Allen Jackson - Instructions For Baptisms - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you again. We're working on establishing our foundations, not just being superficial people of faith, but having a foundation that will withstand the turmoil of the world we're living in. We don't have to fear the storms if we'll build the foundation right. And with God's help, we can do that. We're gonna look specifically in baptism in the New Testament. There's more than one. It has more than one application for us and more than one outcome for us. If we're informed, we can be ready for any turmoil that happens to present itself. We'll be triumphant in Jesus. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Most of all, open your heart.
I've been working through a series that I want to continue with you. The larger picture is how do we thrive in the midst of tribulation? Not the tribulation, but tribulation. The vernacular, the street language for tribulation is big trouble. And I'm of the opinion that the trouble that was ushered in with the pandemic, and remember way back when they said, "If you'll shelter in place for two weeks, we could flatten the curve and go back to normal"? Yeah. I don't think we're finished with that season yet. I honestly think probably the greatest disruptions are still in front of us. Not so much from COVID-19, but from some other things, because I don't think we're finished with that shaking yet, and I don't think God is finished with what he's doing in our hearts and our lives. I'm excited by what I see happening, but I'm concerned that we be prepared to stand.
And so we looked at a couple of things. We looked at that Jesus is the cornerstone. He's the ultimate foundation. He's the foundation of our faith. He's the foundation of our standing in the kingdom of God. There is nothing else that can go before him. We can't be a hyphenated Christian and imagine ourselves to be Christians. Jesus is the chief cornerstone, and it's through him and through faith in him that we have access to the kingdom of God. We don't earn it. It's not merit-based. It's a gift made available to us. But in receiving the gift, there is a responsibility that comes to us to lay our lives down. You can't be lord and Jesus be Lord at the same time.
So, there's no such thing as cheap grace. That's deception. So, we looked at some extent that Jesus is the foundation, and then we turned to Hebrews chapter 6, and I want to read it again. It's in your notes this time. I think I left it out the last time and caused some consternation. It says, "Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity". I'd like to go on to maturity with the Lord. Wouldn't you? See, I'm not even sure we've cared about that. Most of us, what we wanted to know is are we saved? And if I'm saved, who cares? Folks, that's a messed-up thought. That's as messed up as thinking if I have a baby, and the baby is born, I don't really care if they grow, learn. Makes sense?
So, the invitation here is that we can go beyond the elementary things, the childlike things, and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation, and he's gonna list six foundational doctrines, elementary doctrines. So, you need not only the foundation of Jesus, that personal relationship with the Savior. We need a foundation of doctrine. Doctrine is just kind of a fancy word for teaching. You need to understand some things that are foundational to your faith, or you can be easily toppled. And the reason I'm taking these weeks with this is I have a feeling that in front of us there are going to be far more bold expressions of the false church than we've ever seen. They will have ecclesiastical language and ecclesiastical architecture, and the language you'll be familiar with, but they won't be centered on the person of Jesus and the foundational teachings that they will be sharing will not be biblical.
And if you're not aware, if you've just been guilty by association, "Well, I believe what they believe," or you just plug in the label of the denomination or the congregation where you prefer, and you think, "Well, just because I went there, I didn't have to think about it". No. So, we're taking some time so that you have the ability to stand as the disruptions increase. "Not laying again". Now there's six things that'll be listed. The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God. And we've taken some time with repentance and faith in God. We could come back and explore those a little more, but we at least have started. Instructions about baptisms, that's three. The laying on of hands, four. The resurrection of the dead, five. And eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
That last phrase intrigues me. Well, why would Got not permit? What would God keep? Doesn't God want everybody to mature? He does, but I don't believe God will let you build the structure beyond the quality of your foundation. I mean, even our civil governments won't let us build a building unless we get the foundations right. There's inspections, and permits, and all sorts of processes. Do you think that the Creator of the universe isn't at least that clever? I mean, it's stated there that you need God's permission to go on to maturity, and the permission is linked to our willingness to establish the foundation. So, I want to invite you.
You say, "Well, that's not a topic that interests me too much". Well, it needs to be a topic that you not only understand, but that you can help one another with. Because we mature, we come to fullness as a community of faith, not just as singular individuals. So, God permitting, we will do so. Well, I want to take the time we have in this session and explore the third one in that list, instruction about baptisms. And it's worth noting that it's plural. So, it isn't just instruction about baptism. In fact, the New Testament presents to us different kinds or types of baptism. And I just want to give you, really, an introduction to them. There are multiple baptisms presented. We're gonna look at three. John's baptism, John the Baptist. Who knew? John, you know, Baptist was not his last name nor was it a denominational affiliation.
You know, John the Methodist, John the Baptist, and John the Presbyterian, and John the Interdenominational. The label got attached because John's ministry, his public persona was directly linked to inviting people to repentance in baptism. So, he's known as John the Baptist. Then Christian baptism in water. And then thirdly the baptism in the Holy Spirit or Spirit baptism. It's probably helpful to at least acknowledge something, that baptize is not really an English word. I mean, I know it's printed in English, but it's really a Greek word, and they simply took the Greek letters and wrote the word in English letters. The Greek verb is baptizo, and from that we get the word baptize, which to understand its meaning, you need to know the Greek meaning, and the simplest or most complete definition in Greek is to immerse. That's what baptize means.
Now, there's some theories why, when they translated the Bible from Greek into English that they didn't use the meaning of the word. They just pulled the word over, because that clearly left the meaning of the word open to interpretation. In Hebrew, the word for water is mime. And if I didn't want you to know what water was, I wouldn't translate mime into water. I would just write mime in English letters, and it would leave it to whoever was reading it to you to put a meaning to it. Does that make sense? So, when the English Bible was translated, they didn't give us the meaning of the word. They just pulled the word that we didn't know in.
Now, baptism has a function in your imagination, but I assure you when it was first written in English, that wasn't true, other than from a context, you know, if it said you were drinking mime, you would know it wasn't dust or gravel. You wouldn't know whether it was a Coca-Cola or water, but you'd know it was a beverage that could be consumed. Now, there's some theories around that. We don't know. There's not a video playing on YouTube. It wasn't recorded in the social media. One of the suggestions was because by that time, the Church of England was not baptizing by immersion any longer. And to have introduced the meaning of the word "baptize" could have caused some consternation within the church. I don't know if that's true or not. Doesn't particularly make a difference, other than for us to understand that the word, as it's used in the Scripture, means to immerse.
Now, you can immerse in two ways. One way of translating is to dunk or to plunge, but you can be just as completely immersed, if you stood under Niagara Falls, you would be immersed. Right? So it can be from above, or it can be something that you're put into; but either way, it means to be immersed. And for our presentation in this session, I'm going to do my best to focus on outcomes or the purpose of the baptisms. I think it'll help us begin to establish some awareness of these multiple baptisms and the different roles they play, as they're presented to us in the New Testament. Let's start with John's baptism. That's the order it's introduced to us.
In Mark chapter 1 and verse 3, it says, "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.' And so John came baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins". Now, that's John's message: a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. "And the whole Judean countryside and the all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River". We read that, and we're not particularly familiar with the geography, and it's easy to read past a great deal that's happening there, that's really quite bizarre. Certainly, it would have to be, I would suggest, God initiated. The center of religious life for the Jewish people is Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem it's the temple and the area surrounding the temple.
On the day of Pentecost, when 3.000 people were baptized, they don't go to the Jordan River. They're baptized in the places that are around the Temple Mount that are prepared for just that function. But John isn't doing baptism at the Temple Mount. Three times a year, the Jewish people are commanded to go to Jerusalem as a part of their worship of the Lord, but John is not drawing anybody's attention to the temple in Jerusalem. He's inviting them on a 20-mile walk into the desert, a rather difficult, unpleasant journey. It's not just something you could do casually on the way home from work. And it says that more than one or two people were responding to John. It says they were the whole Judean countryside and all the people in Jerusalem went out to him.
In fact, there are significant enough crowds moving towards John that it elicits the jealousy of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and they come to see what John is doing. And he says to them, "Who warned you to escape the coming judgment, you brood of vipers"? Aren't those bridge building words? You know, one of the messages that we have heard just ad nauseum in the church for a decade or more is all the language we use should be totally invited to people that are resisting, or opposing God. Now, I'm an advocate for reaching people with the gospel. I think there has to be a part of what we do and who we are that helps people that don't understand the story to interpret it. We have to use languages they can understand and present it in a way that they can interpret. I think that's important. But if you've been introduced to the Christian faith, and you're living in a godly way, you don't need inviting words. You need to hear a call to repentance.
The purpose of John's baptism was to prepare the hearts of the people for the arrival and the revelation of the long-awaited Messiah. That's the essence of John's ministry. He's such an important character, such an important character. Jesus said, "Of those born among men, there's nobody greater, not Isaiah, not Jeremiah, not Moses, nobody greater. But the one who's least in the kingdom of God", you see, they're still standing in front of the redemptive work of Jesus, counting on the atoning work of the sacrifices. John provides a link between the law and the prophets and the presentation of the gospel.
Now, John's message brought with it a couple of requirements, and we should acknowledge them and recognize them, because I think they speak to what's happening around us today. One, his messages was about repentance, and we've explored that in some detail. It's a change of thought and a corresponding change of behavior. You have to change how you think. And repentance is not just for the pagans, or the ungodly, or the wicked. The best repenters in the house should be the most mature amongst us. We should practice the repentance the same way we practice hygiene: regularly with careful attention, or nobody wants to be near you. And the same is true spiritually. If we don't give careful attention to the attitude in a spirit of repentance and humility, we are stinky spiritually.
So, John comes with a message of repentance, not to the Canaanites, not to the people other than the house of Israel: to the chosen people of God, offering sacrifices, going to the temple, celebrating the right holidays, eating the right food, keeping the rules, reading the Torah. He says to them, "You need to repent". Now, why does that matter to us? Because the message of repentance of your sins is what facilitated the arrival of the Messiah. And I believe that same will be true before he comes back again. So, one thing we can do to facilitate or expedite the return of the Lord is to be willing to cultivate the practice of repentance and acknowledge that we need forgiveness of sins. Amen. The act of baptism was an outward seal of an inward transformation, which had already taken place. John wanted you to repent and give evidence of your repentance before you got into the water of baptism. Baptism was this outside seal.
Now, there's some language around that that we'll use later in another baptism, but repentance and baptism played a very significant part in preparing the hearts of the people for the arrival of the Messiah. It had changed their focus from Jerusalem in the temple to their own personal responsibilities. They were no longer just a part of the group think. Remember what they said to Jesus? "We're children of Abraham. Abraham is our father. How dare you say to us". And what did he say? "I can make sons of Abraham out of the rocks, you knuckleheads". Living Bible. And I believe that same spirit of repentance will be an important part of the unfolding purpose of God in preparing us for Jesus's next arrival. But of the second baptism we see in the New Testament is Christian baptism, and they're different. They're not the same.
In Matthew chapter 3, it says, "Jesus came from Galilee", it's the northern part of Israel. He grew up in Nazareth, which is in the Galilee. "To the Jordan to be baptized by John, but John tried to deter him, or to discourage him. John said, 'I need to be baptized by you. And do you come to me?' And Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now, for it's proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' And John consented. And as soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. And at that moment, heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son whom I love. With him I am well-pleased.'"
Now Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River in the midst of all these other people that are coming to repent of their sins. So Jesus is standing in the midst of a crowd of people that are publicly perceived and understood to be sinners, who are publicly acknowledging their sin and confessing. Sometimes we struggle with that. We want to act like we're not amongst the people who need that stuff. And yet Jesus walks right into the middle of that. Now he's in a different place. Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, but the purpose and the outcome are different from John's ministry of baptism. Jesus hasn't committed any sins for which he needed to repent or to confess. John recognized that. It's why John said, "I need to be baptized of you. I don't have a ministry that you need. I need ministered to by you".
Something else is happening here. Look in 1 Peter 2, verse 21. It says, "To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth". Jesus was establishing a pattern for his followers. He's leaving us an example in Peter's language. It's a very significant part of Jesus' life and ministry, showing us how to engage the kingdom of God. If you'll follow the disciples through, over and over again you'll see them demonstrating a behavior in the book of Acts, that they watched Jesus show them through the gospels, I mean, to the point of raising people from the dead. You remember the story when they brought Jesus, the young girl was, he said, "She's not dead. She's only asleep". And they laughed at him, and he put the mourners out. And, well, Peter's gonna use that same practice later on in his life when Jesus has ascended back to heaven. I get it.
You know, he's running the scenario through his mind. This is what the Lord did. Let's go. And Jesus is establishing a pattern for his church. John understood Jesus didn't need repentance when he said, "I need to be baptized by you". But Jesus responded with the phrase, that you should know. He said, "It's proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness". Jesus fulfilled, or if you prefer, completed his inward righteousness by this outward act of obedience to his heavenly Father. Do you know God will ask you to do some things? That seems so simple, but we live kind of away from that idea. We don't imagine that God would ask us to do much. We want to ask God to do things. What if God had a list of asking of you that was as lengthy as your list of asking of him? Woo, I'm tired. I need to sit down. You need the imagination that God will ask you to do some things. He has an interest in you beyond just punching your ticket to heaven and then just letting you live on your own terms.
It's an important idea. We've had such a self-absorbed Christianity. We have had such, our faith has led so centrally with self that it's hard for us to get around that to the imagination that we could forfeit maximizing an earning potential, or we could forfeit free time, or we could invest ourselves in the things of God, because God might ask us of that. "Well, he wouldn't do that. That's why he has preachers". And it's why most of us are frustrated with them. Because if they were better, we wouldn't be in this mess we're in. But this is the sinless, obedient Son of God that has been sent by his heavenly Father to stand in the midst of the sinners, so that the casual people observing, supposed it's the day when the leadership from Jerusalem is there? And here stands Jesus in the midst of this crowd of public sinners. And John's a little uncomfortable. He said, "No, no". And Jesus said, "No, we need to do this to fulfill all righteousness".
Hey, there's no substitute in our lives for obedience to Jesus's instructions. When he gave us the directive to be baptized, it ended the debate. If you've never been baptized, it's time. Make that choice. Find a congregation, a community of faith near you. You're not joining a local church, you're not joining a denomination. You're taking your place in obedience to Jesus's instructions. He will meet you in baptism. He has a gift for us, a gift of freedom and liberty. I want to pray.
Father, help us to choose obedience over the opinions of others. Give us the courage and the boldness to say yes to your invitations in our lives, all the days of our lives, in Jesus's name, amen.