Stephen Caswell © 2004
Baptism is like a wedding ring: both symbolize transactions. A wedding ring symbolizes marriage, just as baptism symbolizes salvation. Wearing a wedding ring does not make you married any more than being baptized makes you saved. To extend the parallel, if a person, especially a woman, doesn’t wear a wedding ring you can almost always assume the person isn’t married.
So it was in New Testament times. If a person was not baptized, you could probably assume that he or she was not a believer. On this we must be clear: baptism is a symbol of salvation and only a symbol. But, like a wedding ring, it is such an effective symbol that it should never be taken for granted.
Baptism was practiced by N.T. believers; by Christ’s disciples. What’s a disciple? A disciple, μαθητεύω, is a learner. Jesus chose 12 men to follow him that He might teach them about the Kingdom of God. Why should men follow Christ? Because He’s the only one who can save us from our sin and give us eternal life. How can I become a Christ’s disciple? Jesus shares 3 things about disciples; Invitation, Identification, Incarnation.
1. Invitation – Believe In Christ
a. Hear The Gospel
Matthew 28:18-19a: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
Firstly, to become a disciple we must hear the Gospel message. We must hear Christ’s invitation for us to receive eternal life. This is why Christ commanded His disciples to go and tell everyone about Him. It’s a matter of eternal life and eternal death. Mark’s Gospel stresses the importance of telling everyone. Mark 16:15: And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The Good News of salvation must be shared. Christ commands us to go and tell the Good news. The Gospel is Good News because it provides a solution to the Bad News. The Bad News is that all men are sinners. Romans 3:10-11: As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.
No one has kept the 10 commandments. We all do things that we know are wrong. The Bible call this sin. Basically, sin is living independently of God and His Laws. Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The punishment for sin is death and hell. Hell is a place of eternal suffering, eternal separation from God. The Bad News is that the whole world is guilty before God. We deserve to be punished in hell. But praise God He is merciful. Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. God sent His Son to die for the sins of the world. John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Have you ever received an invitation to an engagement party? Two of your best friends are going to celebrate their joyful news and want you to share it with them. You are faced with a decision, will I accept the invitation and go to the celebration or decline it. You must decide. In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells of a wedding feast in heaven. Guests are invited and some accept while some decline. What’s your decision to God’s invitation? You can’t ignore it. You must either receive His offer of eternal life or reject it.
b. Believe The Gospel
Secondly, to become a disciple we must believe the Gospel. To accept Christ’s invitation we must believe what God has said about sin, judgment and salvation. The Good News is that we can be saved by believing in Jesus Christ. God is calling all people to follow His Son. Remember disciples are followers. Christ’s disciples believe in Him and follow His teaching. Mark highlights the consequences of our response to Christ’s invitation
Mark 16:15-16: And He said to them, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16: makes it very clear that we are saved by believing the Gospel; or to be exact, by believing in Jesus Christ. We must believe that He died for our sins and that He rose again to give us new life. All who believe what the Gospel says about Jesus Christ are saved. All who don’t believe it will be condemned.
Romans 10:8-10: But what does the Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Salvation is as easy as A, B, C. Firstly, We must admit that we are sinners who can’t save ourselves. Secondly, we must believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son who died for our sins and rose again to give us new life. Thirdly, we must confess Jesus Christ as our Lord.
In a book entitled Peace Child, Don Richardson records the moving account of how the Sawi people of Irian Jaya came to understand salvation through Jesus Christ. For many months he and his family sought for some way to communicate the gospel to this tribe. Then they discovered the key for which they had been praying. All demonstrations of kindness expressed by the Sawi were regarded with suspicion except one act. If a father gave his own son to his enemy, his sacrificial deed showed that he could be trusted! Furthermore, everyone who touched that child was brought into a friendly relationship with the father. The Sawi were then taught that in a similar way God’s beloved Son could bring them eternal peace.
God is calling people to follow His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you one of Christ’s disciples? Have you accepted His invitation to receive eternal life? Do you believe He died for your sins and rose again to give you new life? How you respond to Christ’s invitation will determine your eternal destiny. What is your decision? Will you believe in Jesus Christ?
2. Identification – Testify For Christ
Matthew 28:19: 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,
a. A Testimony
What is the purpose of being baptized? Identification! Baptism identifies us as Christ’s disciples. When we are baptized we are telling everyone that Christ has already saved us and we are following Him. People were baptized in public places like lakes and rivers. Baptism is a public testimony of a change that has already happened in our hearts. Baptism can’t save us, faith in Jesus Christ does. In Mark 16:16 believing the Gospel comes before baptism. This is why we call it believer’s baptism. Not believing in Christ condemns us to hell. Baptism without belief cannot save us. Baptism also identified them with the rest of the disciples in the local Church. 3000 were added to the Church.
As you heard this morning, these 3 young men were saved by believing in Jesus Christ. They believe that He has saved them by His death and resurrection. This morning we have heard their testimonies. We can see the stand that they are taking for Jesus Christ. Baptism identifies men and women as followers of Christ.
Boys Brigade Uniform
When I was a boy I attended Boys Brigade every Friday night. I went along and participated in gymnastics, games and crafts. We had Scripture Classes and did work to earn various badges. We learnt the Boy’s Brigade motto and practiced drill. But there was one thing above all else that identified us as members of the Boys Brigade, our uniform. Our uniform was a visible witness that we belonged to the Brigade. In the same way Baptism is a public testimony that these 3 young men are following Jesus Christ.
b. A Symbol
Secondly, Baptism is a symbol. Going into the water identifies us with his death, being underwater with his burial, coming out of the water identifies us with His resurrection. Romans 6:3-5: Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Baptism In The Early Church
In the Early Church, disciples being baptized wore outer garments that were old and dirty. They would lay these aside before they went into the water to be baptized. When they came out new, clean garments were placed upon them. This graphically symbolized what Christ had done for them. Before He saved them they were unclean because of sin. But after Christ saved them they were made clean shown by the new garments.
Young person, older person, have you accepted Christ’s invitation to receive eternal life? Have you given a public testimony through baptism? Christ commands His disciples to be baptized. If you are His disciple, can you say no to being baptized? No
3. Incarnation – Follow Christ
Matthew 28:20: 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.
Planting A Seed
Have you ever planted a grafted fruit tree in the yard. After you water it, the small tree responds almost immediately. It shoots forth new twigs and green leaves. It’s exciting to watch the process of life begin. However much growth is required for the plant to mature and bear fruit. Planting the tree is not the end, just the beginning. This is true of the Christian life. Disciples must follow their Master to be fruitful and make other disciples.
The Christian life is not an event, it’s a journey. Don’t get me wrong, salvation and believers baptism are very important. But they are just the beginning of a new life. God wants us to be involved in the incarnation. What does that mean? The Lord wants to mould us to be like His Son. 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. When the Lord Jesus Christ saves us He makes us new creations. Now He wants us to live like new people. It’s not guaranteed. To live the Christian life we must follow Christ. He’s the Christian life. He teaches us how to live in the Bible and enables us to live by His Spirit.
Apprentice builders and plumbers have to learn from a master builder. It takes 4 years. The tradesman passes on his years of experience. The apprentice needs to listen carefully to him. He should also watch his boss at work on the job; ask questions. Apprentices won’t learn anything if they think they know it all. After they watch and listen to their tradesman they apply what they’ve learned. So, too, the Christian life marks the end of our old life and the start of a new life living for Christ. Gal 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
The 12 disciples carefully followed their master and His teaching. They sought to live the way He lived. That’s what disciples do! Jesus said this in Luke 6:40: A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. Disciples follow Christ’s commandments; including the command to make other disciples. The early disciples were called Christians at Antioch. The word Christian means little Christ.
Firstly, disciples are learners. We learn from our Master, Jesus Christ. He teaches us through His Word. Secondly, disciples are followers. We live for our Master, Jesus Christ. He has promised to be with us to the end of the age. Therefore, we can follow Him if we choose too. He leads us and we follow Him.
Have you accepted God’s invitation to salvation through His Son? Praise God if you have! Can people see that you are Christ’s disciple? Are you keeping His commandments? Have become you just like your Master, Jesus Christ? How are you serving those around you? Where are you sharing the Gospel with the lost? Are you involved in making other disciples? Or is your faith nothing more than a Fire Insurance Policy? Jesus Christ calls us to follow Him! Are we really doing this?
Today, we answered the question, What is a Disciple?
Invitation. Firstly, a disciple is someone who has heard God’s invitation through the Gospel and has accepted it. They have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Have you accepted God’s invitation to eternal life? Have you repented and believed in Jesus Christ?
Identification. Secondly, a disciple publicly identifies Himself with Jesus Christ and the local Church through baptism. They’re not ashamed to tell the world that they follow Christ. Have you followed your Master through the waters of baptism? Have you given a public testimony for Christ?
Incarnation. Thirdly, a disciple is a new creature because God has made them new inside. They listen to their Master learning from Him. They follow Him and live His way. Are you following Jesus Christ? Are you learning from Him? Are you like Him? Are you serving Him?