By Rodney W. Francis
This is a message to help those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, and now need to consider what the Bible teaches on the subject of Water Baptism.
AS A NEW-BORN BELIEVER in Jesus Christ who has experienced the reality of having come under the conviction of sin and then repenting of it
- Where do we go from there?
- Is that all there is to this Christian faith?
- What do we do now?
Bible Christianity is a life ~ and it is alive! Whatever has life GROWS! God wants us to grow in our new-found faith and to get to know Him and His Word better:
"But grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ . . ." (2 Peter 3:18, TLB).
The Bible teaches us about Water Baptism; something we do after we have been born-again. It is a public happening . . . a public declaration to the world, to our friends and relatives, to everybody . . . that we have chosen to believe the claims of Jesus Christ and follow Him. We have chosen to be His follower or disciple. The word "disciple" comes from the Greek word "mathetes" meaning "taught or trained one" (Young's); or "a learner, pupil. In the New Testament it is more than this; it is a follower, one who follows both the teacher and the teaching" (Bullinger's).
To the born-again believer this means we have made a decision to yield our life over to The Master Teacher, JESUS CHRIST, and we now seek to follow what He says and does.
One of the first challenges He gives us to test our commitment to Him is by commanding us to be baptized in water.
JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE ~ HE WAS BAPTIZED IN WATER:
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John (the Baptist). But John tried to deter Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:13-17, NIV). See also Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22.
- Why was Jesus baptized in water?
- He said it was to fulfil all righteousness.
- It was an action that pleased God.
Today, Jesus Christ is still our example. If He was willing to be baptized to fulfil all righteousness and to please God, so should we.
What does the word "righteousness" mean? In Matthew 3:15 (and many other New Testament Verses) it is translated from the Greek word "dikaiosune" meaning: "rightness, justice" (Young's); or "the doing or being what is just and right; the character and acts of a man commanded by and approved of God, in virtue of which the man corresponds with Him and His will as His ideal and standard; it signifies the sum total of all that God commands and approves. As such it is not only what God demands, but what He gives to man, and which is appropriated by faith; and hence it is a state called forth by God's act of justification; in other words by judicial deliverance from all that stands in the way of being righteous" (Bullinger's).
That is a lot of explaining about just one word, but if we can take in exactly what God did for us when we repented of our sin and turned our life over to Him, you will discover we have been made “a brand new person” in the sight of Almighty God!
- Before, we were filthy in His sight.
- Now, we are cleansed and made righteous!
- Now, our life and actions carry God's approval.
- We are on His side, and He is on ours! Praise the Lord!
Water Baptism, therefore, is a public statement to others that we have come into a new life of righteousness before God. We have responded to His command to “Repent and believe ("to adhere to, trust, rely on, to remain steadfast in" – Young's) . . . the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Now we move on from repentance and get Water Baptized. The word "baptize" comes from the Greek word "baptizo" meaning "to consecrate (by pouring out on, or putting into)" – Young's; or "to immerse, to make a thing dipped or dyed" – Bullinger's.
The word "immerse" means "to plunge or dip into liquid; to involve deeply; engross; to baptize by immersion" – Collins.
Water Baptism by immersion, therefore, is when the whole of a person's body is submerged in the water:
"And John was baptising in Aenon . . . because there was much water there . . .” (John 3:23). The NIV says – "There was plenty of water.” The AMP – “There was an abundance of water there; and the people kept coming and being baptized.”
". . . and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water . . .” (Acts 8:38-39).
These Scriptures show us that Water Baptism meant the going down into the water completely and then coming up out of the water again. They were totally immersed in it! Dipped! Dyed!
SOME NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES OF WATER BAPTISM:
The book of Acts is a short but interesting account of the Early Christian Church in action. The following Scriptures tell of believers in Jesus Christ being baptized:
- Believers at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost: “With many other words he (Peter) warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:40-41, NIV). “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized . . .” (Acts 2:41, KJV). There was a glad and believing response to Peter's preaching that saw many that day baptized in water.
- Converts at Samaria: "But now they believed Philip’s message that Jesus was the Messiah, and his words concerning the Kingdom of God; and many men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:5-12, especially Verse 12, TLB). The new Christians at Samaria heard the Gospel and believed on the Name of Jesus Christ; the result was their being water baptized. This happened in spite of opposition from an occultic leader by the name of Simon.
- The Ethiopian Eunuch: “So Philip began with this same Scripture and then used many others to tell him about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to a small body of water, and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! Why can't I be baptized?' 'You can,' Philip answered, 'If you believe with all your heart.' And the eunuch replied, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ He stopped the chariot, and they went down into the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:35-38, TLB). To get the full story, please read Acts 8:26-40. This eunuch was a very important gentleman. He carried great authority and was responsible for the finances of Ethiopia. Yet he was hungry for more of God. He tried reading the Scriptures but could not understand them. That's when the Holy Spirit led Philip to go to him. Philip was able to present the claims of Jesus Christ to him, showing him out of the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. The Ethiopian official believed Philip's words and immediately had a desire to want to "seal" his believing by being Water Baptized. Philip did not prevent that and the same day he was baptized. Oh, that Christians today would want to be so willing to obey the Word of God!
- Saul of Tarsus: “. . . Paul could see, and was immediately baptized” (Acts 9:18, TLB). Before Saul met Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-22) he was a hater of the Christians and went about to persecute and harm them. That happened in spite of the fact that he was a very religious Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-6). Then he met Jesus! Everything changed! He became a baptized believer! Saul's name was changed to Paul, who later became the great Apostle Paul, the writer of many of the New Testament books of the Bible.
- Lydia the Merchant Lady: "One of them was Lydia, a saleswoman from Thyatira, a merchant of purple cloth. She was already a worshiper of God and, as she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart and she accepted all that Paul was saying. She was baptized along with all her household . . .” (Acts 16:14-15, TLB). Lydia had been a believer in God for a while, but had never been challenged about Water Baptism. Obviously, after hearing Paul preach, she was convinced it was the right thing to do and was baptized with all the others who lived in her house. Every believer on Jesus Christ needs to be challenged to be baptized in water. It fulfils righteousness and pleases God!
- The Philippian Jailer: "He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household. "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized . . . he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family" (Acts 16:30-34, NIV). To get the background to this exciting event, make sure you read Acts 16:16-40. The jailer had most likely been a very hard man prior to this miracle that took place that night. An earthquake shook the prison violently enough to break the stocks and chains that held the prisoners secure. A riot could have broken out. Lives could have been lost. The jailer's job would have been “on the line.” It was so serious the jailer himself contemplated committing suicide! Then the man of God spoke. Paul calmed him down, told him of Jesus. The response was a new family for Christ, even Water Baptized in the early hours of the morning. Praise be to God!
- Crispus and Some Corinthian Believers: "But Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed [that Jesus is the Messiah and acknowledged Him with joyful trust as Saviour and Lord], together with his entire household,. and many of the Corinthians who listened [to Paul also] believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8, AMP.). Crispus had been involved in synagogue (or church) duties for many years, but never personally responded to the Gospel! But after hearing Paul preach, he made a decision to believe and be baptized.
- Some Disciples at Ephesus: “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul travelled through Turkey and arrived in Ephesus, where he found several disciples. 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' he asked them. 'No,' they replied, 'we don't know what you mean. What is the Holy Spirit?' 'Then what beliefs did you acknowledge at your baptism? he asked. And they replied, ‘What John the Baptist taught.’ Then Paul pointed out to them that John’s baptism was to demonstrate a desire to turn from sin to God and that those receiving his baptism must then go on to believe in Jesus, the One John said would come later. As soon as they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then, when Paul laid his hands upon their heads, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other languages and prophesied. The men involved were about twelve in number” (Acts 19:1-7, TLB). Those disciples had known the experience of being baptized by John the Baptist. But they had not gone on to actively believe in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, another baptism that we will learn more about in another lesson.
Paul decided they needed to be baptized again, and this time they were filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Their obedience to believing in Jesus brought an immediate release in their spirit.
- In the New Testament, we do not read of any believer refusing Water Baptism. It is a command to all:
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
WATER BAPTISM REPRESENTS JESUS' DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION:
Water Baptism (by full immersion) is a public identification with Jesus. We are following in His footsteps by faith and obedience. Taking Jesus Christ into our life means we die to sinful living. We are no longer living for self ~ we have died to self. Water Baptism is a funeral ~ it is the burial of the “old, dead man/woman.” What do you do with a corpse? You bury it!
So, in Water Baptism we are attending a funeral of somebody who has died – YOU!
“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.
If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. 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. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.
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. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law, but grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 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 6:1-18, NIV).
Water Baptism, therefore, is the burial of the old self. We go down into the water. When we come up out of the water it symbolizes our being raised from the dead into a new life. Just like Jesus. That means the life we live after Water Baptism is now different to the life we lived before we died to self and were buried in baptism.
- Before, we lived to please self.
- Now, we live to please God through Jesus Christ!
- We walk with Him by His resurrection power!
Another Verse of Scripture puts it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am not one of those who treats Christ’s death as meaningless . . .” (Galatians 2:20-21, TLB).
This new life which we have found in Jesus Christ now releases us into limitless possibilities to be used by God to touch other lives (still bound in sin) in such a way as to see them also released into a new life through Jesus. Praise the Lord!
If we can accept it, God has now released us from every blockage and barrier that was ever between Him and us.
- He has made us free in Christ!
- We walk in resurrection life and power!
- The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives inside of us! (Romans 8:11).
- We are now available for God's service. Let us walk in this glorious freedom He has provided for us!
THE COMMAND OF JESUS:
Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations:
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).
Some translations use the terminology, "Baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . ." (e.g. TLB and AMP.).
When we are baptized we are baptized in (or into) the Godhead, or the Triune ("three in one") God:
“The Father” is – "God the Father",
“The Son” is – "God the Son (Jesus Christ)."
“The Holy Spirit” is – "God the Holy Spirit."
According to John 14:16-23, the Father God, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit Comforter all take up residence inside the life of those believers who love Jesus and keep His commandments.
- What tremendous protection is ours!
- What tremendous security is ours!
- What a blessed privilege is ours to be chosen as the dwelling place of the Triune God!
- He lives inside us right now! And He has promised to stay inside of us forever!
Water Baptism is an action on our part to show Jesus we really do love Him, and His Word, and will obey whatever He wants. He wants us to fulfil all righteousness by being baptized.
WATER BAPTISM ALSO HAS TO DO WITH OUR CONSCIENCE:
"And baptism, which is a figure [of their deliverance], does now also save you [from inward questionings and fears], not by the removing of outward body filth (bathing), but by [providing you with] the answer of a good and clear conscience [inward cleanness and peace] before God, [because you are demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:2 1, AMP.).
If we really are going to be effective in our lives for Jesus, then we do need to be living with a good, clear, and clean conscience. Water Baptism does that for us.
The command to you is: Be baptized! Be obedient!
Water Baptism is commanded by God's Word for every born-again Christian. To disobey will bring frustration and defeat to your spiritual walk. To obey will bring tremendous blessing and will be a stepping-stone to even greater experiences in your walk with the Lord. The path of obedience is the path of blessing.
The Bible translations quoted in this study are:
TLB = The Living Bible
AMP. = The Amplified Bible
NIV = The New International Version Bible
KJV = The King James Authorized Version Bible.