"BAPTISM" Baptism In The Teaching Of Paul by Mark Copeland




Baptism In The Teaching Of Paul

  1. In our first lesson we saw where baptism played a prominent role in apostolic preaching...
    1. In every case of conversion described in the book of Acts, baptism is mentioned
    2. As G. R. Beasley-Murray, a Baptist scholar, observed: "Baptism is...a part of the proclamation of Christ. In an Apostolic sermon it comes as its logical conclusion." - G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism In The New Testament, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, p. 393)
  2. And what did the apostles proclaim regarding baptism? We noticed that...
    1. It was commanded "for the remission of sins" - Ac 2:38
    2. It was done to "wash away sins" - Ac 22:16
    3. It involved "water" - Ac 8:36-38; 10:48
    4. It was done "immediately", with no delay even if after midnight - Ac 16:25-33
  3. This would certainly suggest that baptism is necessary for salvation...
    1. But is this a fair conclusion drawn from the "preaching" of the apostles?
    2. Is this conclusion consistent with the "teaching" of the apostles, as found in their epistles?

[In this lesson, we will examine what Paul taught in his epistles regarding baptism. Let's start with by noticing what he said about baptism...]

      1. It is a baptism into the death of Christ - Ro 6:3
      2. It is a burial with Christ into death (His death, we are crucified with Him!) - Ro 6:4
      3. It is done in order that we might walk in newness of life - Ro 6:4-5
      4. It involves crucifying the old man, that the body of sin may be destroyed - Ro 6:6
      5. It thereby frees us from sin as we die to sin, that we might live with Christ - Ro 6:7-11
      1. Paul does not say that baptism "symbolizes things which had already occurred"
        1. Many say this is the purpose or design of baptism, often quoting this passage
        2. But read the passage carefully; Paul says no such thing!
      2. But rather, Paul describes baptism into Christ as WHEN such things occur
        1. We were buried with Him "through baptism into death" - Ro 6:4
        2. It is in baptism we are buried with Christ into death (His death); we thereby die to sin in baptism
        3. We were buried with Him, why? "That just as Christ was raised...even so we also should walk in newness of life" - Ro 6:4
        4. We are baptized in order to rise to walk in newness of life just as Christ did!
      3. Note also Paul's preface to these remarks: "as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were..."
        1. What blessings he describes pertain only to those who had been baptized!
        2. What of those not baptized? The blessings described would not apply!

        [In his commentary on Romans, Martin Luther 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).

        Though believing that we are justified by grace through faith (and he would say "by faith alone"), Luther understood that salvation by faith did not preclude the necessity of baptism! Why, we shall see shortly; but let's go on to consider what Paul wrote of baptism...]

      1. From Ga 3:26-27 we learn that baptism is involved in the process of becoming sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus
      2. The "for" beginning verse 27 begins an explanation as to HOW we become sons of God through faith
      3. Baptism is therefore the means by which we "put on Christ", and become sons of God!
      1. Paul wrote: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on..."
        1. "For as many" means no more or no less
        2. Only those who have been baptized into Christ have really received Christ into their lives!
      2. Many teach "receive Jesus Christ by saying the sinner's prayer..."
        1. But the Bible nowhere teaches that this is how one "receives Christ"
        2. Rather, one "puts on" (or receives) Christ when they are baptized into Christ!

        [In his commentary on this verse, Luther concluded: "Wherefore baptism is a thing of great force and efficacy." (Commentary On Galatians, Kregel Publications, p.222). How true, if in baptism we "put on Christ"!

        How this is possible without being a form of works-salvation becomes clearer as we consider what Paul taught concerning baptism...]

      1. A "spiritual circumcision" in which sins are "cut away" - Col 2:11
      2. A burial with Christ, and also a resurrection with Him - Col 2:12
      3. Made effective "through faith in the working of God" - Col 2:12
      4. In which GOD makes us "alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" - Col 2:13
      1. Here we learn that baptism is a work of God, not man
        1. Just as it was God who raised Jesus, so it is He who makes us alive, having forgiven our sins! - Col 2:13
        2. Our part is "faith in the working of God" as we are buried with Christ in baptism - Col 2:12
      2. God is the "Great Physician", who is cutting away our sins (through the blood of Christ)
        1. We are simply the patient, who humbly submits in faith to the surgeon's scalpel
        2. He is the One who makes us alive, that we might rise to walk in newness of life

    [Again, this is something Martin Luther clearly recognized, when he responded to those who would call this a kind of works-salvation:

    "Yes, it is true that our works are of no use for salvation. Baptism, however, is not our work but God's." (as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell in Baptism And The Remission of Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 32-34)

    Finally, let's consider what Paul taught concerning baptism...]

      1. Is Paul talking about baptism in Tit 3:5?
        1. The figure "washing" certainly alludes to the baptismal waters
        2. We have already seen where in baptism we are:
          1. Raised to walk in newness of life - Ro 6:4
          2. Made alive by God - Col 2:12-13
          -- Does this not suggest a "washing of regeneration..."?
        3. Martin Luther and many others understood this verse to refer to baptism
      2. Thus God saves us in baptism:
        1. It is a "washing of regeneration" - a washing in we are reborn
        2. It is a "renewing of the Holy Spirit" - a renewal in which the Spirit is at work
        -- Just as Jesus said: "...unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." - Jn 3:5
      1. This "washing" and "regeneration" does not occur because we have earned it!
        1. Baptism is not a work of righteousness by virtue of which we merit salvation!
        2. We are saved by the kindness, love, and mercy of God! - Tit 3:4-5
      2. It is by God's mercy that HE (not we) saves us!
        1. Which HE does through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit!
        2. Which HE does when we are baptized into Christ!
      3. Through such mercy in Christ Jesus, we are truly "justified by His grace" - Tit 3:6-7
  1. Paul taught that baptism is...
    1. A burial into the death of Christ
    2. How we die to sin as we are crucified with Him
    3. A resurrection with Christ so we can rise to walk in newness of life
    4. A putting on Christ, thereby becoming a child of God
    5. A spiritual circumcision in which sins are cut away
    6. The working of God, whereby we are buried with Christ, made alive as our sins are forgiven, and then raised with Him
    7. An act of God's grace and mercy, in which we experience a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit
    -- If all these things when one is baptized, how can anyone say that it is not necessary?
  2. Sadly, many who say it is NOT necessary...
    1. Misunderstand those who say it is necessary
      1. Thinking that they believe in salvation by works
      2. When they truly believe in salvation by grace through faith!
    2. Misunderstand Martin Luther
      1. Whose coined phrased "saved by faith only" they themselves use so often
      2. When he differs with them on the necessity of baptism
    3. Misunderstand the apostle Paul
      1. Having him say things about the purpose of baptism he does not say
      2. Failing to appreciate what he clearly teaches about baptism
      -- All this, in their zeal to oppose what they mistakenly view as works-salvation!

In his commentary on Ga 3:27, Luther wrote:

"This is diligently to be noted, because of the fond and fantastical spirits, who go about to deface the majesty of baptism, and speak wickedly of it. Paul, contrariwise, commendeth it, and setteth it forth with honorable titles, calling it, 'the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost'. And here also he saith, that 'all ye that are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.' Wherefore baptism is a thing of great force and efficacy." (Commentary On Galatians, Kregel Publications, p. 222)
Do we deface the majesty of baptism, in our mistaken zeal to oppose what we perceive to be a form of works-salvation?

Or do we, like Paul, commend it by noting his own teaching regarding baptism, and like Luther, appreciate how that by the working of God it can be a thing of great force and efficacy?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2022