Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Christian Baptism (1)

Chuckle:  Students were asked what they would change about their moms. One little girl answered: "I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me."
 
"The ultimate economic and spiritual unit of any civilization is still the family." --Clare Booth Luce
 
CHRISTIANS ARE IDENTIFIED BY BAPTISM
 
       Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age"  (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).
 
These words of Jesus were among His last here on earth and are eternally significant.  This "Great Commission" is our marching orders as Christians.  That's what the church is to be about - bringing people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – making disciples.  In essence, Jesus said, "As they place their faith in me, baptize them and teach them." Then He promised to be with us to the very end.  In the next three lessons, we will examine baptism, one part important part of the "Great Commission."  Jesus said we are to baptize those who have become believers/followers.
 
First, Baptism is a Mark of identification with Christ.  Jesus identified with us by His baptism by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17).  He had travelled (walked) from Nazareth (60 miles) to where John was baptizing.  When he arrived John said to Jesus, "I should be baptized by you."  John had been baptizing repentant sinners - symbolizing their repentance.  Jesus had no sin - so John thought He didn't qualify to be baptized.  Jesus said, "Let it be so now; . . to fulfill all righteousness."  (Matthew. 3:15).  Jesus was telling John that he had a purpose in being baptized.  
 
Jesus' testimony is found in Luke 3:21 NIV:  "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven:  'you are my Son, whom I love; and with you I am well pleased.'"  This is the only time in the New Testament where all three members of the Triune Godhead were present and interacting.  The Son was baptized - the Holy Spirit descended - God the Father spoke.  God was saying baptism is very important for believers.
 
Second, we identify with Christ in baptism.  In Acts 18:8 NIV, ". . and many of the Corinthians who heard (Paul) believed and were baptized."  Believe and then be baptized – this is always the order - receive Christ then be baptized – become a Christian then be baptized.  Baptism is a fundamental personal confession of our faith in Christ.  Jesus began his ministry by being baptized, and ended it by telling us to be baptized.  You may ask, "But Jerry, is baptism really necessary for salvation - to go to heaven?"  No, you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).
 
There are two extreme positions on baptism; those who believe baptism is necessary for salvation - and those who believe baptism is insignificant and it doesn't really matter if, how, when, or where, it is done.  My personal interpretation of Scripture is that baptism is not essential for salvation, but is essential as an act of obedience and discipleship - taking your relationship with Jesus seriously.  It's a public testimony of your identity with Christ.  Baptism is a deeply personal, meaningful, and spiritual experience for the Christian.  Its importance should never be minimized.  The Bible says every born again believer should be baptized.  Perhaps that's why John wrote in I John 2:6, "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked." Do as Jesus did.
 

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

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