Identifying A New Testament Assembly
Compiled by Lonnie Ford for the Nepali Brethren
Chapter: VIII. THE COMMISSION OF CHRIST TO HIS ASSEMBLIES
- INTRODUCTION: It is most important that one consider to whom these words were addressed, the occasion on which they were spoken, and the far reaching implications involved.
- They were spoken to the ELEVEN (Judas having already hanged himself), following Jesus' resurrection and just prior to His ascension.
- Since the apostles are not alive on the earth today; and since there is no biblical provision for a succession of apostles, it is evident that Jesus spoke to them in a representative capacity.
- They had been a part of the "remnant" of the old order; now they had been constituted a NEW covenant community, through which God would continue working His purpose out in this age.
- Thus, Jesus addressed them as representatives of the new order -- HIS ASSEMBLY (CHURCH).
- THE PURPOSE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ASSEMBLY IN GOD'S ORDER. ITS PURPOSE AS SET FORTH IN THE GREAT COMMISSION.
- The purposed ministry of Christ's assembly is basically spiritual.
- Christ's "order" for His assembly is set forth in the Great Commission, confirmed and clarified in the epistles, illustrated by the ACTS of the Holy Spirit's administration in the affairs of the early New Testament assemblies.
She is to be a WITNESSING institution -- (Acts 1:8).
- God has clearly chosen to work through the assembly as His agent -- community during this present age.
- She is the depository and preserver of "the truth" -- not merely "to have and to hold;" but to "hold forth" -- the "Word of life" to others, (Acts 1:1-10 (esp. verse 8); Acts 2:4-12; 1 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 5:13-16; Phil. 2:12-16; Eph. 2:10).
- This work of the Lord's assembly is also to bring believers to the stature of SOLDIERS of the cross, and to direct them in the warfare by which we invade satan's territory with the Gospel.
We must be set for the defense of the Gospel.
- Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, (2 Tim. 2:3).
- No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier, (2 Tim. 2:4).
Its message is to be the "Gospel of the Kingdom."
- "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace," (Phil. 1:7).
- "But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel," (Phil. 1:17).
- "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints," (Jude 3).
- The words "earnestly contend" means to struggle earnestly. Here we are struggling earnestly for "the faith" once delivered (to whom) the saints.
- Delivered, not to all those who have believed in Jesus, but to those set apart, sanctified vessels for the masters use.
e. This witnessing should be regarded as serious business.
- And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come, (Matt. 24:14).
1) It is in Christ's name that we go forth, (Matt. 28:18; Luke 10:16-17).
God's way of witnessing is one of a "sweet savour," and of making men "sufficient ministers of the New Covenant" as they by faith behold His Glory, thus are "changed from Glory to Glory," (2 Cor. 2:15-17; 3:1-6; 15-16).
God's way of us witnessing is that of the shining of the light of the Glory of Jesus in our mortal flesh, (2 Cor. 4:1-11).
The requirement of stewardship is not success, but faithfulness, (1 Cor. 4:2).
And our 'joy' must ever be "in the Lord," rather than in 'apparent success.'
It is our privilege to invite and urge others to come to Jesus.
2) It is His message that we proclaim, (Phil. 1:12; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; 2 Cor. 4:1-5).
3) It is His power that will accomplish His purpose through yielded lives and faithful testimonies, (Phil. 2:12-13; Col. 1:25-29).
4) It is God Himself who opens doors of opportunity for witness, (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3).
5) If we are willing He will point the way.
We must learn to sow the precious seed and then patiently await the harvest; God Himself must give the increase, (1 Cor. 3:4-11; Jas. 5:7-8; 2 Cor. 2:14-16).
The Lord's Assembly is a SAVING INSTITUTION.
- However, we are never authorized to PRESSURE them into "making a decision."
- The conviction of Holy Spirit through the Word of God will not simply warn men to escape hell; it will also call them according to God's "order" to a relationship as members of God's house, (1 Cor. 1:9, Col. 3:15; Luke 14:15-24 esp. 23; Acts 2:37-47).
TO BOTH DEFINE AND EFFECT HIS PURPOSE IN THE ASSEMBLY, OUR LORD HAS GIVEN HER A SPECIFIC THREE POINT PROGRAM FROM WHICH SHE DARE NOT DEVIATE, (Matt. 28:18-20).
IN ADOPTING GODS OWN PROGRAM FOR THE ASSEMBLY, WE WILL HAVE A PLAN THAT IS NEVER OUTDATED; IT WILL CONSTANTLY BE RELATED TO AND COMPATIBLE WITH THE NEEDS OF EVERY GENERATION AND NATION
- Not that the assembly in and of itself is able to literally save anyone.
- However, the Lord's assembly, like as the Ark is the designated vessel of God, is designed to bring faithful body members to maturity and to the glory of God.
- Through fidelity to her as living members, she is the only way to a saving relationship with God, (Eph. 4:1-16; Col. 1:12-29).
1) First this is true in that the assembly was commissioned to Make Disciples of all nations, which includes telling them the Good News; so that they might believe in the one and only Savior, (Romans 10:8-17; 1:14-17).
2) Secondly, the assemblies' ministry assists her own members in SAVING THEIR LIVES, (Matt. 16:24-27, James 1:18-27, 1 Peter 1:1-9, Heb. 10:39; 1 Cor. 15:1-3).
- Our lives are "saved" for the coming age ONLY as we are engaged in the work Christ has commanded -- that of making Disciples, bringing them into covenant fellowship by Baptism, and teaching them to observe all things.
- And this can be realized ONLY in connection with the mission of the assembly; it is THROUGH THE ASSEMBLY that He purposes to accomplish His work.
- Only the Assembly, not individuals apart from the assembly have been given the commission to Go into all the World and make disciples.
- If we fail to be participating members, we will cease to GROW in the grace, knowledge and likeness of our dear Lord, (Eph. 4:11-16; Acts 2:42; Hosea 6:3).
- PHASE ONE: "MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS."
- A distinction must be drawn between the two words translated "teach" in the King James version.
The Verb form of this first word means 'to be following.'
- The first found in verse 19 is the Greek "matheteuo," meaning 'to disciple;' the second found in verse 20, is "didasko," meaning 'to instruct.'
Now, this matter of making disciples is listed first in the sequence of responsibility given to every New Testament assembly.
- On the positive side, a DISCIPLE is one who follows, so as to learn.
- On the negative side, this word indicates that there is no evidence of resistance.
1) This is a command for us to take the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom to unbelievers.
This will involve a spiritual "offensive" into enemy territory infiltrating, invading, inviting & recruiting for God's army, men from every nation.
The Apostolic Assemblies took this COMMAND seriously.
2) Then those who trust Jesus as Savior are to be cultivated into DISCIPLES.
3) Then they are baptized, and taught "all things."
1) They understood their MISSION.
Most of our Baptist Assemblies are not experiencing growth.
2) They had a clear sense of purpose, and went about proclaiming the good news of the Gospel of the coming Kingdom.
3) As they went forth they moved in ever widening circles -- "in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth," (Acts 1:8).
4) They had no 'successful experiences' from other generations to copy, but they did have the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Perhaps this was one of the reasons the early assemblies experienced such unparalleled growth.
The Early Assemblies in book of Acts serve as our models.
- Could it be that we are not fulfilling our first covenant responsibility?
- Could it be that we have not availed ourselves to the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses?
So to MAKE DISCIPLES is at the heart of the Great Commission, (Matt. 28:19-20).
However, before we begin to cultivate a DISCIPLE we should know what is a 'DISCIPLE.'
- It wasn't by accident that they became WITNESSING MISSIONARY ASSEMBLES.
- These early Assemblies waited for the Spirit's power to turn them into empowered witnesses.
- Then they took seriously the Commission, and relying on the empowering of the Spirit, crossed all barriers in order to tell the "Good News" to everyone.
However, many of those who come down the aisle to join our Assemblies, simply because they made a 'profession of faith,' have no idea what makes up a DISCIPLE OF JESUS.
- We have already learned from the definition of the word, that a disciple is to be a learner, a follower of the teacher.
- And it is Disciples that we are commanded to baptize.
SO WHAT IS INVOLVED IN BEING AN AUTHENTIC DISCIPLE OF JESUS?
- Even many of those who profess to be His DISCIPLES are not genuine, (John 6:60, 64-66).
1) First, we know that no one has been a "disciple" to Jesus until they have received Jesus; by faith, as their personal Savior.
So, clearly, no one is a true disciple of Jesus who is unwilling, by an honest and sincere "profession of faith" in Jesus, as Savior, to be identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrected life by Baptism.
OK those are the basics, but what else do the scriptures tell us about what is involved in being a disciple of Jesus.
2) Second, there will be manifest, a joyful desire to submit under the yoke of Christ in a servant-master, student-teacher relationship.
3) Third, they will cease their rebellion, halt their revolt and submit themselves in loving fellowship with Jesus Christ.
1) Luke 14:33 -- A DISCIPLE will love his Lord, demonstrating that love by his willingness to 'forsake all that he has' to FOLLOW JESUS.
Luke 14:27 -- A DISCIPLE must demonstrate that disposition of heart, where he is ready to 'renounce his own life' to follow Jesus, (Cp. Rev. 12:11).
2) Luke 14:26 -- A DISCIPLE must demonstrate a love for the Lord so great -- they are willing to forsake all influences that would lead them from their Lord and Master.
- Obedience is the essence of discipleship, (Luke 6:46).
- Matt. 10:34-40, 37 -- To love the family MORE than Jesus is to be unworthy to be called 'His DISCIPLE.'
- The point is this, when a choice is to be made, a TRUE DISCIPLE demonstrates a disposition of heart, that clearly indicates NOTHING can or will hinder him - from choosing to 'follow and obey Jesus,' (Matt. 12:48-50).
EVERY MEMBER of a New Testament Assembly shares a responsible part in the work of "making disciples."
THERE ARE AT LEAST FOUR THINGS INVOLVED IN THIS WORK.
- This is very important, because discipleship includes daily self-denial and commitment to Jesus as Lord, (Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23).
- Suffering is the lot of DISCIPLES, and without the right disposition, he will misunderstand falling away when persecution arises.
1) Disciples share the Master's life and work (Matt. 10:24-25), to be SELF-GIVING and SACRIFICIAL.
2) Disciples are to be "not of this world" (John 17:14-17; Col. 3:2), yet lovingly attentive to its hurts and needs as did their master.
1) WITNESSING: this involves the work of declaring the "good news", (1 Cor. 15:1-3; Matt. 24:14); calling men to "repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as LORD," (Acts 20:21).
PHASE TWO: "baptizing them (disciples) in the name of the Father, Son, and of the Holy Ghost," (Matt. 28).
SINCE THIS IS A VITAL PART OF THE MINISTRY COMMITTED TO THE ASSEMBLY BY HER RISEN LORD, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE SEEK ANSWERS TO SEVERAL QUESTIONS CONCERNING IT
2) GIVING: a faithful stewardship over our assets, recognizing that it is by God's grace that we have been blessed with material possessions, and that He holds each of us responsible for the use we make of them.
3) PRAYING: for laborers: for divine blessings on those who go; and for divine guidance, wisdom and strength as we go, (Matt. 9:37-38).
4) PERSUADING: especially as we rehearse what great things God has done for us "whereof we are glad," (Psalm 126:3).
- What does baptism mean?
- Where did it originate?
- What does it symbolize and what is its significance?
- Is Baptism really important?
- Who should be baptized?
- Who possesses the authority to administer it?
- And, what sort of blessings are associated with it in the teachings of the New Testament?
- ITS MEANING.
1) To one who knows anything of the language in which the New Testament was written, there can be no doubt that "baptize" (Greek "baptizo" ) means "to submerge, or immerse."
2) However, there is a significant difference in the two.
- This Greek word "baptizo" is a derivative of the Greek word "bapto" which means to dip.
- In the day and country where Jesus walked and lived, both of these words always meant to dip or to immerse.
- There was never a statement made in any writing of the time, that would indicate that anyone thought it meant otherwise.
3) This word 'Baptizo,' when used in the New Testament, refers to our union and identification with Christ that affects a permanent change in us.
- This difference is illustrated for us by usage of both words by a Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived 200 B.C. -- He gave a recipe for making pickles and used both of these words.
- Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water, and then 'baptized' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution.
- In this statement both words are used and both are verbs having to do with the immersion of the vegetables in a solution.
- But the first 'bapto' spoke of a temporary, momentary dipping.
- The second, 'baptizo' spoke of the act of baptizing the vegetable in the solution so as to produce a permanent change.
- First, this is true in that our baptism is an evidence of repentance and faith that is the present experience of the one being baptized.
Second, in Baptism we publicly acknowledge our death to sin, our death to the flesh and our union with God in Christ.
Third, this baptism therefore brings the believing one into a position 'In Christ' that makes possible a permanent change.
- So, Baptism is called the baptism of repentance, in that it speaks of a life of repentance and faith.
- Luke 3:3 -- "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."
- Acts 19:4 -- "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."
- So, Baptism pictures a change of heart that results in a turning from the old, to walk in newness of life.
- It brings one into a relationship where in they can walk in fellowship with Jesus as a way of life.
4) It is interesting to note that the King James translators, never give the real meaning of the Greek word "baptizo,"
when it was used of the "ordinance"
commanded by Jesus.
- In fact, rather than translate the word, they transliterated it.
- By that we mean that English characters were given to the Greek word 'baptizo,' forming the English word 'baptize.'
- In this way, the true meaning of the word has been veiled to many.
- However, when this same Greek word was used in settings that did not refer to the ordinance commanded by Jesus, then the translators always rendered it by the word "dip," (Luke l6:24; John 13:26; Rev. 19:13).
- In every case, the word always meant to submerge, immerse or dip.
5) The fact that Jesus' baptism was by immersion in water, picturing the burial of the dead is also proof that the word Baptism means 'immersion,'
- At that time, John the Baptist was baptizing converts in the Jordan River, while hundreds were flocking from Jerusalem, Judea, and all the region round about to be baptized by him.
- In Matt. 3:13-17 -- "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
6) There are a number of most vital and interesting facts brought out in this record of Jesus' baptism.
- First, He was baptized in Jordan.
Second, when He had been baptized, He "went up straightway out of the water."
- He journeyed all the way from Jerusalem to Jordan, to find a proper place for baptism where there was much water, and where the one administering baptism had authority from heaven.
Last, as God the Father in heaven looked upon the scene, He approved of what was done, and spoke directly from His throne to those who stood by, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
- This clearly indicates that the method of administering this ordinance to Jesus was by immersion, since He had gone into the water to be baptized.
, who is the example in all things
, passed through the waters of baptism and was immersed, thereby illustrating His death, burial, and resurrection, which were soon to be experienced for man's deliverance from the power of sin.
8) In Acts 8:38-39
, we find that this same form of baptism was also administered by Philip the evangelist when, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, he led the Ethiopian eunuch to an acceptance of Jesus.
- After being convinced of the eunuch's sincerity and faith, "he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
9) John the Baptist recognized that in order to administer this sacred ordinance properly it was essential to have much water.
- Usually he baptized in the Jordan, though at times he shifted the scene of his activities to other localities; but in doing so he chose places suitable for baptismal services.
- In John 3:23, it is recorded of him -- "and John also was baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized."
10) Sprinkling or pouring for baptism does not take much water.
ITS NEW TESTAMENT ORIGIN.
- These methods of baptism were not introduced for hundreds of years after Jesus and the Apostles had died.
- Therefore, these forms have no basis either in scriptural teaching, or in the example of the Lord's followers.
1) In reality, baptism's origin was from heaven; and commanded by God Himself, (John 1:29-34).
WHAT BAPTISM SYMBOLIZES, AND IT'S SIGNIFICANCE.
2) Because of the work he was commissioned to do he was called "the Baptist" or baptizer.
- It was first administered by John the Baptist.
- The name of the "man sent from God" was JOHN, (John 1:6, Malachi 3:1).
3) The baptism that John administered had heavens authority, and the approval of all the divine trinity behind it, (Matt. 3:13-17).
4) By that we mean that John alone had the authority of God, to Baptize, therefore Johns baptism is the only authorized baptism.
5) This matter of having authority is of great significance.
- Being the only authorized baptism of God, it is the only baptism acceptable to God.
- For that reason, we must be sure that the baptism that we have is John's baptism, administered by proper authority.
6) So, we must each deal with this matter of authority, and be assured that the baptism we have received is John's Baptism, as authorized by God, and that it was administered by those given the authority to baptize.
- It is an issue that Jesus dealt with in His very first sermon, (Matt. 7:21-23).
- When the Lord said, many will come saying Lord Lord and saying we have done this in your name, they were asserting that they had the Lord's authority.
- That is what doing it in the Name of Jesus means.
- It is your signature on the check that gives the bank the authority to cash it.
- So, these people were claiming to be about these works in the name of Jesus, but He said, I never knew you, that is to say, you had no such authority for what you did.
- Without authority their works were unacceptable.
- By the BELIEVERS' BAPTISM, the candidate enters into the passion experience of our Lord.
- Paul said in Romans 6:3-5, "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 intimacy of the believer's relationship with Jesus is revealed through expressions like "baptized into Christ Jesus," "baptized into His death," and "buried with Him through baptism."
- Therefore, in baptism the believer symbolically enters into the death experience of Jesus, and in a real sense that death becomes his death; and he symbolically enters into His resurrection, and that resurrection becomes his resurrection experience.
- In Romans 6:3, Paul is asking, don't you understand, or aren't you aware of the fact.
- Paul wanted to know if they were aware of the fact, that those properly baptized were baptized into the death of Christ.
The purpose of dying is so that we are dead to sin.
- Observe the phrase "so many" or "as many."
- Paul limited this death with Christ to those who were properly baptized into Christ's death.
- That phrase excludes all others in this age.
Now, in many circles an argument will start over what kind of Baptism is referred to here.
- Paul wants them to know that only such as have been baptized into His death, are therefore 'dead to sin,' (verse 2, 10-11).
- That means that all who are not baptized with heaven authorized baptism, are not dead to sin, they are still living in Adam in sin.
- We did not say they are not saved from Hell, but the scripture says that one must be baptized to be dead to sin.
- In Adam all are dead in Sin, only those baptized are now accounted as dead to sin.
Let's state the facts as they are given in the New Testament.
- Protestants have invented a new type of baptism called 'dry baptism' which is supposed to occur the 'instant you are saved.'
- At that point they say, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit and washed of all your sins, like being 'dry cleaned.'
- The only problem with this is that it is make-believe, with no scriptural support.
- First, Immersion in Water is the Kind of baptism that God authorized John to carry out.
- Second, Immersion in Water is the kind of baptism that the Lord experienced at the hand of John.
- Third, our Lord's immersion in water identified Him with His future death, burial and resurrection.
- And fourth, there is only one kind of baptism that the church is authorized to administer, and that is by immersion.
By the Word, Baptized, Paul in this text is speaking of an identification with Christ in His death Burial and Resurrection.
- Jesus, by submitting to John's baptism, along with the witness of the Spirit and the approval of the Father, all give sanction to the fact that John's baptism is the only God authorized Baptism.
Baptism accurately describes identification.
- Paul's argument is that this act of Baptism, ties believers together symbolically in union with the death of Christ.
- This does not take away from what happened in the first act of faith, when they cried out in repentance and faith, thus saved from Hell.
- Baptism is the next step of faith for that believing one.
- Now that they are saved, they should desire to give themselves over to the Lord.
Why did God use Baptism to picture this identification with Him?
- Consider the statement again in verse 3, that "so many of you as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death."
- Isn't that exactly what Immersion in Water pictures?
- It pictures a death, burial and resurrection.
- In this case it pictures our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
- In fact, it was through His own water Baptism that Jesus expressed His coming death, burial and resurrection.
1) First, Baptism pictures our repentance and our desire to commit ourselves fully to the Lord as our master.
2) Secondly, the act of Baptism is much like a Wedding ceremony.
- The very act of baptism pictures our turning from the old man and submitting ourselves to Christ.
3) Baptism is a vehicle or means by which we publicly choose Jesus, above all others, and commit ourselves to Him.
- A wedding is a legal binding contract of union and identification.
- Through a wedding, two are joined in marriage.
- This joining, moved them from one place, position or status to another.
- Prior to marriage they were unmarried singles, now that they are joined, they are bound together by mutual love, by law and by God.
- God says, what He has joined together, let no man put asunder.
- In Marriage, even their legal status changes by law.
- Baptism is like a wedding in another way.
- Before the wedding we had already established a relationship with the one we were to marry.
- In fact, we were already in love in one degree of the word.
- However, we had not entered into the Covenant of marriage until that formal day.
- That day marked a change in our relationship.
- We moved from one position or status to another.
- So that after the wedding we were living in the sphere of marriage, bound to the one that we gave ourselves too.
- The same is true in Baptism.
- Baptism does not begin the relationship.
- However, Baptism makes a change in the relationship.
- In Baptism one exercises their liberty to choose who will be there master.
- Before Baptism they were servants of Sin.
- But Christ died to set us free from that master.
- Now we can through identification with him live for another.
- So in Baptism - the flesh dies with Christ, is buried with Christ, and we covenant in rising from that watery grave to live for the Lord.
- Also God designed baptism to solidify publicly and to celebrate our relationship to Him.
4) Baptism is also a symbol of making a total commitment.
- Baptism signifies belief in the work of God.
- Baptism is significant in that it witnesses the finished work of Christ.
- Baptism, properly understood in the N. T. order, is a pictorial witness, pointing back to the finished work of Christ, and looking forward to our ultimate entrance into its blessings, (Romans 6:1-6).
- Baptism, recalls His death for our sins picturing His burial and His resurrection.
- In this way, baptism preaches the gospel.
- When baptism is practiced according to the order of the New Testament, it continually holds the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ before that generation.
- So, when one submits to baptism they are saying that they believe, (Col. 2:11-13).
- Baptism signifies that they believe that Jesus died for the sins of humanity.
- Their baptism signifies they believe that there is saving power in their union with Christ.
- It signifies they believe that Jesus was resurrected unto glory, by the power of God.
- It signifies they have great expectation, that those buried in the likeness of His death, shall also experience that quality of life which Christ experienced in the resurrection.
- The Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 1:3 -- "Blessed (be) the God and Father of our Lord Christ Jesus, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead."
- Their belief in the resurrection, symbolized in Baptism also signifies that they have hope in Christ.
- So, Baptism in many ways shows the believing ones faith in God.
- Baptism is a symbol of a living faith in a living Lord.
- In Luke 7:29-30, we see that by obedience in baptism, the believing one is (justifying) that is, they are declaring God right in all His ways.
- So, in Baptism, the believing one surrenders his life in faithful obedience to the written Word of God.
- Therefore, belief is a prerequisite for water baptism.
- This was true in the days of the Apostles.
- Acts 8:12 -- "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Christ Jesus, they were baptized, both men and women."
- It is also true today; for in Mark 16:16 Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (or condemned)."
- This is what the Apostles preached.
- This is the instruction that they gave when they admonished prospective converts to believe and be baptized.
- In Acts 18:4, 8; After Paul had "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath" in Corinth, "many . . . hearing, believed and were baptized."
- So, Baptism symbolizes believing, and believing is a prerequisite to baptism!
a) Commitment is very important to any covenant.
b) For instance, the covenant bond of marriage is about a loving commitment to one another.
- We must take commitment seriously or else we invalidate our baptism and church membership.
- If one is unwilling to make a commitment, then they will easily void the terms of the covenant.
- Can you imagine someone going to enter into a covenant with the bank for a car loan, and the loan officer asks them
if they are willing to make the payments, and they will not commit to it.
- Do you think the bank would give them the loan?
- You see how important commitment is to a covenant?
c) At baptism an individual agrees to change every aspect of life, so that even his person (personality) is transformed into the likeness of Christ, as people of His Kingdom.
- The covenant bond is only as good as the commitment that we make.
- The vows that we take will mean nothing if we do not intend to keep them.
- In the same way baptism signifies a total commitment to the Lord Jesus.
- It is a commitment to leave the old ways behind and to walk in a different way of life.
- It is a commitment to leave our citizenship to this World behind, and to walk according to our oath as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
d) In passages like Luke 14:28-29, we find our Lord speaking out on this matter of commitment, and emphasizing the importance of counting the cost before becoming a disciple.
e) Baptism then symbolizes the cost of commitment.
- Luke 14:28-29 -- "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him."
- Jesus is speaking of a man being willing to commit what it takes to complete the task.
- In our case with the Lord as His disciples, the Lord provides the resources.
- The resources are adequate because they are His and He freely gives them by His grace.
- But He asks that we commit ourselves to Him.
- Such a commitment He tells us may cost us house, lands, mothers, father, husband, wife, and children.
- He said that if we do not love Him more than these, we cannot be His disciples.
- There is a cost to commitment.
5) It symbolizes our death to old alliances that would keep us from a full commitment to the Lord.
6) Baptism also symbolizes Repentance.
- Commitment is essential to this change and the spiritual development that it brings.
- Without it, a believer will not be able to stay faithful.
- Without faithfulness, they will fall away and be disinherited.
- In numerous places the Bible mentions that only overcomers will be heirs of God's Kingdom.
- The verses in the Revelation given to John were addressed to churches of the Lord Christ Jesus, who needed to overcome specific problems, (Rev. 2:26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7).
- It is no different today.
- That is why Jesus said, (Luke 9:62) -- "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God."
- This is what happened to many of God's People who left Egypt.
- The Lord brought them out of Egypt, by a mighty hand through the Red Sea Baptism that destroyed their former master, and separated them from Egypt.
- Yet, for many of them Egypt was still in their heart, as they looked back and longed for the things of Egypt.
- This is also what happened to Sister Lot, Lot's wife, when God Delivered them from Sodom, she longed for the stuff in the house and looked back.
- Jesus said if we want to be his Disciple we must put our hand to the plow and not look back.
- So, Baptism symbolizes making a total commitment.
- We must take our commitment seriously, if we are to overcome and share with the Lord in Glory.
7) Baptism symbolizes a cleansing and Reconciliation.
- Baptism symbolizes repentance from a past life and its ways.
- Repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart that is manifest in a change of direction.
- In Acts 2, we have recorded a message that Peter preached on the annual festival of Pentecost just weeks after Jesus' crucifixion.
- He was speaking to a large crowd gathered at the Temple.
- In that message, He spoke about his people's guilt in the crucifixion of Christ.
- Devout Jews from every nation of the Roman world were there, and hearing Peter, the scriptures says they were "cut to the heart."
- Being convicted they asked Peter what they should do.
- In verse 38, Peter answered admonishing them -- "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Christ Jesus for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- Thus Peter instructed them to mark their repentance by being baptized.
- The believer in being Baptized testifies that they have renounced their former lifestyle.
- They are "dead to sin" and confirm by baptism the crucifixion of the old life.
- It means giving up the self.
- Paul wrote in Romans 6:3 -- "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"
- So baptism, speaks of the death of our self and all that self represents.
- However, it is not only a death but also a burial.
- Paul goes on in that text to show that immersion in water, is also a kind of symbolic burial of the past way of thinking and acting -- "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death," (Romans 6:4).
- So Baptism symbolizes repentance, it symbolizes a death and burial of the past way of life, and a resurrection to walk in the new life of Christ.
8) Baptism symbolizes our need of God's provision and empowering.
- Baptism signifies a cleansing by the sacrificial work of Christ Jesus, and consequent reconciliation to God.
- God will not accept sin, nor will he compromise with it.
- When we understand the holiness of God, then we should understand that sin violates the very person and nature of God.
- So, Sin separates us from fellowship with God.
- The prophet Isaiah testified to Israel saying -- "Your iniquities have separated (caused a separation) between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear," (Isaiah 59:2).
- In that we do sin, we must deal with sin if we are to maintain fellowship with our Holy God.
- Baptism is a symbol of cleansing the sinner through the blood of Christ and forgiving his sins.
- In Acts 22:16 Paul explained, "Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins."
- In Heb. 10, we learn that this cleansing from sins, was a covenant promise, to a covenant people that would identify with Jesus the covenant Son.
- In Heb. 10:12-17, we find a quote from the old Testament speaking of the New Covenant made with Israel -- "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, 'This is the Covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more," (Jer. 31:33-34).
- God promised Israel a New Covenant, in which the One sacrifice for sins made by Jesus, would be adequate for the sins of all those in Covenant.
- In this covenant, God would not remember any more their sins and iniquities.
- This is the Covenant cleansing of sins that reconciles us to God, making a Covenant relationship with the Creator possible.
- The words by John the beloved in 1 John 1 are based on this covenant promise and this covenant blood.
- "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 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 cleanses us from all sin," (1 John 1:6-7).
- The cleansing symbolized in Baptism is a continual cleansing that is available to all that are walking in the light.
a) When a person is baptized, he or she is saying, in essence, "I cannot do it alone, Lord, I need your help."
9) Baptism also symbolizes submission to God.
b) So God has made provision for that need, through the empowering that comes from the Holy Spirit.
- God sees this attitude and willingly gives us all the help we need.
- In Romans 8:7, Paul explains that "the carnal mind (a believer who is still 'walking in the flesh') is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be."
- We cannot serve God and the devil at the same time.
- The prophet Amos asked in (Amos 3:3), "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
c) Baptism in water is a symbol of being united in the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- After we believe, have repented and are baptized, He gives us His Holy Spirit as is promised Acts 2:38 -- "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Christ Jesus for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- In Acts 5:32; the Holy Sprits indwelling is promised exclusively to those who "obey Him," Acts 5:32 -- "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him."
d) In Acts 1:5 we read -- "For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
e) In water Baptism we are united to the body that was baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- These words were spoken to the disciples, who had been commanded to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high.
- In the Gospel of John chapter 1, John bare record concerning the Spirit descending upon Jesus at His baptism and He said in verse 33 -- "And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."
- Two things to note, first this verse teaches that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus after His water Baptism.
- Secondly, John understood that the one who would baptize with Spirit was Jesus.
- This was the promise of the Father that occurred two thousand years ago on the memorable day of Pentecost.
- That day Jesus immersed those assembled in obedience to His command with the Holy Spirit.
- Today in Baptism, we become part of the body of Christ, which is the habitation (the dwelling place of God) through the Spirit.
- So, our water baptism symbolizes our union in the baptism of the Spirit.
a) Dealing with the past is only part of a believer's responsibility.
b) In this age, a relationship with God is made possible in one of His local visible assemblies here on earth.
- At baptism each believer must begin living a life of submission to God, (cf. James 4:7).
- Baptism symbolizes willingness to submit to God.
c) But baptism doesn't just symbolize willingness to submit to God, it also requires willingness to walk in His paths, according to His word.
- He built the assemblies as His dwelling place with men and women of faith.
- It is in these assemblies that his will is presently being experienced by faithful saints.
- ITS SIGNIFICANCE.
- First, Baptism is significant in that it witnesses the finished work of Christ.
Second, baptism is significant in that testifies of a change of ownership and change of allegiance on the part of the baptized one.
- Baptism properly understood in the N. T. order, is a pictorial witness pointing back to the finished work of Christ, and looking forward to our ultimate entrance into its blessings, (Romans 6:1-6).
- It recalls His death for our sins picturing His burial and His resurrection.
- In this way, baptism preaches the gospel.
- When baptism is practiced according to the order of the New Testament, it continually holds the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ before that generation.
1) Baptism symbolizes our death to the past, where in we renounce and repudiate our old life of slavish devotion to sin, and alienation from righteousness.
Third, baptism is significant in that it signifies our entrance into the New Covenant.
2) Thus baptism serves not only as a testimony that the individual has renounced his old life of sin, but it also testifies that the baptized one is now the personal property of His Redeemer.
- In Baptism, we are 'baptized into His death,' then we are 'buried with Him' then raised with Him, in view of sharing in the 'likeness of His resurrection,' (Romans 6:1-6).
- Herein we submit ourselves under Christ's authority as High Priest of the New Covenant, and as Head of His assembly, (Eph. 5:23-24, Heb. 10:19-25).
3) The believing ones allegiances have been changed.
- In this act we publicly proclaim our faith in Him and transfer the title deed of our lives INTO HIS NAME, (1 Cor. 6:17-20; 7:23).
- This is to the end that we may, henceforth, be His ALONE, to love, honor, cherish, worship and serve HIM ONLY as we walk in the way of His appointment, (Romans 7:4; 2 Cor. 5:14-15).
4) In Baptism, he or she MAKES a public profession of this change in allegiance.
- He or she is no longer under the power of Darkness, (Romans 6:6; 17-18, 22).
- But has been translated into the kingdom that is under the rule of His dear son, (Col. 1:12-23).
1) Jesus' death ratified the New Covenant, (Matt. 26:28, Heb. chapters 8, 9 & 10).
Fourth, Baptism also signifies entrance into the Lords army.
2) The New Covenant requires that all that wish to be a part of God's covenant Israel today, must have an 'inward faith' and not merely an 'outward ceremony.'
- Now, all people, Jew and Gentile can enter this Covenant through 'water baptism,' which is the sign of the Covenant.
3) In Ga. 5:6 Paul stated that -- "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcsion avail anything, but faith working through love."
4) Baptism is a spiritual circumcision.
- What matters is "circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit," (Romans 2:28-29).
- Some use this to teach that we do not need baptism, for they say all that matters is that the heart is circumcised. However, a circumcised heart would not disobey the Lord's direct command to be baptized.
5) It is in Water Baptism, that Jesus has chosen to perform this spiritual circumcision of removing the 'body of flesh.'
- Paul sets this forth in 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."
6) Therefore, by submitting to scriptural water baptism, the believing one formally and officially enters into the New Covenant, and accepts the terms of this contract relationship with God.
- At this time the one baptized also 'puts on Christ' and enters into the realities of the Covenant relationship with Jesus.
- As a result the faithful are in line to receive the fulfillment of the Covenant promises.
- In Gal. 3:27-29 Paul states, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, and heirs according to promise."
7) By receiving John's baptism, the disciple is doing the equivalent of signing his name, or affixing his seal to the covenant that God is offering.
- At this point he enters into a binding covenant relationship with God,in which he becomes a sharer of and co-worker within the counsel of God.
- The New Covenant is a grace covenant.
- It is a "by grace through faith" covenant.
- It is a covenant which provides the Holy Spirit, by whom the disciple can render "by grace through faith" obedience to God.
Baptism also expresses our HOPE of being raised in our Lord's glorious likeness at His second coming, conformed to His image to share His very nature and authority in the Kingdom of Righteousness, (Romans 6:4-5).
- Baptism is the means of INDUCTION INTO THE SPIRITUAL ARMY OF JESUS, the company of the sanctified, (2 Tim. 2:3-5).
- It pledges allegiance and loyal service to Him as Lord.
- In baptism we put on Christ like putting on a uniform -- "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," (Gal. 3:27).
- Having put on Christ, we are instructed to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, putting on the whole armor of God, (Eph. 6:10-18).
- Jesus' own baptism forever gave this ordinance divine sanction, (Matt. 3:13-17; Matt. 21:25).
Something of its importance is also suggested by the role that baptism was to fill with regard to Christ's own mission.
- The fact that Jesus chose water baptism at the hand of John, as authorized by God, manifests the importance of water baptism.
a.) Baptism was NECESSARY in the life of Jesus; for Him to fulfill His earthly mission.
Many today see baptism as insignificant and unimportant, but this statement places special importance on it.
b.) In fact, Jesus Christ did not begin His own earthly ministry, until He had first been baptized by John the Baptist, (Matt. 3:13-17; 4:1-17, esp. 17).
c.) There was a definite reason for ever step that Jesus took while here on His earthly ministry.
- Again in this Jesus set the example.
- Jesus established the "order."
- Jesus made the blueprint whereby His assembly is to function.
- The disciples understood this and practiced it as is set forth in the pattern they left us in the book of Acts.
- As you recall, this step of Baptism was so important, that when Jesus came to John to be Baptized, and John hesitated, Jesus insisted by saying -- "suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness," (Matt. 3:15b).
a.) Jesus said that in being baptized - "it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness."
Therefore, Baptism is a necessary step of obedience to our Lord's command -- "The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power (Authority) 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," (Matt. 28:16-20).
b.) However, Jesus did not just say that He would fulfill all righteousness by this means, but He included us -- "it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness."
- We understand that by His Baptism Jesus pictured His death - by which He would fulfill the righteous demands of the Law.
- We also know that His baptism pictured his resurrection, victory over death, hell and the grave.
c.) So Jesus, set the example, and established this order involving water Baptism.
- So, we are to be baptized as was Jesus.
- By this means, God identifies us with Christ so that we die with Him, are buried with Him and are raised with Him, so that we should walk in newness of life, living with Him in righteousness, (Romans 6:1-14).
a.) In this passage, the disciples were commissioned and given authority to go forth.
In fact, everything commanded by the Savior, Lord and Head of the assembly is important to those who love and worship Him.
b.) By the order that each of these are given in the commission, we see that Jesus taught His Assembly that there must first be evidence that one is believing, and wants to follow Jesus before they are baptized.
- First, making disciples of Jesus.
- Second, Baptizing these disciples.
- And third, teaching them to observe all things.
c.) This being an established order of God's Word, then every believer that desires to continue following Jesus must be properly baptized.
- It is evident that the disciples understood that this was what Jesus commanded, because they went with authority, commanding their converts -- to be baptized.
- Acts 10:48 -- "He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord."
- 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."
a.) Therefore only those who have John's Baptism have obeyed God, accepting the counsel of God, (Luke 7:29-30).
It logically follows then that only those who are obedient and receive John's baptism, are walking in the light as God is in the Light.
b.) In other words, to refuse baptism is to refuse God's counsel, God's purpose, and God's design for our lives.
c.) On the other hand, the believing ones who in obedience are properly immersed, are thereby declaring God's counsel right.
- Luke 7:29-30 -- "And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him."
- This passage clearly states that any person who rejects John's baptism, thereby rejects the counsel of God against themselves.
d.) Why is this obedience so important? Because only those who in obedience have received John's baptism, have come into the Lords Assembly, which has the authority to perform the "ALL THINGS" of the Great Commission.
- By their submission to baptism, their Lord commanded, they validate their faith in God and submission to His order.
- This alone should be enough to establish how important Baptism is in our relationship with God.
e.) Why? Because they were not a part of the authorized assembly that Jesus built.
- Only those authorized to serve Him in this capacity can do so acceptably, and that is important.
- All others will hear the Lord say, depart from me I never knew you, (Matt. 7:22-23).
a.) John said, concerning God in 1 John 1:5 -- "God is light and in Him is no darkness."
Baptism is also important in that it brings a transition in the life of the recipient.
b.) In the Gospel of John we have the recorded words of Jesus, John 8:12, where He said -- "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
c.) Back in 1 John 1:1-8, we learn that -- "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we will have fellowship with one another and with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
- How can we claim to be following Jesus, if we will not submit to John's Baptism as He did?
- How can we claim to be obediently walking in the light, when we disobey His command concerning the need of scriptural water baptism?
d.) In that same passage, John also states in 1 John 1:6 -- "However, if we say we have fellowship with them, but walk in darkness (that is we do not keep the commandments), we lie and do not do the truth."
e.) We walk in the light only by keeping the commandments, which commandments were given to the assembly, the light the world, (Matt. 5:14-16).
f.) Please understand that baptism is important as a step of obedience that validates our faith in God's order as set forth in His Word.
g.) Submission to that "order" and following His example, is NECESSARY if one would share the fullness of blessing, joy, peace and glory in His coming Kingdom.
The implications of this "In Christ" relationship are far reaching.
- What do we mean by the statement that Baptism is transitional?
- By that statement we mean that before one is baptized; he or she is in one position, place or state of being, and upon completion of baptism he or she is in another position, place or state of being before God.
- In Romans 6:3, as in other Scriptures, it is stated that when the participant is baptized, he is "baptized into Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:26-29; comp. 5:21).
- In Gal. 3:27, we read, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
- The words 'put on' mean to be clothed in, to be arrayed with, and are generally used of putting on a garment.
- So in baptism, we put on Christ like a garment, we move into the position of being 'In Christ.'
a.) First, being Baptized into Christ, means being baptized into His body, the local assembly.
Therefore Baptism is important, because it is God's way into the New Covenant fellowship as the People of God, in the House of God.
b.) Second, being baptized into Christ, who is the seed (offspring) of Abraham, therefore, in Him we are the offspring of Abraham.
- The church is called the body of Christ; therefore when one is baptized "into Christ" he or she is baptized into the body of Christ, which is the Church.
- "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all," (Eph. 1:22-23).
- In Col. 1:24, we are told that the Lord's Assembly is His body, and that as His body -- it is the fullness of Him that fills all in all.
- So, when one is baptized, they are baptized into His body, the local assembly, (Romans 6:2-13; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Col. 2:10-20; 3:1, 9-11; 1 Cor. 6:15-17).
c.) Third, being baptized into Christ, the seed (Heir) of Abraham, therefore we are in the position as heirs of the covenant promises, (Gal. 3:29; see above).
- "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise," (Gal. 3:27-29).
- As stated here, before we were baptized we were Gentiles, not the offspring of Abraham.
- However, those of us who have been baptized into Christ are now Abraham's seed.
d.) Fourth, by baptism into Christ, we who were not a people, are now the people of God, (Eph. 2:11-22).
e.) Fifth, before baptism, we were by birth and by nature the property of the first Adam.
- However, in that Christ took that first Adamic nature to the cross and crucified it, we can now be free from that master and be joined to another, (Romans 7:1-4).
- Now, by being Baptized into Christ, this believing leaves that relationship with the first Adam and becomes one in union with the Last Adam, Christ, (1 Cor. 15:20-23; 43-49).
- Baptism is therefore important, because it brings the believing one in to a living union with Christ, bringing blessed transition in our lives.
a.) Christ is God's ordained way to the Fathers house, and anyone coming by another way does not come at all, (John chapters 10 & 14).
Jesus is God's ordained way to the Father's house, and anyone coming by another way, does not come at all.
b.) This is a position into which we are called by God.
- When we use phrases like these concerning God's New Covenant purpose and people, we are speaking of fellowship in a New Covenant Assembly, where we are "sharing in the life of Christ Jesus."
c.) This call is extended to those that have already, in repentance and faith, trusted Jesus as their savior.
- "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord," (1 Cor. 1:9).
- Our Lord issued the call through the Gospel.
- The call is for the purpose that we might obtain the Glory of God.
- "Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ," (2 Thess. 2:14).
d.) So, this response is made by believers, that desire to submit their lives under the lordship of Jesus.
- The response that God requires to this call is proper Baptism, administered by an authorized agent.
- When we use the term 'proper baptism,' we mean that it must be 'immersion in water' which is done 'under the authority of one of the Lord's Assemblies.'
e.) Therefore Baptism is important, because it is God's way into the New Covenant fellowship of Christ.
- We are called as individuals, we must respond as individuals.
- Those who respond in Faith, validated by baptism, are received as individuals into a local body made up of individuals.
- However, there are three things we need to keep in mind:
(1) First, we are not simply called out of the world; we are also called together 'in Christ Jesus.'
- In Christ, we share in the common life of the Father and Son, which is Aionios life.
, because we share in the common life of the Father and Son, we also share with all others who share that life.
- "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ," (1 John 1:1-3).
- It is possible to be joined to others and not be joined to Jesus.
- But it is impossible to be joined to Jesus and not to be joined to others.
- By that we mean, that there is no ongoing fellowship with Christ apart from being in fellowship with His people.
- "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (1 John 4:20).
, the scriptures teach that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life that leads to the Father
Entrance in to His New Covenant Assembly is sealed with the pledge made in Baptism.
- In that Jesus is the way provided by the Father, it means that we must accept Jesus as the way and submit to Him in everything.
- This means more than accepting Jesus as the entrance into the way.
- And it is not merely to embrace Him as a way of life.
- But it is to embrace Him in the life of the Way.
- Now, folks that involves commitment and submission to His Lordship as members of His Assembly.
ITS PROPER SUBJECTS.
- So, by Scriptural immersion, the believing ones submit themselves under Christ's name or authority, in union with Him as head of His local body.
(1) Not all that have believed are proper subjects for Christian baptism.
THE AUTHORIZED ADMINISTRATOR OF BAPTISM.
(2) There are certain prerequisites to be met by ALL who would come to the baptismal waters, under their Lord's direction and with His approval.
(i) First, there must be experienced a voluntary change of mind, called REPENTANCE toward self, God and the world.
(ii) One must also have first FULLY TRUSTED in Jesus Christ as a personal Savior and sin-bearer, (Acts 2:37-41).
- John the Baptist, did not immerse all who came to him, (Matt. 3:7).
- Such a change was certainly evident in Saul of Tarsus, (Acts 9:1-22).
(iii) One must also "gladly receive the Word" of God as the sole basis of faith and practice, (Acts 2:41; 1 Thess. 1:2-10; 2:13; comp. Matt. 13:1-23).
(iv) There must be within one's heart an earnest desire to be identified with, and to follow, Jesus Christ as LORD, (Luke 9:23-26; Gal. 3:26-27).
(v) Furthermore, one must be willing to make a clean break with the past, joyfully sharing the "reproach of Christ."
(3) No one should be baptized who has not intelligently and voluntarily met these conditions.
(4) This will eliminate "infant" children as proper subjects of Christian baptism; nor is there any New Testament example of this ordinance ever being imposed, upon any who have not clearly CHOSEN it as their own heart's desire.
(5) This will also rule out baptism for social, domestic or political expediency.
(6) New Testament baptism that is SPIRITUAL is an act of true worship, that cannot possibly be acceptable to God apart from a heart that submits itself in reverence before Him.
(1) The ultimate authority for everything must come from God, (Isa. 1:2, 20; 48:15-16; Psalm 62:11; Gen. 1:1-11).
BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH BAPTISM.
(2) But all authority has been given to the Son, (Matt. 28:18).
(3) John's authority was clearly received from God.
- This includes the authority of judgment, (John 5:27).
(4) Following His crucifixion, and prior to His return to the Father's right hand, Jesus committed the authority of baptism (in perpetuity), into the hands of the assembly which He had established and purchased with His own blood.
- This was specifically the authority to baptize, (John 1:31-34).
(5) It would be:
(i) The "pillar and ground of the truth," (1 Tim. 3:15).
(ii) The "habitation of God through the Spirit," (Eph. 2:22).
(iii) "The fullness of Him that filleth all in all," (Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:13).
(iv) The continuing "incarnation" of the living Christ, against which the "gates of hell" could not prevail, (Matt. 16:18).
(6) Through centuries of cruel persecutions, there have been little communities of faithful saints who have stood above compromise; standing true to the Word.
(7) The assembly of Jesus Christ has had no HEAD but Christ Himself, no LAW but His Word; no NAME but that assigned by their enemies in derision; and no PURPOSE but the fulfilling of Christ's desire.
- These have, through the truth, been a "light of the world," holding forth the Word of life and calling others to reconciliation with God.
(8) Such a people, and they alone, have preserved the purity of baptism AS CHRIST INTENDED, and administer it with His authority.
(9) There are, in the world, MANY COUNTERFEITS that will be exposed, uprooted and rejected in the coming day of judgment, (Matt. 15:7-14).
(10) Only an assembly ESTABLISHED ON DIVINE ORDER, and walking according to the Divine commandments, is AUTHORIZED to administer scriptural baptism.
(11) Some have assumed that baptism may scripturally be administered by ANYONE, just so a person has believed that Jesus died for their sins.
- In our times, the Lord's Assemblies alone are authorized to baptize today.
- Authority makes a difference, (John 1:6-8; Matt. 3:13).
- It is like writing a check, anyone can sign it, but it is legal only when signed by the right person.
- Anyone else signing it would be a forgery.
- All unauthorized baptisms are a forgery!
(12) During the apostolic age, while the divine order for Christ's body was being clarified, the apostles exercised a peculiar authority over the assemblies to the end of their lives.
- But such is very presumptuous and will not stand the scrutiny of divine judgment, when the Most High judges "the secrets of men by Jesus Christ," and according to the Word that He has spoken, (John 12:46-48).
(a) The authority committed directly to them by Jesus was not withdrawn, but could not be passed on to others.
(b) The Holy Spirit would both lead them in the perfect revelation of His "order," then enable the assemblies to recognize and maintain that order, (John 16:12-14).
(13) By the exercise of apostolic authority error was discovered, exposed and corrected, (Acts 19:1-9).
(a) Paul obviously recognized that the baptism of these men at Ephesus did not harmonize with God's order.
(b) It should be noted that he did NOT question their TRUST in Jesus; but a baptism that leaves one in total ignorance of the Spirit is obviously false -- without authority.
(14) When the first great persecution arose under Saul of Tarsus, the Jerusalem assembly was "scattered abroad" so that the Gospel message was proclaimed throughout Judea and Samaria.
(15) One specific example is given of Phillip's preaching "the kingdom of God" and baptizing "in the name of the Lord Jesus," (Acts 8:16).
(16) This same PHILLIP, whose ministry at Samaria had received the apostle's blessing, is directed by "the angel of the Lord" to minister to one particular individual -- an Ethiopian eunuch, (Acts 8:26-29).
- Hearing of this specific work, the apostles (who had been permitted to remain in Jerusalem), sent Peter and John to observe this ministry, (Acts 8:14).
- Approving the order that they found in Phillip's work, they "prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit," (Acts 8:15-17).
- It should be observed that, in the book of Acts, there is no mention of a specific bestowing of the Holy Spirit apart from an apostolic presence.
- One may wonder why the Holy Spirit did not come on the Samaritans, until the Jerusalem assembly sent Peter and John down to Samaria to investigate the matter, (Acts 8:14-17).
- There had to be a direct recognition of the authority of the Jerusalem Assembly, where the Spirit resided, before they could enter into its blessings.
- Now they were not only immersed in water in the Name of the Lord Jesus, but also shared in the gift of the Spirit.
(a) Following Phillip's witnessing to him of Jesus, the eunuch desired to be baptized, which he recognized (from Phillip's teaching) was necessary to walk in Christ's way.
(b) Assured that the eunuch believed with all his heart, Philip immersed him in a pool of water, following which the Spirit "caught away Phillip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing," (Acts 8:37-39).
(c) This Phillip appears to be one of the seven originally ordained as deacons in the Jerusalem assembly, (Acts 6).
(d) In Acts 21:8, he is designated "the evangelist," a term equivalent to our modern "missionary."
(e) There is nothing "irregular" or unique, about a New Testament assembly authorizing one that she sends forth as a missionary, to administer baptism by her AUTHORITY even to this day.
(17) In that the authority belongs to each Local Assembly, then the approval of baptism is to be given by that Assembly.
(18) Thus, at the house of Cornelius, Peter inquired of the brethren who accompanied him from Joppa: "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Acts 10:47).
(a) The brethren must be taught to judge in such matters.
(b) With their consent, Peter then "commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord," (Acts 10:48).
There are specific benefits that are consistently associated with one's initiation (by baptism), into the body of Christ, whereby one is identified as a participant in the New Covenant.
(1) The new covenant blessing of REMISSION (involving a CONSCIOUSNESS of forgiveness), is closely associated with this ordinance, (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 9:9-13, 15-23; 10:1-2, 18; Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.).
PHASE THREE: "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:," (Matt. 28:20).
(2) A second blessing associated with baptism is that the baptized believer, in the body of Christ, dwells in a sphere wherein ALONE is experienced the special benefits of that particular administration of the Holy Spirit, as was sent by our ascended Lord TO EMPOWER HIS ASSEMBLY on the Day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:3-13).
- Sins that are REMITTED are loosed, sent away, and pictured as being cast behind God's back -- forgotten.
- It involves such ASSURANCE of forgiveness as enables one come, with confidence and boldness into the Holiest with God, (Heb. 4:14-16).
- One must not confuse SALVATION and REMISSION.
- Many believed in God under the old economy, who never enjoyed the blessing of REMISSION.
- Instead of being freed from the CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN, they were reminded, by every sacrifice offered, that they were INDEED GUILTY SINNERS totally bankrupt of 'any merit or ability, to loose themselves from sin's bondage.
- Had REMISSION been their CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE, they would have ceased to offer meaningless sacrifices, (Heb. 10:1-3; 9:9).
- As baptized believers, identified and abiding in Christ, we may rejoice in the conscious blessedness, experienced only by those to whom the Lord will not "impute" sin, (Romans 4:7-8).
(3) ADOPTION, or the acknowledgment of mature sonship, is also a blessing associated with baptism in the New Testament, (Gal. 3:26-4:7).
- The first association of the Spirit with water baptism is seen at the baptism of Jesus, (Matt. 3:16; John 1:31-34).
- There is a close association of the two in the book of Acts, (Acts 2:1-38; 5:29-32; 9:17-20; 10:43-48; 19:1-7).
- The empowering, indwelling and sealing Holy Spirit, was Himself the GIFT that Jesus promised to SEND from the Father, (John 14:16-26; 16:7-14; Acts 2:32-33; Eph. 1:13-14).
(a) Jesus' sonship was first publicly declared at His baptism.
(4) It must be recognized that all these blessings are FROM THE LORD; they do not come automatically as the fruit of baptism.
(b) By means of scriptural baptism WE are IDENTIFIED WITH CHRIST, (Gal. 3:27).
- It did NOT begin there; He had been the Son of God from all eternity past.
- But, until He came, in His earthly life, to this point of submitting to the WILL OF THE FATHER, He was not manifest as the Son of God.
- In the divine purpose, He was, through that baptism, identified as Israel's suffering servant King, (John 1:30-34).
- Now we profess to enter into His death, burial and resurrection, pledging henceforth to WALK in the newness of His risen life, (Romans 6:3-6).
- Without that act of faith obedience divinely designed for such identification, NO ONE has a scriptural right to claim the blessings of a new covenant people.
- Though closely associated with baptism, they are enjoyed ONLY through the exercise of an obedient faith, which always diligently and joyfully submits to God's order.
- For more on Baptism see - VIII. THE PECULIAR MARKS THAT IDENTIFY A NEW TESTAMENT ASSEMBLY -- "C" .
- The final scene of the Gospel of Matthew, is the appearance of the risen Messiah to his Apostles on a Galilean mountain, where he gives them his parting commission: "Go ... and make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you," (Matt. 28:19-20).
- This 'teaching commission' was to be fulfilled not only by the Apostles in person, but by the Assemblies in turn.
According to this portion of the Commission, the early Assemblies carefully instructed new converts in the faith, following a simple pattern of teaching, (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 15:1-7; 2 Thess. 2:15).
- This is indicated by the words of assurance immediately following, which are not confined to the generation of the Apostles: "and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age," (Matt. 28:20).
1) The Early Assemblies were teaching and nurturing communities.
This phase of the commission, 'to teach all things, whatsoever I have commanded you,' carries with it a corresponding demand of Obedience.
2) The principle responsibility of teaching was placed on the shoulder of the Pastors.
- All members were expected to grow in grace and knowledge toward full maturity, (2 Peter 3:18; Eph. 4:11-13).
- Individuals were responsible for their growth and action, (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Peter 1:5-11).
- The whole Assembly was commissioned to cultivate these.
3) However, the Assembly is built up from within through education and nurture, unity in worship, fellowship, cultivation and proper use of spiritual gifts by all members, (Acts 2:41-47).
- Leaders had the task of "feeding the flock of God," (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28).
- The pastor/teacher had heavy responsibility for "equipping the saints for ministry (service)," (Eph. 4:11).
1) The Assembly must not just be taught, but must be taught to 'observe all the things command.'
The importance of Teaching them to Observe the all things Commanded cannot be overstated.
2) The Word must be believed and observed to be profitable to the Assembly.
- The word 'observe' means 'to keep ones eyes upon' as to guard, or to give heed.
- Thus, they must 'guard,''give heed to' so as to 'keep' those things commanded.
- The Assembly 'observes' (keeps their eyes on) the all things commanded, by obediently practicing them.
3) We are warned not to let the same tragic end come to us, as came to the People of God under the old Covenant.
- "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it," (Hebrews 4:2).
4) Obedience is related to conduct; just as submission is to heart attitude.
- "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief, (unbelief: or, disobedience; they did not give heed or observe what they heard). 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do," (Hebrews 4:11-13).
5) God must receive unqualified obedience from those claiming to be members of His body.
6) He who cannot recognize God's delegated authority in the Lord's Assembly, cannot be a part of that Assembly, (Heb. 13:7-17; Eph. 5:23-24; 1 Cor. 12).
- This matter of submission and obedience should be settled before one is baptized.
- As stated above, one must first be a disciple, which is evidenced by the joyful submission of themselves under the yoke of Christ; in a servant-master, student-teacher relationship.
- However, the Assembly is the place where obedience is learned and practiced.
- By the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Assembly can observe the 'all things' commanded, and they must learn to do so from the heart.
7) Submission therefore, is an absolute governing principle of the function body, the New Testament Assembly.
- In Eph. 5:23-24, we are taught that Christ is the head of the assembly; "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the assembly: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the assembly is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
- Note that it does not say that Christ should be or could be, but that He is the head of the assembly.
- Also note that it does not say that the Assembly, or members thereof, should be or could be, but that they are in subjection to Christ as head.
- Submission is also then a principle characteristic of one who is a member of the Lord's assembly.
1) Like Job of Old, the members of the Assembly must esteem the Word of God highly -- "I have esteemed the word of His mouth more than my necessary food," (KJV) (Job 23:12). Or - "I have treasured in my bosom the words of His mouth," (RSV) (cp. John 4:34).
Teaching the new converts to observe the "all things" of the commission, is a lifetime process and is the big part of the commission that should receive the greatest emphasis.
2) God has exalted His WORD above all His name - "for thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name," (KJV) (Psalm 138:2).
3) For the Lord's Assembly, His Word is their only and all sufficient rule of Faith and Practice.
1) Only a true local assembly, is able to perform the "all things" of the Great Commission.
2) The following gives evidences which repeatedly establish this fact:
- The Apostles Soon Died and the Office of Apostleship ceased.
The Local Assembly Is "the Pillar and Ground of the Truth," (1 Tim. 3:15).
- The office of apostleship, obviously by God's appointment, ceased with their death.
- The commission, therefore, was not given merely to the apostles as individuals or as a generic group, because it would have ceased to have had valid authority with their death.
The Local Assembly Is a Divine Institution Performing a Divine Work.
- This statement requires the assembly to be the repository of the Great Commission, and of all the inspired Scriptures during this age.
- God had appointed Israel to be the repository of the Scriptures (the truth), therefore, since the local assembly has been grafted into Israel's covenant position as God's Israel (Romans 11:11-32; Gal. 3:3-27; Eph. 2:11-22), it is in full harmony and is necessary that the assembly, as God's Israel, also be the repository of the sacred writings.
- The local assembly, therefore, as "the pillar and ground of the truth," received the New Covenant commission which includes the entirety of the New Covenant - "all things whatsoever I have commanded you," (Matt. 28:18-20).
- Since the local assembly, as the repository of the truth, has committed to its stewardship the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, it is the only institution or agency on earth, that can perform the "all things" of the New Covenant commission.
The local assembly is God's Divinely appointed vehicle for carrying out the Great Commission. Let us list some of the "all things" of the commission that can only be observed by the Lord's Local assembly.
- To be a divine institution, the local assembly had to be established by the Lord, which it was (Matt. 16:18), and is therefore called a spiritual house, built with living (spiritual, glorified) stones, (1 Peter 2:5; Romans 6:2-12; Eph. 2:21-23; 4:22-24).
- The New Covenant commission is a divine commission (a divine work), given to the local assembly as a divine institution, with all the authority of heaven in the person of the Holy Spirit as a constant companion, energizing force, and earnest pledge of all the covenant promises, (Matt. 28:18-20; John 14:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:5; 1 Cor. 12:13).
1) Only the Local Assembly can exclude unholy Assembly members from its membership, by putting them "without."
2) Only a Local Assembly can "Assemble" into one place.
- According to teachings of the Universal invisible Church advocates, its membership includes all people who have believed in Jesus, and therefore it cannot exclude anyone.
- Some may on rare occasions exclude a member, but say that the person is then lost again.
- There are now, and will always be, multitudes of people, eternally saved from hell, outside the assembly. In fact, there has never been a period in the history of the assembly, where all that have believed in Jesus were in the assembly.
- The true local assembly can purge out the old leaven, by excluding unrepenting, but eternally saved assembly members, which the universal invisible church cannot do, (Matt. 16:19; 18:15-20; John 20:23; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; Titus 3:10).
- The true local assembly therefore can be holy, while the universal invisible church cannot be holy.
3) Only a Local Assembly can maintain UNITY as required by the Scriptures.
- The church is an "assembly" that can assemble together into ONE place. Only the local assembly can assemble as they are commanded to do -- "when you come together into one place," (1 Cor. 5:4; 11:17-18, 20, 33; 14:23; Heb 10:25).
- This is not a trivial matter.
- The Lord gave the commission to an institution that could do what He commanded, and one of those commands, is to assemble together into one place regularly (1 Cor. 16:2), and do so more and more as His return draws nearer, (Heb 10:25).
- Unequivocally, the local assembly has been and still is that institution.
4) Only the Local Assembly, can observe the Lord's Supper according to divine order.
- God put apostles, prophets, pastors, deacons, teachers, etc., in the local assembly for the unity of the local assembly, which is the body of Christ, (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:18, 24).
- Furthermore, each member of the assembly is fitly joined together, for the unity and strength of the whole body, (Eph. 2:21-22; 4:15-16).
- Only the local assembly can have unity in doctrine and practice as the Scriptures require.
- There is no way for the universal invisible assembly to have unity, in spite of Protestant efforts to de-emphasize doctrinal and practical differences.
- The many differing doctrines and practices, of the varied groups claiming to be a part of this universal invisible body, are proof in themselves of this fact.
5) Only the Local Assembly can baptize into the name or authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- Only a true local assembly, is authorized to come together into one place to observe the Lords Supper, (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 11:18-20, 33-34).
- These passages, and others, specifically restrict the observance of the Lords Supper to the local assembly when gathered together into one place.
- The Lord's Supper is intended to symbolize the oneness and effectual working of the local assembly as a one whole body entity.
6) Only the Local Assembly can baptize converts into the Glorified Body of Christ.
- The local assembly only has been given authority to baptize and perform the Great Commission, and those who reject that baptism (which is John's baptism), reject the counsel of God against themselves, (Luke 7:29-30; Col. 2:11-12).
7) Only those who have obeyed the counsel of God, by receiving John's baptism (Luke 7:29-30), are able to walk in the light as God is in the light (1 John 1:5-7), and thereby perform their part of the Great Commission as members of a true local assembly.
- The local assembly is called the physical (now glorified) body of Christ, (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 4:15-16).
- This is a metaphor.
- The "blood" represented in the Lord's Supper, came from the "physical body" of Christ, represented by the "bread" in the Lord's Supper, (1 Cor. 11:24-29).
- The body of Christ is now glorified, therefore those in a true Local Assembly have been baptized into, and are thereby joined to, the glorified body of Christ, (Romans 6:5; 1 Cor. 6:15-17; 12:12-27; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:11-21; 3:1).
- The members of Christ are metaphorically joined to Christ, as the members of the human body are joined to the human body (Romans 6:5; 1 Cor. 6:15-17), as branches are joined to the vine, (John 15:1-6).
- The members of true local assemblies alone, can therefore walk in the newness of the glorified body of Christ, represent Christ as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-21), minister as living stones and priests in the holy priesthood of His house or temple, over which He is High Priest, (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Heb 10:21).
8) Only Those in a True Local Assembly, can walk in the Light as God is in the Light and receive daily forgiveness of Sins.
- Those parts of the commission which individuals perform, are performed only by individuals IN the local assembly.
- No part of the commission was given to individuals outside a true local assembly.
- "God is light and in Him is no darkness," (1 John 1:5-7).
- Jesus said "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life," (John 8:12).
- If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we will receive forgiveness of our daily sins, we will also have fellowship with one another plus with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- "However, if we say we have fellowship with them, but walk in darkness (that is we do not keep the commandments), we lie and do not do the truth," (1 John 1:6).
- We walk in the light only by keeping the commandments, which commandments were given to the assembly, the light the world, (Matt. 5:14-16).
- In Summary, the Local Assembly ONLY Has the Authority to Carry Out the Great Commission.