Why We Believe What We Believe about Baptism
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Jan. 9, 2013
*Baptism is a big deal in Ukraine. Most churches don't have a baptistery, and the winters are very cold, so they only get to baptize once or twice a year. On those days the whole church loads up and goes to the river. I have seen 70 people lined up on the bank to be baptized. As each person came out of the water, the choir broke into a chorus of praise. Then they welcome the people coming out of the river with hugs and kisses and a bouquet of flowers.
*Baptism is a big deal in Ukraine. It is also a big deal in here in Grayson, LA. Let's look into the Word of God tonight and see why we believe what we believe about baptism.
1. First consider what Baptists believe about the method of baptism.
*Simply put, we believe that baptism is by putting people under the water. Verse 13 says: "Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
*That word "baptized" in the original Greek is "baptizo," and it means "to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to make something fully wet, to cleanse by dipping or submerging."
*Okay -- If that is what "baptizo" means, then why didn't the translators just say "dip" or "submerge?" The reason why is because the churches in control when the Bible was first translated into English did not dip people down into the water. Those Catholic and Anglican churches practiced infant baptism by sprinkling water.
*Many churches still do today. In fact, I was "baptized" as a baby in a Presbyterian church. But I wasn't really baptized, because I didn't get saved until I was 24 years old. And in the Bible, baptism wasn't for babies. It was for believers.
*Well, the men translating the Bible 500 years ago knew that translating the word "baptizo" would contradict the accepted method of sprinkling. So they just used the original Greek word in our English Bibles without explaining the meaning.
*But Jesus was submerged. Everybody John the Baptist baptized was submerged. When those 3,000 new Christians in Acts 2:41 were baptized, they were submerged. Every person baptized in the New Testament was submerged. How do we know? -- Because that's what the word means.
*There is a word for "sprinkling" in the New Testament. It's found 4 times in Hebrews 9, but that word is not "baptizo." So the Biblical method of baptism is by submerging.
*Now the method of baptism surely doesn't seem like a big deal at all to us today. But we need to understand that thousands of people were put to death simply because they wanted to be baptized the Biblical way. That seems unreal to us. But here are a couple of quotes to help you see how bad it was:
*In his book, "History of the Baptists," John T. Christian wrote this about the situation in Switzerland. "The Council of St. Gall determined to rid themselves of the 'Dippers.' (Since) the Baptists dipped for baptism, they were to be drowned for punishment. The edict read in part as follows: 'In order that the dangerous, wicked, turbulent and seditious sect of the Baptists may be eradicated, we have thus decreed: If anyone is suspected of rebaptism, he is to be warned by the magistracy to leave the territory under penalty of the designated punishment.
*Every person is obliged to report those favorable to rebaptism. Whoever shall not comply with this ordinance is liable to punishment according to the sentence of the magistracy. Teachers of rebaptism, baptizing preachers, and leaders of hedge meetings are to be drowned.
*Those previously released from prison who have sworn to desist from such things, shall incur the same penalty. Foreign Baptists are to be driven out; if they return they shall be drowned. . .'" The date of the decree was Sept. 9, 1527. (1)
*Many Baptists in England were burned at the stake. Here is another quote from John T. Christian's book: A man named "Ammonius, under date of Nov. 8, 1531, writes to Erasmus of the great numbers of the Anabaptists in England. He says: 'It is not astonishing that wood is so dear and scarce. The heretics cause so many holocausts, and yet their numbers grow.' Erasmus replied that Ammonius 'has reason to be angry with the heretics for increasing the price of fuel for the coming Winter.'" (2)
*They were actually complaining about the price of firewood going up, because so many Baptists had been burned at the stake. Only God knows how many people were burned at the stake for Biblical baptism. It was brutal beyond our imagination.
*That is one of the reasons why our Constitution contains a Bill of Rights to protect our God-given freedoms, including the Freedom of Religion.
*Tragically, our federal government has begun to trample on our rights. One example is trying to force Hobby Lobby to provide abortion-inducing drugs on their employee health insurance. On the way out tonight, you can get a copy of Hobby Lobby's open letter about this issue.
*But these early Baptists gave their lives just for their desire to be baptized in the Biblical way. And this is the method we want to use for baptism today.
2. But we also need to consider the meaning of baptism.
*The question here is this: Does baptism save us? Or is it a symbol of salvation?
*Some churches teach the false doctrine that baptism is required for salvation. Most Church of Christ and Pentecostal churches teach this doctrine. I don't know if they still do this today, but 35 or 40 years ago, if a Church of Christ member led you to Jesus at 3 in the morning, they would take you to the church right then to be baptized. They were afraid that if they waited, you might die before you could be baptized. And you would still go to hell, even though you had trusted in the Lord.
*The churches that believe you must be baptized to be saved get this false doctrine mostly from one possible interpretation of Acts 2:38, where "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
*Now that word translated as "for" in this verse can mean "in order to." That is: "I am going to be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of sins."
*But this little word "for" can also mean "on account of." That is: "I am going to be baptized, on account of the fact that I have already received the forgiveness of sins." If I say I'm going to the store for some milk, then I'm going to come home with some milk. But if I say I'm going to the store for my wife, I am not coming home with a wife! No, I already have a wife. And we are baptized because we have already been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! (3)
*Many Scriptures show that Christians are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for us.
*Please listen to these examples:
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.
17. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 - "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.''
Romans 10:10-13 says:
10. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.
11. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.''
12. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
13. For "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.''
Ephesians 2:8-10 says:
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.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
*In 1 Corinthians 1:14-17, Paul was pleading for unity in the church, and this is what the Apostle said about baptism:
14. I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
15. lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
16. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
17. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
*There has probably never been a Christian who loved lost people more than Paul. If baptism was required for salvation, do you think Paul ever would have been content to not baptize? -- Of course not.
*When Zacchaeus got saved in Luke 9, the Bible says:
8. Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.''
9. And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham."
*There was no baptism there, because baptism does not save us. Rather, baptism is a symbol of what God has already done in our lives.
*And we can see 4 dimensions to this symbolism.
 First: Baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did on the cross to save us.
*Going under the water symbolizes Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and being buried. But rising out of the water symbolizes the wonderful truth that Jesus rose again from the dead.
 Secondly, baptism symbolizes what Jesus has already done in our lives, when we believe in Him.
*Going under the water symbolizes that that my old life is dead (i.e. my life without Jesus). But coming out of the water says that I'm not dead. I'm alive with the new life God gave me when I received Jesus as Savior and Lord.
 Baptism also symbolizes that our sins are washed away.
*But our sins are not washed away by Grayson water. Our sins are washed away by the blood that Jesus poured out on the cross for us.
 Water baptism also symbolizes the spiritual baptism we all received, when we trusted in the Lord.
*This is the baptism that matters the most, and it is never done by human hands. This spiritual baptism is done by the Holy Spirit when we put our trust in Jesus. Paul explained this truth in 1 Corinthians 12:13, where he said: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free. . ."
*Paul was not talking about being submerged into water, but being literally and spiritually submerged into the Body of Christ. And water baptism is a symbol of all these things. That's the meaning of baptism.
3. But what about the motive for baptism?
*Our motivation is Jesus Christ! -- Look at the Lord again in vs. 13-15:
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 have 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.
*There Jesus was in vs. 15, being baptized, but not because He was a sinner. Jesus didn't have any sins to confess. He never needed to repent. That's why in vs. 14, John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?''
*This baptism from John the Baptist was part of the Lord humbling Himself for us. As Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 5-8:
5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.
8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
*Jesus was baptized as an act of humility, and an example for us to follow. And three years later, our perfect Savior died on the cross for our sins. Jesus did all of these things for us, and now He is risen on high! So Paul goes on to say this in Philippians 2:9-11:
9. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
10. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
11. and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
*If we have received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, then we want to walk in obedience to Him. And He tells us to take a public stand for Him. So we are gladly baptized. If the only perfect man who ever lived was willing to be baptized as an example for us, then we should be willing to be baptized for Him.
*That's what we believe about baptism.
*Have you been baptized in the Biblical way? An infinitely more important question is this: Have you opened your heart to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? More than anything else, this is what we all need.
*Turn to the Lord and trust in Him. Then follow the Lord in believer's baptism.
(1) Adapted from "History of the Baptists" by John T. Christian - Chapter 10
(2) Adapted from "History of the Baptists" by John T. Christian - Chapter 15
(3) My illustration based on explanation in "Robertson's Word Pictures" by A.T. Robertson - Acts 2:38