“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-17)
This coming Sunday, July 23rd, we will celebrate the baptism of those who have heeded the call of Jesus Christ to, “Follow Me”. Baptism holds great significance in the life of a Christian and in the life of a church as a whole.
First, baptism is an outward symbol of an inward union with Christ. We are New Covenant people who have been brought into a relationship by the work of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 2:11-12 reveals the inner working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Christians, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” We are joined to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ by the inward work of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual circumcision made without hands is the New testament equivalent to the physical circumcision of the Old Testament. It is the God who gives us new spiritual hearts (Ezekiel 11:19), puts His Spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:27), and shines on us spiritual light to illuminate the truth of the gospel (John 1:9-14). This is the inward work of the Spirit that brings us into relationship. When the Spirit works in our hearts it is expressed through faith. Faith is the means that God prescribes for us to reconciled us back to Himself. The mark that a person’s heart has been regenerated by the spiritual circumcision of the Holy Spirit is that they respond in faith to the Gospel. Faith sees Christ for who He is. Faith believes the promises of God that Christ took the wrath we deserved. Faith leaves everything behind to follow Jesus. Faith believes that we will follow Christ by being raised to eternal life. When a person goes into baptism they are communicating that they believe the good news of the gospel and they are forsaking the things of the world for the eternal satisfaction of following Christ. Just as my wedding ring is a symbol of the promise I made to Denise, baptism is a symbol of the faith that was sown into my heart by the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the outward sign of inward faith is baptism.
Second, baptism is a command of Jesus. As Evangelicals we have put far too much emphasis on prayers, decisions, and alter calls at the expense of the act of baptism. Jesus never tells us to lead a person in a scripted ‘sinners’ prayer at the end of a gospel tract. Jesus commands us to make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching (Matt 28:19-20). The apostles themselves preached the commandment for believers to be baptized. In Acts 2:37-41 the Holy Spirit began to move in the hearts of those listening to the Word of God being preached which prompted the people to ask Peter, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter prescribed two ways that faith in the Gospel is demonstrated: “Repent and be baptized”. We know that those who listened to Peter had faith in their heart because verse 41 says they, “received his word [and] were baptized”. There is no such thing in the New Testament as an ‘unbaptized’ believer. Those who believe the gospel express their faith in baptism. If we value the call of the Gospel and obedience to Christ we will follow Him in baptism.
Third, Baptism brings us into the Covenant Community. All throughout the New Testament you see Christians living together in a community bound by the New Covenant of Christ’s body and blood. The mark of being apart of the family of God is a shared baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism itself is a dramatization of the radical transformation of an individual. Immersion into the water symbolizes our spiritual death and association with the Christ’s atoning death. As we are raised up out of the water, we symbolize the new spiritual life that Christ has imparted to us and the new nature we now possess. A nature that brings forth the fruit of the Spirit, a desire to follow Christ, and to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. This new life we possess is not lived in isolation but apart of the faith community. Many people say that I do not have to be a ‘church member’ to be a Christian. However, there is never mention of a Christian in isolation from other Christians or apart from a fellowship of believers. New Testament believers were devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer (Acts 2:42). Even in remote parts of the earth the goal of missionaries is to plant churches where the fellowship of Christ can be enjoyed and cherished. The metaphors that are used of a Christian’s new life are a spiritual body, temple, and household to name a few. None of these can be done in isolation, we need one another. Therefore, baptism is the means by which we are brought into communion with other believers, a local expression of the universal body of Christ (local church), and the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper. The more I meditate on the significance of baptism the more I am thankful for the Gospel which it symbolizes. May we at Ocean Park be faithful to live out the Great Commission and make disciples by calling those in our homes, work, and community to follow Christ in Baptism.
*The July 23rd Baptismal service will be at 6:00 at the 16th Ave S Beach not in the sanctuary.
Soli Deo Gloria