Some Baptism Questions

// June 23rd, 2019 // Sermons

Baptism is one of two ordinances… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Some Baptism Questions…that Jesus gave to the church.  However, it doesn’t take long to realize that there is some controversy around baptism.  Immersion vs. sprinkling or pouring; infant baptism or christening vs. believer’s baptism; is salvation and assurance of eternal life dependant on baptism, does baptism save you? – are just a few.

Just to clarify, I believe doctrinal controversy can be healthy, but it can be divisive.  Our attitude to controversy among believers plays a big part in determining the outcome.  It is my hope that in Garrington we won’t allow the enemy to use controversy to divide us or negatively impact our witness for Christ.  But, we need to understand that controversy is often essential and necessary when truth is rejected or distorted.

God has ordained that His followers do their part in maintaining truth in the world.  He doesn’t need us, but He desires to use us!  For example, Paul wrote in Phil. 1:7 that he is in prison for the “defense and confirmation of the gospel.”  In Jude v. 3 we are instructed that we should “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  And, Acts 17:2-3 say that Paul’s custom in the synagogue was to “reason” from the Scriptures and “explain and give evidence” that Jesus was the Christ.

So the preservation and transfer of precious truth from person to person and generation to generation may require controversy where truth is questioned, distorted or rejected.

John Owen, the Puritan pastor from 340 years ago was involved in many controversies in his day – theological, denominational and political.  But he never ceased to be a deep lover of God and a faithful pastor of a flock.  He didn’t just contend for doctrine, he loved and fellowshipped with the God behind the doctrine.

That is always my heart’s desire in what I preach – that what the Bible teaches about baptism, should produce in us the desire to fall in step with God’s instruction and cause us to worship and glorify our Sovereign God for what He has given us.

I want you to turn to our text – 1 Peter 3:18-22 – where the apostle Peter gives some good teaching on baptism.  (Read text)

I have divided this into five parts:

  1. We are born, separated from God. The greatest problem in the world and the greatest problem in your life and mine, is that we are cut off/separated from God, right from birth. We have no absolute right to approach God.  We are alienated from him.

Peter wrote, that the aim of Christ’s suffering was “that he might bring us to God.”

So, if Christ had to die that we might be brought to God, it is obvious that we are alienated from God without Christ.  That’s the key issue!

Mankind’s big problem is not floods, cancer, crime, war, not our job or our marriage or our kids.  The big issue is that we are cut off from God, our Maker.  And if that problem does not get solved, then the anger of God will rest on us and our eternity will be miserable!  Secondly,

  1. Our sin further alienates us from God. Peter wrote, “Christ suffered for our sins…that he might bring us to God.” Our sins cut us off from our God.  This is true legally and true emotionally.

Legally, God is a just judge and does not simply pronounce the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.  He is holy and does not hang out with rebels.  Every sin we commit is serious and pushes Him farther away.

Emotionally, our conscience is defiled by our sins making us feel too dirty in God’s presence to even lift our face up to Him.  Thirdly,

  1. God’s Son is our Substitute. We sin against God causing a separation from Him, and God takes the initiative to overcome this separation by offering Jesus Christ – His Son – to take the consequence of our sin, in our place.

Peter wrote, “Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the just for the unjust.”  Here is the foundation of our hope – we really can come home to God.  O that should make every person who believes just want to jump up and worship Him!

This is the great gospel.  When sin and Satan come at us with their accusations and say, “You can’t pray to God!  There’s no way you could ever go to heaven!  Look at you! You’re a sinner!”

To this we can say, “Yes, I’m a sinner, but my hope does not lie in not being a sinner.  My hope is set upon the substitution of the Just for the unjust.”  #4…

  1. The substitution was once for all. Peter says that this substitution of the Just for the unjust was “once for all”. It never needs to be and never can be repeated, because it was perfect and complete the first it was done. The debt for all our sins – past, present and future – was paid in a single sacrifice, for all time.  Pastor John Piper wrote, “O the glory of an objective, finished, once-for-all gospel performed by God in his Son outside of me apart from my psychological fickleness.”  #5…
  2. God was satisfied with Christ’s substitution. Peter wrote, “Having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”

This means that God was satisfied with Christ’s substitution.  This means that if you have this as the foundation of your life, God will be satisfied with you, in Christ.

God gave His Son life in at least two ways:  i) God gave Him life in the spirit during the three days while His body was in the tomb.  Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” – not in three days, but today.  The 2nd way God gave Christ life, ii) He raised Jesus’ body from the dead, and transformed it into a “spiritual body” – a new kind of body without the limitation of the old “flesh” – a body suited for the spiritual realm that “flesh and blood” cannot inherit.

  1. 18 is like the top slice of bread in a sandwich that surrounds the teaching of baptism in this passage.
  2. 22 is the bottom slice: “Christ is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” This is the other effect of the death and resurrection of Christ.  First, a substitution for our sins, secondly, a subjection of his enemies.

When Christ died and rose again, all the evil angels, and authorities and powers were subjected to Him in a new way.  From the beginning of creation Jesus was sovereign over them.  But, after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, it’s as if the demonic world was unleashed on mankind to harm us – managing to separate us from God.  And so, when Christ went to the cross, He took on the challenge of removing the power of the demonic world.

We need to exult and celebrate that the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ subjected angels and authorities and powers to Him, meaning that in Him the elect of God cannot be destroyed by these enemies!  Our great enemies are subject to the will of the one who died to save us.  He will not let his work of substitution or subjection be done in vain.

In between these two great truths about Christ are the words about baptism.  There is much that could be said, but I want to focus on the meaning of baptism from this passage.  In v. 19, Peter reminds us that, in the spirit, Jesus went to preach to the people in Noah’s day, whose spirits are now in prison awaiting judgment.  We know that there was tremendous evil and hardness in Noah’s day and only eight people enter the ark and were saved from the judgment of the flood by entering the Ark.

Peter makes a comparison between the waters of the flood and the waters of baptism.  V. 21 is the key verse:  “The waters of baptism do that for you, not by washing away dirt from your skin but by presenting you through Jesus’ resurrection before God with a clear conscience.”

Some denominations love this verse because it appears to support the view called “baptismal regeneration.”  That is, baptism does something to the one being baptized:  they believe baptism saves by bringing about new birth.  One of the baptismal liturgies for infant baptism reads, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks.”

The problem – Peter seems conscious of the fact that his words are open to dangerous misuse.  So, as soon as they are out of his mouth, he qualifies them lest the reader take them the wrong way.  In v. 21 he does say, “Baptism now saves you” – that sounds like the water has a saving effect in and of itself apart from faith.

Peter recognized the danger of that statement and so he immediately adds, “Not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

The point is this:  Peter says, “When I speak of baptism saving, I don’t mean that by immersing the body and cleansing the flesh, that the water is of any saving effect; what I mean is that, insofar as baptism is ‘an appeal to God for a good conscience.’ As is cleanses the conscience, it saves.”

In Rom. 10:13, Paul wrote, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord – literally, everyone who appeals to the Lord – will be saved.”  Paul does not mean that faith alone cannot save; he means that true faith calls on God.  That’s what faith does!

So, Peter is saying, “Baptism is the God-ordained, symbolic expression of that call to God. It is an appeal to God – either in the form of repentance or in the form of commitment.”

This is fundamentally important in our understanding of what baptism is in the NT.  So, what is baptism?  Baptism is a symbolic expression of the heart’s “appeal to God.”  Baptism is a calling on God.  God has provided us with a way of using our whole body to say to God, “I trust you to take me into Christ like Noah was taken into the ark, and to make Jesus the substitute for my sins and to bring me through these waters of death and judgment into new and everlasting life through the resurrection of Jesus my Lord.”

I believe that this is what God is calling every follower of Christ to do. You do not save yourself – God saves you through the work of Christ.  But you receive that salvation through calling on the name of the Lord, by trusting Him.  And it is God’s will all over the world and in every culture – no matter how simple or how sophisticated – that this appeal to God be expressed in baptism.  This afternoon – Caitlynn, Deandra & Annelise are saying to God, “Lord, I am entering the ark of Christ! Save me as I pass through the waters of death!”

If you are a follower of Jesus, and have never been baptized, what’s holding you back?

Let’s pray…

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