INTRODUCTORY LESSON THREE – WRITTEN NARRATIVE
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”
(Mark 16:15-16, NASB)
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20, NASB)
These commands, given by Jesus following His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, are among His final words on earth. They describe how His disciples are to go out and share the message of God’s love, and all that He has done for humanity through the sacrificial gift of His Son, with all the rest of the world. Note that, in each passage, Jesus mentions baptism—a ceremonial burial in water—as an essential element of salvation. This indicates that baptism has always been part of God’s plan for the church, and it is something that He personally expects of all those who would become His disciples. Let’s consider some historical examples of baptism presented in scripture:
THE PEOPLE ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:36-41, NASB)
THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.
(Acts 8:35-39, NASB)
THE HOUSEHOLD OF CORNELIUS
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
(Acts 10:44-48, NASB)
THE HOUSEHOLD OF LYDIA
A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
(Acts 16:14-15, NASB)
THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER AND HIS HOUSEHOLD
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
(Acts 16:25-33, NASB)
THE DISCIPLES AT EPHESUS
It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
(Acts 19:1-5, NASB)
THE CONVERSION OF SAUL OF TARSUS
(The Apostle Paul)
“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’”
These beautiful, historical accounts of people coming to Christ and entering into a saving relationship with Him demonstrate that the early church obeyed Jesus’ command to baptize all believers. In fact, did you know that there is no specific historical account in the New Testament of any one ever coming to Christ without being baptized?
Two important things we learn from these passages have to do with the purpose and the urgency of Bible baptism. In the historical records above, the messengers are very clear that baptism was for the purpose of receiving the forgiveness of sins. If we are to read the Bible responsibly, we must acknowledge this direct and upfront teaching. Just as Jesus commanded repentance for the forgiveness of sin (Luke 24:47), He also made belief and baptism necessary for salvation (Mark 16:16). In Acts, Chapter 2, the Apostle Peter links both repentance and baptism together, and places both before, and for the purpose of, receiving the forgiveness of our sins. But notice also, in Acts, Chapter 2, that, at the point of baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now, we know from other passages of scripture, which we will look at in future lessons, that the Holy Spirit of God dwells within every New Covenant child of God. He is there to comfort us, to strengthen us, and to grow us into the likeness of Christ. The Bible says that He even intercedes for us in prayer; taking our innermost thoughts and feelings to God the Father as we pray (Romans 8:27). But all of this begins, according to scripture, when we enter into a life-giving relationship with God at the point of baptism.
The necessity not only of believing, but of repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of our sins contributes to the sense of urgency so prevalent among the apostles’ message. As the scriptures above indicate, when people believed the message and wanted to be saved, they were immediately told to be baptized. There was no wait list, no scheduling, no being put on a “calendar of upcoming events.” It was always immediate; even if that meant doing it in the middle of the night. Let’s look at some more New Testament perspectives on baptism, the Bible says:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4, NASB)
This passages helps us see the incredible, spiritual significance of the baptism experience. As Paul says here to the Romans, when we are “baptized into Christ,” we are “baptized into His death.” We are “buried with Him through baptism into death” (Romans 6: 3-4, NASB). Jesus shed His blood for us in His death. Jesus paid the price for our sins with His death. And, according to scripture, baptism is the God ordained process by which we are put into His death. Baptism marks that moment in time when His death becomes our death. It is the expression of faith whereby we reach out and claim the death of Jesus as our sacrifice for sins.
Notice also that, according to the Apostle Paul, at baptism we are “united with Him in the likeness of His death” so that we can be “united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5, NASB). Baptism is the “likeness of His death.” Just as Jesus died on the cross, we die with Him in baptism. In the very next verse, Paul goes on to say that in baptism “our old self was crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). So, baptism symbolizes our death to self and to sin, and to our old way of life. But, the Apostle Paul also says here that baptism is the “likeness of His resurrection” (verse 5). Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, are raised up from the watery grave of baptism to walk in “newness of life.”
Do you see the beautiful imagery going on here? As this chart shows, baptism, according to the Bible, is a depiction, a portrayal, a reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Just as Jesus died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, and then resurrected on the third day… so also, we die to ourselves, we are buried with Him into His death (not in a literal grave, but in water), and then we are raised back up out of the water to walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4, NASB).
So, physically, our immersion into a body of water—baptism—symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; while, spiritually, we are expressing our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul states that it is at this moment that we are “united with Him” (Romans 6:5, NASB). God recognizes this union and our sins are covered by the death of Jesus. We are cleansed from all our sin, not by the waters of baptism, but by the blood of Jesus Christ (I John 1:9, NASB) because we have now become partakers of the sacrificial death of Christ.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:4-6, NASB)
Note that, in this passage, the Bible clearly states that there is only ONE baptism. There are not two baptisms, as some contemporary denominations teach. They say, “Oh, there is a water baptism, but there is also a Holy Spirit baptism.” When they say that, first, they are misinformed concerning what the true Holy Spirit baptism really was – a one time, historical event that occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts, Chapter 2. And, second, they ignore this passage of scripture which makes it clear that, for us, and for all God’s children living after the day of Pentecost, Acts Chapter 2, there is only one baptism.
That one baptism involves both water and the Spirit. For, as the Apostle Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, when we are baptized, in water, we “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Here is another passage of scripture that helps us understand the water baptism / Holy Spirit connection:
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-13, NASB)
The Holy Spirit is very much present and involved in the salvation process. The Holy Spirit, through the inspired, written Word of God, produces faith in good and honest hearts, and leads us and guides us in our response to the truth. The Holy Spirit, if we will let Him, for He never acts against our own free will, but, if we will let Him, educates us, convicts us, and leads us to baptism, resulting in our salvation. That’s why Paul says here that “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” When we are baptized, we are added to the body of Christ. Note also, that the Apostle Paul says that, when that happens, “we are all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). Baptism is the moment our sin problem is taken care of, removed by the blood of Christ, and we enter into a life-giving relationship with God—full and complete fellowship with our Creator and Life-Source. It is at that very moment that the Holy Spirit “indwells” us. He takes up residence in our mortal bodies; and our bodies become, as the Apostle Paul says, a “temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (I Corinthians 6:19). That’s what Paul means when he says, “we are all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Do you remember when Jesus spoke of our new birth, or being born again? Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
(John 3:3-7, NASB)
What is Jesus talking about here when He says that one must be “born of water and the Spirit”? Some people think that when Jesus speaks of “water,” He is only referring to physical childbirth because water—well, amniotic fluid, actually—is present at childbirth. So they think Jesus is saying that one must be born of a woman, physically, then later born of the Spirit. But, when you study your Bible and look at what Jesus commanded later concerning baptism, and the importance that God places on our baptism as an expression of saving faith, it’s pretty easy to see that Jesus is actually talking about the same thing that Paul and the other apostles taught when He said, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”
Here’s another passage of scripture that connects the work of the Spirit with baptism. The Bible says:
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…
(Titus 3:4-5, NASB)
The new birth takes place at our baptism. To be “born of water and the Spirit” is the same as saying, “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” And this is the “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” mentioned here in the book of Titus.So, we see that the two— water baptism and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—occur simultaneously, at the very same moment in time. And so, there is, really, as the Apostle Paul says, only one baptism. It is a burial in water, to be put into Christ and into His death wherein we receive both the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But, at baptism, not only do we receive the blood of Christ to cleanse us, we also receive the righteousness of Christ to clothe us. In writing to the churches of Galatia, the Apostle Paul said:
For 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, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28, NASB)
In this passage of scripture, first, we see the faith/baptism connection. Paul says, “For you are all sons of God through FAITH in Christ Jesus,” and then we have that all important conjunction, “FOR, all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” So we see, here again, that baptism is an expression of saving faith. And then, Paul states that at baptism we are “clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:27, NASB). Because we have been “buried with Him through baptism into death,” “united with Him in the likeness of His death” and raised up “in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5), God now sees us as possessing the holiness of His Son, our Lord Jesus, rather than standing before Him in the nakedness of our own sin and shame.
In another important passage of scripture, the Bible discusses yet another spiritual aspect of baptism. Writing to the Christians in the city of Colossae, Paul says:
…and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
(Colossians 2:11-12, NASB)
First, please note what Paul says, yet again, about the baptism/faith connection. As this passage explains, baptism is not a meritorious work of law, but rather, an expression of one’s faith in Christ and in the efficacy of His sacrificial death on the cross. When we are baptized, we are not trusting in ourselves, or in our own obedience, or in the water, or even in the act of baptism itself; but rather, as Paul said, when we are “buried with Him in baptism” we are “also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God” (Colossians 2:12, NASB). Our faith is not in ourselves, or in our own obedience, or even in our own faith… rather, our faith is in “the working of God.”
Also, and this is pretty important, we see from this passage of scripture that it is at baptism that we receive our spiritual circumcision. Now, I know, this is a very mysterious and spiritual concept. There are things going on at the moment of our baptism that can only be accomplished by the working of God. Paul says, “you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12, NASB). Now, back in Old Testament days, the Lord ordained circumcision for His chosen people, Israel, as a perpetual sign and symbol of the Old Covenant under which God’s people lived. But today, God’s New Covenant people are no longer required to adhere to that physical, fleshly requirement. Rather, we partake of a spiritual circumcision, a “circumcision not made with hands,” but rather, a circumcision “of the heart” (Romans 2:29). And, according to Paul, that spiritual circumcision, the sign of the New Covenant, takes place when we are “buried with Him in baptism.” That’s when we become a New Covenant child of God. And so, our baptism, then, serves as our inauguration into the New Covenant; and it stands as a perpetual reminder of our New Covenant relationship with God and that we are His people.
Our final passage of scripture in today’s study comes from the Apostle Peter, who said:
…the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 3:20-21, NASB)
This passage reminds us that baptism is not so much a physical as it is a spiritual event. As Peter says here, “Baptism now saves you!” However, he hastens to add that it is not the mere removal of dirt from the body does not save anyone; it would be foolish to expect souls to be saved just by momentarily dipping people in water. But what we learn from this Bible verse is that true Bible baptism is a spiritual expression of our faith. Peter uses the term, “appeal unto God for a good conscience.” It is us, demonstrating through baptism our faith in what Jesus has done for us, reaching out to claim the sacrifice of Christ, appealing to God for forgiveness of sin and for freedom from guilt. And that demonstration of faith, that appeal unto God results, as Peter so boldly states here, in our salvation.
In conclusion, beloved, we have seen from many different passages of scripture that baptism has a very important and significant role to play in in our walk with God. Baptism is a very serious decision that carries eternal consequences. I remember one of my old instructors back in preaching school who liked to remind us that “salvation is by education!” And you know, he was right. I mean, if we are “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8), and it “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), then every precious soul who comes to Christ must have received some education, some level of understanding and comprehension of the Word of God in order to respond to the Gospel message in faith and be saved. Furthermore, one cannot be educated incorrectly, or have a misunderstanding of the Gospel message, and respond correctly, with an authentic, intelligent, faith. If baptism is the expression of saving faith that puts us into Christ, and into His death; If baptism is an “appeal unto God for a good conscience,” then we must have some appreciative level of understanding, some knowledge of the purpose and place of baptism in the salvation process, in order for it to mean anything at all. One cannot scripturally baptize babies, or children, when they have no understanding of the purpose for baptism, no conviction of sin, little or no comprehension of just Who Jesus really was and is, and what He has done for them; and how baptism connects people to the sacrificial death of Christ. Baptism is only for penitent believers who are ready to die to themselves and own Jesus as the Lord of their lives. Baptism is for people who understand their lost condition and who want to be saved by the blood of Christ, and clothed with His righteousness. Baptism is for people who understand that it’s not about just getting wet, it’s not about simply obeying some point of doctrine. Baptism is not about getting into somebody’s church or denomination. It’s not about celebrating what they “think” has already happened in their heart and life—some think they are already saved, and then, after being saved, they get baptized as some kind of proof or demonstration of their salvation. No! That kind of thinking removes saving faith from baptism and makes it just another legalistic work of law—something that you “should” do, but not necessarily essential. That kind of thinking does not come from the Bible, but from the denominational doctrines of man. Again, one cannot be educated incorrectly, and then respond correctly in the faith, love, and obedience set forth in the teachings of God’s word. We need to read our Bibles!
Baptism is not something anyone should enter into lightly because it is the very moment in time in which we fully surrender our heart and life to God, die to our old way of life, express our faith in Jesus and in what He has done for us, and claim the death of Christ as our very own. To deliberately ignore baptism, or to trivialize it as anything less than what the Bible says it is, would be to make a very dangerous and tragic mistake. God has chosen baptism, this simple and beautiful act of surrender, this reenactment of, and demonstration of our faith in, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, to signify our entrance into a life-giving relationship with Him.
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