Next Steps: Baptism

ACTS 8:26-40

BIG IDEA: Baptism is an outward declaration of an inward transformation.

INTRODUCTION: Beware of Baptism

Many years ago I was involved in a baptism service in South Asia. We twisted and wound our way well back into the backcountry of a state in that nation. I could not read the language on a road sign, but it would not surprise me if it said, “If you are looking for the ends of the earth, please turn around. You’ve already passed it.” 

Our Landrover took us to the edge of a stream. No one was there. We got out into the scorching sun, walked down to the edge of the water, and waited. After a bit, one of the pastors started singing. Another started playing the drum. The singing got louder and more fervent. And suddenly, through the tall grass, one person arrived. Then another. Soon the banks were filled with people, all singing and clapping.

The national pastor turned to me and asked me if I wanted to leave. I was so curious. Why? Why would I leave this? He said, “If you are caught her today, your visa will be revoked and you will be imprisoned here for 11 years, or until your state department can get you out.” Now listen, I had already graduated from a Baptist Seminary and was pastoring a Baptist Church, but I learned more about baptism in those few moments than I ever could in a book. “What about them? What if they are caught?” The pastor looked at me and said, “They will be beaten and imprisoned, and no department of state will come looking for them. Their women and children will be abused, and likely their houses will be burned. Do you still want to stay?”

It was then that I realized that what the church takes so casually at times was paid for at a great cost by Jesus Christ, and as followers of the Christ of the Cross we too are called to obey Him regardless of the cost. 

A few years later I was in the Nation of Swaziland with Catherine. I was asked to participate in another baptism. As we made our way down to the water there were a few signs. The first said, “Beware of Hippos.” The second said, “Beware of Crocodiles.” Then, we got down to the shore and I could literally see the footprint of a croc! Again, I was reminded that Jesus who paid such a great cost on the cross is asking all of us who identify with Him to be willing to follow whatever the cost!

Baptism has divided the church into countless denominations. What Christ gave as a gift to the church has become a source of conflict. But what I want to do today is just look at what the Scripture says, so that we can move forward together in unity. So let me try and answer a few questions, and then deep dive into a story from Acts.



What is baptism?

The word in our English Bible is a word that was not translated by the translators. It was simply transliterated. That means they took the Greek letters and substituted them with English letters, but they didn’t translate it. The word translated means, “to dip, to plunge, to immerse.” It means to fully go underwater. There is not a picture of pouring, sprinkling, or splashing. It means to fully submerge under a liquid.

Why baptize?

First, we baptize because it was an example set by our LORD. In Matthew 3, Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan River. This is so important. Jesus did not come to be baptized to wash away His sins. He was blameless, faultless, pure, and holy. Jesus came to teach us that baptism is a picture of our surrender to the will of God and to identify us as followers of His Will.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized [immersed] by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized [immersed] by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized,[immersed] immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[c] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[d] with whom I am well pleased.” 

It’s so important. Notice please that Jesus “went up from the water.” First, he went down into the water, and then he went up from the water. He was immersed.

Second, we baptize because Jesus Commanded it. Matthew 28:19ff, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Jesus practiced it, and Jesus commanded it.

Third, it was the practice of the entire New Testament Church. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of sins.” Repentance and baptism were linked. And this is also so important. Repentance, turning away from your sins, and receiving forgiveness, always preceded baptism. The New Testament knows nothing of an unbeliever being baptized, but it also knows nothing of a believer who was not baptized, immersed, following their repentance.

What does baptism mean?

Baptism speaks primarily of a personal, public identification with Jesus Christ.

In Romans 6:3-4 the Apostle Paul puts the matter this way:

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized [immersed] into Christ were baptized [immersed] into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism [immersion] into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Notice the strength of the expressions— “baptized into Christ” and “baptized into his death” and “buried with him in baptism.” Immersed. Buried.

How important is your baptism? It is your personal identification with the greatest act of human history—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism doesn’t save you—salvation comes by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Your guilt before God is removed the moment you trust in Christ. But baptism is your personal testimony to, and the inward assurance of, your passage from the old life to the new life.


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