Why Baptism?

This sermon is prefaced by a video of those baptized at PACOC in 2022 (see video above). The discussion of baptism begins at 9:06 in the recording.

Why Baptism?

It’s in the Bible

  • It’s not like we made this up
  • In fact it’s mentioned quite often in the New Testament
  • John the Baptist as he prepares everyone for Jesus is baptizing people
  • Jesus himself is baptized
  • Jesus commands it as he commissions his disciples in Matthew 28: Matthew 28:18–20 (NIV) — 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
  • We see people being baptized all through the book of Acts – the story of the early church
  • We see it in Paul’s letters to the churches as he talks about salvation
  • It’s not just mentioned, it’s commanded
  • Acts 2:38 (NIV) — 38 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.
  • Acts 22:16 (NIV) — 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
  • One of the core values of this church is to take our lead from the NT in our practices. Baptism by immersion in water is the normative way a person accepts the gift of God’s grace.

I don’t understand the why behind all of God’s commands and that’s not ultimately my responsibility, but there are some commands that seem to make sense and baptism is one them. There seems to be a good reason that we get baptized rather than hop on one foot for 3 minutes. There’s something about water that is special

Water is universally accessible – there is water everywhere.

  • Most people live within a reasonable distance from water – that’s why people lived where they lived – they chose places close to water
  • Baptism is available to the majority of people
  • What if the Bible had people anointed with olive oil – well, that is not as universal
  • What about if people were told to climb a mountain – not everyone is close to a mountain or can climb
  • What if we were told to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or some other holy place – not everyone can do that
  • What if people were told to recite a creed – not everyone may have the intellectual capacity to do that - some can’t read or even speak
  • Everyone everywhere can be baptized
  • It’s an experience that all believers can participate in and in doing so it creates a picture of unity among believers

One of the issues on the first century was a lack of unity among believers. Race, wealth, gender – they all were used to set people apart rather than unite them. So, in teaching on unity Paul uses this common experience, baptism, as a picture of our unity.

He uses the experience of the Jews during the exodus:

1 Corinthians 10:1–4 (NIV) — 1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

This common experience unified the people of Israel. He will go on to say that baptism unifies us:

1 Corinthians 12:12–14 (NIV) — 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Look at how Paul connects baptism and unity in Galatians:

Galatians 3:26–29 (NIV) — 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Baptism is a beautiful way to enter the kingdom because it’s something all of us can do. Black, white, rich, poor, slave, free, American, African, male, female – we can all tell the same story of conversion – we were baptized! This one universally accessible act is an expression of the unity of all believers throughout time and places. Baptism levels the field – what did you do – I was baptized – it is a passive act – there’s no bragging – it is the common experience that unites all believers.

Water is associated with cleansing

  • Water is the universal cleansing agent
  • Kids, parents tell you to wash up – you go the faucet and clean up with water
  • We wash our clothes, dishes, cars – everything we wash with water

One metaphor that is used of sin is that sin is dirty

Isaiah 64:6 (NCV) — 6 All of us are dirty with sin. All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth. All of us are like dead leaves, and our sins, like the wind, have carried us away.

As David seeks forgiveness for his sin he appeals to God to make him clean.

Psalm 51:2 (NIV) — 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:7 (NIV) — 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Other passages link baptism with being made clean:

Acts 22:16 (NIV) — 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

1 Peter 3:21 (NIV) — 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

Water that is so often used to clean us up becomes symbolic of the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are baptized. It’s a beautiful image – again something that everyone can relate to.

It’s a picture of the Gospel

Baptism is a reenactment of the Gospel story – death, burial, and resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:1–4 (NIV) — 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

This is the story – Christ died, he was buried, and he was raised – this is the essence of Christianity. Baptism reenacts that story. Almost every Christian tradition incorporates baptism in their practices. Some practice pouring or sprinkling. I think that misses some of the significance of baptism as a reenactment of the gospel and I think its not in keeping with what the word means. The primary definition is to immerse and that also seems how baptism was practiced in the Bible.

So we baptize by immersion and often times you will hear us refer to this passage in Romans that links baptism with Jesus’s death and our own death.

Romans 6:1–8 (NIV) — 1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

As we are buried we acknowledge Jesus’ death. We die to our lives of willful sin. As we come up we anticipate a participation in the resurrection of Jesus to live with him forever. Baptism is such a powerful symbol of what the good news is all about. If you haven’t been baptized we are always available to talk to you more.

If you have been baptized remember that moment – how it unites you with all believers in all times and places; how it washed you from your sin; and how it reminds you of the daily challenge to die to yourself and live for him.

Here’s the bottom line:

  • We are lost in our sin
  • God has acted in mercy and sent his son
  • Jesus died for us
  • He is calling us into a relationship with him
  • If you haven’t responded he’s waiting for that response – he’s waiting for your yes
  • Another year has passed and time is fleeting – so make the decision
  • Your life depends on it.