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The Biblical Basis for Baptism

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 9, 2024 3:00 am

The Biblical Basis for Baptism

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 9, 2024 3:00 am

Baptism—a sacrament clearly commanded by Christ—is often surrounded by confusion. What’s the significance of baptism? Are we saved in this process? Should everyone who attends church be baptized? Hear the answers on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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What's the meaning and significance of baptism?

Does it save us? Should everyone who has attends church be baptized? Alistair Begg addresses these questions and more today is as if by imbibing something that was sufficient for our progress, but rather these elements speak to us of a reality greater than themselves.

And so we sought to affirm that this visible object or sign points to a reality which is different from and more significant than itself. And as true as that was in relationship to the Lord's Supper, it is very important that we understand that it is so in relationship to baptism itself. In the sign of baptism, the reality is displayed, but it is not dispensed. Now, the fact is that anyone who wanders around a church building for any length of time at all, and largely any kind of building, will be smart enough to realize that baptism is something which is practiced. With the exception of the Salvation Army and the Quakers, virtually every area of church life practices baptism. And so most people know something about it.

And in that lies one of our greatest problems. Because in knowing a little bit, we often don't know enough, and it is subject to unbelievable confusion and misunderstanding. Nowhere was that clearer than down through the dark Middle Ages, so it was that when the Reformers picked up on the whole issue of baptism, they determined that it was vitally important that whenever you shared any sacrament—they determined there were two—it was important that the Word of God was proclaimed. Because it was only, said the Reformers, in the explanatory proclamation of the Word, that the confirmatory nature of the sacraments themselves might be understood. Augustine, or Augustine, described the sacraments as visible words of God. And in these visible portrayals, he said, the Word of Scripture is made manifest. Now, the ordinance of baptism is rich in its significance, it is broad in its impact, and consequently, we could spend a tremendous amount of time studying it.

One of the questions that people always have is, well, where did this come from? I mean, did baptism just kind of pop up with John the Baptist? No, we can't take time to it, but if you go back into the Old Testament, you will notice that there were all kinds of ritual washings and cleansings.

You read about them in the book of Exodus. Now, the psalmist speaks of his own spiritual cleansing in terms of washing and renewal. When John walks onto the stage of human history as the kind of tangible link between the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles, he walks on as the baptizer. He walks on proclaiming a baptism of repentance and calling disciples to himself, and as they come to him as his disciples, he baptizes them upon their profession of repentance, of sin. Jesus walks onto the stage of human history, begins his public ministry, and you read in Matthew 3 that when Jesus came to John, who was baptizing in the Jordan, he came to John to be baptized by John.

Now, you will recognize that he was some 30 years of age at this point. This caused John no small amount of confusion because he said, haven't we got this upside down? Shouldn't I be getting baptized by you? Jesus says, no, it is right for me to get baptized in this way because it allows me to do the right thing before God. That's what the phrase means, thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness. What does it mean to fulfill all righteousness? It means to fulfill the righteous requirements that God has. Now, again, we could camp on this, but let me give you two words which explain why Jesus was baptized.

Word number one is the word identification. Jesus was baptized because he recognized that as the promised Messiah, he was called to identify with the people who he came to deliver. And he was going to say on numerous occasions, I have given you an example that you should follow in my steps. And doubtless, if there was some pastor somewhere preaching that it was important for people to be baptized, and Jesus himself, of course, had not been baptized, the ultimate out would have been, hey, that's very interesting, but we read the whole of the New Testament, and there is no record of Jesus being baptized.

But of course, there is. And he was baptized as a point of identification. The second word is the word consecration. Because in his baptism, Jesus was consecrating himself publicly to doing the will of the Father. He was recognizing that before the watching world, he was going to reveal all that his life and ministry would mean. And there is a very real sense in which when Jesus went down into the Jordan to be baptized by John, he gave a foreshadowing of the fact that he would go down into death, he would be raised to newness of life, and it would be by both his death and resurrection that he made salvation possible. So that was very much pictured in the baptism of Christ himself. You discover in the Gospel of John that within a very short period of time, Jesus authorized his disciples to start baptizing. And in John chapter 3, we read of the fact that some of the disciples of John the Baptist were concerned about this, and in John 3 and in verse 22, after this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them and baptized. So you had this baptism taking place simultaneously. John clarifies it in the first verse of chapter 4, where he says that the Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John. Qualification, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. Why would that ever be?

For the very same reason. That if Jesus himself had not been baptized and someone said, you should be baptized, they would have said, hey, but he didn't. And if Jesus did the baptizing, immediately it would emerge that some people would say to each other, who baptized you? And somebody would say, Jesus baptized me. And someone else would say, well, Peter baptized me. And then the folks would say, aha, the only baptisms that count are the Jesus baptisms.

Yours is inferior. And loved ones, I want you to know this morning, and maybe a surprise to some of you, that there are churches in our immediate neighborhood here who have similar focuses in relationship to the one who does the baptizing, as if the significance lay in who was conducting the service. That is secondary and ultimately irrelevant to the significance of it itself. So Jesus, in the beginning of his public ministry, initiates baptism—a baptism of repentance and faith in himself. At the end of his ministry, as he takes leave of his disciples and he tells them, okay, I'm out of here, I'm going to heaven.

Now this is what I want you to do. He gives them four commands that they are to go and do these things. They are to make disciples and they are to baptize them. Incidentally, in those words, which you'll find in Matthew 28, 19, the only phrase that comes in the imperative is the phrase to baptize.

Make sure you do this, he says. Make sure that people are baptized. So if the church is commanded to baptize, then presumably those who are made members of the church through faith in Jesus Christ are themselves to be the recipients of baptism. Now, that's the line that I'd like to trace with you for just a moment.

Because all of that is by way of background. What does baptism mean? Let's deal with that one first.

What does it mean? And then we'll come to who should be baptized. Let me tell you four things that baptism means.

First of all, baptism is a confession of faith in Christ. Turn back to the passage we read earlier, Acts chapter 2, verse 38. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart, they said to Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And he replies, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ. When you go through the Acts of the Apostles, this comes time and again.

They were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and they were baptized as a confession of their faith in Jesus Christ. By the time the early church was dealing with this, they were very, very clear. And if you turn to Acts chapter 8 for just a moment, you will notice in there, some of you, that you've got a verse missing. If you have an NIV and you look at verse 36, and then you look for verse 37, you'll see it isn't there, and it goes immediately to verse 38. So you want to know, who's monkeying around with the Bible?

Who took this stuff out of here? Well, we don't want to get off on this for the moment, but the later manuscripts do not have verse 37. That's why the NIV puts verse 37 at the bottom of the page.

The question was, look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized? And the answer that the early church had understood perfectly was this. If you believe with all your heart, you may. And if you do not believe with all your heart, you may not.

Why not? Because baptism is a confession of faith in Christ. If there is no confession of faith, there is no significance in the baptism of all waters. Secondly, baptism is expressive not only of our confession of faith in Christ, but is expressive of our communion with Christ. You need to turn to Romans chapter 6 to understand this, and Paul gives clear instructions concerning the nature of baptism. He says in verse 3, Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Salvation is not conveyed in baptism. Nevertheless, salvation is crucial, and baptism is a crucial pivotal moment in a person's salvation. And one of the great mistakes that the church has made over the years is to divorce baptism from confession. So we call people to faith in Jesus Christ, and we say this is what you should do, and then we never ever mention baptism.

And then days go by and months go by and years go by, and somebody says, I never knew this. Well, the apostles never made that mistake, because they said, this is what it will mean to become a Christian. It will mean repenting of your sin, turning to faith in Jesus Christ, and being baptized as an expression of your faith in Jesus.

They would never have conceived of salvation minus baptism, because baptism, more than any other symbol, conveys our communion with Jesus. It's not just an event. It's not just something you do. It is expressive of the fact that our lives are irrevocably wrapped up with Jesus Christ. And if they're not, then stay away. And if they are, then come. When people are confronted with the nature of communion with Christ, they need to recognize, too, that baptism—and this is the third thing—is indicative of our consecration to Christ.

Okay? Confession of Christ, communion with Christ, consecration to Christ, and I've got to keep moving. The fourth thing is that baptism looks forward to our consummation with Christ.

In Romans chapter 6 and in verse 22, Paul says, But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. So in the baptism pool, the person says, I'm going somewhere. I'm heading on from here. I press on towards the goal to win the prize, for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. I'm forgetting those things which are behind, and I'm heading on.

Okay? So that's what it means. A confession of faith in Christ, a communion with Christ, a consecration to Christ, and a picture of our consummation with Christ.

Well then, here's the question. If that is what it means, then who should be baptized? Back again to Acts chapter 2, verse 37. They ask the question, having been cut to the heart, what shall we do? Because when the truth of the gospel grips a heart, people don't just walk out the door and say, Well, that's very interesting. Or if it rattles in our minds, they may say that, but when it grips our hearts, we know there's something I'm supposed to do.

There's got to be a response to this. And so Peter tells them, Repent and be baptized. And then we read you will notice that those who received his message—verse 41—they accepted his message, they were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day. Come really quickly with me, because I'll give you your homework here. Acts chapter 8 and verse 12.

Just answer the question, is this a pattern or not? Faith and baptism. Acts chapter 8 and verse 12. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts chapter 8, verse 35.

We've turned to it already. Philip explains Isaiah 53. The Ethiopian eunuch says, Why shouldn't I get baptized? And he gave orders to stop the chariot, and his baptism service took place right there in the water. You go into chapter 9 and verse 17. The story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

Ananias goes to the house as God has commanded him. He places his hands on Saul. He explains to Saul, Saul is filled with the Holy Spirit. Verse 18, Something like scales fell from Saul's eyes. You remember, he couldn't see.

He was blinded on the Damascus road. And he got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Okay? So he encountered Christ. He repented of his sin.

His eyes were opened. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was jolly hungry, but he got baptized before he had his dinner. He didn't have his dinner and get baptized.

That's what I call immediate obedience. Some of us have put many a dinner in between our obedience to Christ. Many a breakfast.

Many a lunch. And the Lord alone knows what we're waiting for. Acts chapter 10, verse 47, Then Peter said, Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Remember, God comes upon them up there in that area where they had not been present in Jerusalem? And so he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. We could go on into chapter 16 and on into chapter 18.

Just follow the line through. Take a concordance, look up baptism, and ask yourself, Can I, as a reasonable person, prepare to set aside my background, any kind of prejudice that I may have created, any sense of tradition that I may have said above the Scriptures? Can I deny the fact that the practice of the New Testament church was to baptize those who profess faith in Jesus Christ?

That's the question you must answer. Was it the practice of the New Testament church for baptism to precede faith or for faith to precede baptism? Never mind about the Council of Nicaea. I don't want to hear about the second century at the moment. I don't want to hear about Luther or Calvin or any of the rest of the guys.

Those were just guys. This is the Bible. You're a sensible person. You've got a Bible.

Read it. And ask yourself the question, Does baptism follow upon profession of faith? If so, then it is to be those who profess faith in Christ who are baptized.

I mean, you don't need much more than a seventh-grade education to work this stuff out. Well, says somebody, how does it relate to the church? It's integral to the church, to the local church. That's why people say to me, Well, could you come over to my swimming pool and baptize me? Only if I have to. But I don't want to.

Why not? Because baptism is in the context of the church. We say, Well, there wasn't a building at the Jordan. No, we're talking church. We're not talking building.

We understand that. It was within the context of the gathered church that baptism took place. That's why there is no significance, really, in baptizing yourself in your bath. Baptism is integral to the gospel, it is integral to conversion, and it is integral to the church. In the New Testament period, loved ones, a Christian unattached to a local church was unknown. A Christian unattached to a local church was unknown. A person's response to the gospel in baptism would have brought them into the fellowship of the local company of God's people.

That's why when they were baptized in Corinth, they weren't in any doubt. What happened to you today? I'll tell you what happened to me. I realized that Jesus is the person that he claimed to be. I repented of my sins. I trusted in him, and I was baptized, and I joined the church in Corinth.

And you know what? They had a communion service right there and then, and I had my first communion. The whole deal. Repentance, faith, baptism, communion. When we divorce baptism from membership of the local church, and when we divorce membership of the local church from baptism, then we put ourselves out with the framework and pattern of New Testament practice. The process is clear.

The Word of God is proclaimed, the person responds in repentance and in faith, they are told that their repentance and faith is pictured in baptism, they are baptized, they are brought into membership of the local church, and that happens at the Lord's table. That, you see, covers all the questions about where one piece fits with another. Now, let me summarize this, if I may. The real issue this morning is this. Where am I in relation to all of this? First of all, have I come to faith in Jesus Christ? That's not just the acceptance of an idea.

It's not just the rearranging of priorities. Faith in Jesus Christ is submission to his lordship. Jesus, in Luke chapter 6 and 46, he turns to his disciples and he says, why do you call me Lord, Lord, and don't do the things I tell you? It's a good question.

Parents ask it all the time. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. Obey me. Jesus said, if a man loves me, he will obey my commandments. Okay?

So if we love him, we obey his commandments. Is it a commandment to be baptized? Yes?

Yes? Okay. It is a commandment to be baptized. And love issues in obedience. Then can I ask all of you who remain unbaptized believers, what in the world do you think you're doing?

I mean, what is your strategy? What are you waiting for? I mean, are you waiting to become a better person because only better people get baptized? Then you've misunderstood it. When Peter describes this issue using the picture of Noah and the ark in 1 Peter 3, and this is my final illustration, he uses the word pledge. You can find it there in verse 21. That word for pledge, which he described in relationship to baptism, was the word most commonly used in the sealing of a business contract. And some of you this morning are businessmen, and you understand this. You deal with contracts all the time. And that word for pledge was imperative in business dealings in the context of Peter's day. Do you accept the terms of this contract, the question would be asked, and do you bind yourself to observe them?

And the answer would be given, yes. And what do you have to show for your binding commitment to the contract? And the person would say, my pledge.

And it would often be marked by an insignia. And I here to set my pledge to this contract today, I am bound to it. That is the exact word that Peter uses. Jesus, therefore, comes amongst a company like this this morning, and he asks, do you accept the terms of my service? Do you accept the privileges and promises? Are you prepared to undertake its responsibilities and demands? And baptism is like a soldier's oath of loyalty upon entering the service of his commanding officer.

See, here will be water. What hinders you from being baptized? If you're listening to Truth for Life Weekend, that is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled The Biblical Basis For Baptism. At Truth for Life, we know that weekends can be busy and demanding.

It's easy to get caught up in everyone's schedule, your to-do list, special events that are going on. It's our prayer that the Bible-centered teaching you here on Truth for Life offers you a quiet break from the busyness of the weekend. Time to take a deep breath, to reflect again on God's word, and to be refreshed. I hope you're finding this study on the seven marks of an effective church to be helpful in this way. Now, as we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Christ at the end of this month, we have a book we'd love to put in your hands that will help you continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, you and your whole family, by focusing on the amazing person and work of Jesus. The book is titled O Sacred Head Now Wounded. It's a 48-day devotional presented in a liturgy format. Each daily reading includes scripture, there are hymns, prayers, creeds, and prompts to enrich personal meditation and family worship. This book is designed to be used between Easter and Pentecost. Find out more about the book O Sacred Head Now Wounded on our website truthforlife.org.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening this weekend. Has your prayer life become dull? Do you treat prayer more as a duty than as a mighty weapon? Next weekend, we'll learn from the early church's pattern on prayer. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-09 06:28:39 / 2024-03-09 06:37:40 / 9

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