Why Is Baptism Such A Big Deal?

Photo by Elisey Vavulin on Unsplash

1 Peter 3:18-22 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

We were going to do a baptism this week, but because the candidate is under self-quarantine until his Covid-19 test comes back, we will attempt to do it next Sunday. But since baptism is on my heart, I thought I’d address why we baptize believers in Christ the way we do.

Let’s Define Baptism

The word “baptism” (along with its variant baptize, baptized, baptisms) occurs some 98 times in the King James text. The Greek word for “baptism” is

βάπτισμα báptisma, {pronounced bap’-tis-mah} as seen in our focal text. Other variants are βαπτισμός baptismós, {pronounced bap-tis-mos’} and βαπτίζω baptízō, {pronounced bap-tid’-zo}. In every case of it’s use, the word “baptize” when used as the Christian ordinance means “to immerse, to submerge, to wash”. When “baptize” is used of a trial, it’s meaning is “to completely immerse in trouble”. Jesus used this form when He discussed His “Cup”, something we studied just a few weeks ago. Do you remember this sermon?

Matthew 20:20-22 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshiping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

Jesus was baptized at the beginning of His earthly ministry by John the Baptist, but this is not the baptism he is speaking of in Matthew’s text. The baptism Jesus speaks of with James and John was His baptism in our sin while He hung on Calvary. As He hung there, bleeding, dying, He would drink the Cup of suffering, and bear the baptism of our sins. He would be so immersed in our judgment that, at one point, Our Lord will cry out:

Matthew 27:46 Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The baptism He suffered on Calvary would make payment for your sins and mine. This is why we can be saved. We are not saved by our works, but by believing in Jesus, by trusting Him and His finished work on the Cross. The Scripture says:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.

And in Titus 3:5-6 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior;

Because Jesus underwent the baptism of God’s judgment on sin, when we believe on Him, His righteousness is placed on us. The Apostle declared:

Galatians 2:16 … a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

No animal sacrifice, no good deed, no action will make us right with God. Jesus Christ as both our High Priest and our Sacrifice for sin “offered up Himself for us” (Hebrews 7:27). Jesus Christ promises those who believe on Him a unique standing with God, a standing that cannot be purchased and cannot be earned. The Apostle tells us in another place:

1 Peter 1:18-19 ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

The Baptism of the Cross brings every believer in Christ to God.

1 Peter 3:18-22 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Jesus Christ, Who was and has always been “just” or “right before God”, for Jesus Christ IS GOD
(see Revelation 1:5-8).

The “Just” Jesus suffered for the sins of the Unjust you and I. Why? So that He might bring us to God. We are Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). Our status is changed,

from LOST to FOUND
from children of Adam to Children of God
from strangers with God to Saints in Christ

We talked about Jesus’ baptism in the punishment of God, but let’s talk about our Lord’s water baptism. Jesus Christ Himself was baptized in water before He ever began His earthly ministry. When Jesus first went to John the Baptist (so called because he immersed people in the river Jordan) to be baptized we read:

Matthew 3:13-17 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John {refused} him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, {allow} it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Jesus – right after being tested of the devil in the wilderness – goes to John the Baptist to be baptized. John initially refuses, because, he said “I am not worthy to tie Jesus’ shoes” (see Mark 1:7). But Jesus said “Do it now. We must FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS”. Baptism is a ceremonial washing that can be traced back to the Old Covenant Priesthood. When the Priests in Israel were consecrated, the Scripture says:

Leviticus 8:5-6 … Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the Lord commanded to be done. 6 And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water.

The Jewish Priests were ceremonially baptized or immersed in water when they were consecrated to God. I found on the “Jews For Jesus” site this quote:

The Soncino Talmud states: “As your forefathers entered into the Covenant only by circumcision, immersion and the sprinkling of the blood, so shall they [the proselytes] enter the Covenant only by circumcision, immersion and the sprinkling of the blood” (Keritot 9a).”

Why was Jesus baptized in water? It was because He is our High Priest, and was being consecrated as our High Priest (see Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14). Why are we baptized in water? It is because we are priests unto God, dear Christian. We are baptized to consecrate us, just as Jesus was consecrated. The Christian as a priest before God is clearly marked in Scripture. For instance:

Revelation 1:5-6 … 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

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

How was Jesus baptized? By immersion.

Matthew 3:16-17 … Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased

In another place we read:

Mark 1:9-11 Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Immersion in water did not “save” Jesus, any more than immersion in water “saves” us. Baptism does not save a person – only faith in Christ does this. But if you are saved, then you will obediently “fulfill all righteousness” just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did. Peter tells us of water baptism:

1 Peter 3:20-22 …. God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22 who is gone into heaven…

Peter ties water baptism into Noah’s Ark. Eight souls were saved by water. Noah and his family were obedient to God. For 120 years they worked on building an Ark. At the end of the 120 years they got on the Ark, and as water (a symbol of God’s judgment) began to fill and flood the land, Noah and his family floated above the water. Baptism as a symbolic ordinance (an order from God) makes water a symbol of judgment, and of death. When the candidate (a saved believer in Christ) goes down into the water, this symbolizes we died with Christ. We are lowered into the grave! But the candidate does not stay in the water. We are resurrected with Christ – the grave cannot hold Him or us. We COME UP out of the water. Death has no hold on us.

Coming up out of the water, we are symbolizing that we are believer priests, with Jesus Christ as our High Priest. We are re-born, children of God by faith in Christ!

Baptism Is The First Work The Christian Does For God

Though no Christian is saved by works, once a Christian is saved they are called of God to work. Works do not save you, but if you’re saved, you’ll work. When Jesus was baptized, only then did the Holy Spirit descend on Him, and the Father say “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased”. Baptism is the very first act of obedience that a Christian is called to do. Our Lord Jesus commanded baptism for all believers:

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 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: 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.

When Peter preached his first message on the Day of Pentecost (a sermon that led 3000 people to Christ), he told them:

Acts 2:38 … Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Peter preached faith in Christ and repentance unto salvation – but also commanded water baptism, just as Jesus commanded. Water baptism does not save you, but if you are saved, you should be baptized.

When Philip the Evangelist found “a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians” reading in the Book of Isaiah, Philip told him about Jesus Christ as they rode together. The Bible says:

Acts 8:36-39 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? 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. 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. 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.

Did you notice that it was the Eunuch that suggested he be baptized, not Philip? Philip would not baptize the Eunuch until he professed his faith in Jesus Christ. Once the Eunuch professed Christ as his Savior, they went DOWN INTO THE WATER where he was baptized. When they came UP OUT OF THE WATER Philip was led to other areas of ministry – but the Eunuch returned to Ethiopia with the joy of his salvation. And who can forget the man named Cornelius, a Gentile Centurion to whom Peter preached?

Acts 10:44-48 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

The Centurion and his household believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and were saved. The Holy Spirit fell on them. And right after their salvation, Peter had them baptized in water.

Baptism does not save you. But once you are saved, believer, you should be baptized. Baptism is …

1 Peter 3:21 … the answer of a good conscience toward God …

In another place, the Apostle tells us that:

Baptism Identifies Us With Christ Jesus

The Apostle writes in Romans 6:1-11 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Water Baptism is an outward expression of an inward truth. Some people have always taught (wrongly, I might add) that “we are saved by grace, so we can freely live any way we want to”. Many do not use these exact words, but their lives show it. They call themselves “Christian” on Sunday, but walk as Children of Adam on Monday. Beloved, this is not scriptural. Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid! The Christian is a saved creature. As Jesus died for our sins and went into the grave, we go down into the water, symbolizing the old “me” died with Christ. Our “old man” is placed in the grave. As Jesus Christ rose from the grave, we are brought out of the water, rising from the grave. We now are to walk in newness of life. Our “body of sin was destroyed”. We now walk with Jesus. We come up out of the grave. Death has no dominion over Jesus. We come out of the water, showing that the grave has no hold on us. We are immortal because of what our Lord Jesus Christ did for us.

A believer is generally only baptized once. We died with Jesus once, and live with Him now forever. There have been times when I have baptized people who had been baptized before. They were baptized the first time not as believers in Christ, but because their friends, or their parents, or someone other than God called them to do it. It happens. I try to emphasize to all that I baptize that, “If you believe with all your heart on Jesus, you may be baptized”. If you are lost and without Christ, all water baptism does is make you a wet unbeliever. Baptism will not save you. Faith in Christ will save you.

Illustrate I read a book one time where a warrior asked that the pastor baptize all of him but his right hand. When asked why, the warrior stated, “Because I want to be able to kill my enemy with my sword hand. It can go to hell – but I want the rest of me to go to Heaven. Beloved, it doesn’t work that way. Baptism is an act of obedience to Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:15, 21). But if you have not received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith, then the act means nothing to God. Baptism is important only to the genuine Christ follower because it is a public profession of your faith in Him:

Matthew 10:32-33 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptists summarizes baptism this way:

Scripture reveals that baptism involves four things.

  1. The right person: a believer
  2. The right reasons: obedience and declaration of your faith
  3. The right method: immersion
  4. The right authority: a local New Testament Church (Acts 2:41-47)

The essentials of baptism are:

  1. Believe in Jesus for salvation
  2. Make your commitment public
  3. Request to be baptized by immersion

May God touch your hearts with His Spirit and His Word. May others read this, and come to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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