Ecclesiology 46, Matthew 28:19
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for today and it’s always exciting to live this particular time on our calendar, kind of looking back on a prior year and looking forward to a new year. I do pray, Father, that we would become the people that You would have us to be in the upcoming year at Sugar Land Bible Church would be the church that You want it to be in the coming year. And we thank You, Lord, for 2018 and your incredible faithfulness to us as individuals and as a church. And we look forward to what You might do in and through this church in the year 2019. And be with us as we study Your Word this morning. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Take your Bible if you could and open it to Matthew 28 and verse 19. We’re continuing to study the doctrine of the church, getting towards the end of our study, and one of the final things we looked at in the study of the church is this whole idea of the ordinances which basically mean rituals that God expects to be practiced consistently in His church. Foot washing we said is not an ordinance but the Lord’s Table is an ordinance so we spent some time talking about communion and the Lord’s Table, etc. And we said that the right understanding of the Lord’s Table is Jesus said do these things in what? Remembrance, so it’s a way to jog memory where we’re reminded of what Jesus has done for us.
And I hope we understand that our salvation is based on what Jesus has done for us, not what we do for ourselves. Amen! I was watching one teacher this week and he said if you’re not willing to take up your cross then you’re not saved. Well my salvation is not based on me taking up my cross; it’s based on Jesus taking up His cross! Amen! I mean, if He hadn’t taken up His cross and died in my place I wouldn’t be saved. So the memorial view basically through the bread and the wine is a remembrance of what Jesus has done. The focus isn’t in what we do and how we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps because the reality of the situation is we can’t do that; we’re dead in our trespasses and sins, we are lost as descendants of Adam’s lineage, and the only hope we have is what Jesus has done for us. And we receive that as a gift. And just remember that this gift that we have, just remember its expense, the Lord has established the Lord’s Table where we are to do these things in remembrance of Him. So communion is something that the Lord wants practiced in His church, sometimes called the Eucharist, sometimes called the Lord’s Table.
And them from there we switched to the second ordinance that the Lord wants practiced in His church and that’s baptism. And sort of like the Lord’s Table, before I gave you the correct view of the Lord’s Table I tried to expose some of the false views. So that’s sort of like I’m doing here with baptism because there’s a lot of false ideas with water baptism out there.
One of the false views is baptismal regeneration. People think if you don’t get water baptized you’re not going to heaven. And I gave you several reasons why that could not be so last time. Part of the dominant reason is if water baptism gets you to heaven then salvation is by what? Works rather than a free gift from God.
A second view kind of floating around out there, and this is sort of the tradition I was raised in, is infant baptism. This is a view that was taught by Martin Luther and Martin Luther did not make it up, he brought it into the newfound Protestant movement from Roman Catholicism. And probably the dominant argument in favor of this view is Genesis 17. Many people say well, you know, after all wasn’t Abraham and his lineage, particularly his lineage, those who wanted to be affiliated with his covenant, weren’t they circumcised on the eighth day of their life? So people say well since infants were circumcised to become participants in the Abrahamic Covenant, then you have to have infant baptized in water to partake of the New Covenant in Christ.
And really what rescues you from that kind of mindset is the idea that we are dispensationalists. That’s why towards the beginning of this series I spent all that time going through the differences between Israel and the church. Unless you recognize that God has separate programs for Israel and the church you’re confined your whole life to making these kind of mistakes. So yes, of course to be a partaker of the commonwealth of Israel circumcision on the eighth day was a requirement for that. Obviously infants were the inductees. But that’s God’s program for Israel; it has nothing to do with the church.
So to take the practice that Israel did and try to kind of recalibrate it (so to speak) so it looks like infant baptism is just not to understand the basic fundamentals you have to have to rightfully divide God’s Word, which is the distinction between Israel and the church. If you can understand the distinction between Israel and the church, that those are separate programs, those are basically two trains running on different railroad tracks, all contributing to the doxological purpose of God in which He glorifies Himself. Unless you understand that you’ll spend your whole life not understanding the Bible and making false assertions from the Bible.
So that’s why I have there Problems with Infant Baptism. The first problem is there’s no biblical support for it for the church, unless you want to take passages aimed at Israel and redirect them to the church, which is not a proper method of interpretation.
A second problem with infant baptism is the pattern in the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is very clear that you receive salvation first, you’re justified by faith alone, and then you’re baptized second; that’s always the order. You never have a scenario in which someone is baptized first as an infant without even knowing the name Jesus and then they get saved later. I mean… that mindset is completely absent from New Testament revelation concerning the church.
And Jesus gave us the instructions on this just before the church was going to start in Acts 2. Jesus outlined the church’s mission in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make” what? “disciples.” Now it doesn’t even say make believers, it says “make disciples.” So you bring home a newborn from the hospital and you don’t expect that newborn to help himself to a ham sandwich when they’re hungry. Obviously you have to nurture that newborn until they’re capable of feeding themselves. So the calling of the church is not just to get people to believe in Jesus, as important as that is, but that’s only step one. The calling of the church is to make disciples. “Go therefore and make disciples of” who? “of all the nations,” so the church has a worldwide outreach, and then what’s the next thing it says to do, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”
So you’ll notice that when we baptize people here, and we’ve had several regular baptisms, we have a class, we ask people to take first, it’s only one session, and then we gather over, it used to be at Wayne Pittman’s house, he’s got a big Jacuzzi there, and it’s right by a beautiful lake he’s got there in the back, it’s not his lake I guess, I guess the community shares that lake, but it’s a big lake, so it kind of makes you feel like you’re on the Sea of Galilee a little bit, at least that’s the way I feel when I’m there. And notice I didn’t say the Dead Sea, I said the Sea of Galilee.
So then we baptize people in full immersion and as we’re putting them under we say “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.” And that’s where we get that from, Matthew 28:19. And we don’t do it with people unless we’re sure that they’re a believer. So Jesus laid out an order here, He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” and the next thing He says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit. So you’ll notice that the disciple, being a believer growing into a disciple precedes water baptism. He didn’t say go therefore and baptize them first, and then make disciples of all nations. He says, “make disciples” and then secondly, “baptizing them.”
So the basic expectation of the Bible is you could not do this with an infant, could you, because how do you know if an infant is even saved, they can’t even talk. How would you get them to explain to you their salvation experience and how they came to trust in Jesus as Savior? So to baptize an infant would be to baptize someone before they’re an actual disciple or a believer and so the order is backwards.
So the instructions that Jesus gave here in Matthew 28:19 what you’ll start to see is they start to get worked out in the life of the church that started in Acts 2 and the Book of Acts records this pattern over and over again. Someone gets saved first, then they get baptized. That’s the order; it’s NEVER baptized first, saved second. It’s always saved first, baptized second.
So let me just show you this order so you can understand very clearly why we do not at Sugar Land Bible Church embrace infant baptism. Going into the Book of Acts, I’ve got all the Scriptures there on the screen, Acts 8:12, I just want to show you this consistent unmistakable pattern. Acts 8:12 says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” So Philip, deacon number two on the list in Acts 6, takes the gospel to Samaria and a miracle happens because there’s a seven year racial conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews. But that gets transcended in the Book of Acts that now the church has started, Philip preaches the gospel in Samaria, Samaritans believed, that’s step one. Then what’s the next step? Then they were baptized, men and women alike. So first occurs salvation, second occurs baptism.
Drop down if you could to another conversion, this is the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch, same chapter, go down to Acts 8 and notice verses 35-39. “Then Philip opened his mouth,” and see that’s important because you can’t get folks saved unless you open your mouth and tell them about Jesus, right? I mean, a lot of people think you can get folks saved by being nice to them, I know one guy that says can you explain your evangelistic behavior or life, and he says yeah, I go over to this guy’s house and I mow his lawn. And I’m thinking to myself well so what, the guy’s going to hell with a nice lawn… I mean, what good does that do? Well, I just keep mowing the lawn and one of these days he’s going to ask me why I’m out here mowing the lawn and my thinking is well why don’t you just go up to the door and say I’ve been mowing I’ve been mowing your lawn all this time. By the way, I’ll keep mowing it if you want but let me give you the salvation message.
So you can’t expect someone to get converted until someone opens their mouth and talks about Jesus Christ. And this idea that I’m going to sit around and wait for the unbelievers to ask me about Jesus, I mean, I would say that works… what? One percent of the time? It has happened in my life sometimes but generally speaking we’re called to take the first step and share the good news with people. And we’re so afraid of what they’re going to think of us that we’re so afraid to open our mouth and talk about Christ when we really ought to be afraid of the fact that these people are going into hell. I mean, we’re more afraid of what they think of us and the fact that they’re off to a fiery indignation. And that wasn’t even part of my teaching here, the Spirit just came upon me.
So, it says, “Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from Scriptures he preached Jesus to him.” And by the way, what Scripture was he using? If you back up in the passage to verses 32-35 he’s using Isaiah 53 which is a Messianic prophecy given about 700 years in advance. And so he “opened his mouth and beginning from Scriptures he preached Jesus to him” this is the Ethiopian eunuch and this is how the gospel got into Ethiopia. This guy got saved and he took it back to where he came from and the church bean.
“Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from Scriptures he preached Jesus to him.  As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Verse 37, the New American Standard Bible, “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Verse 38, “And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water,” that looks like full immersion to me, Amen? “…they both went down into the water” I don’t see sprinkling here, put your forehead over and let me put a few drops on it, no! “they both went down into the water,” we’ll talk about full immersion in just a little bit, “they went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.” So here is a second conversion where a person gets saved by faith alone in Christ alone and then the second step is water baptism.
Take a look if you could at Acts 10:43-48, this is how Cornelius gets saved in Caesarea, this is your first Gentile conversion. It’s interesting how the church is developing ethnically as the pages of the Book of Acts unfolds. First you’ve got an Ethiopian unique saved and now we have our first Gentile being saved in Acts 10:43-48 and it’s the identical pattern.
It says, verse 43, “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.  All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered,  “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.” So here is another conversion, Cornelius and his household apparently his entourage become believers in Christ, their bodies are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That’s step one, and then step two is water baptism.
Take a look at Acts 16:14-15 to the conversion of Lydia, Paul’s first European convert and you’ll see the exact same pattern. [Acts 16:14] “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Now remember what Jesus says in the Upper Room? He said when the Spirit comes He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Sin because they do not believe, righteousness because I go to the right hand of the Father, and judgment because the prince of this world is about to be cast out. So those are the three things that the Spirit of God is already doing in unbelievers.
Right now as I speak He is convicting them of sin, not sins, He’s not trying to morally reform unbelievers. He’s not saying okay, let me bother these people about the fact that they’ve got earrings coming out their nose and they’ve got a bunch of tattoos, (not that that in and of itself is a big issue in my opinion). He’s not bothering them about the fact that they’re drunken and spousal abusers and sexually immoral, they always vote for the wrong political party, and all that kind of stuff. I mean, those are things that we think about but that’s not what God is doing.
God is convicting them of sin, righteousness and judgment. Sin, the Greek word hamartia, singular, because they’re in unbelief. Righteousness because Jesus has gone to the right hand of the Father, they don’t have, in other words, the transferred righteousness of Jesus Christ. And judgment because they’re in a world system that’s about to be taken down because they’re following Satan without knowing it, and Satan will be taken down, his world system will be taken down and they will be taken down as well. So that’s (I think) what it means when it says “the Lord opened her heart,” the Lord was already doing something on His end.
And all this stuff where people say the Holy Spirit only does that for the elect, that’s just a bunch of nonsense. Take all that theology and throw it in the garbage can where it belongs; there’s not a shred of proof in the Bible for that. It’s very clear in John 16:7-11 Jesus said when the Spirit come He “will convict” who? “the world,” that’s a big place, isn’t it, the cosmos, where we get the word cosmopolitan) of three things, “sin and righteousness and judgment.”
[John 16:7-11, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;  concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;  and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;  and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged”]
I mean, even before you open your mouth to an unbeliever you have to understand that they are already being convicted of those three things. So God is already doing something on their end, and then it’s just a matter of you being in the right place at the right time opening your mouth and making known the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if their heart is receptive you have a conversion. That’s what’s happening here with Lydia. “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God,” she was religious in other words but she just didn’t have the full understanding of the gospel, “was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Paul had to open his mouth and verbally articulate the gospel; he didn’t say well, let me mow your lawn for three months and maybe you’ll ask me about the gospel.
Verse 15, “And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.” So this is how the church at Philippi got its start. But you’ll notice again the same pattern, she receives “the things spoken by Paul” and then the very next thing that’s mentioned in verse 15 is that she is then water baptized. On one of my trips I actually went to the river there in Philippi where this baptism it is believed likely took place.
But again, my point is this is just the simple same pattern, salvation and then what follows is water baptism. Never in the Book of Acts nor anywhere else in the whole Bible is that order inverted. So to baptize an infant would invert the order that God is using in the Book of Acts. And order that Jesus Himself articulated in the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19. [Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”]
The same chapter, go down to Acts 16 verses 30-34. This is the conversion of the Philippian jailer. Paul is still in Philippi, he got himself thrown in prison, and it says there in Acts 16:30-34, “and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”” Now here’s a case where the unbeliever, the jailor, is actually asking life’s most important question, how am I saved. I think that can happen in your life sometimes as you evangelize, I don’t think it’s the norm though. I think the norm is you’re going to have to take the initiative.
So he’s asked this question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said to him crawl over some broken glass, be really sorry about everything you’ve ever done in your life, and I want to see a lot of tears and I need you to walk this aisle, and I want you to fill out this decision card. NO, it doesn’t’ say anything like that does he, because salvation is not based on what we do, it’s based on what He does. We just receive it as a gift.
[verse 31] “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” I think it sort of presumes that once the Philippian jailor was saved he would go back into his own family and share the gospel with his own family and the whole family would get saved and Luke is documenting this because this is how the church at Philippi started. I mean, you’ve got a jailor, you’ve got a woman (earlier in the chapter) a dealer in purple named Lydia. You’ve got the jailor’s family. And this is how the church at Philippi was born.
Verse 32, “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was” what? “baptized, he and all his household.  And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.”
So you’ll notice that the jailor then took his new found faith, shared it with his family, the family apparently was believers and you’ll notice that they’re believers first and what happened second? Water baptism.
Go over, if you could, to Acts 18:8,a lot of people say well, Paul didn’t baptize anybody. Well yes he did, Paul believed in water baptism also. Acts 18:8 says, “Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing” and then what’s the last thing it says there in verse 8? “and being baptized.”
So with all of these examples what you have is salvation occurs first, water baptism occurs second, the order is never reversed. And to baptize an infant would be to reverse this order that I’m explaining here. There’s a big problem with infant baptism. Beyond that can someone point to me any passage in the Bible where an infant is baptized in the church age? You can’t find such a passage; that’s why they all build their house (theologically) in Genesis 17. That’s as close as you’re going to get where infants are circumcised on the eighth day but that relates to the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s program with Israel; it has nothing to do with what God is doing for the last two thousand years in the age of the church.
So there are a lot of churches that baptize infants, I was reared in such a church and what you have to understand is it has a big problem biblically. The idea of infant baptism really goes back into Roman Catholicism; it violates dispensational principles, it violates the very clear pattern in the Book of Acts and you don’t have any examples anywhere in the Scripture of infants being baptized. I was under a pastor once and he put it this way, he says I’ll baptize any infant that can come forward and speak into this microphone up here and explain how they came to Christ through salvation; that’s an infant we will baptize. And I think the gentleman has been pastoring that church for a number of years, I don’t think he’s had any takers on that thus far.
So we at Sugar Land Bible Church reject baptismal regeneration, we reject infant baptism. So if those are the wrong views what is the correct view on baptism? Baptism is simply this: it’s an outward symbol of an inward reality. The baptism in water itself doesn’t give you the reality; the reality is already present the moment you trust Christ. Well then why be baptized? The water baptism outwardly symbolizes what has already happened in the human heart through salvation.
So if you want to know what baptism is I would just memorize that very simple expression, “it’s an outward symbol of an inward reality.” So if baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality then what exactly does water baptism symbolize? It symbolizes several things, I’ve got five here on this screen.
Number one, is symbolizes obedience to Christ’s command. A lot of people say well, you know, if I’m going to heaven anyway why do I have to get baptized? Because Jesus told you to! Jesus never said well if you don’t do this you’re going to hell. But He said as a newborn child of God if you want to grow in your new found faith then you need to start obeying Me, under the Spirit’s power, and here’s the first thing you need to do—you need to be water baptized because Jesus Himself said, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations,” what? “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. [Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”] The natural expectation of a disciple of Christ would be to be water baptized.
What else does water baptism symbolize? It symbolizes the fact that we share in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Take a look at Romans 6 and notice verse 3. “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
So you say well, wait a minute pastor, I’m kind of confused; why are you telling us to get water baptized if we’ve already been baptized? Well the answer to that is the baptism spoken of here in Romans 6 is not water baptism. The other passages that I’ve been going through with you are water baptism passages but not this one. This is a spiritual baptism that’s already transpired. So baptism, the verb baptizō in Greek simply means identification. The moment you place your personal faith in Jesus Christ for the safekeeping of your soul is the moment you are baptized, not with water, but spiritual, baptized or identified with the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? When He died who else died? You died. When He was buried who else was buried? You were. When He rose from the dead, who else rose from the dead? We did. That’s why it says we’ve been raised to “newness of life.”
When we ascended to the right hand of the Father, which is where Jesus is, Ephesians 1. Who else positionally is right there with Him? We are, Ephesians 2, verse 6, it talks about our position in Christ, that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 2:6, “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”] These are things that have already happened to you one time, at the point of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Water baptism, on the other hand, just symbolizes what’s already transpired. So it’s an outward symbol of an inward reality; that inward reality is we are now co-sharers in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension. That’s what water baptism symbolizes.
What else does it symbolize? Look at 1 Corinthians 12:13. Not only have we been baptized into Christ but we have baptized into His body, the church. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized….” There’s a lot of people out there that are looking for a spiritual baptism subsequent to salvation and this is what you call charismatic or Pentecostal theology; they are looking for what’s called the second blessing, they teach the doctrine of the second blessing. Yeah, you’re saved and that’s nice but now you’ve got to go on with the Lord and if you really want to be used by the Lord you’ve got to get this additional dose of the Holy Spirit. And they call that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the second blessing, and all of these kinds of things. And a lot of people follow that. The problem is there’s not a word in the Bible that supports that.
In fact, the Book of Ephesians chapter 1, verse 3 says we have been blessed, past tense, “with” what? “spiritual blessing” that’s a lot of blessings, right? Going to the Lord and crawling on your knees saying you want something else, God is saying what else do you want, I mean, I’ve given you “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” [Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”]
So you don’t have to go on and get some kind of second blessing. In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, ““For by one Spirit we were all baptized” now notice the baptism has already happened. It’s in the past here. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, “ you don’t have to go on and get a further blessing, that would be a complete waste of your time to get a further baptism of the Spirit because God is saying that already happened at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.
“‘For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” So what God did for you the moment you placed your personal faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, is He baptized you already, Spirit baptism, baptizō means identification, He identifies you with the body of Christ; you now become part of the body of Christ. You become a mouth, a nose, an ear, a knee, whatever place God has for you. And this already happened and when you get saved you don’t even know where you’re going to go to church yet, you could be a Metho-Catho-Bapterian or a Bapticostal Fundamatic, or whatever you want to be, but the fact of the matter is you’re part of this body of Christ, the universal church, the moment you trust in Christ. So you are baptized already into Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Romans 6. And something else happens, you have been identified with His body, the church. These are things that have already happened. Water baptism just symbolizes those realities, those New Testament realities.
What else does water baptism symbolize? It symbolizes the public identification with Christ’s church and His message; that’s what got the early Jews into trouble with unbelieving Israel, because unbelieving Israel, as a nation, rejected Jesus and so Peter in Acts 2, when he spoke to Jews gathered on the Day of Pentecost, he told them to repent, which means change your mind, which is a synonym for believe, so they changed their mind about what? They changed their mind about Israel. Israel has it wrong in rejecting Christ as the Savior, as the Messiah. This little group over here called the church, which is just starting, has it right.
So when you were water baptized as a first century Jew you were immediately persecuted by unbelieving Israel because you were sending a message that national Israel is wrong concerning the identity of Jesus Christ but the church over here has got it right. So when a person is water baptized they are making a public identification with the message of the church. And that didn’t sit well with unbelieving Israel and that’s why one of the greatest persecutors of early Christianity through the Book of Acts was unbelieving Israel.
But water baptism symbolizes something, it symbolizes public identification with the message of the church. And water baptism symbolizes something else; it symbolizes personal forgiveness of sins. When you trust Christ it’s not just that your past sins are forgiven, it’s not just that your present sins are forgiven, but what else is forgiven? Your future sins! I mean, the whole thing has been paid for and because you have received that pardon from God water baptism is an outward symbol of at least five or so New Testament realities that have already transpired in the life of the believer.
You can’t get any more forgiven as a Christian than you are the moment you are the moment you take Christ as your Savior. These are New Testament realities you already possess. Water baptism is just a symbolization of those New Testament realities. So when we tell people we’re baptizing you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and we’re doing the thing where they’re holding their nose and we put them under for just a half a second, now some of them we might want to hold under a little longer…. [laughter] NO! That’s a joke, that’s a joke! That’s just kidding around. And we bring them up we’re not saying okay, now that you’re baptized look at all these goodies you get on the screen. Isn’t that neat? You get five things. No, we’re assuming that those things are already a reality in their life. Water baptism is just a celebration of that reality. It’s a symbolization of that reality.
Let me give you a few more if I could, miscellaneous truths about water baptism. Number one, obviously water baptism is for believers only. We covered that extensively. Number two, water baptism contributes absolutely nothing to your justification. Your justification has already been accomplished. I mean, how in the world do you get justified? Well, Jesus answers that question in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me,” and gets water baptized…. Whoops, I added something there that’s not in there. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believe Him who sent Me has,” present tense, “eternal life.”
And people today are saying well, I’m not sure if I’m a Christian or not. Well, have you trusted in Christ as your Savior? Yeah, I’ve done that. Well then what’s the problem, I mean, Jesus has made you a promise here. Are you going to live your life based on your feelings, looking at your own frustrations and disappointments or are you going to live your life based on what Jesus has done for you and the fact that He’s made you a promise and He can’t lie. Do you understand that? It’s impossible for God to life, and consequently Christ makes a promise and if that weren’t enough He prefaces it by saying “Truly, truly.” I mean a promise from God would be enough, right, but this is like a… I don’t know, if you want to call it a special promise, I guess He’s really calling our attention to that promise, “Truly, truly” which is a translation of amēn, amēn, which means it is certain, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life.”
Now will get eternal life, they have it at that point, present tense verb. “…and does not come into judgment but hast past out of death unto life.” “has past our of” is in the perfect tense which in Greek is a onetime action with ongoing results. You’re not passing out of death unto life, you already have passed out of death unto life the moment you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. You’re not going to get eternal life, you now possess eternal life at the moment you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.
John Piper is running around talking today about final justification. What does he mean by that? You don’t really receive your justification until God looks at your whole life and makes sure that the good outweighs the bad and then maybe at the end of your life in a final justification sense you’ll receive justification, and maybe then it’ll be determined that you’re one of the elect because you’ve got fruit to prove you’re one of the elect and you’ll go to heaven. John Piper, final justification. If you don’t believe me just type into your Google search engine, John Piper, final justification, and you’ll see everything you need to pop up there.
The Bible knows of no such doctrine, I mean, final justification, that sounds like something out of Roman Catholicism, it even sounds like something out of Islam where you get to the end and God’s got two scales and I hope the good outweighs the bad or you’re not going to make it. All that stuff is demonic, it is false teaching, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Word of God. It’s got nothing to do with what Jesus says here. And you’ve got to figure out pretty quick in your Christian life which John you’re impressed by. I mean, John Piper, am I more impressed with him or am I more impressed with John the Apostle? I’ll take John the Apostle over John Piper any day of the week because John the Apostle is recording to us the words of Jesus Christ, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death unto life.”
And today you ask people do you know you’re saved? And your typical response from a Christian is well, I’m not sure. It’s like the weather report, 20% chance of rain, or whatever. That’s not how to live the Christian life. You live the Christian life with absolute certainty. God wants you to live it with absolute certainty because He’s made for you specific promises in His Word that you trust. And you ask people do you know if you’re a Christian, and they say well, I’m not sure. And I say well why not? Well I haven’t prayed enough. I haven’t showed up to midweek Bible study. By the way, you should show up for midweek Bible study. I allowed this sin in my life, I lost patience with this person or that person. And then at that point I usually stop the conversation and I say do you realize how many times you just used the personal pronoun I in your evidence for why you’re not saved, I, I, I, I, I, me, me, me, me, me. That is not how the Christian life is lived. The Christian life is not lived based on I, and me, it’s based on what HE has done and what HE has promised and the fact that HE cannot lie. That’s how you live the Christian life.
So if I was sitting around all day looking at myself what a depressing subject that would be. I wouldn’t think I was saved either. But I don’t live the Christian life that way, I look at Jesus, who cannot lie, who has made me very specific promises. So the reality is the moment you place your personal trust in Christ for the safekeeping of your soul you HAVE eternal life, you have crossed from death unto life. You’re not waiting for some kind of final justification. Justification has already transpired. And therefore you wouldn’t water baptize someone who hasn’t received these things because water baptism just symbolizes what you have received.
So water baptism is for believers only; it contributes absolutely nothing to justification. You typically perform it in a public place because you’re allowing people to publicly identify with the message of the church, just as they did in early New Testament times. Israel was wrong, the church is right. You’re publicly identifying with that.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. It doesn’t get you to heaven, you can have a heart attack between salvation and baptism and go right into the presence of God. But let me throw this one at you—it does contribute to your sanctification. It doesn’t contribute anything to your justification, but it does contribute to your… let me rephrase that, your practical sanctification. Now why is that? Because it’s a step of obedience and as you take a step of obedience God says okay, take another step of obedience, whatever it is in your life, take another step of obedience. And how can you take those secondary steps of obedience if you’ve never taken the first step of obedience, which is to be water baptized.
So there is a very tricky passage I want to show you; it’s in 1 Peter 3:20-21, and if you don’t know how to handle this it’ll sort of knock the wind out of your sails because it looks like you’re saved through baptism. So notice what that passage says. “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.  Corresponding to that,” the word “corresponding” is antitypon, where he’s drawing an analogy with the flood, so the flood waters, only eight people in the ark, right? Who were those eight people? Noah, and Mrs. Noah, Noah’s three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth and their respective wives, so eight total.
And they got into that ark, the flood came and as the ark landed (as the flood waters receded) on the mountains, plural, Mount Ararat, the water had broken them from the past world into the new world. The pre flood world was destroyed and now they had come into the new world. So in the same way antitypon corresponding to that, look at what it says here, “baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Look very specifically what this passage says. First of all, “corresponding,” antitypon, he’s drawing an analogy with the flood waters separating Noah and his family from the old world and bringing them into the new world. Then he uses “that,” if I remember right “that” in Greek is neuter which would modify the nearest antecedent, “water.” And then he says “baptism that now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
And so people think well my goodness, I’ve got to get water baptized or I’m not going to heaven. Well, they don’t understand the nuances of the word “saved.” When we use the word “saved” in evangelical vocabulary today we typically are talking about someone that trusts Christ and is not going to hell. But saved is only used in that sense part of the time. Usually saved there, the way we use it is referring to the past tense of salvation, where we are saved from sin’s penalty and at the very bottom of the screen I have the word saved used in the past tense.
However, saved doesn’t just mean something that happened in the past; it could also refer to what? Our progressive sanctification, the middle tense of our salvation. And that’s the middle of the chart there, faith can also refer to sanctification, which is not the past tense of salvation but the present tense of salvation. And this, unlike justification which happens in an instant, this one here in the middle is a process. It’s a process that we’re all involved in as God’s children until our dying day where hopefully what is happening is we are being gradually delivered from sin’s power in daily life. It’s not that you become sinless but as you grow “in Christ” hopefully what’s happening is you become aware of your resources “in Christ” as you find yourself in a church that rightly divides God’s Word, etc.
Hopefully what is happening is you are not becoming sinless but you’re sinning less. And we’re being delivered from sin’s power gradually. And you’ll notice that the word “saved” is used in that sense in Philippians 2:12. [Philippians 2:12, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;”] Then I’m either going to die or the rapture is going to come first, I hope the latter, I can’t promise that, then moved into the third tense of salvation, not final justification the way John Piper is teaching that but glorification, future tense of salvation, where I will be in a resurrected body untainted by the sin nature. And at that point I will be removed from sin’s very presence.
And you’ll notice Romans 5:10 uses the word “saved” in the future tense. [“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10]
So the whole picture of salvation is this: I have been saved, which in alterable, at the point of personal faith in Christ. I am being saved which is a process of growth. And one of these days I won’t even have a sin nature to bother with any more, I won’t even be tempted to go back to it, and I will be saved, future tense, glorification.
Justification, sanctification, glorification… now what does water baptism contribute to justification? ZERO! What does any human work contribute to justification? ZERO! What does water baptism contribute to glorification? ZERO! However, water baptism does contribute to your progressive sanctification or your growth in Christ and that’s the point that Peter is making here. Peter says, 1 Peter 3:20-21, “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.  Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you” “saves” here is not first tense of salvation, but middle tense of salvation.
Just as the flood waters broke Noah and his family away from the past world into the new world water baptism, because it takes place in public and you’re sending a public message, is something that God will use in your life to break off former ties to the sinful world. Because when a person is water baptized they do it in public, they typically invite friends and family members and people see that happening and they say oh my goodness, this man or this woman, this boy or this girl, is really serious about this Christian thing. And isn’t it interesting that when you become public about your Christianity the unsaved world has a tendency to treat you a little different. Have you noticed that? They’re less likely… you walk into a room, everybody is around the water cooler laughing at a dirty joke at the workplace, you walk into the room and suddenly everybody is like oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that. I mean, why are they treating you differently? Because you’re public about your Christianity.
Why are you public about your Christianity? Because you went through this step of obedience and you were publicly water baptized and that sent a signal to the unsaved world. And instead of them always inviting you out, hey, let’s go club hopping tonight and all these kinds of things, suddenly they’re not asking you to do those things because you sent a public signal through water baptism that you’re publicly identifying with the message of the church.
So what God does in water baptism is He doesn’t justify you any more than you are already justified, but he will use it as a part of your development in Christ; He will use it as part of your growth in Christ. He will actually use it to cut off former ties that may not necessarily be beneficial for your spiritual growth and your spiritual maturity.
And that’s the point that Peter is making here. Peter’s point in this letter written to Christians is not gosh, here’s how to get a bunch of folks saved, justified. He’s assuming that they already are saved. In fact, in 1 Peter 1, early on in the chapter he talks there about how they’ve already been sprinkled, verse 2 in chapter 1, with the blood of Christ. [1 Peter 1:2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”]
This letter is all about your growth in Christ and that’s why he says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But” what, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Notice he says “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” when do you start making Jesus Christ your Lord? That’s a process of sanctification. The whole concept of lordship, submission to Christ, is sanctification, the middle tense of your salvation, a salvation you’ve already received as a free gift at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.
And then if you just track that down into verse 20-21 that’s how Peter is using the word “saved.” He’s saying this is going to contribute to your present tense growth in Christ just as the flood waters cut off the family of Noah from the old world into the new world. Cut off ties that shouldn’t have been there. Water baptism is going to do the exact same thing for you. So that’s why we say water baptism is only for believers, it contributes nothing to justification, it is performed in public. However, God is going to use it for your growth and your developing in Christ; it does contribute to the middle tense of your salvation, your development and that’s what 1 Peter 3:20-21 are talking about.
So should we sprinkle or should we immerse? And we’ll talk about why we immerse rather than sprinkle next week.