Radio Sermons of H. Robert Williams
Baptism-Radio Sermon #20
Friends and Fellow Christians:
For the past several weeks it has been our pleasure to speak to you about the principles involved in the plan of salvation as that plan is revealed in the New Testament. We have undertaken to exalt the Bible as the very word of God and have not hesitated to recommend that it be considered as the final authority and that its demands be tenaciously met. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God," so said the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:11. "Ye are complete in Him which is the head of all principalities and powers." (Col. 2:10)
The gospel has been defined as "good news", consisting of facts to be believed, commandments to be obeyed and promises to be enjoyed. Dealing with the commandments today, we shall not now argue the gospel facts nor discuss the details of the promises of God, but to keep the full picture before you we should like to recite them in order.
We first turn to 1 Cor. 15:1-4, Paul declares the facts of the gospel. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." The gospel facts, therefore, are the death of Jesus Christ for our sins, his burial and his resurrection.
The commandments are likewise three in number. We are to acquire faith by hearing the word of God, Romans 10:17; John 20:30-31. God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), and upon confession of faith to be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:36; Matt. 28:19)
The promises, conditioned upon faith and obedience, are also three in number. Peter said that this obedience was for, or in order to, the remission of sins, (Acts 2:38), that it insures the gift of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 5:32), and promises eternal life to the faithful, (John 3:16). Recently we have devoted one broadcast each to the subjects of faith, repentance and the good confession. Today our study deals with the great theme of baptism.
No doubt the mere suggestion of this word arouses certain opposition in the minds of some who have never studied the matter carefully. Why discuss it, the say, when there is so much disagreement in the religious world and when there are so many other things about which a sermon might be delivered. Actually the very best way to remove all doubts and questions regarding any subject is to know that subject from an accurate source and in its many details. We covet your earnest attention to this thought. We think there is not a person in this audience who will write to tell us that the matter is unimportant after we point out the fact that it holds such a prominent place in the scriptures of our Lord.
Immediately before his temptation at the beginning of his personal ministry Jesus, our Master, walked a distance of something like 70 or 75 miles to be baptized of John the Baptist. With the many great things which must have crowded into the mind of our Lord as he was ready to take his departure from this old word, he, nevertheless, called his Apostles about him on the Mount of Olives and the very last words which he uttered were "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:19-20)
Here is a further challenge. When this discussion is finished, not one of you will say that the truth has not been spoken nor do we expect to hear from any who will question the scripturalness or importance of the subject. That's a rather bold statement but we haven't the slightest doubt concerning it.
Of course the greatest hindrance to a full understanding of many subjects is the prejudice which often lingers in the mind of a listener. In order that we may be entirely fair with these scriptures, suppose that this is a subject which we have never heard and that the word baptism itself is a complete stranger to us. In this supposition we have no idea what it means or whether it is of any real importance. We will not seek a definition in any dictionary or lexicon but will just read through the New Testament, considering every text in which the word is found until after a while we have learned just what baptism is, who authorized it, and what purpose it is intended to serve. This then will be a reading lesson with notations on what we find rather than a presentation of church doctrine.
We believe folks want the truth regardless of what their former convictions have been and it is in the confident hope that you will receive it and that we may all be one in the Lord that this investigation is undertaken.
The first place we find our word in the New Testament is Matthew 3:5-6. John the Baptist is preaching in the wilderness of Judea. I read: "Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Here then is a word we have never seen before. These people are described as being baptized by the man in the river Jordan. Just what was done, or why, we have not yet learned, so we read on. In verse 11, John said, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance." That tells us furthermore that the element used was water. Verse 13 says, "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbade 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 fulfill 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 Sprit 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." We learn here that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and immediately went up out of the water and God acknowledged him as his son, but we have learned only these few things. John baptized in the River Jordan' in some way he used water; when Jesus was baptized he went up straightway out of the water.
We read on. The next time we find our word in its literal sense is in Matthew 28: 18-19. Jesus said, "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Here then we learn that it was a very solemn matter for baptism was to be performed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It was also universal for it was to be offered to all nations. We next read in Mark 1:4, "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sin." A part of this we have heard before.
Now there arises a controversy inasmuch as a former text said he baptized in the River Jordan and this one says he baptized in the wilderness. There will be no contradiction or lack of harmony here when the geographic facts of Palestine are known. The River Jordan, of course, as every schoolboy knows, flows into the Dead Sea. The lowlands lying immediately north of the Dead Sea along the Jordan River are identified in the Bible geography and history as the Wilderness. So this text simply serves to locate the exact place in which John was preaching and at which the baptizing was being performed. The importance of the act has been impressed upon us as it has been said that it was a baptism based upon repentance and in view to the remission of sins. The fifth verse locates the baptizing again as being done in the river. "And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins." Verses 8 states again the baptism of Jesus. All of this we have read before.
Now in Mark 16:16 Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Here we notice that baptism and its requirements are universal in nature and it is stated as a condition of salvation. Luke 3:3 reads thus: "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." The baptism which he preached and administered was the baptism which required a man to repent before submitting to it and it was performed with a view to the remission of his sins. We continue our reading until we consider the words found in John 3:22-23, "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized." Thus we see that not only did his disciples baptize, not only did John the Baptist baptize, but Jesus himself baptized. The following verse says, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salem, because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized." Well, somebody is ready to say, I know all about it now. John says there was much water, therefore...now wait just a moment! Lets be fair about it. Just tell us how much water is "much". A barrel of water would be much water if you were thrust head first into it. A river of water would be considerably more and an ocean of water would still be much more, and I am confident that a bare cup of water would feel like much water if it should be poured down your shirt collar some cold morning.
While this text uses the expression "much water", it just doesn't tell us how much "much" is, so we read on until we have completed the book of John and into the book of Acts. In Acts 2:42, it is said, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." Peter had preached Jesus crucified, buried, risen from the dead and crowned King of Kings. He accused the Jews of wickedly crucifying the Lord at which they cried out and said, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Verse 38 says, "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." When we learn that the gift of the Holy Sprit is conditioned upon baptism and that it is for the remission of sins, its importance grows upon us even though we do not yet know of what it consists.
We read on. In Acts 8:12, we are told of the preaching of Philip the evangelist in Samaria, "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Now here are some interesting facts. It is said that people of both sexes were baptized; they are identified as men and women. This is in full harmony with the fact that baptism is said to be for the remission of sins. Inasmuch as an infant child cannot be responsible for misconduct, he has therefore no need for baptism. Acts 8, beginning at verse 36, also introduces an interesting narrative. The angel of the Lord sent Philip to an Ethiopian officer on the road which led from Jerusalem to Gaza. He found the man, under the angel's direction, was bidden by the Spirit to go near and invited by the officer to ride with him in the chariot. The Ethiopian was reading from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and he asked Philip for an explanation of the words of the prophets. Verse 35 says, "Then Philip opened his mouth and began at the same scriptures, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, see, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And 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."
Again we have the announcement of the fact that water is the element used in baptism. The one who performed the rite and the one who was to be baptized came unto the water, they went down into the water and the baptizing was performed, then they came up out of the water. Well, somebody says, I know what it is now. You have to read on. It does explain why much water was needed, at least enough for both parties to go down into it and come up out of it but just what Philip did to the eunuch we still do not know.
In the very interesting stories of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9, the conversion of Cornelius in Chapter 10, the Philippian jailor and the story of Lydia in the 16th chapter of Acts; all come to attention but really add nothing to the inquiry in which we are presently engaged. They are in complete harmony with the other stories told but they do not give the details until we have completed the Book of Acts and come to Romans 6:3-4. There Paul inquired, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death." Note here that this is a serious matter inasmuch as there is something about it that involves the death of Christ. Being baptized into Christ and into his death, therefore, said the Apostle, "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." Now the secret is out. Our questions are answered and we know exactly what was done, for Paul said plainly "we are buried with him by baptism into death and are brought forth in likeness of his resurrection." Notice the fifth verse, "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." We have learned already that the person to be baptized went down into the water, the baptizing was done there, then he came up out of the water. Thus we have learned that in baptism a person was buried. Thus tells us how much water was required, enough to bury a man. Somebody of course, is ready to make strange of the fact that a man should be buried in water but he is not left there very long for verse 5 says, "planted and raised in the likeness of the resurrection of Christ." We read on until we get yet one more passage. This time in Col. 2:12, "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."
In the few years that I have been preaching the gospel and have understood what the Bible teaches I have known some folks who have made fun of the ordinance of baptism and many jesting remarks and unkind expressions have been thrust at the church because of its stand on the subject. Please bear in mind that baptism as here described did not originate with the Church of Christ, but it originate with the Lord who purchased that Church with his own blood. It is not the result of the deliberation of some church council or synod but it came as a fundamental principle of christianity. I have no fear that any in the range of my voice today will ever again make fun of the idea. You know now from the words of the book itself that to do so would be to make fun of the death and burial of the Lord Jesus Christ, for when a believing, repenting, confessing soul goes down into the water to be buried in baptism, he being dead to sin and having separated himself from it is buried in water in imitation of the burial of our Lord in the tomb of Joseph, that as Christ was raised from the dead he might imitate that resurrection, being raised by the strong arm of a man of God into newness of life, at which time the Lord forgives him of his sins and adds him to the church.
Here then is the definition of baptism as we have gleaned its different points form a careful reading of the New Testament. Baptism is an act in which a penitent, believing person is buried in water and raised again in imitation of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is done by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ on the confession of one's faith in Him. The blessings which follow include remission of sins; the act brings us into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, into Christ and is followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now, my dear friends, what do you think? You will surely notice that we have not lectured or argued the point but have let the New Testament speak for itself.
Why don't you say, "I will believe," just like the Phillipian jailor did; "I will repent," just like the Pentecostians; "I will confess my faith," as did the Ethiopian officer; and "I will be buried with my Lord and thus manifest my faith in his Holy Word"? While we wait and while we pray we should like to have you write us if we may be of further service.