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        Is Baptism Essential (152)

        James R. Davis
        To the modern world baptism has lost much of its significance and meaning.  The vast majority of churches no longer require baptism as a prerequisite for church membership or participation in communion.  Baptism has become merely an option, more a celebration of an individual's faith than of God's grace in joining that person to the body of Christ.

        Yet, in the N.  T.  every conversion culminated in the act of immersing men and women in water.  One may legitimately ask,  "Why was baptism practiced in the original church? What is the meaning of baptism?

        We could just say that Christ commanded it. That would suffice.

        Mark 16:15-16
        And he said unto them, Go ye into the entire world, and preach the gospel to every creature.   He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

        Mt 28:18-20
        And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.

        But I would like to say more.  Baptism is not a meaningless ritual.  I must not hesitate to say that baptism without Christ is nothing.  Without Christ baptism would not be worth the effort of filling the baptistery.

        It seems good to me to help a person understand the why behind the command.  We can't always understand the why, but it helps when we do. Whether we understand the why or not, we must still believe and obey.

        John 20:29
        Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.)

        It is equally true of all of God's promises and commands.  It is great when we can understand the reasoning behind a command.  But Jesus says that it is even greater for those who cannot see or understand, but they obey anyway.

        There has been a weakening on the teaching of baptism among churches.  It might help us to come to grips with the importance of baptism if we could understand the purpose and meaning of baptism.

        Life has its reference points. The Great Winter Storm of 1993.  Graduation Day. Wedding Day. Birthday. Death.

        Baptism is a reference point.  Since the day many of you were baptized your life has been changed.

        Romans 6:1-4
        What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.  How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

        Gal 3:26-27
        For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

        I. Decisive turning point in life.

        The importance of baptism is understood as one understands that it is a decisive turning point in life.

        A. Point where the past is healed.

        When you accept Christ sacrifice for your sins, baptism is the point where you find a healing for the past.

        Lk 4:18
        The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (KJV)

        Rev 22:2
        down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

        1. It is important for us to deal with our past --- reconciling the past is a major accomplishment in life. We all have things in our past of which we are ashamed. It is important to deal with those things in a positive way.

        Ro 6:21
        What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!

        Remorse for past failures or sins deprives many Christians of the joy that should be theirs.  A man in his middle years has withdrawn from the people in his church because he feels so bad about his past infidelity--a sin that broke up his home. An elderly woman needs counseling from time to time because she can't forget an affair in which she was involved more than 50 years ago.  A young lady is under the care of a psychiatrist because she can't forgive herself for having had an abortion. Each of these people is now a Christian, but each is paralyzed at times by remorse over the past.

        There is only one problem about the past. You cannot change the past!

        If we were required to change our past in order to be saved --- we would find ourselves in a hopeless situation.

        Yet God allows us to deal with the past with straightforwardness.

        Acts 2:37-38
        Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and is baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

        Isa 1:18
        Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

        2. If you fail to bury the past it will come back to haunt you.  Baptism allows us to bury our past in the blood of Christ.

        He 9:14
        How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

        1 John 1:7
        But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

        That is why Paul could forget the past.

        Phil 3:13-14
        Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

        B. Place where we find spiritual cleansing.

        1. David desired cleansing.

        Ps 19:12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

        Psa 51:2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

        Psa 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

        A man for years had cheated himself out of the joy of forgiveness.  He had felt guilty about the part he played in a college prank, which took the life of a classmate.  Though he had confessed his wrong to God, he continued to be so torn up on the inside that he couldn't keep a job or maintain a good relationship with his wife.  But one day the mother of the boy who had died stopped in to see him.  She was astounded that he had been carrying this load of guilt.  She assured him that she has forgiven him long ago and that none of her relatives held any ill feeling toward him. Furthermore, she reminded him that God had erased this unfortunate escapade from the record.  Then she gently rebuked him, telling him it was wrong for him to be burdened with remorse.  When he finally came to accept the pardon being extended to him, he felt a new sense of freedom, was reunited with his wife, and settled down in a good job.

        2. Baptism cleanses.

        Acts 22:16
        And now why tarriest thou?  arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (KJV)

        1 Cor 6:9-11
        Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived:  neither fornicators,  nor idolaters,  nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves,  nor covetous,  nor drunkards,  nor revilers,  nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you:  but ye are washed,  but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

        C. Spiritually and emotionally healed.

        Clear conscience.

        1 Pet 3:20-21
        Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

        D. New life is found.

        Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

        John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

        Tit 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

        2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

        A small country church was having a "baptizing" in a river on a cold January day.  A revival meeting had just concluded.  The preacher asked one baptismal candidate, "Is the water cold?"

        "Naw!" he replied.

        One of the deacons shouted: "Dip him ag'in preacher, he's still lyin'!"

        E. Where Freedom is found.

        John 8:30-32
        As he spake these words, many believed on him.  Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

        1. Freedom from sin.

        Romans 6:17-18
        But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

        2. Freedom from condemnation.

        Romans 8:1-2
        There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

        F. Point where we find wholeness.

        Col 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

        Col 2:11-12
         In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

        G. Point Justification is Realized.

        1. When one accepts Christ, baptism is the point where justification is found through Christ.

        Justification is when God accepts me just as if I had not sinned.

        Ro 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

        2. Many are confused about when they are justified before God.

        Gal 3:26-27
        For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

        Ro 4:11
        Abraham "received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

        Ro 4:22
        This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness."

        H. Point where we become members of Christ kingdom.

        Col 1:13-14

        I. Point where we die with Christ.

        Someone asked George Mueller the secret of his marvelous fruitfulness as a Christian. He replied, "There came a day when George Mueller died, utterly died! No longer did his own desire,  preferences, and tastes come first. He knew that from then on Christ must be all in all!"


        Baptism is the point in your acceptance of Christ that you actually become a Christian as you are washed from your sins by the blood of Christ.


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