Vol. IX — No. 40 October 6, 1968
Matthew 28:20; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 5:25-26; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 1:21; Acts 8:35-38; Mark 16:16
Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:20.
Then Peter said unto them, Recent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38.
Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16.
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. Romans 6:3-4.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:26-27.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctity and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. Ephesians 5:25-26.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7.
The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer (pledge) of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I Peter 1:21.
Acts 8:35-38 - the baptism of the Ethiopean eunoch.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16.
In Christ Jesus, who instituted baptism as a means for distributing the blessings of His life, death and resurrection upon all nations, Fellow Redeemed:
We begin this morning with a prayer: Holy Spirit,. Spirit of all wisdom and knowledge and understanding, be active upon our hearts and minds this morning to the end that we, through Thy Word, may grow in understanding and appreciation of Holy Baptism. Amen.
During my ministry in your midst I have been told again and again of the difficulties that the congregation has experienced in connection with the doctrine of Holy Baptism. Men who have filled this pulpit in the past have themselves been unconvinced of the blessings of baptism. Furthermore, “any of our members are of Reformed background and so have never been properly instructed in the necessity and the benefits of baptism. It would appear also from the paucity of baptismal hymns in our hymnbook and from the carelessness of practice in regards to baptism in the Lutheran churches that this doctrine has been neglected also in the Lutheran churches. We would attempt this morning to correct wrong impressions and supply biblical insights in regards to baptism on the basis of passages from Holy Writ.
What are some of the questions that are commonly raised in regards to baptiim? Here are some: Are children and infants to be baptized? Or are only adults and young adults to be baptized? Here is another basic question: Does God give man grace in and through baptism? Or does man give himself to God or dedicate or consecrate himself to God in baptism? A third set of questions may be asked in regards to faith in baptism. Does faith precede or follow baptism or is it given in connection with baptism? The same question may be asked of instruction. Is instruction in Christian truths to precede or to follow baptism? And a final question may be asked: Is baptism absolutely necessary for salvation? Other questions may be asked regarding baptism, but we’ll do well if we answer these briefly this morning.
He will begin by making a statement about baptism that is scriptural, but that is not accepted by many today, especially of Reformed background and persuasion. Just what is baptism? We answer—
We have asked a question as to whether children are to be baptized or whether baptism is only for adults. We answer that on the basis of our Lord’s words of institution in Matthew 28:20 with an exclamation:
In His final commission to His disciples Jesus said, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Has there ever, in the history of mankind, been a nation without children of all ages, including also infants? A nation—without children? Impossible! Since children are a part of “all nations,” we cannot but believe that our Lord expressly commanded that they also be baptized. Has our Lord in so many words directed us to baptize infants and children? No, but neither has He in so many words directed us to baptize adults, men or women. His command was to baptize all nations—which includes men, women, children, infants. On Pentecost Day Peter assured his audience that “the promise is unto you, and to your children.” (Acts 2:39) And shortly after Luke reports that some three thousand were baptized. In Acts 16 Luke reports that Lydia “and her household” were baptized, also the jailer of Philippi “and all his.” Are we to believe that families in those days had no children or that only families without children are reported as having been baptized? Archeological evidence indicates the use of baptismal fonts and the baptism of infants. It is evident then that our Lord commanded and the apostles and early church practiced infant and child baptism.
Now we come to the heart of the matter. Is baptism a means whereby God gives grace or is baptism just a ceremony of self-dedication? Is God active in baptism or is man active? Does man receive God’s grace in baptism or does God receive the self-dedicated man? On the basis of passages, which shall be adduced, we give this scriptural answer:
Once again we go back for our instructions to the birthday of the Christian Church, the first Pentecost. We read, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Be baptized! Why? For the remission of sins! Through baptism you receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost who works and confirms that faith which appropriates the gift of forgiveness placed in the water by the Word.
When Paul rehearsed his personal history before his countrymen, he described his baptism in this way: Ananias, who has been sent to him by the Lord, said, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Here baptism is called a washing that washes away sins. God gives the grace of forgiveness in baptism and man receives.
To the Romans Paul wrote, “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.” Paul is encouraging Christian living. He points to baptism as a source of strength for Christian living. When we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ’s death. We were buried by baptism into Christ’s death. Baptism takes us back to the events that occurred on Good Friday. On that day Christ died and was buried for us, to atone for our sins. When He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried, for He was our Substitute. Baptism throws us into the midst of these saving acts of our Lord, for it gives us the grace of forgiveness that Christ won for us by His death, burial and resurrection. And with the grace of forgiveness comes also the grace to combat sin and lead a godly life.
To the Galatians Paul wrote, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Through baptism we put on Christ! We put on the garment of salvation, His righteousness. Baptism Forgives sin and gives righteousness. This is what we get in and through baptism.
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul urges husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. How did Christ show His love for the church? He “gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” Christ died to take away the sins of all members of the Church. How would He transmit or give that gift to the Church? He transmitted that gift or sanctified and cleansed the Church by “the washing of water by the word.” what is that but baptism?
Paul lays the “how” and the “how not” of being saved in his letter to Titus: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he save? us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs accOrding to the hope of eternal life.” What does Paul call baptism? Not a formal ceremony of self-dedication, but “a washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” It is a washing by which the Holy Ghost regenerates and renews the person baptised. The Holy Ghost does that work by working faith which accepts Christ with all His blessings.
St. Peter uses an Old Testament figure to illustrate the blessings of baptism. Even as the waters of the flood saved Noah by bearing up the ark—“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer (or pledge) of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism doesn’t clean the body of the child or adult, but it gives God’s own pledge of a clean conscience. Because baptism gives this grace, Peter says “baptism doth also now save us.” A ceremony of dedication saves no one. Baptism isn’t that! It’s a means whereby God gives His grace to the sinner. That is why baptism saves! What a precious, priceless gift is not baptism!
What about faith? Does it precede or follow baptism? The answer is simple:
Immediately the objection comes: How can an infant who isn’t even conscious of believing and who can’t be instructed believe? I don’t know! Nobody knows! I also don’t know how the Spirit of God caused the unborn John the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb when Mary, carrying the unborn Jesus in her womb, entered Elizabeth’s house. I also don’t know how the Spirit keeps my faith alive when I’m asleep and not conscious of that faith. But if I die while asleep, I expect to be saved by faith. Who is to say what the Spirit can or can’t do? When Peter tells we that baptism saves and when my Lord tells me that he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, I know and cannot but believe that the Holy Ghost works faith in infants and children through baptism.
With adults faith comes first and then baptism. The example of the eunoch baptized by Philip settles that. The eunoch asked for baptism. Philip responded, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” The eunoch answered, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Then he was baptized, and his faith was confirmed and strengthened by baptism.
This same incident reveals the proper relation of instruction to baptism:
The eunoch couldn’t understand the 53rd chapter of Isaiah in which Isaiah speaks of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. Philip preached Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of that prophecy. He was brought to the knowledge of Christ, to a faith in Christ, and then to a freely given confession of that faith. Then he was baptized. Children are baptized first and then instructed, as they mature, to know the Lord Jesus, who He is and what He has done and still does for our salvation. This learning process is to continue throughout life, for we are to continue to grow in grace and knowledge as we strive to become mature Christian.
And finally, the question: Is baptism absolutely necessary? We may answer in this way—
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16. It’s not the lack of baptism, but the lack of faith that damns.
But let no one take false comfort. If an adult claims to believe on the Lord Jesus, but refuses to be baptized, he’s fooling himself. A believer will want and desire baptism, as did the eunoch. Those who rejected the counsel of God for their salvation in Christ will show it by rejecting baptism. (Luke 7:30)
Lay the Holy Spirit use this message to open our minds and hearts to the comforts and glories of our baptism. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.