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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 12

Having covered the generalities of baptism, I want to get into a few specifics, namely the requirements that one must fulfill in order to be baptized into Christ. Yes, there are requirements, there are conditions placed upon every man and woman who desire to make a covenant with God, and the first of these is something we spoke about during this series, and that is repentance. Whenever we begin discussing the elementary principles of Christ, whenever we begin discussing the fundamental teachings or the foundational truths of the faith, repentance always seems to be intertwined within these teachings.

Acts 2:37-38, “Now when they had heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter had just finished preaching a resurrected Christ to a large number of individuals, he had just finished rebuking them, and they were cut to the heart at hearing his words. It was in this brokenness that these men asked Peter what they should do, and it is Peter’s answer that I want to focus on for a while.

Peter didn’t tell them they needed to join a certain denomination, he didn’t tell them they needed to contribute something to his work, Peter didn’t tell them anything other than what John and Christ echoed throughout their ministries, Peter told the men that had been cut to the heart to repent!

The second requirement to being baptized into Christ is to believe. The individual seeking baptism must believe that Jesus is Lord that He is the Son of God, that Hung on a cross, died and rose again, that by His blood we are made clean, and by His stripes we are healed. In order for someone to be baptized, they must have faith in Christ, they must believe as Jesus told His disciples.

Mark 16:15-16, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

It is he who believes, and is baptized that will be saved, not one who merely hears, not one that acknowledges Christ from a purely intellectual viewpoint, but one who believes in His divinity, and the imputation of His righteousness upon us.

The third requirement to being baptized into Christ is having a good conscience toward God. Before one can be baptized into Christ, before one can be immersed in the water, faith must have already taken place; repentance must have already taken place, because in essence water baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. It is the testimony of the individual that these things have already occurred in his life and heart.

1 Peter 3:21-22, “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him.”

What Peter is saying, is that in and of itself baptism does not remove the filth of the flesh, but rather the removal of the filth of the flesh must have already occurred before baptism, and as such we are baptized as testimony of a good conscience toward God.

The last requirement is that one be a disciple of Christ. We talked about this during the last posts, and pointed out the fact that Jesus told His hearers to go and make disciples first, then baptize them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. One must first repent, believe, have a good conscience, and thereby become a disciple of Christ, and only then can they be baptized into Him.

The day one gets baptized is a day they will never forget. It has been well over twenty years since I was baptized and I still remember that day as clearly as when it first happened. I still remember my grandfather in his white robe, beckoning me into the water, I still remember being asked the questions whether I believed that Jesus is the only Son of God, that He died and rose again, that He is the way the truth of the life, and after confessing these things to be true being submerged into the chilly waters of the Pacific ocean.

I also remember having gone through much soul searching before asking to be baptized, the elders of the church asking if I was ready to make a lifelong commitment toward God, and if I had confessed what I felt I needed to confess before I took this step.

Baptism is not to be taken lightly, baptism is not something one does simply to get it over with, but it is a covenant between man and God, an outwardly confession of an inner truth that one has established in their heart.

It is when we take the things of God lightly, when we look upon baptism as just a formality or a tradition that we must keep that our hearts are insincere toward God that our motives and intent are impure, and all we end up doing is taking a bath with our clothes on. We must understand the true meaning of baptism into Christ, the true meaning of being baptized from death into life that we may learn to appreciate and place value on this once in a lifetime experience.

It is a glorious thing to know that once we are baptized, we have made a covenant with God; that all our past is gone for good, and we are pure in His sight.

Now I touched on the topic of infant baptism if ever so briefly, and I know some might take issue with my stance on it, but after researching the Word thoroughly, and after spending much prayer concerning this topic, I felt I needed to discuss it in the light of Scripture.

There are two scripture passages that adherents to infant baptism like to use as defense of this practice, one of them being the tenth chapter of acts, which discusses Cornelius and his household as well as the sixteenth chapter of acts, which details the interaction between the keeper of the prison, and Paul and Silas.

There are many who say that the word household includes infants and children not yet of age, but from what the Bible tells us we can clearly see that this is not true, and that it is in fact a distortion of God’s holy Word.

Acts 10:1-2, “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.”

So what we are told in the book of acts is that Cornelius was a devout man, and his entire household feared God. By these two verses, and the thirty third verse of Acts chapter ten, wherein Cornelius says that they were all present before God, to hear all the things God commanded, we can deduce certain truths. First, all those of Cornelius’s household were old enough to fear God, and second, they were old enough to be present that they might hear and perceive all the things that God commanded.

When the Word tells us that Cornelius’s household was baptized, by the deductions we can readily make from scripture we come to the understanding that all those who were of this household were of age, and able to discern. No babies were present, because babies can neither fear God nor desire to hear and perceive all the things that God commands, they are babies.

When Peter baptized those of Cornelius’s household after they received the Holy Spirit, he baptized able bodied men and women, people of age, who were able to discern.

The same can be said of the Philippian jailer, wherein those of his household were old enough to hear, receive, and believe, then be baptized. I realize it is a popular practice to baptize anyone and everyone, because the more baptisms we have on the rosters, the more conversions we can boast about, but Biblically speaking we can only baptize those who having heard the gospel, who having experienced repentance, who having believed, who having had the confession of a clean conscience, desire to make a covenant with God by baptism.

So why is baptism an important and integral part of our faith, why is it listed among the fundamental teachings, or the elementary principles of Christ? Because since the beginning of the primary church baptism was practiced by those who believed. Beginning with the day of Pentecost, those who believed were baptized, but more importantly because Jesus Himself commanded that men be baptized in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit after having been made disciples.

Baptism is the symbol of death and resurrection. Paul tells us that by baptism we are buried together with Christ, dying to sin, dying to the world, and becoming alive in Him.

Romans 6:4-5, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Baptism into Christ is the symbol of our being united with Him; it is the confession of our faith in Christ. After we have been freed from the bonds of our old life, we are given the power, through Christ, and in Christ to live a new life, and as such baptism makes our union with Christ visible, being the external manifestation of our having entered into the body of Christ.

Contrary to the belief of some, baptism does not save, although there are some passages within the Bible that if viewed superficially can cause one to come to this conclusion. In all the scriptures that would hint at baptism being the means to our salvation, we see the necessary ingredient plainly displayed, that ingredient being faith, and we are continually exhorted that it is by faith that we attain salvation, and not the act of baptism.

Two things are prerequisites to baptism, two things are required not by men, but by the word of God, and there can be no exception, or exemption for anyone, and those two things are repentance, and faith toward God. The repentance and faith I speak of are the selfsame repentance and faith toward God that Paul lists first in his list of the elementary principles of Christ. Yes, baptism into Christ is a crucial component of our Christian walk, but baptism must be preceded by repentance and faith.

Lest we forget the words of Christ, I want to reiterate them once more:

Matthew 28:19 “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.”

Go therefore and make disciples first! Make disciples of all nations! And only after you have made disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

MaryL said...

Thank you so much for this entire teaching so far...it excellent!! Several foggy areas that I hadn't really sat down, examined fully and comprehended fully; are now being made very, very clear!