“Does Baptism Matter?” by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, November 12, 2017.
I have to confess I don’t get it. You’re watching a football game on TV and the camera pans the crowd. Here is a group of guys, in freezing weather, with no shirts on, their bodies painted purple to match the team’s colors – their faces painted, strange things on their heads, screaming at the top of their lungs – and we respond with a sense of admiration – “There’s a real fan.”
Or how about the case of Giles Pellerin. An avid fan of the University of Southern California football. “Avid” is not a strong enough word. He didn’t miss a USC football game – home or away – for 73 years! He made it to 797 consecutive games before he died at age 91. One year he had an emergency appendectomy just 5 days before a game. Still in the hospital on Saturday, he told the nurses he was going for a walk and instead went to the stadium! When asked about his fanaticism, he responded – “It’s just all part of being a fan.”
Here is what I really don’t get. In light of such commitment to an athletic event – why is it some Christians hesitate to boldly, publicly identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ through Christian baptism? There are people who claim to honestly, legitimately love Christ who consider baptism insignificant or at best something to think about “tomorrow.” How important is baptism? Why should anyone seek baptism in a local church?
There is a real danger in Baptist life of cheapening baptism. This is strange given that many of our forefathers died for their convictions concerning this ordinance of the church. But I’m afraid that our insistence that baptism is a symbol has been interpreted, as baptism is not important. In our insistence that salvation does not, in any way, depend upon our baptism, we have implied that baptism is optional.
I was reminded of this a few years back when I received a phone call one afternoon from a man who taught a high school Sunday School class at a local Church of Christ. He asked if I would consent to a telephone interview on a Sunday morning with his class. They were studying what other groups believed and taught and would I agree to give the Baptist perspective on baptism. In the course of the interview I was asked if I believed Christ commanded us to be baptized. I said, “Of course the scripture leaves no doubt about that.” The response was – “So is it your position that Christ’s commands are insignificant or unnecessary?”
I would expect such a response from a person whose perspective differs so dramatically from mine. What concerns me is that so many Baptist seem to justify such a false portrayal.
Baptism is very significant. I believe baptism is necessary – not for salvation but for obedience.
If one refuses to be baptized, I want to know why? Why does a lover of Christ not want to be publicly identified with Christ? Why is one who is not ashamed of Christ embarrassed to participate in such a public demonstration? Why refuse to perform this act of obedience?
Let me give you three biblical reasons for why baptism is necessary for the genuine believer.
- Baptism openly identifies you as a follower of Christ.
Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Although baptism is never equated with faith or salvation it is closely associated with both.
For instance. Acts 2:41, Acts 9:18, Acts 16:30-33
Baptism was – and should be – the first public expression of faith by those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Baptism openly obeys the command of Christ.
Baptism is not a ritual created by the ancient church and passed down through the ages. Baptism is a practice ordained by Christ Himself.
Note again – Matthew 28:19-20.
The King of the universe – the Eternal One – the Judge of us all has commanded it. What do you think? Is it optional?
- Baptism openly expresses your faith in many truths.
Baptism is symbolic of many things. To submit to baptism says that you believe what baptism represents.
- Baptism expresses your faith in the doctrine of the Trinity.
- Baptism expresses the fact that your sins have been washed away.
- Baptism declares that you have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection.
- Through baptism you declare that through Christ God has given you new life.