Reading from the Bible King James Version
Today I'd like to speak about a very special subject and that is the subject of the ordinance of baptism. I'd like to direct your attention to Acts 8:26-39.
Acts 8:26-39 (Scripture reading) +
26) And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27) And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28) Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29) Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30) And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31) And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32) The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33) In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34) And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35) Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38) And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39) And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Now, there are many questions that are asked about baptism today and I like to answer the most frequently asked questions concerning baptism.
1. Who should be baptized?
1. Who should be baptized?
Only those who have their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their personal savior should be baptized. I believe that's very well illustrated by the story here of the Ethiopian eunuch. Notice that in Acts 8:35-37 in which we just read;
(35) Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (36) And as they went on their way, they came unto certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? (37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
Here the Ethiopian eunuch asked a very important question. He said, "What does hinder me to be baptized?" What is the prerequisite for being baptized? What stands between me and baptism? What do I have to do first in order to be baptized? And Philip said, "If you believe everything I just told you concerning Jesus Christ, you can be baptized." And he said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God." That was the confession of his faith. He had come to put his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal savior.
And so, baptism truly is believer's baptism. It's just not baptism, but it is believer's baptism meaning that only believers should be baptized. We see that throughout the New Testament and especially in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:41 at the very beginning of the church, Peter is preaching on the day of Pentecost, and in Acts 2:41 at the end of his powerful sermon it says, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." That means that these individuals put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and then they were baptized. They were not baptized prior to their belief, but after their belief in Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Then we see also in Acts 16:14-15, Paul the apostle is preaching, and he comes to a city in Macedonia by the name of Philippi, and comes across a certain woman by the name of Lydia, and it says, "she was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household." Here is a woman by the name of Lydia. God opened her heart. She listened very intently to what the apostle Paul told her concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. She received Him as her personal Savior and then she was baptized. All of those in her household that put their faith and trust the Lord Jesus Christ also were baptized.
Also, in that very same chapter, Acts 16, the apostle Paul is now in prison because of his preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is being persecuted for his faith; he and Silas. But while in prison those prisoners and the guards of the prison itself were listening to the apostle Paul and Silas. They were singing praises to God even at midnight, and even in their suffering, and in all the adversity and pain that they were going through. They were still praising God. And so in Acts 16:30-33, it tells us concerning the guard of the prison it says,
"And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway." That means that this Philippian jailer had put his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and many in his household also gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ putting their faith and trust in him for salvation, and him only, and then they were baptized. They were not baptized prior to being saved, but only afterwards and that's why we call it believer's baptism.
And so, the most important questions that anyone should ask concerning baptism is, what hinders me from being baptized? What stands between me and being baptized? What is the prerequisite for being baptized? And the answer to these questions is that one must put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation and in Him only. Not in baptism, but in the Lord Jesus Christ and in Him only.
2. Why should I be baptized?
Then that would lead us to the second question, "Why should I be baptized?" If baptism is not for salvation, then what is the reason for baptism?
Baptism is a way of following the Lord Jesus Christ in:
a. His example.
a. Why should we be baptized? It is because Jesus first of all taught it by example. In Matthew 3:13 and in Matthew 3:16, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. In Matthew 3:13 it says that, "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him." Then in Matthew 3:16 it says, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him."
And so, why should we be baptized? Itís because Jesus taught it by example.
Many years ago there was a saying that many Christians used and it was, "What Would Jesus Do?" We have individuals today that ask what do I have to do to follow Jesus? And I want to be a follower of Jesus, and I want to follow what Jesus did. Well if you know Christ as your personal savior, then and if you want to follow Jesus, you should be baptized. Jesus taught it by example.
b. Jesus taught it by command. At the end of that same gospel of Matthew 28:19 in the great commission we realize that Jesus says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." We are to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, and we ought to teach them about the Lord Jesus Christ. Then once they accept Christ, they are to be baptized. Jesus taught it by command. We want to be obedient to the Lord. Believers should always want to be obedient to the Lord.
c. We should be baptized, not only because Jesus taught by example and by command, but the early church did it over and over again; thereby, setting the precedent for us. In Acts 10:47-48, we come to the account of Peter, and Peter the apostle is preaching to Cornelius, a Gentile, and Cornelius accepts Christ as his personal savior, and the gospel is opened up then to the Gentile world. Acts 10:47-48 Peter asks the question, "Can anyone forbid that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." We realize that Cornelius was baptized upon conversion. The early church taught it over and over again.
Again, in Acts 18:8, we have the apostle Paul preaching and many are accepting Christ as their Savior. In fact, it says that "Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." We realize even Crispus the chief ruler of the synagogue was touched by the Holy Spirit, and put his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many in this household did the same, and many Corinthians did the same, and they were baptized. It says " hearing believed and were baptized."
And so, why should someone be baptized once they come to Christ as their personal savior? Because Jesus taught it by example, Jesus taught it by command, and the early church did it over and over and over again. That's not including the verses I just read to you prior from Acts 2, and Acts 16, and Acts 8. The Bible tells us over and over again believers are to be baptized.
And so, we answer the question then, who should be baptized? Itís only believers in Jesus Christ. Why should I be baptized? Because Jesus was baptized, He commanded us to be baptized, and the early church set the precedent for us time and time again.
3. When should I be baptized?
And then the third question that we want to answer is: "When should I be baptized?" And the answer to that question is: Immediately after salvation, or as soon as possible thereafter.
It is a step of obedience. In Acts 8:37-38, the eunuch was baptized immediately after he was saved; immediately after he was born again. We realize that in Acts 9:17-18 portion of Scripture that we have not yet read, the apostle Paul after his conversion on the way to Damascus and the Lord Jesus appearing to him, he goes into Damascus, and then Ananias meets him there. That's in Acts 9:17 following, and then in Acts 9:18 it says, "And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales" that is from the apostle Paul's eyes because of the blinding effect from when he saw the Lord Jesus Christ, "and he received sight forthwith." He had been blinded up to this point and it says, "And he arose, and was baptized." And so the apostle Paul upon his conversion was baptized. He showed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by undergoing the waters of baptism.
When should someone be baptized that knows Christ as their personal savior? As soon as possible after conversion. It is a terrible mistake that so many believers make, when they say: Well, I will pray about it and I'll see what the Lord wants me to do. Listen! You don't have to pray about being obedient to the Lord. The Lord says: Repent and be baptized. That would be like me telling one of my children, when they were young, to do something and they would say, well I'll go and pray about it. "I beg your pardon?" They wouldn't say that to their father, nor should we say that our Heavenly Father; I'll go and pray about it. When God tells us to do something we should act promptly, and do it as quickly as possible. We need to trust and obey; for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey [Hymn].
And so we've answered the questions: Who should be baptized? Only believers. Why should I be baptized? Because Jesus taught by example, by command, and the early church did it over and over again setting the example for us. When should I be baptized? Immediately after conversion, or as soon as possible.
4. How should I be baptized?
And then the fourth question we want to answer is: How should I be baptized? The Bible teaches baptism is the only done by immersion.
The word baptizo is where we get our word baptized from. That is the Greek word baptizo. And baptizo in all Greek lexicons means the emersion, it means submersion, it means to place down under, it means to dip down into. I think of John 3:23, this is a really wonderful small portion of Scripture, and is tucked away in a little narrative where sometimes you just don't even see the verse, because it's just tucked in there, but it speaks about baptism. In John 3:23 about John the Baptist is says, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized." Notice that little phrase in the middle John 3:23, "because there was much water there." You don't need a lot of water to sprinkle. You don't need a lot of water to pour, if you are going to baptize by sprinkling or pouring, which is unbiblical and unscriptural. But you need a certain amount of water in order to baptize by immersion.
I remember that in our first church where we pastored in upstate Pennsylvania, the First Baptist Church of Damascus Pennsylvania. The church sits right on the Delaware River. Literally, the church property is right on the Delaware River. But in the summer months, especially in the month of August when the river is very, very dry, you could walk from one end of the Delaware River, one side to the other side, of the river from the Pennsylvania side to the New York side, or vice versa. You could walk across the Delaware River stepping on the large boulders there and never get your feet wet. It is not that far. You could be across, literally, in maybe ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. And that is because all bodies of water have shallow spots and they have deeper spots. In the dry season, when it is very dry in August, that river in that part of the state has a very, very shallow area. And so, it was here with the River Jordan, where John was baptizing. There were shallow spots and there were spots that were deeper. But John was baptizing in this area, because it says it specifically. The Holy Spirit puts this in here because it is important; "Because there was much water there." Again you need a certain amount of water to immerse.
It is important for us to understand that even when Jesus was baptized, in Scripture we read earlier from Matthew 3:16 it says, "he went straight way up out of the water." You can't come up out of something unless you go down into something. And so, it is important for us also to understand Acts 8, with the Ethiopian eunuch on the long trip from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship, and then going back again, no doubt he was carrying water with him in some type of a container. He had some type of a jar, some type cistern, or some type of a containment of water he had with him in that chariot, and in that train of chariots that were going along with him. He could've taken that and used any of that water itself there and have been baptized by sprinkling or pouring, if he wanted to be unscripturally baptized. In fact, Jesus and John the Baptist, John the Baptist when he was baptizing, he could've baptized out of a well, out of a basin of water in their house if he was doing it by sprinkling or by pouring. But he didn't. He was always baptizing down in the Jordan River. We understand that Jesus was baptized there in the Jordan. Why? Itís because there was much water there. You need a certain amount of water for immersion.
The Didache, which is one of the oldest baptismal manuals in existence, dated 100-160 A.D., decreed immersion as the proper mode of baptism; the only mode of baptism. The biblical way of baptism is immersion. There is no other way. In fact, we understand that when we bury people, and today, and when we place people in the ground today we put them in cemeteries, we don't just take sprinkle a little dirt on top of them. We just don't pour a little dirt on top of them. When we attend a service at a cemetery and individuals are buried theyíre placed six feet under the ground in most cases. Why is that? Because that is the way you actually bury individuals and that is proper and right to do.
We realize that when one is baptized they are simulating, they are symbolically showing the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ was buried in the tomb, they rolled that stone in front of the tomb. He was completely encased by earth [surrounded by ground].
Dolores and I in 1980, walked into that tomb. What a marvelous place to visit there in the Holy Land of Israel. We saw that place. It is a marvelous, marvelous place to visit, and to really go back, and see, and follow the footsteps of Jesus. But when we went in there, and we saw that tomb, we were reminded once again of its enclosure. It was completely shut off from the outside world, and that was the whole idea of putting a stone in front, so no one could go in and take the body of Jesus. No one could go in and steal his body later. The Pharisees paid soldiers to say that this is what Jesus disciples did. But we realize that baptism then is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Romans 6:3-5 answers that same question that now weíre asking: What is the meaning of baptism? Well, baptism is symbolic; it's a way of outwardly showing others the faith in our heart by identifying with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection.
In Romans 6:3-5, we read these words: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." Here it tells us we have been buried with Him in the likeness of his death. Many times when individuals are baptized the pastor will say: Buried with him in the likeness of his death; Raised with Him in the likeness of his resurrection.
As Jesus came out of the tomb, so we come out of the waters of baptism in newness of life that we will live now a new life for the Lord Jesus Christ, and show others that truly we are born again, and we are saved. It is a public profession of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful way of identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:39 once he was baptized it says, "He went on his way rejoicing." All those who follow Christ, and do what God wants us to do, will go on their way rejoicing. The hymn that we just referred to a moment ago, Trust and obey, for those no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. That really, really is what we're talking about when you follow Christ in believer's baptism. You will have the joy of knowing that you are doing what God wants you to do. You are doing what Jesus wants you to do. You are identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'm so happy for those of you follow Christ believer's baptism, and I know that they have been obedient to the Lord. They are following his example. They are following his command, and I trust that you have done that.
Please remember that no one becomes a Christian [receives salvation] by being baptized, but rather individuals that have already come to Christ as their personal Savior, and are already Christians are being obedient to the One who now is their Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, and are obeying the words of Jesus to be baptized. I hope that you have been obedient to the Lord. If not, I hope that you will make that decision today, I truly do.
And, if you've never put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, maybe you have put your faith and trust in baptism for salvation instead of the Lord Jesus Christ; you need to put your faith and trust in Jesus, in Jesus alone. He is the only way of salvation. It is not Jesus plus membership to a church. It is not Jesus plus benevolent deeds. It is not Jesus even plus baptism. Baptism is something you do after salvation to show the Lord that you love Him and you want to be obedient to Him. It is not something you do in order to obtain salvation. If you've never come to Christ and received him as your personal Savior; you need to do that now. For those of you that have come to Christ and received him as your personal savior, and you've never been baptized; you need to make that decision to be baptized, and then know the real joy that the Ethiopian eunuch knew when it says, "and he went on his way rejoicing." I hope you will do that.
Shall we pray together?
[Praying] Father, we thank you for your Word today. We thank you for the clarity of Scripture. We thank you for what the Bible teaches us concerning baptism. We realize that this itís not complicated. We realize that religion [religious ritual] has made it complicated, and many churches have made it complicated, but the Bible never makes it complicated. The Scriptures are so very, very plain, and clear concerning baptism. Help us to be obedient to your word. Help us to love you, and serve you, and help us, Lord, to go from this place rejoicing, because we have trusted, and now we are obeying, and we realize that we will, Father, be a better testimony for you in a world that desperately needs to see the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives. This we pray in Jesus name.
Copyright © 2013 Mullica Hill Baptist Church NJ - Dr. Al McLeod ThD PhD, Author. All rights reserved worldwide.