Sacred Assembly: Baptism

February 28, 2010 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Sacred Assembly

Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 28:18–28:20

Sacred Assembly: How I identify with Jesus - Baptism


Good morning! We are wrapping up our series on the church Sacred Assembly

  • The Church: is the assembly of God’s people from all nations trough all time. It is the bride of Christ purchased by his blood. While imperfect the church is united with Christ, you can’t say you love Jesus without loving His bride.
  • The Word: is God’s chosen instrument to create, convict, convert, and conform His people. Jesus preached, commands His church to preach the Gospel. His word saves as people come to faith by hearing proclamation of the truth.
  • Leaders/Elders: are an essential part of God’s design for His people. Jesus is the senior pastor that plants/grows/closes churches. The Holy Spirit calls/equips qualified men to shepherd His people. A leaderless church is not an option.
  • Communion: instituted by Jesus representing his broken body/shed blood on our behalf should be the pinnacle of each time our church gathers, as genuine believers collectively and individually remember His sacrifice for us.  

Today we’re going to look at Baptism, the public declaration of faith and active identification with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection. We’ll specifically look at the role of baptism in the Church.  Why do we baptize people? Who is to be baptized?  What does baptism signify for individuals being baptized and the church as a whole?

Many of you have likely already started tuning me out. If you’re not a Christian or haven’t been baptized you look at this if it’s a “free weekend” at a trend west timeshare. “Great I have to listen to guy try to sell me on Jesus/baptism so he can meet his quota for the month.” Some of you have already been baptized so you say “this one isn’t for me” and maybe you have someone in mind you hope is listening because you’re hoping you’ll get a referral bonus in heaven. Both are a mistake.

As the church we act as if baptism has great importance for new believers, but has few relevant implications for “mature Christians” beyond initial conversion.

At times there can be confusion and debate among Christians about the meaning, mode, and significance of baptism. In an effort to avoid disagreements or actively study what scripture teaches regarding baptism we fail to engage the topic, we end up not taking baptism seriously enough. We miss understand the importance of Baptism because on some level we misunderstand the importance of the Gospel. Jesus only gives the church two sacraments or ordinances for us to observe; communion given at the last supper before his crucifixion as a regular rite remembrance for His gathered people, and baptism as a one-for-all rite of initiation into the church given after his resurrection. 

Baptism and the Great Commission

And Jesus came to them and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (p1411)

This section of scripture is called the Great Commission not the limp suggestion. Jesus says these words last not because they’re an afterthought like “don’t forget to pick up milk,” but because this is the guiding directive for the mission of God’s people, the Church, until Christ returns. So why is baptism significant for the life of the church? Simply because Jesus tells us it is. We baptize as an act of obedience. 

Here we see the heart of how the church views/uses baptism is to be both political and evangelistic, typically the two things the world complains most about the church.

Political- Rome, the most powerful nation humanity has seen, used the defining symbol of its authority, the cross to show other nations and people they would be shamed, mocked and killed if they challenged the rule/reign of Caesar’s empire. Jesus, claiming to be God, humbly subjected himself to the worst Rome could do. They beat him, mocked him, killed him, put him in a grave. After three days he rose again.  With all of Rome’s power they couldn’t keep a dead carpenter in the ground.

Jesus, alive as a victorious general comes to his disciples and tells them, “All authority in heaven and on earth, is HIS! His dominion and authority is both universal and comprehensive. Caesar and Rome are brought to nothing compared to his kingdom. As the church, God’s people, we don’t place our hopes or fears in elected officials or new laws. We recognize our primary allegiance is not as citizens of this world or even this country. We are first and foremost faithful subjects of Jesus and His Kingdom.    

One is either a good German or a good Christian. It is impossible to be both at the same time. Adolf Hitler

Baptism is political because we cannot serve two masters. You can serve Rome or Jesus, Hitler or Jesus, Mao or Jesus, Allah or Jesus. Here, now, there are few perceived cultural consequences to becoming a Christian, being in a church, or being baptized. This blurs the lines between being a “good Christian” and being a “good citizen”. Many have wrongly confused love of country for love of God.  Regardless of how good or bad we perceive this country or its leaders to be, in baptism we are in effectively renouncing our citizenship and becoming patriots of a new kingdom, bowing our knees in submission to Jesus as our Lord because he’s our savior.

“Some Chinese non-Christians view baptism, telling their sons and daughters that it’s okay to worship or study the Bible with those Christians, but just don’t get baptized! As non-believers, they recognize that to be baptized is to cross a river of no return. This perception is surprisingly biblical…..baptism is a serious proposition.” Dan Reid

Evangelistic - We’re part of a Kingdom with the purpose and mission to spread the Gospel to the world. We are commissioned by our king as emissaries/ambassadors to go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father…Son…and…Holy Spirit.”  Where communion is for the church, the covenant community of God, who have been gathered to remember Jesus, baptism is a command to go and bring new people into God’s community as disciples of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just tell people they need to be baptized he tells the church to go and baptize people from all nations.

The Greek word here for nations is often translated as Gentiles. Until now the assembly of God’s people had been limited to the nation of Israel. There were Jews, chosen people identified by birth from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that were “in”. All the non-Jewish people were labeled unclean gentiles and were by their birth “out” of God’s family.  By telling his Jewish disciples to go and make disciples of all the gentile people Jesus commands the church not to be exclusive inwardly focused but to maintain an orientation toward bring those lost outside the community into the family under the name of Jesus. From this point on, worship of God transformed from a passive come and see religion (come see our temple, come see our law, our holiness, our ceremonies, our nation/people) to a go and tell movement to establish the kingdom of God in every corner of the world. Where Jesus in Acts 1:8 says, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”  Today we are in Marysville, about as far from Jerusalem as you can get, because God’s people, the church, for 2,000 years has been obedient in actively working to fulfill this commission. Jesus has not returned so the work continues.

It continues with us. If you are a Christian you became one as a result of the church, God’s people, responding to this mission. The same mission that saved us, is now the mission we’re called too. We’re enlisted as individuals, but we serve together as the church.  We go and spread the Gospel of Jesus and his kingdom to the world with confidence knowing he is with us always till the end of the age.”  We are not alone because we serve a risen king, we tell others of the risen king, we plant churches for our king, and we baptize new followers and citizens of his kingdom. There are not massive church planting movements around the world to worship/serve Caesar, Napoleon, or Hitler, because these men and the nations they built are no longer. Nations and leaders rise and fall but Jesus is alive and will return. Until his return he commissions the church not just to make converts to a new religion, or find people who would rather go to heaven than hell when they die, but to make disciples that identify with Jesus through baptism while teaching them to observe all that [he] commanded. To understand baptism we see it woven into conversion, salvation, discipleship as people identify with Jesus, become Christians, and entering his church.

Baptism is for Believers/Disciples

We look in the book of Act as the disciples set out to the work of building church. As disciples preach the Gospel and people respond there are several distinct but very interrelated events or changes that take place as people become Christians.  In Acts the experience of conversion and salvation we see; preaching the Word of God, hearing and receiving the Gospel, repentance, confession of and belief in Christ, forgiveness of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and baptism all tied together.

  • Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Acts 2:41 So those who received his word  (meaning belief in the Gospel Peter preached) were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousands souls. That was a great sermon!
  • Acts 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip.
  • Acts 8:35-36 …Philip…told him the good news about Jesus… “what prevents me from being baptized?” … and he baptized him.
  • Acts 9:17-18 “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
  • Acts 10:47 Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just was we have?” And he (suggested? No he) commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 18:8 …the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
  • Acts 22:16 “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

Preaching and receiving the Gospel, repentance, confession and belief in Christ, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, and baptism are each grafted on to one another so closely they cannot be seen as unique independent and unrelated spiritual activities but as one holistic experience of transformation, conversion, and renewal. We like our spirituality to be like a custom burrito place where we go down the line and tell them each item you do or don’t want wrapped in your burrito “yeah put in some extra forgiveness, I’ll pass on repentance, a little Holy Spirit on the side please. Baptism? That might make a mess while I am driving maybe next time when I can sit down.”

We need to see each event and change as a strand in a tapestry that to remove one would painfully distort, damage, destroy, or minimize the picture of what God reveals in scripture it means for someone to become a disciple of Christ. Becoming a Christian, being a disciple, is not just believing a set of facts about Jesus death, burial and resurrection, or confessing faith in Jesus to be saved from God’s wrath. It absolutely includes belief and profession of faith, but it is so much more. It includes recognizing and grieving our sin, repenting, turning away from our old selves where we see we’re not citizen of the world, we’re slaves to the world and sin. We need to be redeemed from slavery, restored into relationship with the Creator to truly have life.

Baptism is our Funeral and Rebirth

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.                 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:1-8 (p1621-22)

Since our first parents rejected God’s authority in their lives and the world each generation has been infected with a hereditary disease called sin. By birth each of us are defined by this sin nature that relentlessly works us like a slave driver to destroy peace with ourselves, with others and with God. No amount of our striving, good deeds, karma, religious activities, self-seeking pleasure can fix us or make us feel whole. We are not a sinner because we sin, we sin because we’re a sinner, a sinner that needs to die because we are hopeless to fix ourselves. Baptism is our voluntary, public, and joyful funeral.  In baptism we declare our understanding that our body of sin and its power over us is nailed to the Cross with Jesus. It is DEAD! The water of baptism is the grave where our “old self, crucified with Christ” is buried. As we’re buried in Baptism we say, to our selves, the church, the world, and God, “I no longer want to be a slave to sin. I don’t want to be defined by who I am, what I’ve done and what has been done to me by sin. I want to be defined by who Jesus is and what he has done for me on the cross.”  The tomb of our sin and our old self is full and sealed in baptism, but the tomb of Jesus is empty.

We rise out of the water as a new person with a new life, new desires, new hope, new joy. Just as we identify with Jesus in his death on the cross, we identify with him in his resurrection so we can live with a newness of life. Baptism is not magical or mystical, the act alone doesn’t save us, but it is a sign and symbol of our union with Christ. Coming out of the water is like a couple walking up the isle after their marriage ceremony no longer separate individuals but united as one person. We are a new person that is not under sin from our birth but one that is set free by our new birth though faith in Jesus. We can have freedom from sin because God does not see our old selves clothed in sin, but sees us born again clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. If God sees us as a new creation we can live as a new person that’s not defined by sin.

Saint Augustine, who was known as a promiscuous womanizer before becoming a Christian, was walking through town and encountered a prostitute he had previously frequented. He ignored her as she followed him down the street calling to him, “Augustine! Augustine! It is I your lover” to which he replied “yes, but it is no longer I!”

Baptism is our New Identity/Unity 

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28

Christianity is never intended to be lived out alone and separated from Gospel Community. We are not to be independent spiritual free agents.  Sin separates and isolates groups and individuals from each other and God, but the Gospel bring people together to experience the fullness of new life in a new community, the church. Baptism is essential to the life of the church and its work in the world because it takes us as weak broken individuals and initiates us in to a body of disciples united in the person and work of Jesus. Baptism tears down the walls of sin that labels and separates us into narrow groups. Race, religion, rich or poor, inside the res/outside the res, republican/democrat, single/married, urban/rural, young/old, gender, educated/cougars, citizenship, our parents, our anything else we think distinguishes us or identifies us only leads to pride or envy. Both are contrary to the Gospel and have no place in the church. All worldly marks of our identity must be brought under the lordship of Christ or cast aside. Patriotism, party politics, pride, and selfishness are replaced with kingdom values, of grace, humility, love and selflessness. We are united to Christ and each other through baptism. Our view of the world becomes greater than our own self interests or those of our self selected tribe or even our country. Through baptism, as individuals and as the church, we look beyond ourselves to see the needs and the mission of the kingdom. We are compelled to live radically different lives that look nothing like our old selves but are energized by our new life. A new life, powered by the Holy Spirit, with repentance and forgiveness of sin, that drives us to be fearless agents of the great commission with the hopes of bringing others from the death of sin to life in Christ. If we have been transformed by the Gospel, identified with Christ and his kingdom, initiated into his church by baptism then the only choice we have is to join the mission of the great commission.     

Donna’s Story

When I was a Buddhist, I believed that Buddha was my "God" and that he had the ability to take my life. From what I've learned from monks and my mom was that karma is real, and everything you do to others will happen to you. I didn't believe it. It didn't make sense to me. If karma's real, shouldn’t everyone be in the same spot? The monks taught us it was ok to have contact with sprits and go visit psychics. We practiced/believed so many sick things but I thought all of this was good.

I was hanging out with my friend (Jasmine) and she asked me if I worshiped Buddha. I told her I did and about a few months later, she introduced me to her dad (Paul.) He was asking me questions about like, "What do you believe?" and I explained to him. He pulled out many verses from the bible and taught me so much. I learned that God sent Jesus to die on the cross to save us from our sins. I tried to tell myself "It's all a lie" but it didn't work. Then I learned that satan is an accuser. When I left, I wanted to learn more. Later, Paul gave me a bible and started taking me to church. I continued learning about Jesus, reading the Bible, and going to church and my relationship with God grew.

After all the things that I have learned and all the changes that I've been through, Paul asked me if I wanted to get baptized. I said yes because Jesus did and because I wanted to die with Jesus and come back alive with him. I was so excited!

8/23/09 The picnic/baptism day came and I was baptized... and when I came up from out of the water, I was happy, even just watching others getting baptized. I remember this day like a birthday or a wedding day.

When I came home, my mom asked me if I had fun at the picnic. I didn't tell her I was getting baptized because I knew she would've hated me but I told her when I came home because I just didn't care about her thoughts of me being Christian. I didn't want to be ashamed of it. My mom told my grandparents and they were disappointed in me. I felt like crap telling them but yet I was happy. They just had to accept me. It took them a while but it was all worth it.

Everyday, my relationship grew even in times where I felt as if God wasn't there, something cool would happen, like, Jasmine would randomly call me and say something like, "Donna! I just found a really good verse... it says, 'if you feel the absent from God then you need to pray. God won’t leave you.'"
To this day, I'm still faithful, still learning, and going through changes.

I love this story because it is a reminder that the call to make disciples and baptize in the Great Commission is not a dead abstract idea or something for reserved pastors and the hyper spiritual, but is alive, tangible, and active in the life of a teenage girl. For two thousand years God has used the church and baptism to spread His Gospel, from Jerusalem, to Marysville, to the ends of the earth and next door.

I am going to pray to our God that called us by the Gospel in to this sacred assembly.

We’re going to take communion as the church as ongoing reminder of the death of Jesus on our behalf that we were initiated into through baptism. 

We’re going to give our tithes and offerings recognizing our money and resources are not our identity but our identity is in Christ 

We’re going to sing praises to our King Jesus as citizens of his Kingdom and his ambassadors to the world.