(1 Corinthians 10:1-6)
If we are to follow the Lord and come to God, we must do so as He has defined the way. Jesus is the way and we an only come to God through Jesus Christ. And there are certain “rules” to follow if we are to come to Christ in a way that pleases God.
All of the things God gave us as gifts, methods of praise and worship or instructions were given for a specific purpose. None of His gifts, methods or processes were given for no reason, nor should they be ignored. There is a definite plan, purpose and reason for every little thing that God has told us to seek and do and none is to be disregarded.
And today especially I want to consider the act of baptism and explain why this particular act is so important. There are many in the church who have lost the understanding of this critical action we are to participate in when we first come to Christ, and this set of scriptures today will help us understand. Indeed the Lord Jesus Christ considered baptism so important, and so critical that He was baptised Himself and He specified baptism as one of the key things in the great commission He gave to the disciples just before He departed the earth to return to the Father. So we should listen and obey.
What is Baptism?
In simple terms it is the immersion of a person under water as the symbolism of death and dying where we join Christ in His death, then we also join Him in His resurrection as we are lifted from the water. Through baptism in water we are joined to Christ, taking on His death as a replacement for our own death so that we can die to sin, be set free from bondage of law and begin a new life as a new creation in Christ Jesus.
That is baptism in a nutshell. Do all Christians believe this? My experience is that they do not. Some do not even believe it is necessary or is optional. Others see it as some kind of initiation ceremony to enter a church. Yet others do not see the significance of full immersion as being necessary and so they simply sprinkle water on the head and call that baptism. Still others sprinkle water on infants calling that baptism and use it also as part of the child's naming ceremony (and by the way, there is no biblical justification for baptising infants).
The importance of baptism though is in its power to set us free and become new creations in Jesus Christ. To become a new creation we must get rid of the old creation, that is, we cannot be renewed until we die. And what God has done is to allow us to die by allowing us to participate in the death Jesus suffered when we are baptised into His death in water. Here are a few scriptures to ponder in this regard.
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. – (Romans 6:3-7)
It is clear from this section of scripture that it is through baptism we 1) enter the death of Jesus, 2) we are both buried and raised to new life in baptism in Christ Jesus, 3) we have crucified and put to death our old self and our old life, 4) we are new creations, dead to the old life and walking in newness of life, and 5) we are set free from sin.
And taking this one step further we see we are also set free from law through taking on the death of Jesus through baptism, as we see here:
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. – (Romans 7:4)
So it is incredibly important that we are baptised and carry out this baptism as ordained by God, for if we do NOT enter baptism and be baptised into the name and the death of Jesus Christ, if we see baptism as “optional” or just some initiation ceremony or a naming thing for infants or anything else, then we have not died to sin, died to the law and become new creations in Jesus Christ. Those who are not baptised are still in there sins and have not yet begun the journey to freedom that is possible only in Jesus Christ and achieved by following His commandment to be baptised into His death.
Strong words? Yes they are! But I hope it will help you see how important it is to be baptised and to follow the command of Jesus to be baptised because it is only by this we are truly set free. When we have faith and believe what God has achieved in Christ Jesus to give us freedom through baptism, and follow His commandment, then we receive the grace of God that sets us free.
And Jesus showed how important baptism is when He was baptised Himself, even though He had no sin to be set free from. But He showed also that baptism was essential if we are to receive the righteousness from God when he said to John the Baptist,
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized 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, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, 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, with whom I am well pleased.” – (Matthew 3:13-17)
Jesus told John here that to be baptised was necessary to “…fulfill all righteousness.” If you want to receive the righteousness of God, the righteousness that comes through faith, then you MUST be baptised. Without baptism you do not and cannot fulfill all righteousness.
There are two other things to note in this verse also. After Jesus was baptised as He left the water, He received the Holy Spirit. It was not until AFTER he was baptised that the Holy Spirit came upon Him. This is important for baptism must be a precursor to receiving the Holy Spirit because without the righteousness by faith that comes through baptism, the Holy Spirit is not able to fully, completely and adequately do His job in our lives.
The second thing we see is in the words of the Father who stated He was pleased with Jesus. Why? Because Jesus obeyed the Father. Jesus followed the processes ordained by the Father to fulfill all righteousness brought being baptised. It was after He was baptised then that the Father sent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove so that Jesus could begin His work of ministry.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ and we must first stand free from sin and free from law to enable us to be in the place where God will help us through the Holy Spirit. We know that sin stands between man and God and no sinner will stand in the presence of God, so sin must be removed before He will help us. And because the breaking of the law is sin, He had to remove the law also so we did not “dirty ourselves” again after being cleansed in baptism. And God removed both sin and the law through baptism. That is why it is essential we are baptised if we are to receive the Holy Spirit.
To show this better, there is one instance in the bible where people received the Holy Spirit before they were baptised. It was when Peter went down to the house of Cornelius and first preached the gospel to the Gentiles. While he was speaking to the Gentiles, they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Note then the words of Peter after they had received the Holy Spirit.
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. – (Acts 10:44-48)
In verse 48 we see that after the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit it was no longer an option for them to be baptised. Peter COMMANDED them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
So we see the importance of baptism with the linkage to receiving the Holy Spirit for it is only after baptism and when we believe we have died with Christ and are set free from sin and the law that the Holy Spirit is able to begin His work in us to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. Baptism is critical.
Moses and the Children of Israel
This brings me back to this scripture in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6. Here we see allegories for baptism when the children of Israel left Egypt.
They were slaves in Egypt, in bondage to the Egyptian people, and Pharaoh sent out his armies to bring them back into slavery. But God was leading the Israelites and had other plans.
When they came to the Red Sea it presented a barrier that would determine if they were to live or die. It was a barrier that on one side represented death and slavery under Egyptian bondage, but on the other side represented life and freedom. The challenge was whether they could cross the sea and so escape the Egyptians.
However it would not be enough just to cross the sea, for the Egyptians would pursue them to the ends of the earth and try to bring them back into bondage and slavery. There would be no escape from the Egyptians except by a complete and full victory over them.
This is the allegory to baptism for us.
It was only through the intervention of God who opened the sea allowing the Israelites to pass through on dry land and then closing the sea over on top of the pursuing Egyptian army that assured their ongoing and complete freedom. The victory over slavery, bondage and death was won through the power of God.
In the same way we are set free from the bondage of the law, of sin and death through the intervention of God in baptism.
The Israelites went through the waters to freedom and life. We go through the waters of baptism to freedom and life. Before going through baptism we are in bondage to sin, the law and death, but when we enter the death of Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism we are raised with Him as new creations in a new life with God.
God also destroyed all of the causes of slavery and bondage for the Israelites when He drowned the Egyptian army in the sea thus assuring the ongoing freedom for the children of Israel. Likewise God destroys all forms of bondage through sin and the law in us when we go through the waters of baptism.
And after God had closed over the Red Sea when the Israelites passed through, there was no going back. They could only move forward into their new life when they would take possession of the land promised to their father Abraham. So too when we come out of the waters of baptism, we arise to a new life in Christ Jesus and there is no going back to our old ways and our old life, lest we spurn the Son of God and destroy the work of the Holy Spirit in us that brings us to life. We too must seek to move forward in the new life of the spirit.
And as the Israelites drank and ate the spiritual water and spiritual food, that is, the water God provided when Moses struck the Rock and the manna God gave from heaven, so too we eat and drink the spiritual water and food that is the nourishment of Jesus Christ. We consume His teachings and receive a his life in us as we learn and walk with Him and so grow up into the image of Jesus Christ.
And all of this comes back to baptism. Baptism is critically important. One of the most important and essential things we can do as Christians. And as mentioned earlier, it was so important in the eyes of Jesus Christ, that in the last instructions He gave the apostles just before He left this earth to return to the Father, Jesus told them to baptise the new disciples and teach them all that He had taught them.
If you have not been baptised in the name of Christ, seek it out as soon as you can. And recognise the power and importance of baptism as Christ and the apostles taught it. It is critical to move forward in Christ for as Jesus Himself said, “…for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com provided by Melodi2)
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