Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Fulfilling the Great Commission III
The second job in the Great Commission is found in the last half of Matthew 28:19, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is the most controversial part of the Great commission, with some, such as the Catholic Church, most of the Protestant groups, and the Church of Christ insisting that Baptism is essential for salvation. Many non-protestant groups such as Baptists, Mennonites, community churches and others hold that baptism is an ordinance, rather than a sacrament. As a result we need to spend a little time seeing what the scriptures say about Baptism before addressing this command.
Several years ago, a Church of Christ preacher commented that he did not understand why God chose baptism as the means of salvation. Romans 10:9-13 states, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is very clear that one can be saved simply by believing in Christ, and confessing that belief to God, but nothing is said about baptism.
Jesus statement in John 3:14-18 also stresses that one can be saved with no reference to being baptized. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Many of those who believe baptism is essential for salvation refer to verses such as Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This verse in no way contradicts the previous passages. Obviously, if he were saved by believing in Christ, than he will still be saved if he gets baptized. If he doesn’t believe, however, he will not be saved whether he gets baptized or not. Clearly, belief, not baptism is the basis for salvation.
So why baptize? Let’s start with the meaning of the word. The Greek word βαπτίζω means to be fully placed into or covered with a fluid, i.e. to immerse. Romans 6:3-5 describes what happened at salvation. “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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” The physical baptism in water is a physical demonstration of what has happened to a person spiritually. In effect, it is a testimony of their having believed in Christ. Unfortunately, as we saw from Mark 16:16, if they have not believed, it is meaningless.
Matthew 28:19 stressed, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is important in showing what has happened to a person spiritually. The plan for salvation was made by God the Father, but it was the son who made the sacrifice that made it possible, and it was the Holy Spirit who enabled us to understand and gave the faith to believe. We are acknowledging the roles each one played in saving the person. We are not simply performing a ritual, but are presenting a testimony of God’s love.
John the Baptist had baptized many as a sign of their repentance for their sin. Paul met a group who had been baptized by John in Acts 19:3-5. “And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized?
And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
When they believed on Christ they were re-baptized in His name, as a demonstration of their faith in him. This is exactly what Peter told the Jews in Acts 2:38. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be 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.” They were to get baptized because their sins were remitted, and we are to baptize people for the same reason.
Understanding what baptism represents and making the stand for Christ it requires is a major step in growing to be a strong Christian. Unfortunately, it is often treated as just a ritual Christians perform rather than a step in Christian growth.