You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.
In this edition, we continue with our series on Christian Ordinances. The topic for this study is: Biblical Baptism. In this study, we will consider various topical issues in relation to the Christian rite of baptism. In order for us to obtain an in-depth understanding of the various issues, the lesson has been categorised into five sub-sections as follows:
1) WHAT IS BAPTISM?
Among the various ordinances in Scripture, the one that is most emphasised is baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is mentioned more than 80 times. This statistics gives us an idea about the importance that is attached to this Christian ordinance in Scripture. Baptism is the public expression of our faith in Jesus. It is the symbol or visible sign that we have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, and intend to be committed to Him. From Matthew 28:18-20, we read about some of the key elements that are found within the gospel commission that Christ gave the disciples:
"28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
(Matthew 28:18-20; see also Mark 16:15-16)
From the passage above, we learn that one key element that Christ emphasised in relation to the gospel commission was baptism. As the disciples preached about Jesus, all who will come to believe in His atoning death were to be baptised in the name of the eternal Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through the rite of baptism, the race of Adam was to be adopted back into the family of God.
2) WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL MODE OF BAPTISM?
Due to the several forms of baptism that are practiced in Christendom today, many Christians are confused over the correct mode of baptism. Thankfully, the Scripture does not leave us in doubt in relation to this question. The Bible clearly states that there is "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).
Beloved, this one form of baptism is described clearly in the Bible as immersion. In fact, the Greek word 'baptizo' means "to dip", "to immerse", "to plunge underwater". It is interesting to learn that all the accounts of baptism that we find in Scripture were performed through immersion. Here are some of the scriptural evidences:
A) "1:9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
1:10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
1:11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
(Mark 1:9-11; see also Matthew 3:13-17)
B) "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized" (John 3:23).
C) "8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
Friends, the passages above give clear evidence that the rite of baptism that was practiced in Scripture was through immersion. In fact, immersion is the only form of baptism that clearly typifies the essence of Christian baptism. From the book of Romans, we read the following in relation to this point:
"6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:"
Beloved, it is only through baptism by immersion that the believer dies to the old sinful way of life, and rises up to walk a new life in Christ (review Romans 6:3-5). Other forms of baptism that we see around today are not valid forms of baptism as they are not based on the Bible, and do not in anyway typify the essence of Christian baptism. It will interest you to know that sprinkling, pouring, jumping over fire, and other forms of baptism that we see around today are only recent phenomena in Christendom.
In fact, it was not until the Catholic Council of Ravenna in AD 1311 that sprinkling and pouring were officially accepted as equally valid as immersion in the right of baptism. But it is important for us to note that the verdict of Ravenna was man's proposition which cannot overthrow the clear "Thus saith the LORD" on this issue. As we have noted earlier in this study, the Bible's only way of baptism is immersion. If Jesus was baptised through immersion, I believe you and I can comfortably follow in His example without missing the mark.
3) WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO BIBLICAL BAPTISM?
Before one can be baptised, there are certain basic steps that he or she must follow. These steps have been outlined and explained below:
A) Repent (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:37-38) - This means a genuine sorrow for sin. It means we are not sorry for our sin because of its associated consequences, but rather, we are sorry for committing the sin itself. Genuine repentance will sometimes lead us to weep over our past courses of action.
B) Believe (Mark 16:16; Acts 16:30-31) - This means our acceptance of Jesus as both Saviour and Lord. We come to believe in His atoning death on the cross for our sins, and accept His Lordship over our lives. By believing, we are saying; Jesus, you are now the Saviour and Lord of my life. I will do as you say.
C) Learn (Matthew 28:20) - This is an instruction in the essentials of Bible truth. It is important that as we come to believe in the Lord, we humble ourselves to be taken through the essentials of Bible truth. This does not mean we will have to know everything in Scripture before we are baptised; for more teaching will still follow our baptism. However, we must learn enough to solidify our faith for baptism.
Friends, when we go through these three steps of repenting, believing, and learning, we are ready for Christian baptism. At this point, some follow up questions that beg for answers are these: i) Can infants be baptised? ii) What is the appropriate age for baptism? Beloved, the baptism of infants, even though a very common practice in Christendom today, has no biblical support. The steps to baptism require a person to repent, believe in Jesus, and then receive instruction in the essentials of Bible truth. It is clear that infants cannot go through these processes, and therefore do not qualify to be baptised. As was the practice with God's people, when Christ was born, His parents took Him to the temple to be blessed by the priest (see Luke 2:22-32). Friends, a person can only be baptised when he or she is matured enough to be able to clearly exercise the three important steps that lead to baptism (that is; being able to repent, believe and learn). What this means is that young people of a tender age who show such maturity must be allowed to go through the ordinance of baptism.
Before we proceed to the next section, some other follow up questions that beg for answers are these: 1) What if you have been baptised already? 2) Should a person ever be rebaptised? Friends, these are questions that many in Christendom seek for clear answers. Thankfully, the Bible gives us clear answers to these questions. From the books of Acts, we read the following encounter between Paul and some Ephesian brethren:
"19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
19:3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
From the passage above, we learn about Paul's encounter with some Ephesian brethren. Even though these people were believers in Christ, yet they did not know about the Holy Spirit. These brethren at Ephesus were John's disciples who had come to believe in Jesus but missed the experience of Pentecost. Even though these believers had been baptised through the right mode of immersion by John, they allowed themselves for Paul to baptise them again when they heard the truth about the Holy Spirit. This is a clear example in Scripture where some people were rebaptised after they learnt new truth from God's Word.
From the totality of Scripture, a person may be rebaptised as a result of the following conditions:
A) The person's first baptism was not through the correct mode of immersion.
B) The person, even though has been baptised through immersion, comes to learn new truths in God's Word, and want to be baptised into these new truths. Today, there are several people who are hearing biblical truths such as the Sabbath, the State of the Dead, the Sanctuary, and God's Health Laws for the first time. A lot of these people decide to be baptised into these new biblical truths that they have learnt.
C) The person was once baptised but departed from Christ, and now longs to return. If you were once baptised by immersion, yet you forsook your allegiance to Christ, and went again to the ways of the world, you need to be rebaptised. This point does not mean that one gets rebaptised after every sin committed. When we sin, we come to the Lord in prayer, confess our sins, and then ask for forgiveness. When we attend the Lord's Supper, it is actually a rite of cleansing us from our sins. Rebaptism in this instance should only be considered if you entirely severed the relationship you established with Christ in your first baptism to pursue the ways of the world.
4) WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE ARE BAPTISED?
The rite of baptism comes with enormous blessings. When a person is baptised, he or she receives the following gifts from heaven:
A) When we are baptised, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7; Acts 2:38; Micah 7:19). Every sin that we have ever committed is forgiven. God clears our past life of sin, guilt, and shame; and registers our names in the Lamb's book of life. It is important for us to note that it is not the water that washes our sins away but rather the blood of Christ (see 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5). Some with the misconception that the water carries away the sins of the believer have a problem with baptisms that are conducted in places such as swimming pools, and other areas with stagnant waters. It is important for new believers to be instructed that the water that is used for baptism is symbolic, and that, it is the blood of Christ that actually washes away our sins.
B) When we are baptised, the Holy Spirit is given to us (Mark 1:10; Acts 2:38-39). The Holy Spirit comes into our lives to empower us to live the new life in Christ (see Galatians 5:22-25). The Holy Spirit also furnishes us with various gifts so we can be useful instruments in the hands of God to finish His work here on earth (1 Corinthians 12).
C) When we are baptised, we are adopted into the family of God (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 20). From the book of Acts, we read the following in relation to this point:
"2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
(Acts 2:41-42, 47)
Friends, the passage above helps us to understand that the people that believed in Christ were baptised, and added to the church. The church is God's agency on earth to nurture believers into the kingdom of God. The church provides warm fellowship and support that helps us to grow day by day in the Lord. It is dangerous for a baptised person to sever his or her connection with the church body. At this point, someone may ask: "There are several churches. How do I identify the right one?" Beloved, even though there are several churches in the world today, yet there is only one that meets the specifications of God's Holy Word.
From the book of Revelation, we read the following in relation to God's end time church: "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17; see also Revelation 14:12). Friends, there is only one worldwide denomination that meets all the characteristics of God's end time remnant people. This denomination is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This church keeps all the commandments of God including the Sabbath, and also has the testimony of Jesus as specified in Revelation 12:17 (For a detailed study on how the Seventh-day Adventist Church fulfils all the characteristics of God's end time people, please request for our lesson captioned: A Great Wonder in Heaven: A Woman Clothed With the Sun, and the Moon Under Her Feet).
5) HOW IMPORTANT IS BAPTISM?
The beloved apostle recorded the following conversation between Christ and Nicodemus:
"3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
3:2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Beloved, from the lips of Christ Himself, we learn that unless a man is baptised, he or she cannot see the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, from the gospel of Mark, we read that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Well Friends, I think this is one of the most serious conditions in all of Scripture. The point is this: You cannot make it to heaven unless you believe in Jesus, and seal that decision with baptism. At this point, an important question that begs for an answer is this: "What about the thief on the cross? Even though he was not baptised, yet Christ promised him that he will be with Him in Paradise. How do you explain that?"
You see beloved, the story of the thief on the cross as found in Luke 23:39-43 is clearly an exception to the condition given by Christ in relation to baptism. However, we must not miss the point that the thief did not have any opportunity to be baptised after his belief in Jesus. It is for people like this thief, people whose situation will not allow them the opportunity to be baptised that Jesus Himself got baptised. When John the Baptist wondered why Christ, the sinless Lamb of God should be baptised, our Lord answered him: "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).
Friends, it is Jesus' baptism that will stand in for people like the thief on the cross. People who would have wished to be baptised but their peculiar situation did not make it possible for them to go through the important ordinance of baptism. However, those of us who are healthy, are not incarcerated, and can go through the ordinance of baptism must go through it now before it is too late; for the condition is clear that without baptism, none can enter into the kingdom of heaven (review John 3:5).
At this point in our study, an important follow up question that begs for an answer is this: "What about Paul's statement in his letter to the Corinthians which says that "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:29). Doesn't this text suggest that the living can baptise on behalf of the dead? Doesn't the text suggest that people who do not go through the rite of baptism whiles alive do still have the chance of making it to heaven through vicarious baptism?
Beloved, Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15:29 is one of the most misunderstood verses in all of Scripture. While some interpreters see in the text the idea of vicarious baptism (baptism on behalf of the dead), several others think otherwise. Instead of vicarious baptism, several interpreters believe that Paul was basically referring to the baptism of new converts who had accepted the Christian faith, and the hope of resurrection it offers, as a result of their dead relations who had lived the Christian faith. This reasoning thus suggests that in 1 Corinthians 15:29, Paul was referring to people who were baptised for the sake of the dead, and not on behalf of the dead.
Friends, unlike the idea of vicarious baptism, this position synchronises with the biblical teaching of the state of the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10; Psalm 146:3-4; Job 14:10-12, 20-21) and judgement (Hebrews 9:27). This position also synchronises with the biblical teaching of baptism that we find in the New Testament; for the words of Christ makes it clear that "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). My dear friend, do you want to show commitment to Jesus? Baptism is the visible sign that you want to be committed to Jesus. Baptism does not mean that you are perfect. It means that you are committed. You don't have to be perfect before you take a stand to be baptised. Come to Jesus just as you are. Let nothing hold you back. When you are baptised, He will empower you with the Holy Spirit to be able to overcome all your weaknesses, and even addictions as you abide in Him one day at a time. Remember that baptism is not the end of the Christian journey; it is only the beginning. Baptism is a symbol of our allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is a joyful experience when we get baptised, knowing that all our sins are washed away, and that we are now walking in newness of life. My beloved friend, the Lord is calling you to break away from the world, and take a public stand for Jesus in baptism. The apostle Paul says unto you today: "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). For "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Exhortation: "5 ... Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5-6).
NB: Beloved, if the Holy Spirit is impressing upon your heart to be baptised, please send the word BAPTISM to any of the following WhatsApp numbers: +233243105287, +233 54 869 7477, +233553152250. The WTM Team will assist you to go through this important Christian ordinance. In our next study, we will consider the topic: The Lord's Supper. The Bible Study references for this study are John 13:3-17, Matthew 26:26-30 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.
Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.
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