"ISSUES OF DISTINCTION"
The Purpose Of Baptism INTRODUCTION 1. In this series we have surveyed the following "Issues Of Distinction": a. The Existence Of God - which differentiates between... 1) Atheists and agnostics, who deny or question God's existence 2) Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Moslems, Christians, etc., who believe in a Supreme Being b. The Identity Of God - which distinguishes between... 1) Buddhists, Hindus, etc., who hold to many gods 2) Jews, Moslems, Christians, etc., who believe in God of Abraham c. The Identity Of Jesus Of Nazareth - over which there is a difference between... 1) Jews, Moslems, etc., who may accept Jesus as a good man, perhaps a prophet 2) Christians, who believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God d. The All-Sufficiency Of The Scriptures - where again there is a difference between... 1) Catholics, Mormons, JWs, etc., who deny the Scriptures are all-sufficient 2) Mainstream Protestants, Christians, etc., who profess the principle of "scriptura sola" (the Scriptures alone) 2. Another "issue of distinction" is "The Purpose Of Baptism" a. Some say that the purpose of baptism has nothing to do with salvation b. Others say that baptism is an integral part in God's plan for saving man 3. In this study, we shall examine... a. The common view of baptism held by many denominations b. What the Scriptures themselves teach concerning baptism c. What difference does it really make [We begin with...] I. THE COMMON DENOMINATIONAL VIEW REGARDING BAPTISM A. THAT BAPTISM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SALVATION... 1. The view expressed by many Baptists is a popular one: a. "Baptists believe that no one is subject for baptism till he is already saved." b. "We believe it is a positive command, enjoined upon the believing, saved soul, and is essential to true, loving obedience." c. "Baptists believe that the immersion of a believer is an open declaration to the world that such a one is dead to sin." d. "Again, the immersion is a proclamation to the world that we believe in Him who died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." e. "So it is a proclamation of our belief that Christ arose from the dead..." -- What Baptists Believe And Why They Believe It, J. G. Bow 2. My purpose is not to single out Baptists (my maternal ancestors were Baptists) a. Not all Baptists would agree with the above view (see comments below) b. But it is indicative of most Baptists, and is held by many Protestants B. THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE... 1. Baptism is simply "a public declaration" of one's faith in Jesus Christ 2. It is a command to be obeyed AFTER salvation, similar to the Lord's Supper 3. It is therefore non-essential to salvation: "Is baptism necessary for salvation? I don't beat about the bush about it at all. I come out with a plain, definite NO! No, baptism doesn't save, doesn't help save, and I'll go even further to say that it doesn't have anything in this world to with the saving of a soul." Good News, Edward T. Hiscox, March 2, 1972 [Is this true? Is the only purpose of baptism one of making a public proclamation of one's faith in Jesus? Is baptism for those who are already saved? Please prayerfully consider...] II. THE BIBLICAL VIEW REGARDING BAPTISM A. IS BAPTISM "A PUBLIC PROCLAMATION ONE'S FAITH"? 1. There is no teaching in the Bible that defines the purpose for baptism as such a. An appeal is often made to the example of Christ's baptism... 1) That Jesus was baptized to publicly introduce Himself to Israel as the Messiah 2) And that therefore the purpose for Christian baptism is to serve a similar purpose; i.e., to publicly profess ourselves to the world as disciples of Jesus b. An interesting correlation, but one nowhere made in the Scriptures! 2. If baptism were solely a public proclamation of one's faith... a. What about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch?
- Ac 8:35-39 1) When he asked what might hinder him from being baptized, why wasn't he told to wait until they got to town or some public place? 2) The fact that he was baptized when it was just he and Philip would imply that there is some other purpose for baptism! b. What about the baptism of the Philippian jailer and his family? - Ac 16:25-34 1) They were baptized "immediately", after midnight and before daylight 2) Why didn't Paul tell them to wait until a special baptismal service could be held that was open to the public, or at least to the church? 3. Both of these examples imply that the purpose of baptism is for some reason other than a public profession of one's faith a. There was a sense of urgency in both cases b. Indeed, in every case where baptism is described in detail in the book of Acts, it occurs immediately after one lesson! -- Whatever the purpose, it did not matter whether it was done in public or in private B. WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT BAPTISM... 1. When you are baptized into Christ, the Bible says: a. You put on the Lord Jesus - Ga 3:26-27 b. Your sins are washed away - Ac 22:16 c. Your sins are remitted (forgiven) - Ac 2:38 d. You die to sin and are freed from sin - Ro 6:1-7 e. You are baptized into the body of Christ - 1Co 12:13 f. You are saved through the resurrection of Christ, as you make an appeal for a good conscience - 1Pe 3:21 2. Here are some thought-provoking quotations from George Beasley-Murray, Baptist scholar, in his book, Baptism In The New Testament: a. "In light of the foregoing exposition of the New Testament representations of baptism, the idea that baptism is a purely symbolic rite must be pronounced not alone unsatisfactory but out of harmony with the New Testament itself. Admittedly, such a judgment runs counter to the popular tradition of the Denomination to which the writer belongs..." b. "The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing for any who come to the study freshly with an open mind." c. "...the "grace" available to man in baptism is said by the New Testament writers to include the following elements: 1) forgiveness of sin, Ac 2.38 and cleansing from sins,
Ac 22.16, 2Co 6.11; 2) union with Christ, Ga 3.27, and particularly union with Him in his death and resurrection, Ro. 6.3ff, Col 2.11f, with all that implies of release from sin's power, as well as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the Redeemer, Ro 6.1-11; 3) participation in Christ's sonship, Ga 3.26f; 4) consecration to God, 1Co 6.11, hence membership in the Church, the Body of Christ, 1Co 12.13, Ga 3.27-29; 5) possession of the Spirit, Ac 2.38, 1Co 6.11, 12.13, and therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e., regeneration, Tit 3.5, Jn 3.5; 6) grace to live according to the will of God, Ro 6.1ff, Col 3.1ff; 7) deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world, Col 1.13; 8) the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn 3.5, and the pledge of the resurrection of the body, Ep 1.3f, 4.30. (pp. 263-264) 3. Yes, when one comes to the Bible with an open mind, willing to consider whatever the Bible says about baptism... a. They will conclude with George Beasley-Murray that the idea baptism is a purely symbolic rite: 1) Must be pronounced unsatisfactory! 2) Is out of harmony with the New Testament itself! b. They will agree with Martin Luther, who... 1) In answer to the question, "What gifts or benefits does Baptism bestow?", replied in his Small Catechism, "It effects forgiveness of sins." 2) Also wrote concerning the sinner: "Through Baptism he is bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from sins." 3) Again wrote: "To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save." (as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell in Baptism And The Remission of Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 32-34) 4) In his commentary on Ro 6:3, wrote: "Baptism has been instituted that it should lead us to the blessings (of this death) and through such death to eternal life. Therefore IT IS NECESSARY that we should be baptized into Jesus Christ and His death." (Commentary On Romans, Kregel Publications, p. 101) c. And they will concur with Augustine, who... 1) Referring to the efficacy of baptism, wrote that "the salvation of man is effected in baptism"; also, that a person "is baptized for the express purpose of being with Christ." (Cottrell, p. 30) 2) With regard to the necessity of baptism, refers to the "apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism...it is impossible for any man to attain to salvation and everlasting life." (ibid., p. 30) [Indeed, along with the perspective of church history, the Bible clearly teaches that the purpose of baptism is one that relates to the saving of one's soul, for as one is baptized they are by God's grace and power united with Christ and thereby receive all the benefits of His death! If this be true, what are the ramifications? Does it really make any difference WHY one is baptized...?] III. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? A. SOME BOLDLY PROCLAIM IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE... 1. That God will accept a baptism for a different purpose 2. That while a person may mistakenly think they were saved at the point of believing, their sins are forgiven at the point of baptism 3. Isn't this rather presumptuous on their part? a. To speak for God? b. When the Bible does not say what He will or will not do in such cases? B. BUT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE... 1. At best, it raises serious questions about one's obedience to the gospel a. Has one really obeyed Christ, if they responded to a perversion of it? 1) Today, most people are told to simply repent and pray 2) But the apostles commanded people to repent and be baptized - Ac 2:38 b. Can a person be taught wrong, and baptized right? 1) In Ac 19:1-5, we have a case of re-baptism... a) John's baptism did not qualify as meeting the conditions of Christ's baptism b) Even though John's baptism was the will of God for a short time 2) If John's baptism required re-baptism in the name of Christ, how much more those who were not baptized for the right purpose today? 2. At worst, there are some serious consequences! a. People who sincerely think they are saved are still lost! b. Preachers and teachers who say baptism has nothing to do with salvation are teaching a perverted gospel!
- cf. Ga 1:8-9 3. In any case, it will affect the way one preaches! Here is Beasley-Murray again: a. "First, there ought to be a greater endeavor to make baptism integral to THE GOSPEL." b. "It is taken as axiomatic amongst us [Baptists, MAC] that the proclamation of the Gospel consists of making the redemptive acts of God in Christ known and calling for faith in Christ as the due response; baptism is then a proper subject for exposition in the enquirers' class, along with instruction as to the nature of the Church, of worship, of Christian obligation in the Church and to the world, etc." c. "Peter's response, however, to the cry of his conscience stricken hearers on the Day of Pentecost was not "Repent and believe", but "Repent and BE BAPTIZED"! (Ac 2.38). d. "Naturally faith was presumed in repentance, but Peter's answer told the Jews how to become Christians: faith and repentance are to be expressed in baptism, and SO they are to come to the Lord." e. "Baptism is here a part of the proclamation of Christ. In an Apostolic sermon it comes as its logical conclusion." f. "An effort ought to be made to restore this note in our [Baptist] preaching." (Ibid., p. 393) CONCLUSION 1. To restore this note in one's preaching will certainly make a difference! a. Our response to the question "What shall we do?" will be similar to Peter's response on Pentecost: "Repent...and be baptized!" b. People will respond to our "preaching Christ" like the eunuch: "Here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 2. Yet today, rarely do you hear in many churches... a. A preacher commanding his audience like Peter did in Ac 2:38 b. A listener who just heard a gospel lesson ask the question the eunuch did in Ac 8:36 c. A teacher telling a penitent believer what Ananias told Saul of Tarsus: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
(Ac 22:16) -- The reason should be clear: Something's changed! 3. Yes, "The Purpose Of Baptism" is another "issue of distinction"... a. For one's view on the purpose of baptism make a great difference b. It affects our preaching, and it affects the souls of those who hear us! 4. We must therefore... a. Fully understand the distinction between such views on baptism b. Make certain that our understanding is in harmony with the Scriptures c. Lovingly reach out to those who are in error What is your understanding concerning baptism? Have you been baptized for the purpose revealed in the Scriptures?