Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baptism - a matter of identification and obedience

Ephesians 4:5 "one Lord, one faith, one baptism"

          In today's blog we want to explore the meaning of believer's baptism.  When I am counseling new Christian converts, I sometimes will use three terms to help them understand what the Bible has to say about this important subject: Identification, Obedience and Participation.  We will look at those first two ideas in today's blog, with attention being placed upon the third term tomorrow.  

Public Identification
            When John began baptizing the Jews at the beginning of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the meaning was that of identification with the coming Messiah - Jesus Christ.  Another passage which speaks of Baptism is 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, where the Israelites were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”.  The Israelites identified with Moses and ultimately the Lord, who was the One who delivered them out of Egypt. 

          This is why both the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:1-11) and the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:18-21) describe baptism as taking one's prior private committment of faith and making it a public "identification" in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In other words, Baptism functions as an "I.D" badge that tells everyone of an internal reality that occurred prior to the baptism - namely by grace through faith that person experience death to the old life and was raised to new life. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Baptism enables the Christian to not be ashamed
          Luke 9:23-26 states:   "23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."  Verses 23-25 speak of the commitment of faith that occurs when by grace through faith the sinner confesses Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Verse 26 tells us that the true believer in Christ will want to tell everyone that they're Christ's disciple.  Thus Baptism gives them that chance.  This is why, especially in Baptist churches, baptism is called one's "public profession of faith".


Obedience - The Christian's proof that they love Jesus
          Along with identification we find the second central thought of Baptism’s meaning – obedience.  Matthew 28:19-20, The Great Commission of Christ to His Church, states –Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Notice how the underlined words are commands.  Baptism is a command that a believer obeys following their trust and faith in Jesus Christ.  Though Baptism is not essential to salvation, it is essential to obedience.
In Baptism, I'm showing my following of Jesus Christ to be not an "I have to", but rather an "I want to" lifestyle 
         Baptism sets the pattern before everybody that the Christian life, as much as it is entered into by faith alone, is nonetheless to be lived out with a faith that is not alone.  True faith, following conversion, is characterized by works of obedience. (James 2:14-18).  Jesus teaches that all those who love Him will obey His commandments. (John 14:15, 23)  Conversely, those who aim to keep Christ's commandments are those who demonstrate genuine love for Him. (John 14:21)  Truly then a person does not get baptized in order to become a Christian, rather they get baptized because they have already become a Christian.


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