Doug Batchelor - A River of Life
Did you know that when a human baby is born, about 78% of its body is made up of water? Our water ratio drops somewhat as we age, but water remains an essential part of our survival. In fact, a mere 2% drop in body water can cause fuzzy short-term memory, difficulty with basic math, and trouble focusing on a computer or a printed page. If the water in your body drops 5%, you'll no longer be able to see. A 10% drop takes away your ability to hear. Water plays a crucial role in almost every body function. But some researchers estimate that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Insufficient water increases the risk for obesity, fatigue, and a host of common diseases. Water is essential not only to our physical bodies, but our spiritual survival as well. As the Living Water, Jesus is the ultimate thirst quencher for our souls, and we receive him in a special way when we enter the waters of baptism. So join me now, friends, for today's program as we take a closer look at this very important subject, how we can be born of the Spirit and the water.
Our lesson today is a very important subject. It may be one of the most important. And some of you're going to think, Pastor Doug, are you pulling a fast one? Why are you dropping this subject into a prophecy seminar? As we move on, I think you'll understand why it belongs and why it's so important. The lesson title is "The River of Life." And I would like to direct your attention to a story that you find in the second book of Kings, II Kings chapter five. It tells us about a character. He's an Assyrian by the name of Naaman. And it says Naaman was a mighty man with his master. He was a valiant man. He's well-known. He was successful. And by him, the Lord had given deliverance to Syria. Wealthy man, courageous. He was the general for the king.
But at the end of that first verse, it's got five words it says, "But he was a leper." Everything changes. I mean, what profit is it if you gain the whole world and you're dying of a deadly, contagious disease for which there is no cure? He was wealthy, he was strong, had a great reputation. It says he was an honorable man. But one day, he came down with this terrible, dreaded contagious disease of leprosy. The Bible often compares leprosy to sin, you may know. Well, the story goes on to tell that Naaman bought a slave girl that worked in his household, he's a wealthy man, and she had been captured from Israel. This little girl, she had probably heard the story of Joseph, how Joseph found himself a slave in a foreign land and said, Well, if I'm going to be a good slave, God's got a reason for me to be here. I'm going to trust the Lord. If God was able to use Joseph in that capacity, then perhaps he can use me.
And when she found out that her master had leprosy, she said to her mistress, she said, "For if he, Naaman, would go to Israel, the prophet there, Elisha, would heal him of his leprosy." So Naaman goes down to Israel. And they'd often been enemies, so it's kind of an odd request. I mean, here Naaman has been the general who has attacked Israel. And there's this brief period of truce. So he goes down there and gives a message to the king of Israel that says, King of Syria sent a message to the king of Israel, I've sent Naaman my servant unto you so you can heal him of his leprosy. King of Israel said, What? What am I now? Some faith healer?
Well, word came to Elisha, what had happened. He sent a message to the king of Israel. He said, "Send him to me that you may know that there is a prophet in Israel." And so Naaman comes to the house of Elisha, the prophet, but Elisha doesn't even come out. He sends out his servant, Gehazi, and he is got a very short, simple message. "Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times and your flesh shall be restored to you again and you'll be clean." Evidently, his leprosy had advanced, when it says, "Your flesh shall be restored." He may have already gotten to the stage in his leprosy where sometimes you can lose digits or piece of them through injury, and it was pretty far advanced.
And Naaman says, "Wash in the Jordan River?" Well, the Jordan River was not the best river in the world. Matter of fact, in the summertime, the Jordan is like a series of stagnating pools. But what does it mean if someone tells you to take seven baths in a dirty river? The Jordan River, it's either green or brown. It's very rarely clear. And when Naaman heard that, I mean, he was expecting the prophet to come out and go through some incantations and say, you know, magic words and he'd be healed. Or ask him to do something like climb a mountain, go kill some other enemies. And he says, "Go wash." And it offended his pride. Here he is. Brought millions of dollars in gold, and silver, and clothing to pay for his healing. I think someone once calculated it was over $52 million in gold and silver had been sent by the king to heal Naaman of his leprosy. And he says, "Go wash."
Well, he had just ridden by the Jordan River on his way to Israel. Now see, he's so mad, he turns his horse around. He begins to gallop off and he said, the Bible says he left in a rage. He said, "Are not the rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharpar, cleaner than all the waters in Israel?" And he thought his problem was leprosy and God knew his problem was pride. Good man, but he was proud. Pride is the mother of all sins. And on his way down to Damascus, he had to ride by the Jordan River. And the soldiers came to him and they said, "Master," they drew near because they had been keeping their distance, he's contagious. They said, "If he had asked you to do some hard thing, wouldn't you have done it? If he had said go conquer a thousand Philistines, you would've done it. But he's saying wash."
Naaman thought, Well, you know, I'm going home to die. What have I got to lose? And he gets off his horse and he steps on down into the river. Has to take off his clothes and his armor with his men watching. It's sort of a humbling experience. And the water's brown. And he gets off there and you see little clouds of mud coming up underneath his feet. And he thought, How can this possibly help? They said, "Master, do it." So he goes and he dunks himself the first time and it comes up and all he knows is it stings. And he's still got his leprosy. And he thinks, Well, you know, why am I going through this? They said, "No, he didn't say one time, Master. Seven times." He dunks himself again and again. And he thought every time he dunked himself that it was washing aways leprosy. It was washing away his pride. Finally, after six times, he thought, Oh, enough's enough, and he's going to get out. And they said, "No, no, Master, he said seven times."
Now, let me ask you a question. Does God mean what he says? Do numbers matter to God? When God told Joshua to march around Jericho seven times on the seventh day and you'll gain the victory, did they get the victory before? The Lord means what He says. So Naaman obeyed and he went down the seventh time. And something happened. He felt it. He had to feel it. He came up out of the water, leprosy was gone. Any missing digits popped back into place. He was completely and totally healed.
Well, this was one of the first times we see something connected with washing in the Jordan River and cleansing. Now, there were several miracles that happened in the Jordan River, and one of the greatest miracles was this is where Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit, because this is where John the Baptist began baptizing. And that is our subject for tonight.
We're going to be talking about the subject of baptism. It is a prophecy subject. And so people who are coming to a prophecy seminar and saying, Well Doug, I don't want to know about salvation. I'm not interested in my salvation. I'm interested in the details. Do you realize that the heavy subjects that are coming now, if you're not born again, you're not going to understand? Jesus said, "Seeing, they will not see. Hearing, they will not hear. But to those who consecrate themselves, he will give them ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church." That's in Revelation chapter two. And so, this is a subject where you say, All right, Lord, we're getting into deep water now and I need to follow you and choose to say, Lord, you're my Savior. And so we're presenting this Bible subject because it really is a symbol of how God saves people from their sins.
The children of Israel, Paul tells us in I Corinthians chapter 10, they went through the Red Sea. This is way back in the Old Testament. And Paul says they were baptized in the sea. They didn't walk on the water, they went down. And God wants us to go down. Baptism is a symbol of death, burial, and resurrection. We're going to talk about that tonight and maybe speaking to you or you who are watching now. As we move on into the future, we want you cleansed. We want your robes made white in the blood of the Lamb.
First question in our lesson. What New Testament prophet used the Jordan River for baptizing or cleansing? You can read here in Matthew chapter three, verse one. "In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea." And the people came from everywhere and it says, "Then Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about the Jordan went to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan River." Jordan in the Bible is a symbol of death. It is the lowest river in the world and it represents like a humbling of ourself. It also represents a burial. Then you come up out of the water, it represents a cleansing and a new birth.
What glorious Bible ceremony symbolizes a washing from the leprosy of sin? Acts 22:16, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Baptism is this ceremony. And John the Baptist, of course was baptizing. Someone was asking, is this the first time baptism is mentioned in the Bible? Well, you got the children of Israel going through the Red Sea, you've got Naaman, you've got the children of Israel walking across the Jordan, or through the Jordan River when they came into the Promised Land, and it's like baptism.
According to the Bible, how many different kinds of baptism are acceptable? Well, the Bible says in Ephesians 4:5, there is, you see it on your screen there? How many? "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Is the Lord important? Is faith important in the gospel? Is baptism important? According to the Bible writers, they gave it a priority. One baptism. Not only does that mean there's one truth that we are baptized into, there's really one method of baptism in the Bible.
Question number four: What's the word baptize mean? The word baptism, it comes from the Greek word baptizo, and that simply means to dip, to immerse, to plunge. You can find it in Greek literature where when they were dying cloth, they would take these big vats of purple or red dye and they would plunge the cloth under so that the dye would sink into all the fibers and saturate things and it would be adequately baptize or submerged. And so the Bible's pretty clear the method of baptism that Jesus experienced, that John the Baptist practiced, that Naaman experienced was where they were immersed. The Lord wants us to be immersed in him. He wants us to be completely cleansed. It's not just, you know, washing your hands. It's a total consecration and baptism represents that. That's why you read in Colossians 2:12, "Buried with him in baptism, in which you are also raised with him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead." Baptism is compared to a death, a burial, and a resurrection.
Jesus is our example. How was he baptized? If you are a Christian, you follow Jesus. What does the Bible say about him? "Jesus came and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens open." Is it pretty clear? He goes down in the water, he comes up from the water. John baptized in the Jordan. It's a river. You can also read where the Bible says that he baptized in Salim because there was much water there. What other truths are symbolized in baptism? "Therefore, we are buried with him through baptism, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in a newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly shall we be in the likeness of his resurrection." Baptism is a symbol of a death, but it's not only just a death, it's a burial, and then it's a resurrection.
I remember hearing about this baptism here in northern California. There was this Spanish gentleman and he told the pastor, he said, You know, I've lived a pretty wild life. And he said, when you baptize me, and he said, I want to get baptized in the lake. And he said, when you baptize me, I'm a good swimmer. He said, I want to have a prayer while I'm under water. Pastor said, All right. Usually, when they baptize a person, they just immerse them and you bring them right up again. You just, you know, important you don't hold them under. So the pastor said, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And he put him down and he hold him there. And people on the shore are shifting back and forth and they're wondering if they're going to charge out in the lake and attack the pastor. What are you trying to do? Drown him? And then he squeezed his hand, he brought him back up again. Then he explained everybody, I wanted to just have a prayer while I was under water.
But usually, one of the ways you tell a person is dead, they stop breathing. And so at least for that moment that you hold your breath while you're under water, it's like I'm dying to my old ways. When a baby's born, it comes out of an envelope of water and it takes its breath. And we all worry when it doesn't take that first breath, right? That first cry is symbolic of a new birth. How important is baptism? The Bible tells us, Mark 16:16, Pastor Doug, why are you talking about this subject? "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." Does that sound important? "But he who does not believe will be condemned." You notice the emphasis is on belief.
Will there be some people in heaven who were not baptized? Well sure. You've got all these characters in the Old Testament who will be saved and it doesn't tell us that they practice baptism as a rite back then. What about the thief on the cross who died next to Jesus? Will he be saved? Why was Jesus baptized? Was Jesus baptized for his sin? No. Jesus is baptized as an example for you and me.
Another reason that I believe Jesus was baptized, Jesus did not die for his sin; he died for mine. I get credit for his death. I think there are going to be people like that thief on the cross who turn to Jesus in the closing hours of their life and they cannot practically accommodate a baptism and the Lord gives them credit for his baptism. because he certainly wasn't baptized to wash away his sin. There's some times I'll visit someone in the hospital and they're in the closing days or hours of their life and they're hooked up to apparatus and they say, "Pastor Doug, I want to accept the Lord." Well, they can't be baptized, but can they accept the Lord and have their sins forgiven? Yes.
Third reason Jesus was baptized is to show you and me what to expect when we are baptized. But I'll elaborate on that a little more in a few moments. Is it important? Listen to what Jesus said to Nicodemus. "Unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter," that's pretty absolute, "he cannot enter the kingdom of God." You and I cannot pick the time when God's going to baptize us with the Holy Spirit. We can ask, but He does it. Sometimes He does it suddenly. At Pentecost, it says suddenly. You and I can choose when we are baptized by water. And so it's basically saying, unless you're born of the water, your choice, and born of the Spirit, my choice, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, the Bible says they went through the Red Sea, baptized in water, and God sent a pillar of fire, baptized in fire. Water baptism, fire baptism, new person, new nation. When they came out of that water and they were baptized in the cloud of fire, they became a new nation. You know, even our world is getting both baptisms. The days of Noah, the world was washed with water. Peter says this next time it's not going to be water, but the heavens will dissolve with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat. The earth and the works in it will be burned up. Next time, he said, it's going to be baptized in fire and then God will make a new earth. So even our world is going to go through both baptisms before it's made new. You need both baptisms as well.
What blessed ceremony can be compared to baptism? I already give you a little peek into it. It's a symbol of like marriage. And you can read in Galatians 3:27, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ," have put on Christ, it's like putting on the wedding garment. Now, baptism is as important to a Christian as a wedding is to a marriage. Typically, though there's exceptions, baptisms are public. Most people want others to know about their wedding. Love must be involved. Faith must be involved. It's a consecration. It's a commitment.
What command did Jesus give to his people just before his ascension? He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." So the Lord wants us to go everywhere and to teach and to baptize. And he said, "Baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
Now when you get to the New Testament, you get to the Book of Acts, it says go baptize in the name of the Lord, baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus. So what are the criteria? This is where it gets really important. Before a person's baptized, what do they need to know? Well, it says, for one thing, they need to understand the teachings of Jesus. Matthew 28:19, he said, "Go therefore teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I've commanded you. Lo, I'm with you to the end of the world." So you must be taught the fundamental teachings of the Bible and accept them. And that's the next point. Believe all of the teachings of Jesus. So yes, I embrace them. I believe the teachings of Jesus. Be willing to repent of your past sins. Now, that means a sorrow for sin and a turning away from sin.
Let me ask the ladies, if a man came to you and said, I love you, I'd like to get married, and we've been dating for a little while. And I think if we got married I could stop dating the other girls. What would you say to a proposal like that? Crazy. But there are people who say, Pastor Doug, if you baptize me, I think I can stop these major addictions and sins in my life. No, John the Baptist said, "Bring forth fruits meat of repentance in advance." In other words, repent of your sins, turn from your sins, and make that covenant. You don't get baptized in order to love the Lord. Some people have said, I think if you just baptize me, then I'll love the Lord. No, you want to consecrate yourself to the Lord, be converted, and be baptized. Repent of your past sins. Repent and turn.
And that's the next verse. Romans 6:5-6 and Luke 3:7-8, agree to turn from your life of sin. Be willing to say, Lord, I want to follow you. Jesus gives you the power to change before your baptism. He gives you the power to change before your baptism. And so don't worry that I don't get the power until I get baptized. Baptism's a ceremony like a marriage. The love must come first. The commitment must come first. You don't say, If I got married, then I think I can be committed. Don't marry that person. Accept Christ as a personal Savior and experience the new birth, II Corinthians 5:17 and John three verses three and five.
But doesn't baptism of the Holy Spirit replace baptism by immersion? No, need both. You can read where in Acts chapter two the apostles were baptized by John the Baptist, but then at Pentecost they're baptized in the Holy Spirit. And then Peter told them, after the Holy Spirit had been poured out, he says in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you." He says, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized," and so repentance and baptism, they made it clear all through. Even Paul when he was converted, Ananias came to Paul and he said I've been sent by the Lord to baptize you. Paul had been converted. And so connected with your decision to say I want to be a Christian, I want my sins washed away, I want to follow the Lord, is this sacred rite that encompasses that commitment, that covenant that you're making.
Now, I told you, you may not know everything about a person before you get married. You need to know the basics. There needs to be a commitment. But don't wait until you feel like you're perfect. Because if you wait until you feel like you're perfect before you get baptized, nobody will ever get baptized. Even after Peter, James, and John were baptized, you see that they weren't quite perfect yet. In fact, Peter said, "Lord Jesus, depart for me. I'm a sinful man." That's in Luke chapter five. Jesus said, "When you're converted, Peter." That's long after his baptism. So you want to make your commitment, but don't say I've got to make sure that I'm perfect, or you'll never get there. And furthermore, Acts 2:38, "Baptize in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
So you got water baptism, spirit baptism. Now you'll notice biblically those baptisms might happen at different times. In Acts chapter 10, Cornelius as Roman centurion and his household, they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. And Peter said, Wow, they got baptized with the Holy Spirit and they haven't been baptized with water yet. Who can forbid that we baptize one with water? So he said let's do both baptisms. He baptizes them with water. Then you've got where Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit and the water baptism happened at the same time.
When Jesus was baptized, what did His Father say? You can look here in Mark 1:9. "It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And then a voice came from heaven saying, 'You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.'" When we are baptized, God adopts us. He says we are his beloved son or daughter and he is well pleased. How many of us want to know that God is well pleased with us? He looks upon us as though we have never sinned and all of our sins washed away.