Last week we were privileged to participate in a double baptism in our church of baby Sophia and her adult father, Rob. This is an event that we have not enjoyed for some time at St. Andrew’s, partially because of the pandemic, and partially because of our demographics. There was a time when baptisms were much more common at St. Andrews’s and that event has prompted me to reflect on what the Bible teaches about baptism and how important it is for us to follow Christ’s command to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey…”
I acknowledge that much of this message is based on a sermon I heard many years ago by Charles Price, an internationally known evangelist.
Now we have just read Romans Chapter 6 v. 1-8. In context, in Romans 5, Paul has been talking about the fact that the grace of God is totally sufficient for us. He then says: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” There are two ordinances that were given to the New Testament church. They are: Number 1, baptism and Number 2, the Lord’s Supper, which we popularly know as communion. And what these two events share in common is that they focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. They focus on His death and on His resurrection.
The act of baptism, whereby somebody goes down into the water, is a picture of them dying with Christ, being buried with Him, and then being raised again to walk in newness of life (I recognize that in our Presbyterian tradition we use the sprinkling of water instead of immersion, but the sprinkling represents the act of baptism of water.)
The communion service involves taking bread and wine. The bread, said Jesus when He instituted this, “is My body which is given for you. The wine is My blood, which is shed for you.”
And both of these events go back to focus on what lies at the very heart of the Christian gospel, which is that something happened on the cross of Jesus Christ that is absolutely vital and central to the Christian gospel and the Christian message.
Baptism takes place once because it is demonstrating a once for all event in the life of a Christian, when they have become united to Christ and in so doing, united in His death, burial and resurrection.
On the other hand,The Lord’s Supper is repeated frequently because it reminds us of our need for ongoing cleansing and ongoing renewal of our communion with God.
And that’s where those two differ to some extent. But they both focus on the fact that the Gospel is primarily about reconciliation with God.
What I want to do this morning is to look with you into these verses in Romans Chapter 6 to see what Paul teaches here about baptism.
There are three movements that are part of baptism, that are pictured by baptism by immersion, (though we are not going to discuss mode of baptism). But baptism by immersion gives a graphic picture of what it means to, first of all, die with Christ (the act of going down into the water), secondly, being buried with Christ (being put under the water), and the third movement, being risen with Christ (coming up out of the water).
And this outward act of baptism was designed to portray this inner spiritual truth and reality of our union with Christ. And this inward spiritual truth is what we actually call the gospel. Baptism is not something additional to the gospel; it is a portrayal of the gospel and that somebody has been united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, which is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about.
It may be some of you have never been baptized, though you are Christian. But we cannot read the New Testament without understanding that baptism is an important ingredient in Christian experience.
Eleven of the New Testament books talk about baptism in some way or other. And in the book of Acts there are nine separate instances of people being baptized. The book of Acts records the first years of the early church and it is very interesting to look at those nine instances, and realize that every single one of them took place immediately that the person baptized had become a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and had become forgiven and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
But actually the reason why some adult people are saved and but not baptized is simply because they neglect to do so. Maybe they don’t understand its importance.
Charles Price contends that to not be baptized is to be disobedient. The Great Commission that Jesus gave in different forms several times to His disciples includes baptizing.
In Matthew 28:19 He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey…” In Mark 16:15 He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” And therefore it can be argued that to not baptize is negligence on the part of a church that doesn’t take it seriously, and it is disobedience on the part of a Christian who doesn’t take this seriously.
I earlier described the three movements in baptism. There is dying with Christ – that is, going down into the water. We have died with Christ. We have been buried with Him, symbolized by being under the water. We have risen with Christ, symbolized by coming out of the water; and then of course, risen to walk in newness of life.
There is an old hymn that has recently been made popular in gospel music by the group Casting Crowns in the song “Oh Glorious Day” that demonstrates this concept perfectly.
The refrain goes: Living, he loved me,
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified, freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
But I am not just talking about baptism; I am relating it to the whole gospel message, because baptism is an outward physical expression of an inward spiritual experience.
And it is this inward spiritual experience that we need to think about this morning.
I hope to share what it means to be a Christian and what it means to die with Christ, what the cross of Jesus Christ is about, what it means to be buried with Him and risen with him. Baptism is just a symbol, just the outward symbol, but it is the symbol of something that is crucial if we are going to know and enjoy the Christian life.
Now a baptism of course doesn’t have to take place in a church, although that is currently where most baptisms take place. But you know they didn’t baptize in the church in the early church for the simple reason – they didn’t have any church buildings for about 300 years.
So Jesus was baptized in a river, for instance. The Ethiopian eunuch, if you remember that story, travelling through the desert, and Philip who came and pointed him to Christ and he said, “Here is water. What stops me being baptized?” And they must have come across some kind of body of water and he was baptized.
The Philippian jailer in the New Testament, who Paul led to Christ in a jail, baptized him there and then. There must have been a water tank or something in the jail.. It doesn’t matter where you are baptized because it is simply the outward act that demonstrates an inward spiritual experience.
In Ephesians Chapter 4 Paul says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But when you read the New Testament you realize it actually refers to two baptisms. It talks about baptism with the Spirit, or by the Spirit, and it talks about baptism in water.
But if there is only one baptism, then clearly baptism in water is a picture of baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 Paul explains what it means. He says: “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” And the one body into which we were baptized by the Spirit – you will read from its context – is Christ Himself. You are baptized into Christ.
What that means is that you are united to Christ, says Paul, in such a way that your union with Christ means that what is true of Christ becomes true of you. You are baptized into His history. That is, that when you are united to Christ, what was true of Christ becomes true of you.
Let me try to explain what this means. Romans Chapter 5, which was read for us by Jim this morning, talks there about Christ died for me. But Romans Chapter 6 talks about, “I died with Christ.”
Now we have to understand Chapter 5 if we are to understand Chapter 6. What does it mean Christ died for me?.
(Romans 5:6) “When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
(Romans 5:8) “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
What does it mean that Christ died for me? Why did Christ die for me? Well there are two things in the character of God that make the cross of Jesus Christ necessary. And these two things are these: Number 1, God is just. Number 2, God is merciful.
Now we will all be in full agreement about that. God is a just God. God is a merciful God. But when you stop to think about that, those two things are actually incompatible with one another, because to be just means you give people what they deserve whereas Mercy means that you don’t give people what they deserve. for the wages of sin is death.
Now, I have given this example on other occasions on the topic of the difference between justice and mercy.
Supposing I was in court for some offence and I was found guilty. The judge in the court could do one of two things. He can act justly and he can punish me – let’s say fine me $1000, for whatever the offence might be.
Or he can be merciful to me and say, “Well, I understand you don’t normally do this kind of thing and this was an aberration and I am going to let you go free; I am going to treat you with mercy.”
He can be just and fine me $1000 or he can be merciful and let me go free. What he can’t do is both. But, he is obligated to be just – that is his job as a judge. And so he fines me $1000.
Supposing a friend knowing I can’t pay the fine, takes out his cheque book and he writes a cheque to the court for $1000. And he goes to the clerk of the court and says, “Here is a cheque for $1000 to cover the fine of Dirk Ryneveld.” In the record of that court it would say that the fine had been paid. And as far as the justice of the court is concerned, justice has been done. But as far as I am concerned personally, mercy has been received only because a third party has stepped into the situation and paid my fine in full. He is my substitute in that situation.
But Jesus Christ, who, sinless Himself, therefore as a man, has no sin that needs to be atoned for, stood in our place, addressed the just wrath of God and satisfied the just wrath of God. As a result of that, you and I may be the recipients of mercy and we may be forgiven.
And therefore we have to understand Jesus Christ was our substitute offering Himself in place of me before a just God and satisfying His justice so you and I might be forgiven.
It is on the basis of justice that God forgives you, not on the basis of mercy. Now God is merciful. His mercy was demonstrated in sending His Son, the Lord Jesus, to act as our substitute.
But because Jesus Christ has satisfied the justice of God, the fantastic consequence of that is that we are forgiven on the basis of His justice. In other words, if I may put it in these terms, God is legally and morally obligated to forgive because Christ has satisfied the just requirements of our sin.
Now why is this important? Because if you appeal to the mercy of God as the grounds of your forgiveness, you might worry that he may or may not grant you his mercy.
But if you appeal to His justice, you may be certain of your forgiveness.
God forgives you, not because He is kind, though He is, not because He is merciful, though He is; He forgives you because He is just. He forgives you because the precious blood of Christ has been shed for you and has justified you.
You see what that means is this: that what happened to Christ on the cross is deemed to have happened to us.
“Don’t you know,” says Verse 3, “that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” That is, that you are united with Christ in His death. It’s as though you died. It’s as though you paid the price, but in the person of a substitute.
It is because He didn’t just die for me. I died in Him and the consequence is that I am justified. That’s a very important word. Not mercified, as though this is to do with mercy. Justified – that is to do with justice.
According to prophecy, He had to be buried. “Don’t you know you are not only crucified with Him but buried with him and then risen, not to the old life bounced back, but to a new life imparted to Him and imparted now to us.”
Baptism is only the picture of this. But this is the spiritual experience, the spiritual reality of which baptism is a very important picture. Baptism does not unite you with Christ; it is the symbol of your being united with Christ.
But if you have been brought into that relationship with Jesus Christ, Scripture seems to make it very important that this is not just between you and God; it’s also between you and your family, between you and your friends. So that the act of baptism is an outward sign and symbol that you are united with Christ for all to see.
If you are a Christian this morning and have not been baptized, but feel that you want to demonstrate a once for all event in your Christian life, when you have become united to Christ and in so doing, united in His death, burial and resurrection, you need only advise our minister Mitch Coggin or an elder that you want to become baptized. As a congregation of believers we will welcome you with open arms.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, I thank You so much that I can be forgiven no matter what it is, that when I bring it to the cross of Christ and recognize it was my sin that He was burying, I confess it to You, I cast it on You.
You died the death I deserved. You, who knew no sin, were made to be sin for me. But thank You, You took that sin to a tomb. The body that bore my sin was buried and the tomb was sealed.
I recognize, Lord Jesus, I have been buried with Christ; not only died with Him, but buried. And I take those sins that rise up, those memories, that guilt in my past that rises up to condemn me and bury them with You. Help me to know experientially the freedom and liberty of my sins being buried with Christ. And thank You for the new life that you replace it with. Bring me into freedom and the power to live this new life that You Yourself will live within me. In Jesus’ name.