize, would dip his fingers into blood and then sprinkle the people. Two different actions, or a ship would sink or Naaman would wash himself in the Jordan River multiple times to be cleansed of his leprosy. Same word. Or you remember Jonathan dipped his staff into the end, into some honey and lifted it and tasted it, he dipped it in. So, it's a plunging action, it never means sprinkle or pour. There's always an immersion. So John the Baptist was immersing Jews in the Jordan River for their sins, as they were confessing their sins.
Now, in the course of time, John's primary ministry, I'll never forget, John MacArthur said, "John the Baptist came to do three things: To prepare the way, proclaim the way, and get out of the way." I never forgot that. I think that's really, really good. So he was there proclaiming and doing all, preparing and then when Jesus came, he proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." But in the Matthew account, he's there in the midst of the baptism, water baptism and then Jesus comes and he's there. From John's gospel we learned, "I wouldn't have known him except the Holy Spirit descended and remained, and I knew who he was." And this is what John the Baptist said to Jesus, he said, "I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?"
Now before Jesus came, John set the stage for Jesus, and he said, "After me will come one more powerful than I am, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." Why do you say that, John? Why is he so much greater than you? He has, actually, a number of answers to that, but he zeroes in on the baptism. "I know he's greater because his baptism's greater than mine." "I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come one more powerful than I, whose sandals I'm not fit to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering up the wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Wow, that's how John preached. Powerful.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit - Or the Baptism of Fire
Now, the key with this is... Again, the word baptize means immerse. He will plunge you in the Holy Spirit and fire. How do you understand that? Well, the key is the fire, he's very clear about the fire. He's going to be clearing his threshing floor of wheat and chaff. Chaff always represents the wicked and the chaff, or drawn away, in Psalm 1. They are the wicked, they're like chaff that's blown away. And so the chaff represents the wicked, and Jesus is going to come and he's going to clear his threshing floor. Everybody is going to get dealt with. You're either wheat or chaff, you're either righteous or wicked.
And he's going to gather the wheat into the barn. But he's going to, listen to this, "Burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire," as John preached in Matthew 3:12. Now, whenever you hear "unquenchable fire," you must think about Hell, which we learn in Revelation 20, is likened to a lake of fire. So he's going to plunge the wicked into a lake of fire. He's far greater, John is saying. That's the kind of power he has. But he will also immerse you in the Holy Spirit. So, I really sense he was speaking to a mixed group, a mixed assembly, some of them were his bitter enemies, talking about John the Baptist, and some were very repentant sinners. He's talking to a mixed group. I think we can change the "and" to "or. " Jesus will either immerse you in the Holy Spirit or he will immerse you in fire, that's how great he is. And he's going to clear his threshing floor. Jesus will baptize everyone in one or the other. And clearly not both, because I believe that he immerses you in the Holy Spirit leading to eternal life, or actually you could say that is the essence of our experience of eternal life here on Earth. Or he will immerse you in eternal death, condemnation.
And so Jesus came at the right time, and John tries to stop him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you and do you come to me?" But Jesus said, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." John consented. And Jesus was baptized by John, and as he came up out of the water, Heaven was opened and the Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus and remained on him, and a voice came from Heaven, "This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased." Now, Jesus was baptized not because he had any sin, but to show solidarity with John's ministry and methods, because a lot of that would be similar to what his disciples would do. They would preach repentance for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand and a need to repent from sins and then they would do water baptism, and so that's what happened, Jesus began doing his ministry there in Judea, and people were coming to him, and Jesus is making lots of disciples and was baptizing them.
But then you find out this key statement in John 4:2, actually, it wasn't Jesus doing the baptism, but his disciples, Jesus didn't water baptize anyone. And I think the reason why was that would confuse the image. It's the same reason Jesus didn't take a wife, it wouldn't have been ungodly, it would just confuse the image, because the bride of Christ is the church. And so he didn't water baptize because the real baptism of Jesus is the Holy Spirit, but his disciples were baptized.
III. The Command to Be Baptized... and to Baptize
And then after he died on the cross for our sins, and won for us to salvation, freeing us from all of our sins. If you just believe the gospel message that I've already proclaimed to you this morning, if you just believe that God sent his son, he lived a sinless life, died on the cross for you, rose again from the dead. If you believe that, you have become his disciple, you're forgiven of all your sins. He sent his disciples worldwide with that message 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 have commanded you, and surely, I am with you always to the end of the age." So therefore, everyone of Jesus' disciples, having been made a disciple by faith, should be water baptized, and water baptism is going to be a part of the spread of the gospel and the advance of the church worldwide.
IV. Baptism with the Holy Spirit
So, we need to understand then what it signifies. The water baptism signifies baptism of the Holy Spirit. After his resurrection, before his ascension to Heaven, Jesus had 40 days with his disciples to teach them many things. And in Acts 1:4-5, it says, "On one occasion, 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." Well, that few days later was the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, they were all assembled in one place and the day of Pentecost came, and "suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came and filled the whole house where they were sitting, and they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one of them, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."
As the gospel spread more and more through the Book of Acts, more and more disciples trusted in Christ. People became disciples, they trusted in Christ, became disciples, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as Peter said they would. There's Pentecost sermon there, at the end of Acts 2, "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" And they did. Those who accepted the message were baptized. You hear that? The believers in the message, in the gospel, those were the ones that were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number, that began the church. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to breaking of bread and prayer, that was the start of the church, and wherever the gospel went after that, water baptism went.
Now, what does it signify? Water baptism was one of the two ordinances of the Christian church. The other one, we're going to celebrate at the end of the message, the Lord's Supper. So we have water baptism and the Lord's Supper. We Baptists call them ordinances, because they were ordained or established by Jesus. Water baptism is an outward and visible symbol of an internal, spiritual reality, and I'm telling you, that reality is baptism with the Holy Spirit. You've already been baptized with the Spirit, now you're showing to the outside world that reality, so everyone can see. And we have had some wonderful baptisms right behind me. I have often been moved to tears by the stories of people and what God has done to bring them to faith in Christ, and I've seen baptisms. I myself was baptized, as I mentioned, in a cold river. Ron said it looked like a swamp, I think is because there was a log coming up out of the river, it was not a swamp. I was not baptized in a swamp, Ron.
I appreciate it, but it was a river, it was flowing, alright. But I've been involved in baptisms at oceans and ponds, lakes, but mostly here. And it's a sign, it's a symbol to the people watching, so they can see the physical symbol of something that's already happened.
V. The Significance of Water Baptism
We Baptists would not water baptize somebody that we don't believe has already been baptized in the Spirit, by faith in Christ. And so that linking, I think, is reasonable to make, 'cause later in the same book, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul says, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greek, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." In other words, the moment you came into the Body of Christ, you were baptized into the body by the Spirit.
So to be baptized with the Spirit means to be immersed in Christ, think about that. I am immersed in Jesus, I want you to keep that image. I am plunged into Jesus, he is the Spirit of Christ, after all. So by the Spirit, we're immersed in all that Christ is, we're immersed in his cleansing blood, we are immersed in his wisdom, we are immersed in his love, we are immersed in his power. We are immersed in his plan, we are immersed in Christ. I love St. Patrick's prayer, as St. Patrick said,
"Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I rise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me."
It's an immersed life that we're talking about.
Water baptism, also from Romans 6, represents union with Christ. There's not any difference between them, you must see, immersed in Christ, united with Christ, it's the same thing. But in Romans 6, Paul deals with the issue of sin in the Christian life, he says, "Don't you know that all of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death." You are immersed in Jesus' 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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." So baptism signifies union, spiritual union with Jesus in his death and in his resurrection. Dead to sin, alive to God. That's what it symbolizes.
So full immersion in water baptism does symbolize this union. As we lower the individual down in the water and the water covers them, and then we bring them up out of the water as a picture of resurrection. But I have come to believe that that's not the end of the baptism, that's not it. What are you raised up out of the water into? You are into an immersed life in the Holy Spirit, that's what walk in newness of life is all about. So the baptism doesn't actually stop when you're lifted up, it actually really begins at that point. And we are immersed in the Holy Spirit, immersed in Jesus for the rest of our lives, that's what we're talking about.
VI. Proper Subjects and Mode of Baptism
So what are the proper subjects and mode of baptism? Therefore, as I've said, baptism should be administered only to believers, to people who can give a creditable testimony, profession of faith in Christ, not to infants. There is not a single command that Christian parents should baptize their infants, there is not a single clear example of Christian parents baptizing their infants. There are actually no thematic precepts, if you understand the relationship with the covenants properly, by which you can make that argument. So therefore, we repudiate infant baptism, as I did by being water baptized in the Ipswich River.
Now, keep in mind, Jewish fathers were clearly commanded to circumcise their sons in the Old Testament. There's chapter and verse on that, but there's no such commands for Christian parents concerning infant baptism. So we will baptize a person if this has happened. Romans 10, 9-10, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Alright, now, I just want to see if you guys are paying attention. Okay. Alright, what is the proper mode of baptism? Immersion or sprinkling?
Immersion. Please tell me you've been listening. What does the Greek word mean? It means to immerse. I actually saw a very intelligent Presbyterian teacher, brilliant guy, argue that the best mode of immersion, he said baptism, but the best mode is sprinkling. It'd be like saying the best mode of immersion is sprinkling. They are two different actions, so we immerse, we immerse.
VII. The Limitation of Water Baptism
Now, let's limit water baptism, let's limit it. Water baptism doesn't save anyone automatically. There's nothing about water baptism that saves the soul. Neither is water baptism required for salvation. First, we've got this statement here, "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel." We also have the thief on the cross, who was not water baptized, and yet Jesus said, "Today, you'll be with me in paradise." So water baptism isn't required; neither can we say it's the moment of justification, etcetera.
And therefore, much of the so-called spread of the gospel in Europe, let's say, throughout Christendom, for about, I don't know, 15 centuries, in which there was forced mass baptisms. Have you ever heard of these things? Like some prince or king would think Jesus was the way to go, like... Well, I'm going to say specific names, Constantine, I hope he was genuinely converted, but he painted the Chi-Rho on the shields of his Roman soldiers, and that kind of pattern was regularly followed. Like in 988, Prince Vladimir, of the pagan Rus people, from which we get the word Russian or Russia, studied religions, decided his own paganism was wanting, and turned to what we would know as Greek Orthodoxy as the best religion he could find, better than the Muslims, better than paganism, so he became effectively an orthodox. And he decreed that all of his people should assemble at the river tomorrow or face the displeasure of the prince.
So if you are one of his subjects, what are you going to do? I'd be at the river. And then, you're all like, "What do we do?" "Go in, go in the river, yes, go in." So we're in the river, alright. And then a priest came and said some words and then that was it. And in the account I read, which is a contemporary account, everyone was celebrating this huge influx of Christians and that Satan had been defeated. These folks didn't know anything about the gospel, they'd not been proclaimed to, nothing, they're not converted, they're still pagans. But then that was a Christian country, that went on in countries all over Europe. This we repudiate, we Baptists would never want governmental force on anybody pressing them toward becoming Christians, that's just anathema. We don't want those kind of human coercions and pressures, we want you to hear and be pressed from the inside to follow Christ and baptism and to obey. True baptism is something done by the Spirit, where as it says in the words of Ezekiel, he reaches down and takes out the heart of stone and puts in the heart of flesh. By the power of the Spirit, he transforms you, and by his spirit, he moves you to obey God's commands and his decrees and ordinances. That's the transformation that we're talking about.
Alright, applications. Well, more than anything, the proclamation of the gospel is central. It is essential to each one of you to believe in Christ, to trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins. That's the key thing. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. And so that power is here now, by the proclamation of the gospel. Will you trust in him? Have you trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior? That's the key thing for the forgiveness of your sins. That's why Paul says in the next chapter, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." So if you confess your sins to God, if you believe in your heart that Christ is the Son of God, died on the cross in your place, rose from the dead, then you are forgiven of your sins.
Now, the next question I want to ask is, have you testified to that by water baptism? It's one thing for me to stand here and say, "You don't have to be water baptized in order to be saved," but it's a whole different thing to refuse to be water baptized. Now, that's different. The thief on the cross had no opportunity, but I think if he had lived after that, and he had understood, he would have been water baptized. So you can't refuse. I'm just asking, I went a long time, I went a couple of years as a born again believer, who had not been water baptized. That might be the case for some of you.
For me, I, as a church, I want to see lots of water baptisms. I want to see water baptisms of many types, those that are raised in good Christian homes, where their parents saturate their kids with the gospel from infancy, and at the right time, they come to faith in Christ and then testify it by water baptism, I love that. I also want to see others, and I've mentioned this, of a different category. I was lost, I met so-and-so, or a group of so-and-sos from your church, I don't mean it that way, but anyway, I met people from your church, they shared the gospel with me and now I'm here today testifying to faith in Christ. Don't you want to see a lot of those? We have to go out and win them. We have to go out and win those baptisms, those people. Now, we're not doing it so we can count the baptisms and send them into the state convention. That's not important. What matters is, each of those represent new lives in Christ. I want to see that. And if you have been baptized, I'm going to say a few things to you, "Don't trust in your water baptism." Don't say, "Well, at least I was baptized." If you're not living a holy life, you should seriously question whether you're born again.
You need to know, Romans 6, "If you're baptized spiritually, you are baptized into his death." You should be living out that crucified life. You should count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus, and live a holy life. That's the life that he wants. And just final word here, I want you to think of yourself as a baptized believer, as continually immersed in the Holy Spirit, in Christ. Christ inside you, Christ around you, in front of you, behind you, under you, over you, every moment immersed in Christ. When we were missionaries my wife and I, in Japan, we were in Tokushima, and it's a center of indigo dyeing, had been from the 10th century. Indigo is the color of blue jeans. And they would take white cloth, and they would immerse it, baptize it, they didn't call it baptism, but they would immerse it in a vat of purple dye. And the thing is, the longer they left it in there, the darker the color would become. The more the dye would influence the cloth, put it that way.
You know, if any of you ever do Easter egg dyeing, have any of you done that? So you have a color, like let's say blue, and you put an egg in there, if you leave it in there for 10 seconds, and take it out, barely anything. It's like a pastel kind of light robin's egg blue. But if you put it in there and do what I did one time, which is forget about it, and then come back. If it's still an egg at all, you lift it up and it's a deep midnight blue. So I want to just set those analogies, those are just analogies, but I want you to be immersed in Christ. So the way He thinks is the way you think. We have the mind of Christ. And the way he lived, is the way that you will live. That is the baptized life. That's what I want to come in. And if so, you will see it in actual works of holiness, where you're putting sin to death by the Spirit. And works of evangelism were filled with the Spirit like Peter was. You can say, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven, given to men, by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12. That came from being filled with the Spirit. So we're going to be bold in evangelism, and holy in our private lives, as we're immersed, baptized by the Spirit.
I'm going to pray now, and then we're going to go to the ordinance of the Lord Supper. And I'm going to pray that this experience will be an immersed experience. Do you know what I'm saying? That we are going to sense the presence of God, through the Holy Spirit in this ordinance. So, let's pray. Father, thank you for the Word of God, thank you for its truth, its power and its reality in our lives. And now, as we turn our attention to the Lord's Supper, Father, I pray that you would send forth the Holy Spirit of God, I pray that we would have a sense of being immersed in Christ in his death and his resurrection. That we would be immersed in the idea that some day we'll sit at table in Heaven with Jesus and with the redeemed. I pray that we'd be immersed in the fact that our sins have been forgiven, and that we're feasting on Christ and he is giving us nourishment. O God, send your Spirit that it would not be an empty ritual, but a powerful experience. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.