Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Just Add Water

Matthew 28:18-20

What is baptism? It is a visible sign of something. We use signs to indicate important truths. A kiss shows love, a handshake shows friendship, a salute or hand gesture, look, etc. shows loyalty, all sorts of marks and ceremonies show belonging to a community of some kind, and at a wedding we give and receive a ring, which is a sign of marriage.

Of course, pictures are only a representation of truth, and they often don’t tell the whole story. Pictures are true only as far as they reflect truth. Pictures can lie. Consider that Judas kissed Jesus, that people often shake hands and then come out fighting, that we can salute those we are cursing, and that it would seem these days the wedding ring is just another piece of clothing we take on or off at our own discretion like a shirt.

The symbol is not the substance, and it is hollow if the reality of the thing it signifies is not true. And so it is not our baptism that saves us but our personal relationship with Jesus that saves us, and it is pictured in baptism. Nothing but the blood can wash away sin but 1 Peter 3:21 tells us our conscience needs to be cleansed, and baptism helps us to do that, and so much more.

Baptism shows that we belong to Christ and to the church. Through baptism we are brought into the family, not only of the Church worldwide, but also of the local church. Baptism is a sign answering the question, “What must I do to be saved?” It is a reminder that no matter what may happen to us in the course of life, we belong to God. And nothing can take that away from us. Martin Luther counseled those in despair, “Remember your baptism.” And so would I. But our baptism is not only a sign of God’s care for us, “in life and in death,” but it is also a call to a way of life that thoughtfully embraces our identity in the Body of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul saw baptism as like being buried with Jesus in His death, and coming alive with Him in His resurrection. Some people see in Paul’s words a virtual drama of redemption: immersion under water is like being put into the tomb; coming up from the water is like being raised from the tomb. We bury our old life and are raised to new life; that is the picture. What picture is your life painting? Getting baptized doesn’t mean you will live a perfect life, it means you accept His perfect life. We are all born into the kingdom of men but we must be born again into the kingdom of God. Baptism is not for those who are new born but those who are newly born again. Let’s look at our text now and see the wonderful things it tells us about baptism.

And Jesus came and said to them – this was the resurrected Christ about to give a command

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me – the right and power to proclaim

Go therefore – because of this authority we now have the authority to go everywhere and anywhere and do what Jesus now commands. Our commission is based on His position.

and make disciples – our initial job is proclamation, God doesn’t call us into the world to make sheep but to find them by calling them out, we find them and then we feed them. You evangelize by speaking of the Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Evangel, the Master, Jesus Christ, and those who are His will hear His voice and respond. You don’t produce converts, you proclaim Christ; you don’t make people believe, you make disciples of those who do.

of all nations – these sheep will be everywhere, as we saw last week in Titus 2. All ethnos, all ethnicities, all people groups, all social strata, tribes, nations, and tongues (Revelation 7:9): all are to be baptized, all are to be discipled, salvation in Jesus Christ has appeared to all people.

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Now Jesus explains how we make disciples, the first thing is by baptism, and THEN comes the rest of the teaching. If we are not baptizing, and baptizing first thing, then we are not properly making disciples. Again, you don’t produce converts, you make disciples, and that starts with baptism. Baptism is the first step in the discipleship process, if you are a Christian but haven’t been baptized, get in order and get baptized today!

Baptism is normative – it is a regular part of becoming and being a Christian – the established pattern of discipleship, established by Christ Himself (His own baptism and His command), expanded by the disciples (they were baptized and baptized others), and extended to all believers (Acts 2, etc.). Jesus made baptism a normative part of becoming a Christian in Matthew 28:19, and the apostles carried this out, and we are instructed to keep on baptizing, to keep on discipling, to keep on following the established command of Jesus. This is why the church has always made baptism a requirement for church membership, not that baptism is what saved you, but baptism is the start of the discipleship process. Baptism is a requirement for those who are being discipled; it is the first step of discipline. If you have been a Christian for some time but haven’t been baptized, you are missing a key link in your discipleship process. If you won’t submit to baptism you don’t submit to Christ.

We are supposed to be taught to do whatsoever (KJV), and baptism is the first thing Jesus lists, and then He says whatsoever, but if you can’t do the first whatsoever then how can you expect to do anything whatsoever?

We speak of baptism as being important but we all seem to want to think of it as a salvation issue, whether or not it saves us or not, and if we believe it isn’t necessary for salvation we somehow believe it isn’t necessary at all. This is bad teaching. Baptism is a vital part of your sanctification, an indispensable part of the discipleship process, as our text here proclaims in no uncertain terms. It is not so much a salvation issue as it is a sanctification issue, it is setting yourself apart, publicly, declaring that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and that you intend on following Him the rest of your life, empowered by His life. We get so hung up on what baptism isn’t that we forget what it is, a command by our Lord Jesus Christ. How can you say you are being sanctified when you haven’t set yourself apart to be sanctified? Discipleship without baptism is like a lollipop without the stick. It just isn’t right.

To begin the process of discipleship, just add water. People that have been Christians for awhile feel like they have got to meet a certain level of obedience before they can be baptized, but they need to be baptized THAT IS the level of obedience they need to meet. It is not your righteousness that merits your baptism your baptism is saying you are leaving your righteousness down at the feet of Jesus and taking up His worth, not your own. Perhaps that is why you have a hard time obeying His commands you missed the first one! If this is you, get baptized today! Stop looking at yourself and look to Him, and follow Him into His own righteousness.

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you – Teaching basically comes down to Luke 14:27, "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." Not simply hardship but dying to the old attitudes, the old, destructive ways, and living for Jesus, turning to follow Him in newness of life. John 8:31-32 – This includes evangelism, stewardship, fellowship, worship, discipleship of others, etc. It also includes communion.

Just as baptism symbolizes our entry into the family of God and into the discipleship process, Communion symbolizes the teaching process, the ongoing discipleship process, and the all that I have commanded you. This is one reason church membership is like baptism, not that it saves or that you aren’t saved if you don’t do it, but that it is a sanctification issue, a growing in grace, and that is done in community. Yes it is an individual thing, but it is done within the context of a covenant community. You are baptized in public and you take communion and attend church which is obviously in public. Jesus said we are not to hide the light we have underneath a bushel. We are to be baptized for others to see and to know and we are to take Communion together, not as a private thing but as a public demonstration that we are following Christ, we are united together, we are being discipled within a community, and we are looking forward to His return.

Baptism into God’s church, the church universal and its local expression as we have here at Riverside, baptism into the community of faith comes before communion with the community. Oh you can still have fellowship with those in community but you don’t truly share in the intimacy of what that community stands for unless you have been baptized. That is why churches down through history have insisted that someone should be baptized before they ever partake of communion, which is the right order. If you have been taking communion at this church or any church and you haven’t been baptized, then get in order, and get baptized today, perhaps this is the thing that will get you going on with God. You are missing something if you haven’t been baptized, the Bible says that plainly. Why worry about what exactly that is and how exactly to define it, obey the example and command of Jesus and the testimony of the apostles and saints all down throughout the Christian era, and be baptized because of the remission of your sins, set yourself apart today and set yourself up to be used of God today and tomorrow.

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age – Follow the pattern and receive the promise of His presence. Behold – you will behold it if you do it. Go and Lo (KJV) – if you go and do what He says then lo and behold you will have what He says, if you go you will see. You may not be the one to do the baptizing but you are a part of the discipling process, we all help disciple one another as we saw last week in Titus 2 and throughout the New Testament.

The reason that promise is packed with power is that the one who made it has all authority in heaven and on earth. He is not powerful but far away, and he is not present but weak. He is with us, and He is all-powerful, forever. The Great Commission is surrounded by powerful grace, and so are we. It is not the Great Omission, it is a command with the authority and power to proclaim it and see it through. Our duty then is to baptize and make disciples, we have our marching orders and we have our spiritual ordinance, let’s make sure we don’t make the Great Commission the Great Omission.

My prayer is that the baptismal candidates themselves and everyone who witnesses their baptism will experience a rekindling of love to God for all He has done for us in making us part of the new covenant people through repentance and faith. You must add water to your discipleship diet; it is a necessity to have water if you want to grow.

Related scriptures: Matthew 3:13-17, 10:32 / John 14:15 / Acts 2:38, 8:12,36, 10:24-48 / Romans 6:3-4 / Galatians 3:26-27 / Colossians 2:12 / James 1:22‑25, 4:17 / 1 Peter 3:21

1 comment:

Even So... said...

Time to get wet...