Tuesday, April 06, 2010

FREE AT LAST! Our Pattern in Baptism

Through Christ, believers are free: free from sin’s penalty, its power and one day, its very presence. This freedom was purchased by the death and resurrection of Christ. The pattern is displayed in baptism. Pay special attention to Romans 6:4: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Of course, Paul is speaking of the spiritual baptism of one who has come to faith in Christ, yet, that truth is illustrated in the act of immersion in water.

At the close of last Sunday’s service, we observed the ordinance of baptism. The candidates surrendered themselves in faith to our hands and we buried them beneath the water and raised them from the water. Through this symbol, they professed publicly that their lives had been surrendered to God’s hands and that they had placed their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to save them. It is an outward picture of what each one claims as an inward reality. When we bury a person in the water, they are declaring they have joined Christ in His death—that they have died to sin. Then when we raise them from the water, they are testifying that they have been raised to walk in new life in Christ. I tell those to be baptized that they will preach a sermon in symbolism. The Gospel message is summed up by Paul in 1 Corinthians15:3-4, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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.” That is the pattern in baptism.

Perhaps as you’ve read these words, you understand the meaning of the term Gospel—or, maybe not. It is a word that simply means, “good news.” Do you know what makes the good news good? It is that there is so much bad news: the bad news is that all of us are sinners. You’ve never met a perfect person have you? There are none. Worse than that, because we are sinners, we are separated from God—and worst of all—to die in that condition is to be separated from God eternally. Yet, what we celebrated last weekend is the good news that Christ died for our sins—He suffered the death we deserved and then rose from the dead, so that we can be forgiven and have eternal life as a free gift! That’s pretty good news, I’d say!

How can you receive that free gift? Well, you can’t earn it. You can’t do enough good to undo the bad. Being religious won’t cut it. Rules and rituals are external, while our problem is internal. As important as baptism is—that won’t save you. Water has no power to wash our sins away. We do not baptize people in order to save them, but as an announcement to the world that they already are! You come to Christ admitting that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. You place your faith in Christ and Him alone and He promises to save you!

But remember all that Jesus called He called publicly. If you want to follow Christ, you cannot be ashamed of Him. There is no such thing as a “closet Christian.” How could you be—in view of all He’s done for you? He died in a public spectacle on a cross and now calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. So, if you have decided to follow Christ in the past or will do so today—why not be baptized as soon as the opportunity presents itself? It is a way of confirming that you have turned from sin and turned to Christ.

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