What is Baptism?
Scripture: Exodus 12; 1 Peter 3:21
In Exodus 12, we are given a thorough description of the passover feast that was commanded of the children of Israel in order to protect them from the angel of death that would be brought upon the first born males of the Egyptians. God sought accomplish two main goals with this passover process: First, He wanted to teach the Egyptians a lesson regarding the worship of false gods and idols. Second, He wanted to demonstrate His power to save, as well as show His love for His people. But there was an expectation that came with God's saving grace; they were expected to be proactive in securing their own salvation. The passover required action on the part of the children of Israel.
Exodus 12:1-28 (NKJV)
1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire--its head with its legs and its entrails. 10 You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat--that only may be prepared by you. 17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.' "
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. 24 And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. 25 It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. 26 And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' 27 that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.' " So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
Through the grace of God, the blood of the lamb was used to protect the children of Israel from death. But it required an act of obedience for it to take place. God's offer of deliverence came with the understanding that without obedience, their first born would die in the same manner as the first born of the Egyptians. Today, many argue the need for baptism, based upon a comment made by Paul in Ephesians 2:7-9;
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
This passage does not say that Christians are not expected to work; nor does it say that baptism is not necessary. What it does say, is that there is no amount of work that can be done on earth that can help someone to "earn" salvation. But just as was true with the children of Israel, we are still expected to go through the necessary steps in order to be saved from spiritual/eternal death. The children of Israel were required to participate in a specific feast and sacrifice process; we are required to obey the command placed by Jesus Christ, to be be baptized and wash our sins away.
As you study through this section on baptism, please note that it is not a means of "controlling the masses," but rather, a way of demonstrating our devotion and obedience to God.
1 Peter 3:21 tells us that baptism is not taking a bath, but instead, a method of clearing our conscience as we approach God. It is a cleansing process for the soul.
1 John 1:7-9 (NKJV)
7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Jesus Was Baptized
Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
Matthew 3:13-17 (NKJV)
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed Him. 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
The first act instigating the beginning of Jesus' adult ministry, began with His going to John to be baptised. But the question must be addressed; Why did a man without sin need to go through the process that was designed to wash away sins? Scripture tells us that Christ was sinless, and thus perfect in the eyes of God.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1 John 3:5
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
1 Peter 2:21-24
21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 "Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth";
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed.
So again, why would the Son of God, who was not guilty of sin, worried about being baptised for remission of sin? The answer: To set an example for us to follow. Christ wanted to demonstrate how serious and important this cleansing process was. Notice what He said to John back in Matthew 3, "to fullfill all righteousness."
In his letter to Titus, Paul instructs Titus on the best ways to teach others the gospel; "
7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
Teaching by example is one of the best methods of showing God at work. Paul also wrote, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
Jesus Promoted Baptism
Scripture: John 3:22; John 4:1-2
John 3:22 (NKJV)
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
John 4:1-2 (NKJV)
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)
Not only was Christ himself baptized, but His ministry demonstrated from that point the importance of baptism. It should be noted though, that this is not the same baptism that we are today baptized with; because, we are washed in the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ), which at this point, had not yet be poured out on the cross. So here, Christ is demonstrating the importance of baptism; but especially the baptism that will take place after the crucifixion and resurrection. More on this will be discussed in the later sections; but recognize that this is why we see those baptized by John, rebaptized later on in the book of Acts.
John's Baptism for Remission of Sins
Matthew 3:11; Romans 6:8-10
Matthew 3:11 (NKJV)
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
As mentioned previously, the baptism of John and the baptism we receive today are not exactly the same thing. John the baptist was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. Just as sacrifices were washed in the Old Testament as preparation, John introduced the cleansing process of baptism to mankind. It was an active method of demonstrating one's devotion to God, through the upcoming promise that was to take place. But as Matthew 3:11 demonstrates, Christ was going to introduce a baptism that included the addition of the Holy spirit.
The reason this is important for clarification is because of the issues that have arisen as a result of this difference. First, there has always been a question regarding the need of baptism due to the comment that Christ made to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:42-43;
"42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." 43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
Some have argued that if baptism was essential to salvation, then the thief would not have been able to be saved. But this is not the case. The thief would have still fallen under the old covenant, because Christ had not yet been resurrected. For this reason (even if we look past the fact that this is Jesus, the Son of God, and that He could have done anything He chose to), there was a standard established not just through the death of Christ, but moreso, through His resurrection. The fact that Christ had overcome death so that we had the power to overcome sin, establishes that the new covenant would not formally be established until Christ resurrection.
Romans 6:8-10 (NKJV)
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Jesus Commanded Baptism
Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20
Though there are many who suggest alternate explanations for scriptures that express not just the need for baptism, but also the direct commands surrounding it; it is still difficult to deny the direct command that came from Christ himself.
Matt 28:18-20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
In order to fully grasp the importance of this statement by Christ, we must first understand its setting. This is the final message by Christ given to His disciples following His resurrection. Christ has spent the last 3+ years teaching and training them; guiding them down the path which will soon leave them as the teachers. The disciples have struggled with understanding the difference between an earthly kingdom and a heavenly kingdom; an earthly king versus a heavenly King. Peter has denied Christ, Judas has betrayed Christ, all have become fearful during Christ 3 day stay in the tomb; and yet, the resurrection has brought not just understanding to many of Christ earlier lessons, but also new questions as to what was expected of them. So Christ spells it out for them directly.
What does God expect from them? Go and make disciples.
Who do they make disciples of? All nations.
How do they make disciples? Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
What do they do after they are baptized? Teach them all of things that Christ has commanded.
There are no parables here, and there are no cryptic messages. Christ is direct and forward with His final lesson to His faithful disciples.
The Story of Jesus Includes Baptism
Scripture: Acts 8:26-40
There is an important message placed with in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. The story tells how God sends Philip to track down a man traveling in a chariot, who is reading the book of Isaiah (an Old Testament book of prophecy which is full of foretelling signs of the coming Messiah), but he has no real understanding of what he is reading. Philip is sent to teach him about Jesus Christ. Though we are not given the entire conversation between the eunuch and Philip, we are told that, "35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him."
Acts 8:35 (NKJV) The reason this is significant is because of the eunuch's immediate response to the lesson. In the very next verse it reads, "36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Acts 8:36 (NKJV)
The question here then is, how did the Eunuch know he needed to be baptized? The answer, because baptism was included in the story of Jesus Christ. It is not something that was added after the fact, or something that was just symbolic in nature. The need for baptism is part of the story of Jesus Christ. If it is not included, then the story is not complete.
What Baptism Does for Christians
Scripture: Hebrews 9:16-23; Romans 6:9-11
The word baptizo in the greek is defined as dip, immerse, wash, and burial. Though it was true that under the old law, sacrificial blood was used to sprinkle, it was also determined that the old method was not sufficient.
Hebrews 9:16-23 (NKJV)
16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
In the same manner that we would not pour a little water, or sprinkle a little water on our head and call our entire body clean, we do not sprinkle a little water to cleanse ourselves from sin. We are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Thoroughly cleansed by His saving blood.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
What Baptism Does NOT Do for Christians
Scripture: Romans 6:12-16
1 Corinthians 6:12-16 (NKJV)
12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."
Many are convinced that if they just ask Jesus into their heart, or if they are just baptized into Jesus, that they never have to worry about how they live after that. Baptism does not replace our responsibility for obedience to God. Just as has always been true, sin always has the power to seperate those who embrace it from God. Through baptism we dedicate ourselves to God; we wash our sins away, and we become one with Jesus Christ, but it does not mean that we do not have to stay sharp on our toes.
In His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we see Christ redefining appropriate behavior for those that choose to be children of God. If you study through those chapters, you will see an even more strict expectation placed upon us. Also in this passage though, you will find, what might be, the scariest scripture in the bible for Christians. In Matthew 7, just after Christ warns disciples to beware of false prophets and the messages they bring, He says,
21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Matt 7:21-23 (NKJV)
The reason this is such a terrifyiing passage is because of the way those people will address Jesus, "LORD, LORD." If someone addresses Christ as Lord, then they are most likely are considering themselves to be a disciple of Christ; aka a Christian. And yet, here Christ tells us that there will be a number of people that will find on judgment day that they are not truly disciples of His. In Matthew 25, Christ gives a subject lesson regarding "when I was hungry you gave me food." His disciples confused by the lesson at first, until Christ explains that if they had not done it to the least of man, then they had not done it for Christ.
If we go back to the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, we see that baptism was not the final step in establishing a relationship with Christ, but rather, one of the first. Also in Matthew 28:18-20, we see that baptism is one of the first expectations placed by Christ, not the last. Just because we are baptized into Christ, it does not mean that we are finished working for Him. On the contrary, it means that we have just gotten started.