INTRO: Religious discussion always seems to have in some element of tension and controversy. Perhaps that is why there are those folks who choose never to talk about politics and religion! Safe subjects like the weather are topics in which we rarely find ourselves with tension. Even in the time of Christ, there was controversy surrounding Him and what He taught! A book in my library is called Christ, The Controversialist. It is safe to say that baptism has become a subject of controversy. And the controversy is not new. Various elements relating to this subject began perhaps as early as the 2nd or 3rd centuries. But the New Testament comes to our rescue with simple, unambiguous language to resolve controversies. And it really does matter what you believe about baptism.
I. THAT IT IS ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION
A. This is one of the points of controversy surrounding the subject
1. many (most) groups claiming Christian roots practice baptism
2. but for the vast majority of them it is not taught as essential
3. among these groups, salvation comes at the point of belief
B. What does the New Testament say?
1. Mk 16:16 - belief + baptism = saved
2. 1 Pet 3:21 - baptism doth also now save us
3. yes, belief in Jesus is absolutely necessary ... but it is clear that baptism is, too
C. Think about this from another viewpoint
1. Acts 2:38 - if baptism is necessary for remission of sins, can a person be saved before his sins are remitted ... saved, but still under condemnation?
2. Gal 3:27 - if one is baptized into Christ, can one be saved before he is in Christ?
3. such texts as these certainly clarify baptisms necessity
II. THAT IT IS FOR BELIEVERS
A. Here is another point of controversy for many
1. why? because infants are baptized - unbelieving infants
2. now, I know about the idea that infants inherit Adams guilt
3. but let me suggest a couple of texts: Ezek 18:20 & Rom 5:12 - no ambiguity here ... just plain language
B. What does the New Testament say?
1. Mk 16:16 - here is that belief again - infants cannot be believers
2. Rom 10:17 - faith (belief) is the result of hearing the word of come and coming to a reasoned conclusion based on it - infants simply cannot do this
3. one who does not believe may be dunked ... but he is not baptized
4. infants neither have the need for nor the possibility of baptism
III. THAT IT IS IMMERSION IN WATER
A. And, again, here is a point of contention, division
1. most baptize by sprinkling water on babies
2. others insist that N. T. baptism must be immersion
3. and some are just indifferent about it saying its only a symbol anyway
B. What does the New Testament say?
1. first, the word baptize is defined to dip, to plunge, to immerse - in scripture the idea of sprinkle is just never found
2. Rom 6:3,4 - baptism is in likeness of Jesus death, burial, resurrection
3. if following the N.T. pattern in such matters is necessary (and it is), immersion must be the baptism we practice
IV. THAT BAPTISM IS THE POINT OF ENTRY INTO THE BODY
A. Acts 2:47 notes that the Lord adds the saved to the body
1. what do we know about those of whom Luke wrote?
2. from v. 41 we know that they had been baptized
3. from v. 38 we know that they were penitent people who believed that Jesus is the Christ (v. 37)
B. Gal 3:26,27 and 1 Cor 12:13
1. these passages clearly (no ambiguity) tell us that when one is baptized he is baptized into Christ ... into the body
2. can one be saved apart from the body ... apart from Christ? no
3. yes, it is the Lord Who adds the saved ... but the point at which that adding takes place is baptism ... and it is the same for all
CLOSE: Dear friends, it really does matter what you believe about baptism. Indeed, what you believe about it will determine the action you take. What we believe about baptism must, must be based on New Testament teaching ... not on feelings, traditions, decisions of church councils. If you have never been baptized in keeping with the things we have discussed, I hope you will choose to do so this morning!
Cecil A. Hutson
18 December 2005
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)