Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Saturday, February 8, 2014

BAPTISM IS NOT ABOUT YOU – IT’ S ALL ABOUT JESUS!

Some time ago,  as I was reflecting  upon the Scriptures in preparation for  the baptism of one of our  members, I was struck by this truth:  “Baptism is not  about yourself  - it’s all about Jesus!”
Let me  explain.

For years  I have  now observed that people tend  to approach  the matter  of baptism from   a subjective point of view – from the point of me, and how I feel about  it, and what my church tradition has  to say about it,rather than  submitting to the plain teaching and command of Christ in this matter.  

The imperative  of baptism [1] is trivialized when we  make  baptism  a subjective  matter.  Typical language  which reflects this subjective  mindset  is  reflected by words such as these:  “I feel  that I need  (or need not) be baptized “.  The thought patterns  behind these  feelings  are varied :

  • Someone  feels the  pressure of baptism  in accordance with  the rules of the church or even perhaps  of  the Scriptures themselves. Others feel that they will not be pressured by the rules  of the church or even  by Scripture.
  • Some  feel that their infant baptism  is a true baptism,  irrespective of what Scripture teaches, or what the Lord Jesus has plainly commanded and practiced Himself.
  • Others  who  have been baptized as babies will feel that they will go against their parents  commitment by being baptized again  as adults.
  • Others feel embarrassed  by the thought that they should stand before a church and give testimony. On this basis  a number of people have refused  to be baptized.
  • Some may feel  since   a well known person  in the church has never submitted to  biblical baptism, that this also constitutes  their reason not to be baptized. 
  • Still others   say, “Well, I have seen people  baptized  and a number  of those  I have seen baptized have fallen away  and therefore  I feel  that baptism isn’t that significant  after all.
  • Others may say the same thing in a different way: “I don’t feel that  I should be baptized  – just now I will fall away.“  It goes without saying that baptism should  never  be  considered  lightly. It  should  only be considered  by those that  have truly been born again.
Let me stop here  and point out  that at every point  people engage  in  an inward conversation,   and it is all very feeling centered and in the  end the doctrine of baptism  is all about me.

I challenge you to re-think  your approach  to  the  matter of  baptism, by putting the Lord Jesus  and His Word at the center of your thinking and feeling.

If you are a true Christian  baptism is not about you. It is even less about how you feel about it. It is all about  God and His Son Jesus and  what He has commanded YOU concerning it!

BAPTISM : ESSENTIAL OR NON-ESSENTIAL  TO SALVATION ? 

Before   I   move on   I must settle one more matter. 
Many good Christian people point out that baptism  is not essential to salvation. 
So it is! 
However, just because it is not essential to salvation,  some  have  concluded that it is optional, and therefore it is said  (quietly to yourself)  that you can make up your mind concerning it.    I submit  that this is  not a helpful conclusion at all. 
True, baptism in and of itself  does not save. However,  New  Testament baptism is always connected to salvation. Those that believe are baptized! They are not  saved because they are baptized. They are  baptized  because they are saved!  
So, we cannot  separate salvation from baptism, even though we need to be careful not  to invert  the  order.  The New Testament  pattern is this: Baptism always follows  salvation, and in that sense it is important that we obediently observe the pattern  given us in the Scriptures. 
Let no man separate what God has joined together! Do not let your subjective feelings  or church tradition  deceive you. 
You must do what is right according to  the plain  teaching  of God's  Word. 

FURTHER  FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS                        

I challenge you to stop right here  and to  ask yourself  what you would do with the fact that  Jesus Himself was baptized ? [2]

  • What do you do  with the  fact that  He commanded  all that  would believe  upon Him to be baptized? [3]
  • What do you make of the fact that  the New Testament Church  knows nothing of un-baptized believers?
  • What about the fact that baptism is  so closely connected  to conversion[4]

BAPTISM IS GIVING GLORY TO GOD !

Baptism is not about you  - it’s all about Jesus.  In His  great love  He laid down His life for you, granting you new life in Him! You are baptized, because you are His work of grace.
If per chance you had decided to get converted, then it might be reasonable  to expect that you might also decide  to be baptized  or  not to be baptized. 
But you know better than that!
You certainly weren’t born again by your own decision[5].  God the Father  chose you [6]; Jesus paid the price  of your sin [7]; the Holy Spirit  made you alive  even when you were dead in your sins and transgressions[8] .

Your salvation is all of God and therefore  your baptism  should be   a testimony   to  the glory of God.  Your baptism is not about you. Your baptism is not  simply to provide you with a ‘heavenly insurance policy’  or to  satisfy the tradition or expectations   of the church or  to fulfill requirements for church membership. Your  baptism is all about Jesus!

FOUR WAYS  IN WHICH YOU WILL GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BAPTISM 

   1.  You will glorify  God through your obedience. Whenever you obey what He commands, you give glory to God. So when He says,  “Repent… be baptized”, then you not only obey His Word, but you obey Him. It is not just  something that you feel strongly about (you may actually not feel it!)  but   it  is a principled, outward demonstration of obedience. This brings glory to God.

   2.   You will glorify  God  through   proclaiming His forgiveness. When you are baptized, you say to the world,  “God has  dealt with my sin.  I am forgiven. I did not forgive myself. God forgave me! All glory to God !  It’s all about God.

3.  You will glorify God  through  manifesting the new life which you have received! When you become a Christian, you inherit   new life  and  a new citizenship. You  have become a new creation[9]. To this you testify in your baptism.  Could there be a  better  outward testimony  of such an inward spiritual change?  The new believer goes down into the water, and rises out of the water, illustrating that the old things are dead and buried.  Rising out of the water  the new believer says “…everything has become new“.  Through  believers baptism you praise God for  your new life  and the people who witness your baptism see that  and  they praise God  for what they see. Outsiders  see that and  they are helped  to understand  the meaning of true conversion  in a powerful way. Glory is brought  to God   in every way. Ask yourself,  How  could  infant baptism possibly  illustrate this  powerful,  symbolic  burial and resurrection with Christ?   

4.  You will glorify God by identifying with  Christ and  the body of Christ! Baptism  not only means identification with Christ and with that which Christ has done for us  in His death, burial and resurrection.  In baptism  you  are also baptized into that which Jesus loves most, namely  His body,  the church.   By one Spirit we are baptized into one body [10].  We consciously follow the Lamb in the fellowship of  His church – our baptized brothers and sisters. It’s all about Him  and not about ourselves !

Therefore, let us never forget  that baptism  was commanded  by Christ, and it is  an ordinance  for all His  New Testament  people.  So if  you consider yourself a true believer  then you  would want to obey Him.  
It’s not about you. It is all about Jesus !





[1] Matthew 28:18-20
[2] Matthew  3:13-17
[3] Matthew  28:18-20
[4] Acts  2:38-41
[5] John  1:12,13
[6] Ephesians 1:4
[7] Ephesians 1:7
[8] Ephesians 2:5  cf.  John 3:1-8
[9]  2 Corinthians 5:7
[10]  1 Corinthians  12:13

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