Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Biblical Baptism

• The rite of baptism has been an important step in the spiritual journey of Christians since Christ Himself was baptized in the Jordan River.
• In our modern world there are many different opinions about baptism, which has caused a lot of confusion about this subject.
• When trying to decide how we should handle confusing issues, Christians often ask themselves WWJD.
• WWJD stands for What Would Jesus Do.
• Though we do not know how Jesus would respond to every confusing situation that we might face in modern life, we do know how Jesus responded to the concept of baptism.
• Jesus chose to be baptized Himself in the Jordan River.
• Read Matthew 3:13, 16, 17
• Jesus was baptized and God the Father was pleased about it.
• God the Father is pleased with us when we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
• Though we may not be able to be baptized in the Jordan River, we can follow the example of Jesus by being baptized right in our own community.

What do we need to understand to be baptized?

1. Faith Comes Before Baptism
• The New Testament reveals a clear picture of a person believing in Christ FIRST and THEN being baptized.
• Read Acts 2:38
• Peter said they had to repent BEFORE they could be baptized. Repenting of our sin and believing in Jesus must precede baptism.
• Read Acts 8:5, 12
• This scripture also shows that the people BELIEVED first and then were baptized.
• Notice that it was men and women, not infants or little children that were baptized.
• Read Acts 8:36-38
• One more example of the importance of belief coming before baptism. In this case it was pointed out that we must believe with “all our heart.”
• Read Acts 18:8
• In this example of belief before baptism it is pointed out that Crispus was the leader of the synagogue.
• This means Crispus was VERY religious and one would hope VERY spiritual. Yet Crispus was baptized AFTER he believed.
• In each of these scriptures the people first placed their faith in Christ. Then as an outward expression of that inner faith, they were baptized.
• The need to believe before being baptized was the clear teaching and practice of the early church that Jesus founded in the first century and is recorded in the Bible numerous times.
• Regardless of modern confusion, if we stay with timeless scripture, we will not go wrong.

2. What if a person was baptized as an infant?
• Because of all our modern confusion, there are many people who were baptized by their parents as infants before they were old enough to understand what it meant to be a Christian.
• Though parents meant well by trying to make this choice for their children, faith is deeply personal and no one should make faith choices for another person.
• How many people do we know who were baptized as infants into some church and now that church does not meet their spiritual needs?
• It does not mean that church has no spiritual value, it just means that church is not right for that person.
• Such people often find themselves in an awkward situation of being baptized into a church they are no longer interested in and feel guilty because they do not want to hurt their parents’ feelings.
• As many of those people grew up, they came to a more complete understanding of who Christ is and were born again.
• Since faith is supposed to precede baptism, what are those Christians supposed to do about baptism?
• People who were baptized before they made a sincere commitment to Christ should be re-baptized.
• This is important because the Bible teaches that people should be baptized only AFTER they come to committed faith in Christ.
• Though human traditions are hard to change, when our traditions go against scripture, we must always side with scripture.
• Re-baptism should be done out of obedience to the Scriptures and with all due respect to the parents and family who were doing what they thought best when we were infants.

What Method Should the Church Use to Baptize?
• The word “baptism” comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” which literally means “to dip under.”
• In the New Testament when a person was baptized they were always dipped under water as a picture of being completely immersed in Christ.
• Baptism is also a reminder of how Christ stood on the cross for us, was put under the ground for us, and rose again out of the ground for us.
• Baptism by immersion under water is the best symbol of this as the person stands in the water, is lowered under the water and then raised up out of the water.
• This symbol should be preserved as much as possible and only changed under rare circumstances.

What is the Connection Between Baptism and Church Membership?
• There are a number of scriptures in the New Testament that seem to link baptism and church membership by referring to the people who were baptized as being “added to the number” of the church.
• Some have interpreted the phrase “added to the number” as meaning that the people were placed on a church membership roll.
• This is possible, but there are some scriptures that clearly separate these two issues.
• For example, the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 came to personal faith in Christ and was baptized in the middle of the desert.
• There was literally no church for him to join.
• Philip baptized him anyway, resulting in him being a baptized Christian but not a member of any particular church.
• Though history tells us that he later founded what has become the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, that church did not exist at the moment of his baptism.
• This means that baptism and church membership were not automatically connected in the New Testament.
• Therefore, we should be cautious about making them automatically connected in modern times.
• While baptism and church membership are not automatically connected, it is very important for people to make a commitment to a specific church so they can serve the Lord with their spiritual gifts and be accountable to the biblical authority of that church.
• Once a person has been baptized, they should prayerfully take the next step and become a member of a specific church.
• Though this would normally be the church that baptized them, we know from the experience of the Ethiopian eunuch that is might not always be the case.
• It is always best to take such things one step at a time, praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and making sure one’s commitments are genuine and sincere.
• We do not need insincere church members.

• Have we taken this important step and been baptized after we have made a personal commitment to Christ?
• If we have, then we should find a church to join and begin to serve the Lord with passion.
• If we have not, then we should prayerfully seek baptism even if it means we must be re-baptized.
• The next opportunity for baptism at Faith Community Church is Sunday, July 31 at 1 PM at Limehurst Campground in Williamstown.

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