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The Command to be Baptized

This morning we are really excited that we can baptize 5 people out in the river in just a few minutes from now! And I am glad that we are doing this in June instead of in late September like we have in the past. Theoretically, it should be a little bit warmer! 

But I’ll admit that this year’s baptism is a unique baptism for me. This will be (by far) the youngest group of baptism candidates that I have ever baptized.

And because of that, I do want to clarify a few things this morning about baptism – what it is and what it is not. You know, having these young kids wanting to be baptized has actually been a good but challenging process for me. It’s caused me to go back and review the Scriptures to make sure that what we’re doing is actually the proper way to obey Christ’s instructions regarding baptism.

And so this morning, before we get into the actual baptism, let’s just take a few moments to look the Scriptures and see what the Bible has to say about it all!

Let’s start with the basics. First of all, the Bible is quite clear that Jesus has commanded us to baptize his disciples. We see this perhaps most clearly in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:18-20.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

As we see here, Jesus gives us two things that we are to do with every disciple. We are to baptize them and we are to teach them to obey all of Christ’s commands. These two requirements apply to every believer – every disciple. 

There is no where in Scripture that excuses any disciple from obeying Christ’s commands or from being baptized. Both things are part of the package of following Christ.

In fact, we saw that just last week as we read through Acts chapter 2. When Peter preached to the crowds on the day of Pentecost and those 3000 people were convicted in their hearts of their sin, they asked him and the other apostles “What should we do?” And Peter instructs them in Acts 2:38…

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:38-39

So here, Peter includes baptism right there with repentance. Those are both requirements for “all who have been called by the Lord our God”. We are to repent of our sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Again, no where in Scriptures do we see baptism as merely a suggestion or as something optional. It is a command which applies to every disciple of Jesus.

Now to be clear, baptism is not required for salvation. The Bible is also very clear on that. Baptisms is an act of obedience that needs to follow salvation, but it is not required for salvation itself. Romans 10:9-10 says…

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

Notice that this verse doesn’t say anything about being baptized. We are not saved through baptism. Our salvation comes through faith & trust in Jesus Christ. It comes by believing in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, that He died on the cross for our sins, and that He rose again from the grave so that you and I could be forgiven and have eternal life. That’s what makes you ‘saved’. That’s how you become a Christian.

We see an example of that with the thief on the cross who was crucified beside Jesus. He came to faith in Christ on the day he died. He had no opportunity to be baptized but yet, he believed in his heart and confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord. We read in Luke 23:42 …

42 Then he [the thief] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:42-43

This man had no opportunity to be baptized – but Jesus still obviously accepted Him on account of his faith. Now of course, the thief on the cross is a bit of a special case, since Jesus had not yet died and risen from the grave – which is what baptism symbolizes – but none the less, I think this serves as an example of salvation through faith – not through baptism!

So why be baptized? Why is it such a critical part in our obedience to Christ?

Well, James tells us that “faith without works is dead”, right? And I believe baptism fits in that same category. If we say we have put our faith and trust in Jesus and we say we are going to follow Him from this time on, but then we refuse to follow his command to be baptized….? Something doesn’t add up there. If we trust in Jesus for our Salvation, we certainly ought to express that trust through obedience to his commands.

And that’s what baptism is. Baptism is actually an expression of our faith. Peter says baptism is our response to God because we have been saved! He writes in 1 Peter 3:21…

“…that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 3:21

Peter tells us that it’s not baptism that cleanses us, but it’s a demonstration and public proclamation that we have been cleansed because of the death and resurrection of Jesus! It’s our response to what Jesus has done for us!

And this is what this group of kids would like to demonstrate today. Each of them have confessed with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and they believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead. They’ve put their faith & trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. And so I believe, upon their confession of faith that they are truly saved and thus, are ready to proclaim and demonstrate that publicly today. Now they may not have the same depth of understanding in their theology as perhaps you and I might – but then again, I’d guess neither did the thief on the cross.

However, depth of understanding will come as we teach these new disciples to obey everything Christ has commanded us.

And this is where our responsibility comes in. We are the ones responsible to teach these new disciples. The Great Commission is a commandment for all of us (as current disciples) to baptize and teach these new disciples what it means to follow Jesus.

Certainly their parents have played and will continue to play a key part in that, but as their church family, we also have a role to play. We need to pray for these kiddos. We need to love and support them. Encourage them. Build them up. Spur them on. As their church family, let’s make sure that we consider their spiritual growth to be our responsibility – and let’s make sure that we help them grow up and mature in their walk with Christ.

Because we have no idea how God is going to use these kids. How He might change the world through them. How many people might come to know Christ through them.

But we do know that Satan is going to do everything he can to trip them up along the way. To discourage them and to get them off track. 

So let’s do everything that we can to help these kids become champions for Christ. To help them grow to love God more and more and to become more and more like Him.

Today, they are choosing to be obedient to the commands of God. In just a few moments we’re going to hear from them, and they are going to share with us how they have put their trust in God – how they are working to repent of their sins and be obedient to the Lord.

So let’s encourage and support them in that as best we can!

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