The Pleasure of God
General William Nelson, a Union general in the Civil War, was consumed with talking over the battles in Kentucky when a nearby brawl ended up with him being shot, mortally, in the chest. He had survived many battles, but his fatal blow came while he was relaxing with his men. As such, he was caught fully unprepared. As men ran up the stairs to help him, the general said just one phrase, “Send for a clergyman; I wish to be baptized.” He never had time as a young man. He never had time as a private or after he became a general; and his wound did not stop or slow down the war. Everything around him was left virtually unchanged - except for the general’s priorities. With only minutes left before he entered eternity, the only thing he cared about was preparing for eternity. He wanted to be baptized. Thirty minutes later he was dead.
- Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p.26
Baptism, such a seemingly small thing, carries such large significance....
There are a multitude of traditions surrounding Baptism. These days, it seems like every denomination has a different tradition regarding the practice.
Sprinkling of water,
pouring of water,
immersion in water,
no infant baptism, etc.
However, we are not going to focus on these traditions in our study today; my goal is to leave time to discuss them in the questions after, if you’d like.
Rather, our study today is going to look to God’s word for direction and guidance about baptism.
Matthew 3:11–17 (ESV)
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
What are the origins of Baptism? Who should be baptized? Why should we be baptized? These are the questions I’d like to consider this morning.
What are the Origins of Baptism?
What are the Origins of Baptism?
Chiefly, the origins of Baptism can be traced back to two different practices in the Old Testament.
First, we are going to take a look at ceremonial cleansing.
Much of the Old Testament Law deals with the concept of being clean versus unclean.
There are clean and unclean animals,
clean and unclean foods,
and clean and unclean people.
In order to participate in worship at the temple, people had to be cleansed as a reminder of God’s holiness and perfection and their need to be cleansed from sin.
For example, Numbers 19:17-19 details one of these ceremonies:
17 For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel. 18 Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave. 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.
In fact, Numbers and Leviticus are littered with passages that speak of the concept of ceremonial washing and bathing in order to become clean.
These Old Testament concepts are the foundation for what we see in New Testament baptism.
They identify a person as being clean and ready to worship God.
It’s important to realize that we see this magnified in John the Baptist’s words in verse 11 of our passage:
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
In light of the Old Testament, John’s water baptism was a ceremonial cleansing to identify those who had repented and were ready to follow Christ.
Second, there are a few times in Scripture when God gives us signs, or outward symbols that can be seen, to identify the people who are under His covenant.
Notably in Genesis 9:8-13, after the flood, God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign of His covenant to never again destroy the world by flood.
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
Likewise, in Genesis 17:3-10, God gave circumcision to Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites, as a sign of His covenant to make them distinct from the rest of the world, that they were His chosen people.
3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
Further, in Colossians 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul directly connects circumcision and baptism.
11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Obviously, baptism is a sign that identifies Christians with Christ.
The rainbow did not save Noah, it is a sign of how God saved Noah and the promise He made.
Just as circumcision did not form a covenant with the Israelites, but rather was a sign, a reminder that God made this covenant;
so too, baptism dos not save us, but rather is a sign, a physical reminder that God saves us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Next we arrive at the question of:
Who should be Baptized?
Who should be Baptized?
Christ commands all His followers to be baptized
Significantly, Jesus gave us His command in Matthew 28:19 to answer this question.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines “Disciple” as: A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example. i.e. “followers of Christ”
It stands to reason that if Jesus is commanding to baptize all His followers, He is therefore commanding all His followers to be baptized.
Example of the early church
Thus, we have the example of the early church baptizing new believers as soon as they repented.
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Who should be baptized? The scriptures are clear. Everyone who believes in Jesus as their savior should be baptized.
Now that leaves us with the question of:
Why should we be baptized?
Why should we be baptized?
To follow Jesus’ example
To repeat, Easton’s Bible Dictionary says that a disciple of Christ is one who imitates Jesus’ example.
Certainly, in verses 13 - 15 of our passage, Jesus sets the example for us:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
To be obedient to God
Do you remember what we learned in Week 1 (“But God”)?
God does not save us just so we can be internally righteous and get a ticket to heaven.
He saves us so that we can live righteously as His children.
He wants us wants us to identify as His children and obey Him.
In particular, Paul says in
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
I think baptism is our first step of obedience as believers.
Faith and obedience go hand in hand,
therefore baptism is one of the first works God has prepared for us beforehand.
Furthermore, those who obey God receive the benefits of being obedient. What benefits?
Well, think of your relationship with your parents. When you were obedient, what was your relationship like? It was probably joyful and you felt intensely loved. Your parents were happy with you and were more likely to grant your requests, maybe they even spoiled you a bit.
Now contrast that with when you were disobedient, what was your relationship like then? There was probably tension in the family and you felt somewhat isolated from your parents. They were dissatisfied with you and you were lucky to be able to come out of your room for the basic necessities, much less get spoiled.
I think the same can be said of our relationship with The Father.
To show our love for Christ
Equally important, in John 14:21-24, Jesus tells us:
21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
Do you love Jesus?
Do you love the One who loves you so much He suffered and died for your salvation?
Do you want Him to manifest His love, provision, and blessings in your life?
Obey His commands!
Jesus himself says that if we do not obey, we do not love.
All things considered.....
Baptism Pleases God
Baptism Pleases God
Why is baptism important?
Because you love Jesus and want to obey Him.
What does it do for me?
You lay claim to the sign of God’s New Covenant.
You will be identified with Christ in His death and resurrection.
You will have a profound reminder of the great salvation which God has promised you!
Why be baptized?
Do you not love Jesus?
16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Therefore, let all our hearts be stirred to take this step of obedience if we have not yet.
Let us all sincerely desire to walk in trust, obedience, and true fellowship with the One who died and rose again for our salvation!
Let us yearn to hear God speak the words “This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” and overcome all obstacles halting us.
Let’s show our identification with Him, and let everyone know, I love Jesus!
I will follow Jesus!