Opening thought: For all the import of baptism, there seems to be a lack of interest, or even an embarrassment of this ordinance that gave us Baptists our name. Some Baptists as prominent and conservative as John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota advocate loosening the rules to allow those baptized as infants join in membership without being baptized. Therefore the practice has become sloppy and haphazard, not filled with the fullness of meaning that was intended in the Scriptures. Today we want to examine what Paul says about baptism.
Pray and Read: Colossians 2:11-12
Contextual Notes: Last week we looked at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Colossians (2:6-8) of being a growing Christian. Today we look at one of those areas of growth, specifically the first area of obedience as a disciple, the ordinance of baptism.
Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 2:11-12 to teach the Colossian Christians the meaning and importance of baptism.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about baptism.
- Baptism is symbolic of being set apart to Christ (Col 2:11)
- Baptism is symbolic of being raised with Christ (Col 2:12)
Exposition: Note well,
1. BAPTISM IS SYMBOLIC OF BEING SET APART TO CHRIST (COL 2:11).
a. Here Paul uses the image of Old Testament circumcision as a lead in to teach the importance of baptism. As a great teacher, Paul moves from what they know to what they do not yet know. Circumcision was an image the Colossian Christians would have known from their Bible of the way God set apart his people in the past. He takes it a step further and says that there is a setting apart done by Christ in the removing of the body of flesh through the circumcision of Christ.
b. Believers’ baptism is the immersion of a professing believer in water as an act of obedience, signifying that the saving transformation of God has occurred. The baptism of the believer is the first and important act of obedience for the believer. Through their baptism, believers declare their allegiance to Jesus Christ and to His people, the Church. It is a testimony to one’s faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
c. When a believer comes before the people of the church to make a public profession of faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, s/he is presented to the church as a candidate for baptism (Acts 2:41; 8:36-39; 11:47). Not until then. We don’t baptize infants, but only those of an age to make a credible decision of faith.
d. When someone is baptized, he or she means that he has given himself to the Lord in faith for the forgiveness of his sins and the regeneration of his soul. In many countries, especially in the Islamic world, public baptism is a major event. It is a bold statement that one has become a Christian and quite possibly is signing one’s own death warrant.
e. We baptize by immersion, not sprinkling, because the Greek word, baptizo means to immerse, dip, or sink. We do it to identify with Christ. We are baptized “into the name.” The book of Acts repeatedly links baptism with Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). Baptism demonstrates the cleansing that has taken place in a person’s life. Ananias commanded the new believer Paul, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name (Acts 22:16). We identify with his Jesus’ acts of death, burial, and resurrection as well in our baptism in our verse here. So we have wrapped up in the act of baptism are identification, purification, and incorporation into the body of Christ.
f. ILLUSTRATION: But baptism is not when all this takes place. Baptism is the symbolic proclamation of what has taken place in the new believer’s life. A wedding is a similar picture of what I’m getting at in baptism. Just like two people who love one another, faith binds new believer and their Lord. The wedding is the occasion where that love is publicly celebrated, confessed, and confirmed. Just like baptism, the wedding doesn’t create love. It only expresses that the relationship exists and expresses it in a beautiful and solemn way. Baptism doesn’t create the faith and union with Christ. It confesses, celebrates, and confirms it.
g. Baptism is an act of public commitment to one’s faith in Jesus Christ. It is an occasion ordained and begun by our Lord when one confesses that he or she has made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ.
h. APPLICATION: Do you need to identify with Christ today? You first need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ before you can be baptized. Some of you have made that commitment to Jesus Christ and neglected the obedience to your Lord to be baptized as a believer. Today is the day to make that commitment to be baptized in Jesus’ name.
2. BAPTISM IS SYMBOLIC OF BEING RAISED WITH CHRIST (COL 2:12).
a. Baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our participation with him in it. (Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We have died with Christ. We are dead to the world. We have been buried with Christ. The power and temptations of the world no longer reach us. We are raised with Christ to a new, resurrected, triumphant life in Christ.
b. Baptism is an initial ceremony, a beginning for a Christian. The church’s responsibility is not over. It has just begun to teach and disciple and train that new believer in their faith and the word of God.
c. APPLICATION: Some folks have objections to believers’ immersion. One question is about infant baptism or christening.
d. What about infant baptism? If one has been baptized or christened as an infant, is that enough? The answer is no. Here’s why. Your infant baptism was a wonderful dedication by your parents of you to the Lord and his care. The Scripture does not command us to baptize infants but to be baptized or immersed as a public statement of our conversion to Jesus Christ.
e. Some would take offense by asking, “Is what my parents did for me not good enough?” It was good at that time to dedicate you as a new member of their family to the Lord. It does not fulfill your obligation as a believer to announce publicly your allegiance to Jesus Christ through immersion, through the picture of death, burial, and resurrection.
f. Some ask about those who cannot be baptized, like those confined to bed or mentally unable to handle the situation. In these cases, churches have voted wisely to allow sprinkling or pouring or, as our church constitution provides, placed “under the watchcare of the congregation.”
g. Some would say, “Well, it is just not that important to me at this point in my life. I’ve been a Christian for many years now. I’m still going to heaven. I still have a relationship with Christ.” Yes, you are still going to heaven. Baptism does nothing to enhance or detract from your salvation in Christ Jesus, but just because baptism is not important to you now does not change the command that Jesus gave to be immersed as a witness to your faith. We find that command in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) and at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). “Repent and be baptized” is a command the church obeyed as the gospel went forth. Ephesians 4:5 assumes that all Christians share in “one baptism.” To resist immersion after your conversion is blatant disobedience to your Lord. It brings into question the validity of a commitment to a Lord that you will not obey.
h. Some people marry spouses who are Baptist and attend the Baptist church with them but never submit to immersion. Those who do this show forth incongruency in their marriage. Will you marry such a one, yet not only in disobedience to our Lord Christ’s command in Matthew 28:19-20 to be baptized, you also do not follow the command in Ephesians 5:21 to married couples to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ. There seems to be more than a disobedience problem here. There seems to be a deeper attitudinal problem as well. What kind of picture of marriage and submission to Christ are you giving your children when you do not unite with your spouse and be baptized also?
i. I’ve even met some people who won’t be baptized because their hair will get messed up in front of everyone at church. Now that’s just a little bit silly. Those same folks don’t mind having your hair messed up at the beach or when you go swimming in front of other people. More important, though, is that you are saying that your personal vanity is more important to you than your obedience to your Lord.
j. Let’s be obedient to Christ’s command to be baptized. Will you?