Celebrate the Church of Christ: Be United Together with Christ (Rom. 6:1-7)
Celebrate the church of Christ!
Be United Together with Christ
A few Sundays ago, I began a series of studies on the nature and characteristics of the NT church. How does Jesus want His church to live, to worship, to be a church?
I showed you a copy of the Genesis County Yellow Pages that I have in my office. The section on “Churches,” in Genesee County, takes up almost 11 pages. If my count is correct, there are 565 different churches in Genesee County.
We have studied the fact that we need to study to see just what Jesus wants us to do. We have an obligation in the eyes of God to study and to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. In our most recent study in this series, I pointed out that we are obligated to obey the commands of Jesus Christ and in 2 Peter 3:18, Peter commands Christians: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” So, we need to study.
In that most recent sermon, we talked about honoring and respecting the authority of Jesus Christ. Here are the main points from that sermon:
GOD IS THE “AUTHOR” IN THE WORD “AUTHORITY:”
GOD HAS GIVEN ALL AUTHORITY TO HIS SON - Heb. 1:1-2:
THE HOLY SPIRIT KNOWS THE MIND OF GOD AND REVEALS THAT MIND - 1 Cor. 2:6-13:
THE APOSTLES TAUGHT WITH AUTHORITY - 1 Corinthians 14:37:
I pointed out here that the fundamental distinction between the NT church and the Yellow Pages churches is the question of respecting and honoring the authority of Jesus Christ as He has revealed His will through His apostles.
How do we know what was commanded?
First, there are simple commands in the NT, like “Pray without ceasing” or “Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Second, we see implications where the Christians under the guidance of the apostles were engaging in behavior, like observing the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week, and the implication is that they were doing so under the commands of the apostles.
Third, related to that, we see the Christians’ example and they are doing things which shows they were fulfilling the commands of the apostles.
Finally, there are certain clear statements that have the weight of a command.
In this lesson, we are going to look at the fundamental requirement on humanity in order to go to heaven, and that is to “obey the gospel.” In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Paul writes clearly that those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ will be lost eternally. So, we are interested in what we need to do to obey the gospel?
Now, when you compare the “Yellow Pages” church with the NT church, you see that the “Yellow Pages” church do teach, generally speaking, that we have to believe Jesus Christ. Generally speaking, they teach that we have to repent of our sins. Generally speaking, they teach that we have to be willing to confess with our mouths our faith in Christ.
It is when we get to the subject of baptism that the “Yellow Pages” churches do not respect the authority of Jesus Christ. There are various reasons for that but the largest reason is because they have been influenced to believe that “baptism” is a work and since we are not saved by works, then we cannot be saved by baptism. So, they teach that one is saved by faith when one prays to God and accepts Jesus into his heart and then one is baptized to show everyone else the faith that is in their hearts.
I do not have the right, or God’s permission, to define who is a Christian and who is not a Christian. The elders of the Swartz Creek church of Christ do not have a right to define who is a Christian and who is not a Christian. Only Jesus can define who is a Christian. But, you and I, respecting the authority of Jesus Christ, must submit to His definition of a Christian and if someone has not obeyed Jesus Christ, they are not a Christian. Pure and simple.
So, let’s take a look at what the NT teaches about baptism, its mode and its purpose. Now, as we go through this study, I want to emphasize one thing and I’ll word it two different ways:
1. We cannot obey man and be saved! So men teach a lot of things about baptism but just because we are “baptized” or just because we are “immersed” does not mean we have obeyed Jesus Christ. You cannot obey man and be saved from your sins!
2. And I’m saying the same thing but in a different way… you cannot be taught wrong and baptized right. If someone has taught you something that is false and you obeyed what they said, but it is false, then you have obeyed something false and you were not baptized correctly. You did not obey the gospel.
And, let me emphasize one more point… The so-called “sinner’s prayer” is unbiblical. There is not a shred of support for this prayer in the NT. Not a single person, a single sinner, was ever commanded to pray and receive Jesus into his or her heart. There is no book, chapter, or verse for that practice and it is a delight to Satan that so many people are being deceived and led astray because Satan has taken Bible words and twisted their meaning so that people think they are obeying the gospel when, in fact, they are obeying man.
Now, let’s get to baptism:
John the baptizer was sent to prepare the hearts of the Jews for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. John baptized Jews in the Jordan River after they confessed their sins (Matt. 3:6). They were also required to repent of their sins - to stop living a sinful life (Matt. 3:11).
Here’s an important point: John’s baptism was for sins to be forgiven: Mark 1:4. John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins!
John’s baptism was in water (not the Holy Spirit) and it required “much water” (John 3:23).
In fact, the Greek word baptisma means an “immersion, a plunging, or a burial.”
Finally, here’s an important point: John’s baptism had no power after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. If someone had been baptized under John’s baptism after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, then that person had to be baptized properly or, we might say, he had to be baptized Scripturally. There were twelve men in the city of Ephesus who were baptized a second time, that is, baptized Scripturally (Acts 19:1-7). Since I have been in Swartz Creek, I have baptized a few adults here who had been in a denominational church and when you recognized that you had not obeyed what the NT teaches, you came to me and said, “I need to be baptized Scripturally.” Then I baptized you Scripturally.
That’s John baptism.
JESUS COMMANDED BAPTISM:
Now, let’s take a look at Jesus’ baptism…
Just before Jesus went to heaven, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus reminded His apostles that He had all authority, and then He commanded them to go make disciples, followers of Christ. How were they to make disciples? Jesus tells us:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
So, a person is not a disciple unless and until he is baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If someone teaches you become a disciple the moment you believe, that person is teaching a lie.
In Mark’s account, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Now, those who baptize babies or infants or young children distort Jesus’ statement by saying, “He who is baptized shall be saved and afterward he must believe.”
Protestants who teach salvation by faith only also distort Jesus’ statement, making Him say, “He who believes shall be saved and afterward, he must be baptized.”
But, when you look at the statement itself, the clear and pure word of Jesus Christ, you can easily see that salvation depends on two things: faith and baptism. Now, since baptism requires faith as well as repentance, then obviously babies or infants or young children cannot and should not be baptized because they do not and cannot have the type of faith Jesus requires. They are also not sinners; they have not reached the age where they can distinguish between right and wrong. Therefore, they have nothing to repent of.
Jesus had a discussion with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, about baptism, and Jesus said, “Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” and to clarify what He meant by being born again, Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5).
It is clear that Jesus says if a person is not baptized, he or she cannot go to heaven. You won’t hear most Protestants say that.
THE APOSTLES COMMANDED BAPTISM:
When the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth, which we studied two weeks ago, Peter told the Jews in Acts 2:38: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Notice there are two things here required before our sins can be forgiven and before we can receive the Holy Spirit:
We have to repent - which, again, shows that babies can’t be baptized because babies have nothing to repent of, and they can’t understand repentance.
We have to be baptized. It is only after we have fulfilled at least these two conditions that we have obeyed the gospel and can enjoy the benefits of Christ’s blood.
Those who had received the message of Peter were baptized that same day (Acts 2:41). Notice that they received the word. The “Yellow Pages” churches talk about “receiving Jesus into your heart.” The NT does not talk about “receiving Jesus into your heart,” but it does talk about receiving the word or the gospel into your heart.
When the Samaritans believed Philip preaching about the kingdom and about Jesus Christ, they were baptized (Acts 8:12). Among them was a man named Simon who also believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13).
The treasurer for the queen of Ethiopia had traveled to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews and on his way home, he was reading Isaiah, the prophet, specifically Isaiah 53. God sent Philip to this man because one soul is important to God and Philip asked the treasurer if he understood what he was reading. The man said, “No. I need someone to guide me.” So, Philip began at that point and preached to him about Jesus.
That message included baptism because at some point, the treasurer stopped his chariot and pointed to a body of water and said, “Here is water. What’s stopping me from being baptized?” Philip said, “You can, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.” The treasurer confessed his faith and Philip then immersed him for the forgiveness of his sins. That story is told at the end of Acts 8.
In Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus was baptized and he tells us in Acts 22:16 that it was in baptism that his sins were washed away. You won’t get a Protestant preacher to say that!
When the first non-Jews were told about the gospel, by the apostle Peter, they also decided to repent of their sins and Peter commanded them to be baptized (Acts 10:47-48).
As Paul was traveling and preaching, they came across some women who were studying the word of God. Paul taught them about Jesus and about Jesus’ commands and those women were baptized immediately (Acts 16:15-16).
At the end of that chapter, Paul and Silas had been imprisoned but God let them loose through an earthquake. The jailer saw the prison doors opened and would have killed himself but Paul stopped him. The jailer, who was a pagan, asked Paul and Silas what to do to be saved. Paul answered with the first step, with the foundational response: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) but then Paul went on to tell him who Jesus was, and then the jailer repented of his sins and was baptized that same night.
There is not a single example of a sinner in the NT delaying his baptism, one quarter, one month, or one week. When he came to understand what Jesus commanded, he obeyed immediately. That’s how you show your faith.
The Corinthians heard the message, believed it, and were baptized: Acts 18:8.
WHAT ELSE THE NT TEACHES ABOUT BAPTISM:
Before you are baptized, you should know what the Bible teaches about baptism…
Romans 6:3-4 - Baptism is a burial - which means having water sprinkled on your head is not baptism; it is not an immersion; it is not a burial. And, baptism unites us together with Christ in His death as well as in His resurrection. Family, baptism is not optional!
1 Corinthians 12:13 - Baptism puts us into the body of Christ. You see, you cannot be saved without baptism!
Galatians 3:26-27 - Baptism is what clothes us with Christ!
Baptism which is commanded to be saved is not baptism in the Holy Spirit. Now, we do not have time to thoroughly discuss baptism in the Holy Spirit but let me point out from Ephesians 4:5 that Paul says there is only one baptism today and that baptism is the “washing with water by the Word” (5:26).
Yes, baptism is important for us to obey the gospel of Christ. The power is not in our goodness; the power to save is in the blood of Christ but we can have a good conscience in obeying Christ only when we have obeyed His commandments: 1 Peter 3:21.
That is not all the NT teaches about baptism. I could give you a dozen more verses, but that shows you what the NT teaches about baptism. If you were baptized but you did not have a biblical understanding about baptism, its role and mode, and purpose, I would urge you to stop obeying man’s teachings and obey Jesus Christ.
WHAT ONE SHOULD DO TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SC CHURCH OF CHRIST:
In order for the elders to have an idea of who is worshipping with the church here and what the elders can do to put people to work, through the church, in serving Christ, then the SC congregation has a short process you must go through. We often refer to it as “placing membership.” There is nothing in the NT specifically about “placing membership.” We do see in Acts 9:26 that Saul of Tarsus had come to Jerusalem and had wanted to be associated with the church of Christ in Jerusalem. Barnabas had to verify to the apostles that Paul had been converted and that he was, in fact, a Christian.
So, if you want to be associated with the SC church of Christ, the elders need to verify a few things with you. Your soul is important to the Lord and it is important to the eldership. We are responsible for the souls under our care (Heb. 13:17) so we need to meet with those who desire to be considered members of the SC church of Christ. At the top of the list is going to be: When, how, why were you baptized? What did you understand about baptism at the moment you were baptized? Were you obeying man or were you obeying Jesus Christ? Because we do not want to give people a false hope, thinking that just because someone thinks he or she is a Christian that they have obeyed the gospel of Christ.
We also need to know about previous marriages because many people are simply ignorant about what God requires and expects out of marriages and divorces. We also want to know what you can and will do in service to the Lord at this congregation. We need to put every person to use in a way that utilizes your skills and your education so we can make SC stronger.
Take home message: Believe and be immersed into water to be saved, to be washed by the blood of Christ! If you have been baptized under man’s teachings, then repent of listening to man and be immersed under Christ’s teachings.