Sunday, October 23, 2011

Christianity 101: Baptism

We’ve reached a critical point. If you’ve followed these Christianity 101 posts, then you’ve learned that God is all about the relationship with us. You know that each of us have sinned and broken that relationship. However, God took the necessary steps of Grace through Jesus Christ to arrange for our redemption because regardless of our lack of faithfulness to Him, He still loves us and wants that relationship. We’ve come to our part, and we’ve learned what it means to repent. Now, we take a look at baptism.

Before we do, if you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, please go back and review them. This post will make more sense to you if you do.

Acts 2:36-39
Peter: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

The Cut-to-the-Heart People: Brothers, what shall we do?

Peter: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.

Let me rephrase this exchange. I’m going to take some liberties to try to express how this strikes me.

Peter: Well, all of you can be sure of one thing: God has made Jesus…the one YOU killed on a cross…both Lord (Your Master. Your King.) and Christ (Messiah. Savior.).

The “What-Have-We-Done” People: What do we do now?

Peter: Change the direction of how you are living your life and be submerged in water by the authority of Jesus…the Messiah, the Savior…so that your sins will be forgiven and the Spirit of God will live within you. This is not just for you, but for your kids, and everyone who comes after you too.

So, what’s the deal with this baptism thing? I called it being submerged. In the original Greek, that’s what the word means…to be submerged or immersed in water. What’s the big deal? Is there something magical in the act? Or, is it just a symbol? Can we do without it? Or, is it necessary? People in religious circles often fight over these questions. Book after book has been written to support one view or another…over and over again.

I’m going to try to skip all of that. Let’s just look at what we can know for sure that these people understood as they heard this in Acts 2.

Here they are just going through their lives. They thought they were doing the right things. They thought that they had brought about the death of a heretic who was threatening the relative peace that Israel was enjoying under Roman rule…cruel as it was. They felt justified.

Then, on the Day of Pentecost, God flips their lives upside down.

A crazy sound of a wild, rushing wind. Tongues of fire. People who shouldn’t be able to speak other languages are speaking clearly in tongues not their own.

"What is this? This is a fulfillment of a prophecy? Joel? Really?

The heretic is not a heretic? He has risen from the dead? Not only that, but he was the Messiah? We killed the Messiah? But, he didn’t stay dead? Now, he’s more….now, he’s the Lord….the king?

Where can I hide? How can you hide from a king who has risen from the dead?

But wait! Not only is he the Lord…he’s also the savior.

Is there any hope?...any hope for me?"

"Sure there is. Repent…change. Be immersed. Your sins will be forgiven and God will live inside you!"

"That’s all? That’s it? Geesh! Where do I sign up?"

3000 people did. 3000 people repented and were baptized that SAME DAY. They didn’t fuss about it. They just responded to what they were told. They put their faith in Jesus through the words they were told....those same words that we have been told in every generation since in the Book of Acts.

The problem is that we want to fuss about it.

All they knew is that they’d messed up and this was the answer. Isn’t that true for us? We’ve messed up, and we have an answer that Peter said was for “all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”


We do have an advantage over the folks in Acts 2, however. We can read other passages that can broaden our understanding of what GOD DOES when we submit to baptism. It can give us a clearer picture of the beautiful union that occurs…or, should I say reunion?

Romans 6:3-4
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

When we are baptized, God buries us with His son, and then raises us up with a whole new life…a fresh start…free from the burden of our sin. Keep in mind that God does this. All we do is submit ourselves to what He is doing.

Galatians 3:26-27
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

If you have enough faith in Jesus Christ to submit yourself to baptism, then you are covering your life up in His. He is covering your sinfulness much like clothing covers your nakedness…making you acceptable to being seen by God.

I Peter 3:21
…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge (response) of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,…

By submitting to the process of baptism, we are responding to God’s call in good conscience. We are giving ourselves in pledge to Him.

It is the great reunion of a lost person with the God who loves him.

Let us simply relish in the beauty of this gift of Grace that God has provided.

In conclusion, I want to say that baptism is neither nothing, nor is it everything. There are some who discount it completely as only a ceremonial act that we have no need to do. There are others who think that everything revolves around this one step. For me, it is a culmination. Loving God is the prime ingredient. God has done the work. It is up to us to both repent (change) and submit (be baptized) into the grand reunion.

This promise is for ALL whom the Lord will call. Do I hear your phone ringing?

No comments:

Post a Comment