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Charles Stanley - Baptism: The Clear Teaching of Scripture


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Jesus was a man of authority. In fact, He said, "All authority has been given unto Me both in heaven and in earth". When He spoke the people said, "This man speaks with authority". He gave His disciples authority. People recognized that He was a man of authority. He did not say ever, "I suggest, maybe you should think about, would you consider". He always spoke very clearly with very clear commands. And even in in the soft things that He said, you knew that they bore weight; heavy weight. This was the Son of God. And He said, "All authority has been given to Me".

So when He spoke, He spoke always the truth. He didn't speak in sort of shady terms. He didn't speak in terms that were you could just sort of take your pick. It was always very straightforward, very clear, because He had in mind His listeners. And He wanted them to understand the truth and to follow that truth, because He knew that was always the best in every single situation. Well, the theme of this message today deals with something that a lot of people have different attitudes about and they've had different experiences with it.

And what I want to do is simply this: I want to tell you exactly what the Word of God says. Not what I think, not what other people think necessarily. What does the Word of God say? And then you have to decide, "Am I going to do what He said? Or am I going to sort of soft peddle this a little bit"? If Jesus said it or the apostle Paul or one of the apostles, then we have to ask ourselves the question: "Am I going to be obedient to the Word of God? Or am I going to look at this and say, 'Well that's just one viewpoint?'" That's what I hear once in awhile, "That's just one viewpoint". Well this happens to be the ultimate viewpoint. It is God's viewpoint, not my viewpoint, it's His viewpoint. So, when you're listening I want you to remember this: we're talking about what the Word of God says. It is infallible. It is inerrant. It is the truth from cover to cover. And when God makes statements, He makes statements because they're real, they're true and they're for our good.

What I want to talk about in this message is this: baptism. What is the clear message of Scripture? What does God say about what many people have participated in, many people have put off, many people have just totally ignored it? So, the best place to begin is with the baptism of Jesus. So, I want you to turn if you will to Matthew chapter three and let's look at what happens. John the Baptist is down by the Jordan River baptizing. And they're coming and He's requiring of them to repent of their sins and then baptism of repentance. That is, that's an indication of what's going on in their life.

And the Scripture says beginning in verse thirteen, "Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized of him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time,' or, let me, 'you must baptize me. For in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him," or baptized him. "And after being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'" Now, why did Jesus come to John here at the Jordan and ask him to baptize Him? Remember what Jesus said? He said, "To fulfill all righteousness". That is, "In order for Me to be obedient to My Heavenly Father you must baptize Me," satisfying the requirement of God.

A second reason was Jesus was coming to identify Himself with sinful man. He was sinless. He was the perfect Son of God who would die for our sins. But it was the will of the Father that He walk among us for those three years or so. And He began His ministry by identifying Himself with sinful men. The third reason He came was because it was symbolic of what was going to happen to Him. Jesus would die for our sins, would be buried, and then resurrected. And in order for the Father to give His confirmation of this, look what happens. The Scripture says that, "The heavens rolled back". Now whatever that means, the clouds, whatever it might be. And, "The Spirit of God descended upon Jesus as a dove. And then the Father said, 'This is My Beloved Son, and I am well-pleased with Him.'"

Now, watch this, Jesus the Son of God was baptized. He came for the specific reasons that we just said. And when He was baptized, the Father gave His approval. Now that says something to me very clearly: baptism is very, very significant. If it were not significant Jesus would not have been baptized. And then Jesus said to His disciples later on, He said, "As you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things that I've commanded you, and I'm going to be with you every step of the way". So now, watch this, Jesus Himself was baptized. The Father showered His approval upon Him. Then He gave that authoritative command. He said, "All authority's been given to me in heaven and earth, therefore go, baptizing and teaching them and I'm going to be with you".

Now, how important is baptism to you? You may have trusted Jesus as your Savior some time ago. And someone talked to you about being baptized and you said, "Well, later, I've got to think about it". And maybe you've never been baptized. Or maybe, you have been baptized when you were a baby. Maybe somebody sprinkled water on you or someone poured it on you. But in your mind you've been baptized. What I want us to see in this passage of Scripture and other passages is this: what does the Word of God, what does Jesus, what does the apostle Paul, what does the Word of God teach about baptism?

Well, one of the most significant things and the first things is this: that baptism follows, listen, baptism follows salvation, follows regeneration, follows your redemption, follows your justification. That is, baptism and salvation are not the same. There's not one word in the Scripture that says, "If I'm baptized I'm saved". What I want you to see is this: there's a lot of error that has been taught. And it's been taught for so long and that has been accepted by so many people. Many people are deceived by it. And what I want you to see is this: it's very clear in the Word of God that salvation must precede baptism or the baptism is void.

So, let's look at it let's look at a few. For example, when Paul, in Ephesians, and there are many passages of Scripture, but in Ephesians chapter two verse eight and nine, that many people know by heart. When he was talking about salvation what did he say? He said, "For by grace are you saved through faith; that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any person should boast". Then he said that we have been gifted by God and we're to serve Him. He didn't say, "You've got to be baptized to be saved". When Paul who was in jail, he and Silas and the jailer came out and said to him, because he was scared to death, had an earthquake. And he said, "Sir, what must I do to be saved"? Here's what he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved". And he said, "And your household".

Now, watch this carefully, there are people who will say, "Well if the parents are saved, everybody else is automatically saved". That's not what he said. What he was simply saying is if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, you'll be saved. Everybody else in your house can be saved too if they believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When Paul in Romans was talking about salvation here's what he said, listen to this carefully: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved". He didn't say, "But you got to be baptized to be saved". Salvation and baptism are two distinct things.

Now the question comes: who should be baptized? And when I think about that and I think about what we just said. We're talking about believers only. Well that brings up a question. Is it scriptural to baptize babies? Well let's think about it. Now let me say first of all, thank God for your parents who wanted to get you to heaven. That's really what they were after primarily. So, they were concerned about you. But think about this: if you were baptized as a baby did you believe in Jesus? No. Then why did your parents have you sprinkled or anointed or poured on? Why did they do that? Because they wanted to sort of give you to God. And they in their interests and their desire for you, loved you enough that they wanted to be sure if anything happened to you, you'd be alright.

The only problem with that is this: it's very deceiving especially when you belong to a church that tells you if you're baptized into that church you are saved forever. There is absolutely not one, single verse in the Scripture to defend that. Not one. That is man's theology. It is man's doctrine. But it is not scriptural. Baptism is for believers. Because baptism makes a statement that by my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ my sins have been forgiven and now I've died to my old life, this is a new life and I choose to walk and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. It's a public testimony.

Now another issue here is what's the method? Well, when you look in the Scripture and you see these instances, Jesus and John went down into the water. And so, when you talk about the different ways to do it, there are some churches that pour water on babies, or some adult, or sprinkle them. And then there are those who immerse them. Well which is the most scriptural way? Well, let's look at it for a moment. Somebody, watch this, somebody says, "Well it doesn't make any difference which way it is". It doesn't? Well why did Jesus go for John the Baptist to immerse Him? The Greek word used for baptism is baptizo. And the way you find out the true meaning of words is how were they used back in the days in which people spoke them? So, they used it to speak of a ship sinking or of a person sinking in mud or someone being immersed under water. In other words, baptize means to immerse.

Now think about it: what happened to Jesus? He died, He was buried, He rose again. Does sprinkling convey that? You don't you don't sprinkle a little dirt at the cemetery on somebody. You bury them. And so, when you think about what's the proper way? What does sprinkling and pouring symbolize? It doesn't symbolize anything. But immersion says, "I died to my old way of life by the grace of God and I've been forgiven of my sins. I am buried with Him". That is, "I'm dead to my old life and I rise in," what? "In newness of life," as Paul says over and over again. Newness of life. Which method of baptism pictures what Jesus did and what He commands us to do? Only baptism by immersion.

Now, for example, you know where all that started? This whole idea of sprinkling started very early when people were ill and they called it clinical baptism. Well, there are some people for example who get saved late in life or they have an accident or something and they can't go to church. And can't be baptized that way. Understand that and God understands that. But for the most part a person's able to be baptized if they choose to do so. Now if Jesus commanded it and I refuse to do it, in my thinking that only tells me one or two things. If He tells me to do something and I don't do it, you can spell it a thousand different ways, but the truth is it's just pure disobedience. It is rebellion toward the will of God. It is a sin against God. Any way you spell it, it's sin, rebellion, disobedience.

And I meet people all the time who say, "Well, that may be true, but you know, I just don't I don't think I need to be baptized because when I was a baby - here's what they did and I think I'm okay". You're not okay. You're living in rebellion toward Almighty God. Now somebody says, "Well do you mean to tell me that I won't get to heaven if I'm not baptized"? I wouldn't say that. If you genuinely trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and you understood what you were doing and you were saved by the grace of God, I'd never question whether you get to heaven or not. But I can tell you this, you will live all those years that you refused to be baptized in disobedience to Almighty God. So, what I'd like to do is to give you six reasons why every believer ought to be baptized.

And number one, they're on the screens so you can think about them. Number one, very simple, it's commanded by Jesus. Isn't that enough? That's really enough. He said, "As you go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to..." Listen, do what? "Teaching them to observe the things that I've commanded you. "What's He commanded? Baptism. He said, "Now you teach them to do the thing that I've commanded you". And baptism is one of them. The second thing is this, it is a public confession of our faith. The Bible says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so". Paul said to Timothy, "Don't be ashamed". In other words, Jesus said, "If you're ashamed of Me, I'm going to be ashamed of you".

And I think one of the reason is some people aren't baptized is they just don't want to make... in other words, the truth is they are spiritual cowards. They don't have the courage to say, "Yes, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was twenty-one, nineteen, twelve, fifty," whatever it might be. "I'm a follower of Jesus". Let me ask you a question: who do you know, who do you work with, who are your friends, who is it in your life you would be unwilling to say, "I trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, you can count on me as a follower of Jesus Christ"? Who is it in your life that you wouldn't tell that to? Any way you look at that, it means that you are ashamed of your relationship to Jesus Christ. That literally you're a coward. You don't have the courage to tell somebody the most important thing that ever happened in your life. That changed your eternal destiny and might change theirs if you are willing to admit it, confess it, and say to them. And this is how it works and this is how the same thing can happen in your life. There's another reason for example and that is, it is a portrayal of what happened to you.

Now, I was baptized when I was twelve years of age and I'm sure I didn't fully understand all that was going on. I knew that I trusted Christ as my Savior. In fact, I told my friend, the next day after I was saved, I told him that I told him I said, "I want to tell you something". I said, "I got saved yesterday morning". I remember his response. He said, "I'm not going to do that. I'm going to wait till I get older before I do that. I'm not going to do that now". Ended up in prison. You have to ask yourself the question: what is it all about? It's all about the fact that, if you're saved you had to come to a place in your life when you said, "You know what? I don't want this in my life anymore. God, I don't want to live this way anymore. I'm asking you to forgive me of my sins and I'm willing to take a turn the other way".

And so, you trusted Him as your Savior. He changed your life. You died to your old way of life to a degree. And then that dying part just keeps on moving on. But you chose, this is why Jesus called it the "new birth". "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God". It's a portrayal of what happened to you. Then of course, what you're doing is you're identifying yourself with the body of Christ. Now that is, you and I are part of the body of Christ all over the world. It doesn't make any difference what nation, what culture, what color, what language, nothing. Every single believer has this in common: Jesus is our Savior and our Lord. Our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life and we're going to heaven when we die. Until then we're to serve Him with all that we have all the days of our life. We're a part of the big family. Then of course, baptism gives us an opportunity to drive a stake. "On this day I made a decision. On this day I was baptized.

I will never forget it and I'll never forget it because from that point on my life totally changed. Saved by the grace of God. And baptism was my message to the world, 'I'm a follower of Jesus.'" Well somebody says, "Well when should you be baptized"? I'll answer that question: as soon, watch this carefully, as soon as you're saved and understand what baptism is all about. And then of course the last thing I'd mention is simply this and that is: the baptism says, "I believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And I also believe that I too am going to experience a bodily resurrection". When Jesus went to the cross He paid our sin debt in full. And the Bible makes it crystal clear in so many verses. And so now that I'm a believer, as baptism will say and it's a symbol. It's a beautiful picture and reminder. We too are going to have a physical resurrection one of these days. Now what about it? Have you ever been scripturally baptized? Now, let's forget what your mother said, what your daddy thought.

Let's ask the question, have you ever been scripturally baptized? Which means you were baptized having trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior for the forgiveness of your sins. And you were immersed as testimony of what happened to you and what happened to Jesus and what will happen to you after death. Has that ever happened to you? "Well, no, I" No just "Yes" or "No". So, if you say, "Yes, it has," then we thank God. If you have to say anything but, "Yes," you either offer excuses. Or maybe you've been ignorant and nobody's ever explained it to you. So, the question is: having heard the truth, remember there are doctrinal statements and there's dogma and everything else. But this is what we go by. And when you and I stand before Him this is what we're going to be judged by. Not what somebody taught me; what the Word of God said.

Now, in light of that, have you ever been saved? If you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, asking Him to forgive you of your sins, He forgives you of your sins, writes your name in the Lamb's Book of Life. The Spirit of God begins to indwell you at that moment to give you guidance and direction all the days of your life. If you have never trusted Him as your Savior, you are separated from Him. You will be eternally separated from Him when you die. So, what are you going to do about it? You say, "Well I know I'm saved now. I know I've been saved. I was sprinkled or poured on, but I've been saved since then". Well, have you been baptized? "Well, I thought maybe that'd take care of it". No, no, no, no. That's what they did. That's not what you did. You need to be baptized. Whoever you are and wherever you are, if you want to be scripturally baptized, you need to be immersed by somebody who believes this book from cover to cover. And thank God for the privilege of saving you and that you want to follow Him. And you want to follow Him unashamedly. That's the next step. And I trust that you'll be wise enough to seriously think about what you heard which is the truth of the Word of God.

Father how grateful we are that You do give commands and You make them clear. How grateful that You gave us the gift of baptism so that we would have a stake to drive down in our life. Not an instance, but an experience; an unforgettable experience. And it's my prayer that every listener of this message will soberly, seriously consider their position. And whatever You require of them, they would be willing to say, "Yes, Lord, yes". In Jesus' name, amen.

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