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A Reminder About Some of the Points in Lesson 10
In our last study we saw that belief and understanding of the gospel, followed by obedience to God’s commands were essential to salvation. We read the words of Jesus after his resurrection,
“He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16.15-16)
We see at once, then, that Scriptural baptism can only take place when a man or a woman is able to understand and obey the word of God. Then it is an essential condition of our acceptance with God.
We have the example of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was a ’good’ man by any standard: “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.” He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” (Acts 10.1-2)
Yet God told him to send for Peter, ’He will tell you what you must do.’ (Acts 10.6)
Peter came, and taught Cornelius about Jesus.
“He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10.42-43)
One thing still was necessary,
’He commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord.’ (Acts 10.44-48)
From this and the other records in the Acts of the Apostles it is plain that God has laid down three essential conditions for salvation: knowledge, belief and baptism.
“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. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” .(Acts 2.37-38, 41)
“Then Philip ... told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8.35-38)
This English word has been taken directly from the Greek word ’baptizo’ which means to dip, plunge, or completely immerse in liquid. It is used in Greek in the art of dyeing. In order to dye material, it has to be completely dipped into the dye, so that the material is wholly changed in colour.
The use of this word throughout the New Testament makes it clear that sprinkling or pouring water is not sufficient. Scriptural baptism requires a complete immersion in water. So we read of Philip when he baptised the Ethiopian eunuch, “Both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8.38)
We read also of “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water..” (John 3.23)
The Significance Of Baptism
If we read the New Testament carefully we shall find that baptism has a four-fold significance.
- Washing away, cleansing
“Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22.16)
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?...And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (l Corinthians 6.9 & 11)
We find the same symbol used even in the Old Testament, together with the figure of a change of colour.
“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! ... Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1.16-18)
- Association with the death and resurrection of Christ
As we are completely covered by water in the act of baptism, we symbolically die, and as we rise from the water, we symbolically rise to a newness of life. In this we associate ourselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The apostle Paul writes of this:
“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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Romans 6.3-5)
In baptism we undergo a figurative resurrection to newness of life, a change of outlook which is an essential part of our obedience to God. Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3.5)
Paul also wrote to the believers at Colosse of baptism,
“Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” (Colossians 2.12-13)
- We are united by baptism into Christ
We are united by Baptism into Christ and so related to Christ and to the promises which God made through him,
“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--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12.12-13)
“Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” ... The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. .. through faith in Christ Jesus. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3.7, 16, 26-29)
Paul writes again of the change, which takes place at baptism,
“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (Ephesians 2.12-13, 19)
- A change of masters
A call to separation God is not pleased with the idolatry of the world. He calls upon all true believers to come out from among them, to be separate, and to have nothing to do with their evil ways:
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6.14-18)
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2.15-17)
Men and women naturally are the servants of sin. When we are baptised we change our service:
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6.6-7, 11-12, 16-18)
In baptism we begin a new life of obedience to God which relates us to the promised gift of God.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6.22-23)
We reject utterly man’s way, the way of the world. In baptism we turn unto God’s way, obeying the gospel - ’the power of God to salvation.’
The Example Of Noah
This is what Noah did. The world of his day was filled with violence and wickedness. Noah built an ark, and when the water of the flood destroyed the rest of the world, Noah and his family entered the ark and were saved.
’In the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ (1 Peter 3.20-21)
The judgement of the wicked when Christ returns will be sudden and final as it was in the days of Noah. As Noah in the ark was saved, so we, if we are ’in Christ’ shall be saved. We have seen that the way to be in Christ is through knowledge, belief, baptism and continued obedience.
HOW IMPORTANT IS BAPTISM?
Many feel that provided that they change their way of life for the better there is no need to submit to this act. How wrong they are, how ineffective all their efforts to do right. Consider the case of Naaman the Syrian. (2 Kings 5) Elisha the prophet, a man of God, told him to wash in the river Jordan to cure his leprosy.
’Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”
At first Naaman became furious because Elisha did not come to him personally, and he refused to go. But when his servant persuaded him to obey the specific detail given by God, he was cured at once.
’So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.’
If we obey the word of God as closely as we can, we too can be washed and start a new life. But we may wonder about later mistakes and sins, those committed after baptism. As we have seen earlier, in baptism we are associated with the death of Jesus Christ and this event was a once-and-for-all-sacrifice for sin, and those things which we do wrong in our new life in Christ are forgiven by prayer through our new- found Saviour. When we repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, all our sins and errors are blotted out from the record and therefore we can go forward daily, confident that if we try to do right, God has promised to mercifully forgive us.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1.9)
God has offered us this wonderful opportunity through His Word. Do you yet feel the need to start your life again? You are no doubt aware of mistakes you have made of which God is not pleased. Do you desire to erase some of the dark patches of your previous life? Here is a unique opportunity to start again. This time it is not a life that leads to the grave but starts you on the road which leads to immortality and the glorious kingdom of God. God’s way is the only way by which you can be reconciled to your Maker.
This is the importance of baptism. It is an essential act of obedience, an essential part of God’s way of salvation.
- Baptism should only follow a full understanding and belief of the Gospel.
- Baptism requires a complete immersion in water.
- In the act of baptism -
- our sins are symbolically washed away
- we are associated with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ
- we are united in Christ, and so related to God’s promises through Christ
- we change masters, serving God instead of serving sin, and separate ourselves from the world.
- As baptism in order to be saved from the coming judgements. Noah was saved by entering the ark, we must enter Christ through
Baptism is essential for salvation.
Relevant Passages For Bible Reading
Genesis 6, 7 and 8