Deeper into Baptsim

June 12, 2016

Deeper into Baptism
Last week we dove in to the discussion of
baptism by looking at the Baptism of Jesus, and from that story we discovered
that Jesus’ Baptism was Intentional, that it wasn’t without opposition, that it
was a baptism of obedience, that it happened in the water and that Jesus’
Baptism testified to the trinity. 
But the story of Jesus’ baptism isn’t the
only account in the New Testament of water baptism, so this week we are going a
little deeper into the topic, so to speak.
Sometimes we get the impression that baptism
was invented by John the Baptist. And that isn’t the case at all.  By that time in Jewish history baptism was a
part of the process when a gentile, that is a person who wasn’t Jewish wanted
to convert to Judaism.    It wasn’t a
biblical commandment instead it was something instituted under the laws of the
Rabbis. 
What we do have in the Old Testament are
regulations in Leviticus and Exodus, for various times that ceremonial washing
was to take place.  Before the priest could
go into the temple, if you touched a dead body, after child birth and after
numerous other events. 
This eventually evolved into full
immersion.  And from that concept came
all kinds of rules and regulations on the where the when and the how.  It was from these extra biblical rules that
the Mikveh came to be in the Jewish religion, which was very much like what we
think of as a baptistery.   Here is a picture of an ancient Mikveh and
here is a modern Mikveh.
And there was even a prescribed blessing
that was said before someone immersed themselves in the water of the
Mikveh,  Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the
universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
regarding the immersion.  The exception to when the blessing was said was in the case of someone
who was converting to Judaism.  Because
they weren’t under the commandments of God until after they had immersed
themselves signifying their new life.  So
instead of saying the blessing right before they were immersed they would say
it as soon as they surfaced.
And then you get scriptures like we find in
Ezekiel 36:25-27  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer
worship idols.  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new
spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a
tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you
will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
Water to the Jew signified birth, and so
when they were immersed in the Mikveh and came out it was as if they were as
clean as a newborn.  But it was a never
ending process, they just kept adding to the list of when you needed to enter
the Mikveh.  For the priests it was
necessary before they entered the temple, for those who had a skin infection it
was necessary before they were declared clean, for anyone who came in contact
with a dead body it was required.  Women
needed to go to the Mikveh after they give birth, and every month from puberty
until menopause.
And that is just kind of background
bringing us to the baptism that John was offering, which was very different
from the baptism that most of those who heard him were familiar with. 
And so while Christian Baptism may have had
shared some similarities with the ceremonial cleansing of the Old Testament it
changed direction with John and then again with Jesus and the movement that he
established.
So let’s dive right in and see what we can
discover.  Let’s start with The Why
The question that people will often ask
when I first talk about baptism is “Why?” 
And last week we talked a little bit about the example that was set by
Jesus when he asked John on the shore of the Jordan river to be baptized.  And so to a certain degree we can tell people
that we need to be baptized because of the example set by Jesus.  But it has to go deeper than that. 
We aren’t just baptized because Jesus
modeled it, we are baptized because Jesus commanded it.  Mark 16:15-16  And then he told them, “Go into
all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone
who refuses to believe will be condemned.” 
And so Jesus himself commanded folks, to not just believe
but to believe and to be baptized.  The
baptism shows the belief in action.  It’s
like Jesus is saying, “Ok, you’ve said you are going to follow me, let’s try
this out. . . follow me into the water.”
And the command to be baptized didn’t stop
with Jesus, when the very first sermon of the new church was preached on the
Day of Pentecost Peter says this Acts 2:38  Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins,
turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have
received forgiveness for your sins.” 
And so for Peter the need for people was
clear, repent, turn to God and be baptized. 
And so if the question is “Why?”  Then the answer from the bible would have to
be “Because I say so.”  
So the next question needs to be The When After the resurrection, before
Jesus returned to heaven he gave the apostles directions on what they, and the
church, were supposed to do in order for the movement to carry on. 
The official churchy name for this is the
Great Commission and this is where we read Jesus’ words, Matthew 28:19-20  Jesus said Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach
these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of
this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
And so the church is commanded to baptize
those who become disciples, which means that those who become disciples are
supposed to be baptized.  And notice the
order, they become disciples, that is followers of Jesus, and then they are
baptized and then they are instructed on all the commands that Jesus gave. 
Within the early church the process always
seemed to be the same, people became Christ followers and they were baptized.  It happened with Paul, it happened with
Lydia, it happened with Crispus leader of the synagogue, with the Philippian
Jailer, Simon the Sorcerer and thousands of others.  
Sometimes, today, it seems that we want for
folks to become disciples, that is to start following Jesus, and then to be
instructed in all the commands that Jesus gave, and then once they have that
down pat then they ought to be baptized. 
But the New Testament church taught and
modeled that baptism was the first point of obedience.  Believe and be baptized.  
 So, we’ve looked at the why, and the when.  I guess the next is The Where.  In most of the
cases of baptism in the Bible the common element is water.  Last week we looked at what John was looking
for in a baptism spot and we discovered in 
John 3:23  At this time John the Baptist was baptizing
at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept
coming to him for baptism.   And so John choice this particular spot for one reason: there was
plenty of water there.
In the book of Acts we read the story of
how Philip led the Ethiopian Eunuch to the Lord, and in the aftermath of that
event we read:   Acts 8:36-38  As they rode along, they came to some
water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be
baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water,
and Philip baptized him.
In Acts 16 Lydia was at the Riverbank when
she made the decision to follow Jesus, and was immediately baptized, presumably
in the river. 
So the where is: in the water.

The How  The correct
answer here is we don’t know.  It would
be great if there were specific instructions in the bible about “How to
baptize”, but there isn’t.  We are given
some general directions in Matthew 28:19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.   We
are at least told to baptize in the name of the Trinity.  But the mechanics, pouring, sprinkling,
immersion?  There we are left to
guess. 

Love the story of the Baptist and Anglican
minister arguing over who had it right in baptism.  The Anglican guy says, “What if they got wet
to the waist?”  and the Baptist says “No
it has to be all the way”  and the
Anglican says “what about if he got wet to the chest?” and the Baptist says “No
it has to be all the way”.  And the
Anglican responds by saying “How about neck deep, surely up to the neck would
be fine? and the Baptist says “No it has to be all the way”.    And the Anglican says “what about above the
eyebrows, that should be enough?”  In
frustration the Baptist guy yells “No, no, no it has to be all the way, up to
the eyebrows won’t work.”  To which the Anglican
says “See, it’s just the little bit on top that counts.”

And while there are not a lot of examples
given in the scriptures there are some.  And
so we read in Mark’s account that after Jesus was baptized that he came up out
of the water.  That kind of implies that
he had gone down into the water.  And in
Acts when Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch it says “They both went down
into the water.”  But it still isn’t
definitive, they could have knelt down in the water and had water sprinkled or
poured on them, and even if we knew that they were immersed we aren’t told to
baptize people the same way as John and Phillip Baptized people. 

We are given a hint in a word picture that
Paul uses in the letter to the Romans. 
Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4  Or have you forgotten that
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.   

The picture here of being buried with Christ
and then being raised from the grave is dramatically pictured in full
immersion.  But . . . we are still
guessing and speculating.   

Which finally leads us to The What: I mean we understand the why,
that Jesus commanded it, but beyond the obedience factor what else is there
about baptism that we need to know, what all does Baptism teach us?

If we go back to the scripture that we
started with we read,  Galatians 3:26-29  For
you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who
have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ,
like putting on new clothes.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or
free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that
you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs,
and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
And so the first thing we discover is
that  Baptism Teaches us About Christ’s Transforming Power   I’ve said this multiple times, if your
Christianity doesn’t make a difference on this side of eternity, then your
Christianity isn’t going to make a difference on the other side of eternity.   The bible comes back to this theme over and
over again about becoming a new person, putting on new clothes, being born
again. 
2000 years ago the teaching was clear, that
the before Jesus person and the after Jesus person are supposed to be
different.  And this was shown through
baptism.  People often talk about how they
wish that the church was like it used to be. 
So let’s go down that road for a while.
Sometimes people will ask us why we don’t
use white robes for baptisms, after all they were baptized in white robes, and
the church they grew up in used white robes. 
So I did a little digging, discover something new all the time.  From drawings on the walls of catacombs and
early church writing I discovered that white robes are a fairly old tradition
in the church.  And I know that some of
you are feeling pretty smug and self-satisfied right now, got that “told you
so” vibe going.  But let’s keep going,
the white robe wasn’t for the baptism it was for after the baptism.  The candidate got to the edge of the water,
peeled off their old clothes, got baptized in the nude and were given a white
robe when they came out.  All
symbolic.  Taking off the old and putting
on the new. Times were different 2000 years ago.  But the message is the same, baptism
testifies to a new beginning and the transforming power that Jesus has had in
your life.
But that’s not all, in  1 Corinthians 1:10-17  I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of
our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no
divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels,
my dear brothers and sisters.  Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of
Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow
only Christ.”  
Has Christ
been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you
baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!  I thank God that I did not
baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,  for now no one can say they
were baptized in my name.  (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of
Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.)  For Christ didn’t
send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for
fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.
Baptism
Teaches us About Christ’s Ownership. 
You are not baptized in the name of the Wesleyan Church, or
Cornerstone or Denn Guptill.  In our
tradition baptism does not translate into membership in the local church.   It’s not about following Denn, or Stefan, or
Ben or Jason.  It’s about following Jesus.  And someday when Denn is gone you should
still be following Jesus. 
1
Corinthians 12:12-13
 The
human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is
with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are
slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one
Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Baptism
Teaches us About Unity in the Body 
Rich, poor, employee, employer, male, female it didn’t matter
everyone was baptised the same and became the same, A Christ Follower.  The church may have lost its way for a while
in how it viewed equality but the message of the cross and the message of
baptism was that we are all the same in Christ.
And that’s why the Wesleyan Church was at the
forefront of the abolitionist movement in the 1800’s fighting against
slavery.  Some of our earliest Wesleyan churches were a one-day journey apart, as
part of the Underground Railroad, smuggling slaves from the South to freedom in
the North. In fact it is reported that in one county in the South, there was a
saying that “there is not enough rope to hang all the Wesleyans.”
And that’ why
when in 1848 when the first Women’s right’s convention was held in Seneca
Fall’s New York, it would be held in a Wesleyan Church, and why the first women
ordained in the United States was ordained by the Wesleyan’s and the first
woman ordained in Canada was ordained by the Wesleyans.  Because we believe that part of what is
illustrated through baptism is our unity in Christ.
But that’s not all, we read in Colossians 2:12  For
you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were
raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised
Christ from the dead.    And it’s here we see that Baptism Teaches us About  Christ’s
Death & Resurrection 
The early
church used baptism as a constant reminder that Christ was buried and rose from
the grave. 
And so in that simple act of immersion we
see his death and resurrection illustrated. 
Dying to sin, dying to your old self being buried and then being raised
to a new life a life of holiness and obedience. 

And finally we read in  Romans 10:9-13  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and
believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God,
and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  As the
Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”  Jew
and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives
generously to all who call on him.  For “Everyone who calls on the name of
the LORD will be saved.”  

And maybe you are wondering, “What does this
passage have to do with baptism?”  Well, Baptism Is a Confession of Jesus as Lord

       
We are told that in the early days of the
church when someone was about to be baptised they stood in the water and
confessed that ‘Jesus is Lord’.
Many scholars believe that this simple one-line
confession is reflected in Romans 10:9. To call Jesus ‘Lord’ meant that He was
acknowledged to be absolute owner, King and God. This verse teaches that both
inner faith and outward confession are necessary for authentic salvation.
But it went deeper than that, we’ve talked
about this before that the Romans had a pretty Laissez-faire attitude about
religion.  It really was a live and let
live philosophy, all that the empire required was a yearly acknowledgement that
“Caesar is Lord”.  And the new Christians
tried to be really good citizens but this was the one thing they couldn’t
do.  Because they knew that there could
only be one Lord in your life.  Caesar or
Jesus?
And so Baptism publicly proclaims Jesus is
Lord. 
And you thought baptism was just about
getting wet. 
In just a few minutes Phil and Evie
Croucher will be joining us in the celebration of baptism and they will be testifying
to all of those things.  And here is the
thing if you have never been baptized we’d love to have you join us, we have
spare towels, or if you feel you need to run home and grab dry clothes the
water will be here in the next service as well.
But hold on to this from last week and this
week, Baptism is the first point of obedience or disobedience in your Christian
experience.