"For all ye who were baptised into Christ did put on Christ." Galatians 3:27
LET me remind you that our subject is one of a series of questions. Why a Christian? was the one with which we commenced, which as it was dealt with answered another question briefly: How may I become a Christian? From that we proceeded to enquire: Why Repentance? and so to Why Believe? Following the experimental development of the Scriptures the next question was Why Confess? because when the transactions with the Lord Himself are concluded in grace the new convert is to confess with the mouth Jesus as Lord and to believe in the heart that God hath raised Him from the dead. This confession with the mouth is to be made to the gathered fellowship of the Lord's people who alone can understand and appreciate the confession so made. This is clear because nobody can declare that Jesus is Lord save by the Holy Spirit. Evidently it is not merely the word because many in that day will acknowledge Him as Lord who will nevertheless depart as never having been known by Him. It is by the Holy Spirit newly indwelling the convert, that he shall confess Jesus in the revelation of His exaltation and the Holy Spirit, in the believers so hearing the testimony, will confirm the truth. Whereupon the new convert and the experienced believers in the fellowship, concurring in the Spirit in the testimony the person shall submit to Baptism.
The authority for this next step is entirely and ,absolutely vested in the command of our Lord alone. It is for, us to understand Him in this as in every matter, to add nothing, to take nothing from His word as it is confirmed and expounded by the apostles. It is quite clear from Revelation 22, verse 19, that additions and subtractions and amendments may be expedients for men, but are grievous to God. As He ascended into heaven He commanded.. "Go ye therefore and disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." They were not to be baptised in order to make them disciples, but being disciples they were to be baptised. The persons to be baptised were believers, disciples, add there is no reference here or anywhere else in the Scriptures to godmothers and godfathers of whom neither our Lord nor Peter nor Paul nor any other apostle or writer in the New Testament ever made mention. The text makes it clear that all who were baptised into Christ did put on Christ. It was a conscious act. If unconsciously as babies they were baptised then they did not put on Christ but Christ was put on them!
Furthermore as this is a command laid upon the Church of the Lord's redeemed it may fairly be questioned whether any Church has the liberty to receive into its membership disciples who decline to be obedient to the Lord in Baptism or to invite them to sit down at the Table. How can we invite friends to obey the second command of our Lord in the ordinances who have politely declined to obey Him in the first? These are not our rules but His and those who think some to be narrow in this respect must bear in mind that the baptising of candidates is a duty laid upon the Church by our Lord. There is no teaching on Baptism in the Old Testament. Naaman " baptised " himself in Jordan seven times. The Septuagint uses the New Testament Greek word. There is no evidence that he sprinkled himself, The record declares he went down into the water. The first reference in time in the New Testament is John, who was called the Baptist because he was immersing repentant sinners in the Jordan. They asked him: " Who art thou?" Evidently there was some association in the minds of the leaders of Baptism with the Messiah or the expectation that the Messiah, when He came, might institute some particular rite. John disclaimed his own person either as Elijah or any of the prophets and certainly not the Messiah. His Baptism was in reference to the growing spiritual peril of the nation, its need of conviction of sin and repentance before God. He invited all who sincerely repented of their sin to be baptised of him in the Jordan. The people came in large numbers. Out from the cities to the Jordan they presented themselves to John for Baptism, responsible people, no babies in arms, confessing their sins and by the outward act declaring an inward change of attitude in their submission to God.
Our Lord never knew what the experience of conviction of sin was. He was to know increasingly its judgment and penalty, but not the condemnation of His conscience before God. Yet He joined the queue at the Jordan not to confess that He had broken the will of God but to dedicate Himself utterly to the will of God for His public ministry. Our Lord was never sprinkled as a baby, His Baptism was in the Jordan down into which He went. It was a conscious and most serious act corresponding with the deep irrevocable will of His heart and so profoundly impressed the supernatural realm itself that the heavens were opened. The Father's voice shook the firmament and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove. Thus it became Him to fulfil all righteousness not as a baby whose will was devoid of moral significance but as Man matured, ripened for the supreme task of redeeming mankind from the power of sin. These are historical facts which are beyond dispute and they are confirmed by all the subsequent teaching of the New Testament. Our Lord and the apostles taught by Him, answer our question without hesitation. Why be baptised? And the answers are many, but we may reflect upon some of them. We are to be baptised because of
1) THE REMISSION OF SINS
The Pentecostal Baptism was not only associated with repentance but also with remission of sins. In presenting himself in the baptismal waters the candidate declared in the way appointed of our Lord his acknowledgment of himself as a guilty sinner, his confession of the sins committed, his true and sincere repentance, his utter renunciation of sin as a principle of his life. He was thereupon baptised into the Triune Name wherein was communicated to him the pardon of God for his many transgressions, the expiation of his judgment by the blood of Christ and the gift of life in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Now all these things had happened to him on his repentance and faith in Christ, but if there has been a true renunciation of a God-defying will, the convert should earnestly desire by Baptism to show and manifest to God how resolutely he now chooses the will of God. Therefore the first act of the new convert is to be Baptism wherein he supremely declares that a life of sin has been broken, that he may embrace a life in the will of God. Baptism, therefore, is the specific act wherein repentance is followed by remission and that by the rite which clearly indicates the trend of the new life in the will of God.
2) THE RENUNCIATION OF THE OLD NATURE
When we turn to Romans 6 we see that Baptism is intimately associated with the renunciation of the old nature. How a little baby of a month old can renounce a nature of which it is not yet aware (and very often its godparents are equally ignorant) nobody seems to know. The person submitting to Baptism is to have no doubts about his old nature. The old nature is the nature of what is called the "natural" man. The natural man has not the slightest interest in the things of God, he thinks people who go to church are oddities, their lives seem to him to be so vacant without a thrill and he is utterly dead to God as directing his life. But the man who has been born again and has received the new nature becomes aware that a struggle emerges within his own being. That struggle is vividly described by Paul in Romans 7. It is a mark of the old nature that it wants to please itself. So life is determined, and for many people happiness is gauged, but with Christ His one concern was to fulfil the will of God. If we have declared ourselves Christians then in that declaration is contained a revelation as to why we are alive: to be dead to self-pleasing and to be alive to pleasing God. St. Paul, therefore, in Romans 6,tells us how to do this. We are to reckon ourselves continually to be dead unto sin but to be living unto God. As we thus reckon in simple obedience and faith God keeps dead what we, reckon dead. And as He keeps dead what we reckon dead so He gives the resurrection life of Christ in all its' fulness in our lives. Therefore the baptismal candidate reckoning himself to be dead unto sin is properly buried beneath the waters and trusting God for resurrection life is rightly raised up out of them. Let all those who object to the immersion of the believer seriously examine the origin of their objection whether it comes from the old nature or the new. If we are indeed in any serious way reckoning ourselves to be dead unto sin trusting God to accept dead what we reckon dead, then we are in faith taking resurrection life from Christ and Baptism by immersion of such a person is the most reasonable and proper act.
3) RENUNCIATION OF THE OLD SOCIETY FOR THE NEW
The believer has also to renounce the world. Most people think primarily of its pleasures. But the believer not only renounces its pleasures that are evil but all its planning and organisation which deliberately leaves out the need for the redeeming energy of God by which men are born again. The world will have nothing to do with being born again which our Lord declares is an absolute must. The United Nations is trying hard to establish world peace but it must be without men being born again through faith in Christ. Any device, expedient, plan may be tried, but on no account must it require man to be changed in his nature. When you have the ecclesiastical leaders of the world ignoring this necessity or worse still declaring that the nature of every individual is changed by dropping a few drops of water on its forehead at a month old, then, of course, world confusion is inevitable. The believer, however, renounces the world as being utterly incapable in its old unredeemed state of pleasing God and achieving the ends of God in the world of time and eternity. He belongs to the new company of the Redeemed Body of Christ through faith in Him. He knows as a matter of experience the power of the resurrection life in Christ. He knows that the world is facing a crushing disaster when men will turn and rend their false guides who have professed to speak to them in the name of God but have brought them to disaster and damnation. He knows the purpose of God is fulfilled in the blood of Christ and in His resurrection life and ascension power and it is utterly impossible for the ends of God to be achieved otherwise. Therefore he renounces the world and so declares it by Baptism. God's believing people share in his joy and welcome him as he renounces the world in its sin, its pleasures and supremely in its efforts to save society without Christ. The purpose of God is in Christ and in His Body of the Redeemed Church.
4) RESURRECTION INTO THE LIFE OF THE SPIRIT
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians declares" there is One Lord, one faith and one Baptism." There is only one Baptism. There is not a Baptism of the water and another of the Spirit.They are so indivisibly one in the will of God that the two operations are seen by the apostle as one. The Holy Spirit given by the Lord Himself as the seal of our redemption when we believe surely leads direct to the baptismal waters where these deep truths are confessed and declared. There is no difficulty in this because experience teaches what the Scriptures declare that the Holy Spirit alone convicts of sin. A man cannot repent out of the genius of his old nature. He needs the help of the Spirit to make him to know that he is a sinner. But most definitely as the Spirit convicts him of sin He leads him to repentance and with equal certainty to believing faith in Christ. The same Spirit being then given to dwell within him surely leads him to confess Jesus with the mouth and so to step down into the waters bringing his obedience to its proper and fitting consummation. Any understanding of the Spirit leads to the death of self and life in the power of the Spirit. Any Scriptural understanding of Baptism leads to the truth of the Spirit and life by His power. Hence the believer who sees these things will submit his body to be plunged to death beneath the waters that thereafter he may live in the power of the Spirit. It is not for us to say that any Christian who has not been immersed on confession of faith cannot know the power of the Spirit. In all these matters God is sovereign but it is for us to declare that the way of the waters is the way of the Spirit and the way of the Spirit is the way of the waters. Seeing this truth every believer is responsible to God for his response. Most who reflect upon these truths will see beyond the shadow of a doubt that in the line of His glorious will immersion on confession of faith is certainly the command of our Lord.
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