Baptism (Part The Third)

As I mentioned in my second message on Baptism, someone, who insists you must be baptized in order to be saved, has  been emailing me in an attempt to defend their belief. I asked them about the thief who hung on a cross beside Jesus, and asked Jesus to remember him when he reached His Kingdom. Jesus replied, “Today I am telling you that you will be with me.” Take a look at the scene:

One of the criminals hanging there insulted Jesus by saying, “So you’re really the Messiah, are you? Well, save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal scolded him: “Don’t you fear God at all? Can’t you see that you’re condemned in the same way that he is? Our punishment is fair. We’re getting what we deserve. But this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”

Jesus said to him, “Today I can guarantee this truth: you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43)

So I asked this brother about this. If indeed you must be baptized to be saved, Jesus just lied to him! If so, maybe He was just trying to make the man feel better about hanging on the cross or something.

But he explained that “obviously, [although, I do not think it is obvious] he had met John the Baptist and was baptized in the Jordan at some point before being tried and crucified.” I was incredulous! There is absolutely NOTHING in the text that even hints at this ludicrous idea! In fact, we read the exact opposite when he said, “Our punishment is fair. We’re getting what we deserve.” If he had seen The Baptist, then repented and was baptized, he certainly would NOT have believed he was receiving what he deserved! He was simply grabbing something out of his imagination to support his argument.

But he also totally misunderstood what I was saying. He thought that in my mind, Baptism was irrelevant and not necessary at all. However, I never said such a thing. I was simply pointing out that baptism, in itself, did not bring our Salvation. How about we rely on Scripture to explain and defend our beliefs?

Jesus Himself instructed us to baptize:

So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)

If you remember the first message on this series I explained that there were different Greek words used, and the word used here is Baptisma. And this speaks of the actual ordinance of baptism and is used when they are, or example, discussing John’s “baptism.”

Another place we see this is Acts 2, where Peter says:

“All of you must turn to God and change the way you think and act, and each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. This promise belongs to you and to your children and to everyone who is far away. It belongs to everyone who worships the Lord our God.” (Acts 3:38-39)

. . . To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me (Acts 26:18)

And according to the 1662 Prayer Book, for the Baptismal Office,  we read this excellent prayer:

O merciful God, grant that the old Adam in these persons may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in them.

Grant that all carnal affections may die in them, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in them.

Grant that they may have power and strength, to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Grant that they, being here dedicated to thee by our office and ministry, may also be endued with heavenly virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy mercy, O blessed Lord God, who dost live, and govern all things, world without end. Amen

I love that prayer! You know, as much as I love to criticize King Jim’s Bible, there are many wonderful prayers from the church of that era!

Anyway, there was a period during the 17th century were battles in the church where one side concentrated on conversion, of some type, but it was a conversion according to the denominations doctrines and rules, and eventually baptism became nothing more than an empty, meaningless formality.

Another group said that all of their meaningless traditions and ceremonies meant nothing, and all they needed was Grace. Still another group began baptizing infants, believing that baptism removes original sin.

Then you have another church which also practices infant baptism but do not teach that baptism saves the child. But rather, that the infant baptism is a covenant sign and does not save — just the same as Old Testament circumcision was a covenantal sign that did not save.

Then, there are others who affirm that true water-baptism (as opposed to the Spirit-baptism that happens when you receive Christ) is the believer’s declaration and response to the Grace that occurred in their heart, rather than a sign or means of God’s work of grace itself.

In my humble opinion, I don’t believe that we can separate our initiation of being a Christian without focusing on the theme of becoming a Christian — or even the other way around. If we are going to focus on becoming a Christian, we must also discuss our initiation into our Christian faith.

But just to assure you, I do indeed view Baptism as an imperative in our faith, However, if we are going to discuss Baptism, then we also have to focus on our conversion and commitment, along with our journey and the prize when we complete our pilgrimage. If we think of baptism and conversion as being like oil and water, which will not mix, we are making a mistake. However, if we see them as being like treble and bass in music, we realize that we cannot enjoy the full impact of music unless we balance the two and achieve harmony. And so it is with with our Baptism and our Salvation.


(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.

The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.

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