Why Have Convictions about Baptism – Matthew 3:13-17

In a few minutes we are going to hold a baptismal service. Sadly, we don’t have the privilege of observing this ordinance often enough. So it’s important to stop and consider the subject once in a while. There are new Christians who need to be baptized and to go on in their service of the Lord. And it is good for the seasoned Christian to stop and think about his baptism from time to time. Under the circumstances, I thought that this would be a good time to look at this theme once again.

The ordinance of baptism is something for which there are extremes on both sides. There those people who believe that salvation is by grace, and they are content to stop right there. They are spiritual minimalists, satisfied to trust the Lord, and they ignore everything else. “Christ,” they say, “nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.” Unfortunately for them, Jesus said, “If you really love me keep my commandments.” Such lack of love and obedience to the Lord gives testimony to self-will and a wicked heart. Many of those who willfully reject baptism probably are in rebellion against the King in other ways. They need to repent of their wickedness and pray to God, if perhaps these thoughts of their hearts might be forgiven. Those who refuse baptism are often not born again, and this explains their rebellion.

Then there are the people whom Satan has deluded into believing that baptism washes away sins. These include Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox, etc. etc. etc. I think that this one heresy has sloshed more people to Hell than any other single Satanic false doctrine. I was born into one of those religious societies which believe that baptism washes away sin. As a child I was splashed with a few drops of sanctified water. I had a couple of ungodly god-parents who promised to raise me in their religion. I have a little Bible that was given to me at my sprinkling so many years ago. At that time I was only doing what my parents told me to do; I was too young to think for myself. I was completely neutral about baptism and ignorant of it’s meaning. Unfortunately, I was also neutral about salvation and about the Lord Jesus Christ. These things are true of vast millions of people.

The truth is – baptism is very, very important – but not unto salvation. It is important towards a clean conscience, and it opens the doorway to the service of God. Today I have convictions about baptism, and I believe that you should too.

Because first all, the LORD JESUS HAD CONVICTIONS about baptism.

There is no better reason than that, even if there was nothing else. I know that Lord had convictions about baptism, because it cost Jesus something be baptized. Among other things it cost the Saviour the time and energy to make a long, long walk from Galilee into Judea. The exact place of Bethebara is debated – it could been 20 miles from Nazareth. But more than likely it was as far away as 60 or 70 miles.

Wherever it was, it is safe to say that the Lord spent 1 to 3 days walking to the site of His baptism. I can’t say that His feet got blistered and sore, because those people often did a lot of walking. I can’t say that the hot Judean sun gave him head-aches or sun-stroke. I can’t say that He was nearly robbed at knife-point by band of highway-men. But I can say that He walked, and walked, and walked just to be baptized by the only man in the world authorize to administer baptism – John the Baptist. That tells me that the Lord Jesus felt this was important – that He had convictions about it. It also tells me He wouldn’t start His ministry without first giving this watery testimony. This baptism was necessary in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Nothing would deter Him from that immersion, and nothing should deter His disciples.

But do you know what the preacher did when the Lord finally arrived and stood before him? That silly Baptist tried to talk the Saviour out of His baptism. John essentially said, “Whoa there cousin, I don’t feel right about baptizing you. It would be more appropriate for You to baptize me. How can the lesser baptize the greater?” I’ll tell you how the lesser can baptize the greater – by the authority of God. John was called “the baptist, or “the baptizer” because God ordained him to immerse repentant sinners. John is gone, but I believe that the authority to baptize has been transmitted to the Lord’s church. It is not vested in me, even though I have been ordained by one of Christ’s churches.

Putting that aside for a moment, I hope that my relationship to any candidate for baptism might, in a weak fashion, be like that of John to Jesus. I pray that I might someday baptize another Elijah, Daniel, Isaiah, or Paul. In other words, I hope that someday I might be privileged to baptize someone to be used of God more greatly than I have been.

John expressed dismay that Christ asked him to baptize Him. Some day I’m going to be bold enough to try to talk someone out of baptism. I’d like to see if they are stubborn enough to demand it. “See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” “I am now a believer in Jesus Christ as my Saviour, with a burning desire to obey the Lord’s command. Can you conscientiously refuse me baptism?” I’m afraid to try it, because I’ve found that 90% time its harder to get people into the baptismal water than it is to get them into the dentist’s chair.

I know that Jesus had convictions about baptism, because the dampness of the river followed Him. John 3:22 says that just as John baptized Christ Jesus, so were Jesus’ disciples baptizing. And they did so under the direction and authority of the Lord. Then in the Lord’s commands to His church we see it once again. Matthew 28:18-20 – “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” That commission was given directly to the Lord’s church, and only the churches that descended from that church have the authority to continue carrying out that ordinance.

Did Christ change His mind about baptism, after His ascension into Glory? Not if Acts 9 shows us anything, for he ordered Ananias to baptize newly saved Saul of Tarsus. Our Saviour still has convictions about the ordinance of baptism today.

I also have convictions about baptism, because THE CHURCH IN ACTS did as well.

I would like to be known as a “Back-to-the-Bible,” Baptist preacher. I would like to have it said of me that he “preached the whole counsel of God.” I don’t care if people criticize me for spending years preaching through small books of the Bible like Nehemiah or major books like Acts, Matthew and Romans. But I do trust that over time this practice enables us to look at every important Bible doctrine. And yet while preaching through those books, I withhold the right, on occasion, to interrupt those studies in order to do what we are doing this afternoon – considering some specific doctrine or subject. When we studied through the Book of Acts, we noticed that in Acts 2:37-38 Peter said, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you.” And we saw in Acts 8:12 that Philip baptized multitudes of Samaritans, and then he baptized that Ethiopian. In Acts 10 Peter commanded that the believers in Cornelius’ house be baptized.

I wish that I could command people to be baptized, but I don’t have that same kind of authority. I can’t bolt the door and decree that the password “baptism” be uttered before either entering or exiting. But I can point at Bible and exhort people in the Name of Lord Jesus, “You need to be immersed in water.” Those apostles had convictions that baptism was important enough to give orders about it.

We should have convictions about baptism because IT IS BIBLE DOCTRINE.

Someone said years ago that if a being came from Mars, and if he read Bible with an honest heart, he’d become a Baptist. That is going to be a bit difficult to prove, but I don’t doubt the theory. The problem is that until someone is born again, there isn’t anyone who possesses a truly honest heart.

I have told you this story often enough that you have it memorized, and yet I have to give it to you again. A hundred and fifty years ago, a Congregational preacher, a paedo-Baptist – a baby-baptizer – volunteered to represent his denomination as a missionary in Asia. In those days it it took months and months of sailing to reach the other side of the world. So that man found a padded seat and his Bible, and he began to read, and read, and re-read. Before trip ended he asked to be dropped off in India, in order to be baptized by the Baptist William Carey. From the Bible he had learned that scattering a few drops water on someone’s head isn’t baptism. So Adoniram Judson, the former Congregationalist missionary, became one of the bright lights of Baptist history. And coincidentally, at the same time, a co-worker of Judson, named Luther Rice, while sailing on a different ship, came to the same truth, completely independently from his friend. They both came to possess convictions about immersion – because that is what the Bible teaches. I have found that these stories have been repeated hundreds of times among honest Protestants.

I once read of a visitor to the deep South during the days when a majority of the slaves were Baptists. He asked an old Baptist preacher: “Why is it so many of you colored people are Baptists?” The old gentleman said, “Well, sa, I guess its cus we don’t have sense enough to splain away the Bible.”

I am convinced that if anyone will sit down with the Bible and let it speak to him, he will come up with convictions about baptism which match Baptist doctrine.

Because that conviction comes from plain old, honest HORSE SENSE.

No honest reader of the Bible will ever find a baby being baptized. Common sense says, if babies weren’t baptized in the Bible, they shouldn’t be baptized today. And how far do we have stretch our imaginations to morph immersion into sprinkling. The only baptizing that you will find in the Bible is the immersion – dipping or plunging – of people who have expressed faith in Christ Jesus.

When B.H. Carroll was in a debate with a group of Methodists about baptism, he made the statement: “In the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, no man can find where God ever commanded a prophet, priest or preacher to sprinkle, or pour plain water on a man, and to think of it as a moral, ceremonial or religious rite.” He gave the Methodists a day to reply. The next day, one of them quoted Ezekiel 36: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean.” Carroll replied: “First, it was God and not man doing the sprinkling. Second, it was not plain water, but water with the ashes of the Red Heifer. And third, it has nothing to do with baptism, because “baptize” cannot, by definition, mean anything else than to “dip, or plunge, or immerse.”

Furthermore, what kind of warped logic does it take to think that water on skin can wash away the sin found in a corrupted heart? And where in the writings of the Bible, do we ever read of baptism as saving SACRAMENT? The Apostle Paul was even pleased to say, “I’m glad to have baptized none of you there in Corinth with only a couple of exceptions.”

If you were once baptized in order to cleanse your soul of sin, you are still unbaptized. And if the man who performed your baptism had unbiblical purposes in mind, then that baptism wasn’t true baptism. One of the key elements of scriptural baptism is authority – the Lord’s authority. If the organization performing the baptism didn’t have the right to do so… Or if it was done with the wrong purpose in mind… then it doesn’t matter how sincere the baptizee might have been, it was not scriptural baptism. There once was a baby boy born to a mentally retarded mother. She called the little fella “Betty Ann,” but the name didn’t make him a little girl.

Honesty of mind will give us convictions about baptism and that will usually make us different from others.

The convictions that I have about baptism act like A CHAIN-LINKED FENCE around the Lord’s church.

Properly used, baptism is like a moat around God’s church, protecting it from error. When I baptize a person, I try to ask, “Are you a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus alone?” “You don’t believe that this baptism is going to make you a Christian, do you?” When it is necessary, before baptism, we ask when, where, and how the candidate was saved. The illustration which God created in baptism must be maintained in its purity. And that picture is of a dead soul coming to life through the death of Christ. I want the people being baptized, and the witnesses present, to understand that symbolism. Baptism is related to salvation in much the same way as a wedding ring is related to a marriage. They are symbolical only. And because of this symbolism, baptism helps protect the church from the possibility of a lost membership.

It also protects the church from inter-denominationalism and other false doctrines. The reason that there are so many different churches in the world, is that they believe different doctrines. And obviously, out of all those differing tenets and doctrines, most must be wrong. I believe that a fundamental Baptist faith is the scriptural one. I am a Baptist today by conviction – as I have said, I was not born to this faith or this doctrine. Yet down street, the next guy may feel just as strongly as I do about his, very different, faith. If that fella changed his mind as did Adoniram Judson and wished to become Baptist, how am I to know if his change of mind is sincere and complete? I will never know for sure. But this one this I do know, if he refuses to be baptized he proves himself to lack humility, and he is probably unwilling to submit himself to this church or to the Lord.

I have always had convictions about baptism, and thus I yearned for baptism when I was saved. It got to a point that I just couldn’t wait any longer. I went behind my parents’ backs in order to be baptized, fearful that they would forbid it. I’m not particularly proud of that fact, but I mention it once again to illustrate my point.

I have convictions about baptism – Because Jesus did, and so did the Apostles. I have convictions about baptism because I find this kind of baptism in the Bible and it makes sense to me. And also because I believe that it is important for the sake of the church.

If you don’t share these convictions I hope that you are prepared to spread out your reason before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ. You ought to have valid answers to share with people who ask you about your faith and practice. But more particularly, you had better have some good answers for the Lord.

Are you here today with a trust and faith the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Praise God! Bug have you been baptized since you have believed? Do you want to be of service to the Saviour? Then you need to submit yourself to scriptural baptism.