Baptism Service

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The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
Matthew 28:18-20 reads, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

Questions About Baptism
As we approach the baptism part of our service, I want to share with you briefly about baptism, and what the Bible teaches us about baptism. For some of you who come from different traditions or church backgrounds, this whole set-up may look just a little strange to you. And you may have some questions about it all.

For example, why are the people who are coming for baptism today so old? Aren’t your parents supposed to take care of this for you when you are still a baby? And then you may be wondering about this giant tank here in the stage. Why do we put people under the water when we baptize them? Wouldn’t it be easier just to sprinkle them or pour the water over them?

Those are all great questions, and those are questions that we actually cover in our baptism class. Each person being baptized today attended that class, and together we looked at the answers to those questions and many others as we studied what the Bible teaches about baptism.

Why Believer’s Baptism

Let’s begin with the age question. When should a person be baptized? Should you be baptized by your parents as an infant, or should you wait until you are old enough to choose baptism for yourself? These two different approaches are often called infant baptism and believer’s baptism. And here at Agawam Church of the Bible we practice believer’s baptism.

One reason we practice believer’s baptism at our church is a historical reason. The early church did not practice infant baptism but believer’s baptism. When you read through the New Testament, you do not find any examples of infant baptism. You find parents bringing their children to Jesus for his blessing or bringing their babies to the temple to dedicate them to the Lord, but you do not find a single, specific example of infant baptism in all of Scripture. In fact there are no cases of infant baptism even recorded until the 3rd century AD. Believer’s baptism was practiced widely until the end of the 4th century when the emperor Constantine converted to Christ and at the same time declared everyone in his empire to be a Christian! And that’s when infant baptism began to take over as the norm.

But there is another reason we practice believer’s baptism at our church, and that is a Biblical reason. The Bible always connects Christian baptism with repentance and faith. In fact repentance and faith are actually presented as prerequisites to baptism. We read in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized.” We read in Acts 18:8 that the people “believed and were baptized.”

This is a pattern that we find repeated throughout the New Testament: first repentance and faith, then baptism. Therefore we believe that before a person is baptized, they should first reach an age of understanding where they can truly repent, or turn away from sin, and believe in Christ for salvation. And that’s one of the main reasons we practice believer’s baptism at our church.

Baptism by Immersion

Well, how about this big tank of water in the stage? Why do we totally immerse someone in water when we baptize them? Why not just sprinkle or pour? Once again, we take our cue from the New Testament. Every baptism described in the Bible was by immersion. John the Baptist baptized by immersion in the Jordan River. When Jesus was baptized, he was baptized by immersion. We read in the book of Acts that Philip baptized a new believer by immersion. In fact the word “baptize” itself comes from a Greek word that actually means “to immerse.”

Why does the Bible teach baptism by immersion? A large part of it has to do with the meaning of baptism as presented in the Bible. The book of Romans 6:3-4 says this about baptism: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4) Notice the three meanings associated with baptism in this verse: death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism is presented in the Bible as a dramatic picture or symbol of death, burial and resurrection.

It is a picture first of all of what Christ has done for us. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 Paul gives a brief summary of the gospel of Christ: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) This is the heart of all Christian teaching. Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he rose again.

But the Bible says that when you put your faith in Christ, something similar happens to you. You die to our old self and your old sinful ways. You are born again and given new life in Christ. This is what baptism is meant to symbolize. When you go under the water, it is a picture of dying to your old way of life and being buried under the water. When you come out of the water, it is a picture of being raised from the dead. You are buried with Christ in baptism so that just as Christ was raised from the dead, you too may live a new life.

So when you see the series of baptisms this morning, you will actually witness a series of mini-dramas of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And as you see each person come up out of the water, recognize that it is a picture of that person’s new life in Christ. They have died to their old way of life and have been given new life in Christ.

So that’s why we baptize by immersion rather than by sprinkling or pouring. The baptisms described in the Bible were all by immersion, and immersion best portrays the symbolism of death, burial and resurrection that is at the heart of the meaning of baptism.

Public Profession of Faith in Christ

Let me just say one more thing about baptism this morning. Each person being baptized this morning has already put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. They are not being baptized in order to be saved. They are being baptized because they have already been saved. Baptism does not save you. Putting your trust and faith in Jesus Christ who died for your sins saves you.

The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) So these people are not being baptized in order to be saved or to gain heaven or anything like that. They are simply being baptized in obedience to the command of Jesus Christ who has already saved them. This is their public testimony and profession of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Three Questions

These are the three questions that I ask each baptismal candidate immediately before baptizing them:

1) “Are you trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If so, please respond by saying, ‘Jesus is my Lord.’”

2) “Do you turn away from any known sin in your life, asking God to forgive your sin? If so, please respond by saying, ‘I do.’”

3) “Do you desire the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit in your life, that you may live a life that is pleasing to God in every way? If so, please respond by saying, ‘I do.’”

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org