The reason for Baptism
In India last year a man was killed by a mob as he walked home from his son’s baptism.
All around the world, people are coming forward to be baptised even though they know that it could lead to their death. Do you know what would happen just 350 kilometres north of Jinju if a person publicly declared that they were a follower of Jesus and were baptised. They would very quickly be dead or in a concentration camp.
When first-century Christians took this step of identifying themselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus, they were publicly declaring their allegiance to Christ. This immediately marked them for martyrdom—all of the hostility that the world felt toward Jesus was now directed at them. Baptism is a declaration that a person’s life, identity, and priorities are centred on Jesus and his mission.
Baptism is the mark of being a follower of Jesus. This act of identifying with Christ is essential. Today four people will be baptised. Thankfully, their lives are not in danger but they may be ridiculed.
Baptism is a big deal.
We have talked in the last few weeks about Jesus’ parting command to us, his disciples. He told us to go and make disciples. He told us to teach these new disciples to obey all his commands to us. And he instructed us to baptise them. Matthew 28:19 – “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
That is the first reason we baptise each other. The first disciples took this command to heart and the New Testament records this in many places.
On the day of Pentecost 3,000 people were baptised (Acts 2:41). “The people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized” “그러나 빌립이 하나님 나라와 예수 그리스도의 이름에 대한 기쁜 소식을 전하자 그들은 모두 믿고 남녀가 다 세례를 받았다” (Acts 8:12).
“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized” “그러자 즉시 사울의 눈에서 비늘 같은 것이 떨어져 나가고 그는 다시 보게 되었다. 그리고 그는 일어나 세례를 받은 후” (Acts 9:18).
Some people received the Holy Spirit after they were baptised (Acts 8:16) while others received the Holy Spirit first and then were baptised (Acts10:47).
Some people were so eager that they couldn’t wait, like the Ethiopian eunuch.
Or the jailer in Philippi in our reading this morning. He had such a moving experience that he believed. Then Paul and Silas explained to his whole family and even though it was very late at night they were immediately baptised. Acts 16:33.
“Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.”
“그는 바로 그 날 밤에 바울과 실라를 데려다가 매맞은 상처를 씻어 주고 온 집안 식구와 함께 즉시 세례를 받았다.”
To be baptised is basically the first command we are called to obey. There are no unbaptised Christians in the New Testament. It is always assumed that you cannot truly follow Jesus without being obedient to this command.
Baptism didn’t start after Jesus’ death. His disciples were already baptising many people while he was still alive and before the Holy Spirit had come. John 4:1 – “Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did).”
“예수님이 요한보다 더 많이 제자를 삼고 세례를 준다는 소문이 바리새파 사람들의 귀에 들어갔다. (그러나 예수님이 직접 세례를 주신 것이 아니라 제자들이 준 것이었다.)”
Please don’t confuse this with being saved. Jesus said to the thief on the cross beside his that he was saved because he believed. There was no baptism for the thief except that of believing and sharing in Jesus’ suffering. We are saved by believing in Jesus. We publicly declare our allegiance to Jesus in baptism and promise to be disciples who obey all his commands.
In John 3:18 Jesus says, “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”
“그를 믿는 사람은 심판을 받지 않지만 믿지 않는 사람은 하나님의 외아들의 이름을 믿지 않기 때문에 이미 심판을 받은 것이다.”
What then is baptism? It is a promise to God to be loyal, like the promises that couples make to each other in a marriage ceremony. For this reason many Christians believe that only adults should be baptised, since babies don’t have any capacity to make such a contract with God. Those who do baptise infants, such as this church, believe that the parents make the decision on behalf of the infant until the child is old enough to confirm that covenant promise.
Water in the baptism ceremony symbolises washing clean. This is what it symbolised when people repented and John the Baptist baptised them in the Jordan river. Today it also symbolises dying and coming back to life.
Paul explains in Romans 6:4, “When we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”
“우리는 그분의 죽으심과 연합하는 세례를 받음으로써 그분과 함께 묻힌 것입니다. 이것은 그리스도께서 죽은 사람 가운데서 아버지의 영광으로 살아나신 것처럼 우리도 새로운 생명 가운데서 살도록 하기 위한 것입니다.”
When used about ships, the word ‘baptism’ means sunk. A man named Nicander used the word in 200bc in a recipe for pickles. It meant submerge and soak the cucumber in vinegar. And having died, we also share in the resurrection. We emerge from the water to start a new life with Jesus as his follower.
Today we won’t actually drown anyone, but that is what the water will symbolise.
The time to get baptised is when you believe. That is the only qualification I can see in the Bible. If you believed some time ago and didn’t get baptised, then the time is now.
What happens to the person being baptised is spiritual. Baptism is an outward statement and a promise to be an obedient disciple. It is also an internal spiritual event in which God’s Holy Spirit does bring a change into a person.
You have a different relationship with God after you have been baptised. You have started a new life. God has put to death your old life, leaving it sunk under the water.
You don’t have to do any of those things again. You never have to live that way again. The power of the old ways is gone. From now on you can walk with your head held high as a daughter or son of the Holy God who created the universe.
It is terribly sad when you see a person go back and dive under the water to try and get back the old life. Let it go. Don’t look back. Look ahead at the new life.
You are a baby full of potential when you have just been baptised. It is a really exciting time of life. It is now time to learn how to walk, and then to run. You will stumble and fall. Being baptised doesn’t make anyone perfect. How we might wish it did. The road to perfection is long and hard. Perfection is another word for maturity. It takes time for us to become mature Christians. It takes faithful brother and sisters to help us.
You don’t need to be baptised again every time you make a mistake. One baptism in your life is all. Jesus is alive, and we share in his resurrection.
Being a disciple who makes disciples starts here, but it goes on for the rest of our life. When we are baptised, we are baptised into a relationship with God. We are baptised into a family of brothers and sisters. We are baptised into the church. We are baptised into a new life where prayer is important. A life of reading the Bible. A life of loving our enemies. A life of fellowship with other believers.
In baptism we stand up and declare that we reject our old life. We declare that we embrace a new life with a new lord. We promise to be obedient to Jesus and follow him wherever he leads for the rest of our life.