Questions about Baptism
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 12, 2007
Main Passage: Romans
BluefishTV.com Video – “Water”
When did this strange practice ever begin? What’s the point of dunking
people under water. Why is that even connected to our faith? Does
anything actually happen when you’re baptized? What does it mean? What
is it all about?
In just about two hours, we’ll be taking the
time to once again celebrate baptism. Several members of the Sunrise
Family will be baptized this afternoon. And so I thought we’d talk
about it for a while this morning.
Except that I had one
problem. Because this is August. And I don’t get to talk about what I
want to talk about in August. This is your month. This is when I speak
specifically on topics and passages that you have requested. That’s
what this message series “You Asked for It” is all about. And I had
already been planning to speak on another topic this morning based on
one of the requests that were made by you.
So I was in a little
bit of a quandary. I didn’t want to just hijack this series. Because I
get to talk about what’s on my heart the other eleven months. But it
just seemed right to me that we should discuss baptism here this
morning. So what’s a pastor to do? Well, thankfully, Harvey came to my
Harvey and I started talking about baptism this week
while we were at the Leadership Summit, and he was curious about when
baptisms even began. I didn’t actually know the answer to that, and so
I told Harvey that I’d look into it and get back to him. So Harvey,
because You Asked for It, we’re going to talk about Baptism this
Okay, so I manipulated that just a little bit. But
don’t worry; the topic that was bumped today will be address either
later this month or sometime in September. Okay? And I’ve already
discussed it with the person who requested that topic.
what we’re going to do today is this: we’re going to explore a few of
the frequently asked questions about baptism. You can see those
questions already laid out for you in your notes. And you can follow
along and fill in the blanks as we go. The first and most obvious
Essentials Questions Baptism:
What Is Baptism?
A rite of initiation and cleansing.
me ask you a question. How do you become a Jew? Well, there are two
answers for that. One is a strictly racial answer – you’re born to
Jewish parents. That makes you a Jew by birth. But what if you’re not
born as a Jew? What if you belong to another people group, but embrace
the Jewish faith. How do you become a Jew then? You go through an
And for those Jewish converts in the Old Testament,
that meant two things: first, for the guys, it meant circumcision. That
was a practice that set the Jews apart from all the other peoples in
And second, baptism was often used to initiate
newcomers to the Jewish faith. It was part of a purification or
cleansing ritual. And for obvious reasons, it worked much better for
women who wanted to become Jews.
That dates all the way back to
the time of Moses, so baptism was being practiced at least 1500 years
before Jesus and John the Baptizer appeared on the scene. (Although it
wasn’t actually called baptism at that early stage… it was called
And then when Christianity began to emerge, the
practice continued to be used in this new faith. Except it became even
more important. It became even more central to the initiation of people
to the Christian faith. Because circumcision was replaced by baptism as
the primary sign that you belonged to the community of believers in
A public statement.
the very first day of the church’s existence… on what we call the Day
of Pentecost… the apostle Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit and he
went outside and preached a sermon about Jesus, and three thousand
people converted to Christianity that very first day.
And do you know how they let people know that they had placed their
faith in Jesus? Take a wild guess. They were baptized.
Acts 2:41 (NIV)
who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were
added to their number that day.
It was their initiation, and it was their public statement.
see, once a person admits that he or she is a sinner and turns to
Christ for salvation, the Bible says that the watching world needs to
know that you’ve made that decision, and baptism is the prescribed way
to let them know.
In a way, baptism separates the tire kickers
from the real buyers… the window shoppers from the serious investors.
Baptism has always stood as a “Do you mean it or don’t you?” test for
the person who moves from being a spiritual seeker into being a
Because it’s one thing to say in the privacy of your
own heart that you’re a sinner who needs a Saviour. It’s quite another
to step out of the shadows and stand before a group of people to
demonstrate publicly that fact, to confess that what Christ did on the
cross has now been applied to the sin of your life, and to declare that
you’re dedicating the rest of your life as best you can to being a
A means of accountability.
don’t know if this was part of the original plan for Baptism or note,
but it has certainly proven to be this over the years. Because being
baptized kind of makes you do a gut check, because once you go public
it’s tough to turn back, isn’t it? Baptism asks of your faith, “Do you
mean it enough to stand in front of family and friends? Or do you want
to play it safe and hide in the shadows?” Being kind of a “closet
Christian,” if there is such a thing.
Because make no mistake
about it; Jesus commanded those who claimed to be his followers to
prove it by being baptized publicly. There are no exceptions to his
command. He doesn’t say the rich have an exception or the introverts
have an exception or so and so has an exception. He said everybody.
when you’re baptized publicly, you’re making a public statement about
who you belong to, and whose values you live by. When you’ve made that
kind of public declaration, it’s pretty hard to act in a way that’s
inconsistent with that, isn’t it? Because you know people are watching
you. They know that you’ve made this public declaration, and now they
want to know if it’s real. Or will you betray your faith? Will you
embarrass your faith? It just holds you accountable.
An outward expression of an inward reality.
How? Because of the symbolism involved. Symbolically, it does a couple
• It illustrates my new life as a
Jim read this verse for us earlier. Now let’s all read it aloud
Romans 6:4 (NLT)
we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also
may live new lives.
Christ-follower, you’ve experienced a transformation. Your old life is
gone. You’ve been made new. And baptism symbolized that. As you’re
going down into the water, you’re declaring “I’ve died to myself. I
don’t live for me anymore. Jesus died for me, so now I’m dying for
Him.” That’s when you’re going down into the water.
And then when you come up, you’re testifying to the new life you have
in Him. You’ve been transformed. Now you live for Him.
Colossians 2:12-13 (NLT)
you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you
were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God,
who raised Christ from the dead… Then God made you alive with Christ.
• It represents the cleansing work of God
in my life.
the time baptism was first practiced during the time of Moses, baptism
represented a purification in the life of the one being baptized. And
that still continues today. From head to toe, baptism declares that God
has washed away your sinfulness and you are now found clean and pure in
Baptism doesn’t make you clean… baptism doesn’t save
you… Baptism shows that God has already done this for you. It doesn’t
earn your salvation; it expresses it.
Mark 1:4 (NLT)
should be baptized to show that they had turned from their sins and
turned to God to be forgiven.
people are baptized when? After they’ve turned from their sins and
turned to God. Baptism shows what has already taken place on the inside.
Which, by the way, is why I prefer to dedicate children and baptize
some churches do baptize infants. Is that wrong? Well, not necessarily,
but I think there’s more to it than that. You may have been baptized as
an infant, but you should also consider being baptized as a believer.
as an infant, you had no choice in the matter. It wasn’t a declaration
about anything that you had decided or anything that God had done in
Those of you who were at the Leadership Summit this
week, did any of you go over and look at the pictures that were hanging
on the wall just inside the entry way? Did you notice the picture of
the elderly couple there? That was a picture of B.C. Cochrane and his
wife Hilda. I believe they started that church in Moncton.
when I was born, B.C. Cochrane was the pastor at the church my parents
attended. So my parents went to him to have me dedicated. And I
remember it like it was 36 ½ years ago.
What were my parents
doing when they did that? They were committing themselves and me to the
love, care, and protection of God… they were expressing their desire
that someday I would make a personal choice to acknowledge my
sinfulness and turn to Jesus personally. They were pledging to raise me
within the context of a church family where I would learn about God and
be told about His great love for me and about what He had done for me.
was dedicated then. And later on after I had made the decision that I
would follow Jesus for the rest of my life… then I was baptized.
Take a look at what it says in Matthew 28…
Matthew 28:19 (NLT)
go and make disciples… baptizing them…
What happens first? You become a disciple. You become a
Christ-follower. Then what happens? Then you’re baptized.
in the event you were baptized as an infant, that’s okay. You can
understand that to mean that it was the intent of your parents that you
would one day be a follower of Christ. So why not bring it full circle?
Your Baptism as a believer can be viewed as the fulfillment of your
parents’ wishes. It in no way diminishes the Baptism you received as an
infant. It just says that what your parents hoped and prayed would
happen has happened. You have been changed on the inside. And Baptism
just demonstrates that change.
Why should I be baptized?
Well, aside from reasons we’ve already talked about, you should be
To follow the example set by Jesus.
Himself was baptized. And it wasn’t some minor event in His life.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us about the baptism of Jesus. And so
when He asks you to be baptized, you can understand that He Himself was
baptized. He’s not asking you to do something He wasn’t willing to do
(Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22)
Because Jesus commands it.
before his ascension, he gave the disciples and Christian leaders
throughout the ages the specific order to continue to challenge new
believers with baptism, no matter what culture they come from and no
matter what belief system they came out of, if any. He told them…
Matthew 28:19 (NLT)
go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…
So I have a God-given directive to tell you, “you need to be baptized.”
But you know, sometimes being baptized comes with a price.
wife recently returned from a humanitarian trip in a part of the Muslim
world where Christians are not permitted to practice their faith
publicly. And that includes baptism. in fact, the week after she
returned home, the church there had a baptism scheduled to take place
in a bathtub in someone's home because that's the only place they could
do it. And the people being baptized would be shunned or even disowned
by their families.
And this is common in these parts of the
world. When a Muslim accepts Christ and becomes a Christian, they may
be taken to a bathtub or brought down to a muddy river someplace and be
baptized right there. But often times when this happens, the rest of
their family members will officially shun them for the rest of their
That’s how much a baptism costs a converted Muslim in
India, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or Indonesia, or even right here in
Canada. And yet these new believers are willing to do it in order to
obey Jesus. Baptism is a big deal, and they understand that. Is it a
big deal for you?
It demonstrates that I’m serious about following Jesus.
Acts 18:8 (NLT)
the people who had faith in the Lord were baptized.
me ask you, if you’re a believer and you haven’t been baptized, what’s
holding you back? What’s the big hold up? Are you too proud to be
baptized? Do you think you don’t really have to follow Jesus’
instructions in this area?
“All the people who had faith in the Lord were baptized.” Do you have
faith in Him or don’t you?
When and where should I be baptized?
As soon as possible after conversion. In Acts chapter 2, we’re told
that on the Day of Pentecost the church “went public”… the Holy Spirit
filled the disciples, Peter went out and preached the first sermon, and
3000 people accepted Christ AND WERE BAPTIZED that very day. They
didn’t sign up for baptism classes, they didn’t have to enroll in a
prolonged period of preparation. They were baptized immediately. So if
you’re a believer and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,
that’s all you need. You’re ready.
Hey, you could be baptized today!
for where, well, John the Baptist and the early Disciples baptized in
rivers and lakes. Eventually, baptisms moved inside church buildings,
especially in countries like ours where the weather doesn’t permit
outdoor baptisms year-round. Churches like ours that don’t have their
own facilities either borrow or rent other facilities, or return to the
tradition of baptizing outside in rivers or lakes like we’re doing
The fact is, there’s nothing special about the location
or the water we use to baptize. A baptism that takes place in a bathtub
is as valid as a baptism that takes place in a river which is as valid
as a baptism that takes place in a church building. I’ve taken part in
baptisms in church baptisteries, in swimming pools, and in rivers.
Whether it’s in a church building, filled with chlorine, or under the
open skies, it’s just water… taken from a tap or flowing down the
river. In Acts 8, the apostle Phillip tells an Ethiopian eunuch about
Jesus, and listen to what happens…
Acts 8:36-38 (NLT)
they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look!
There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the carriage
to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
There’s nothing special about the water, what matters is the obedience.
the exact location is not all that important. But it has seemed obvious
to Christians throughout history that your baptism should be within the
community of the church that you call your home. That’s where you can
be baptized within a community of people who know you and love you.
That’s where someone will help you reflect on the significance of this
sacrament, and that’s where someone can congratulate and celebrate with
you about the greatness of God and the new direction of your life.
let me ask you very straightforwardly… have you been baptized since
you’ve become a believer? Since you’ve come to personal faith in Christ
have you said, “Yes Lord, I will gladly walk out of the shadows. I’ll
stand wherever you want me to stand. I will give a public witness that
I’m one of yours through what Christ did on the cross. I will be
baptized as an expression of what you’ve already done in my life.”
If you have not been baptized then today is a good day.
Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and Keith Drury who provided resources for