This week, we look at Jesus' Baptism, and we'll explore what it means to be baptized in HIs name.
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Today is one of those very special days in the life of the Church. Today, we are going to witness the baptism of three people who have come to Jesus by faith, they’ve confessed and repented, they’ve attended some classes to see what our faith is really about, and they’ve have committed to follow Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is such a huge blessing for the church to witness this, and to support and teach these three and help them as they begin their walk of faith. God has done a great thing, the angels in heaven are rejoicing, and so are we. Before we get to the actual act of baptism, we’re going to look at Jesus’ baptism, and in doing so, see what baptism means for us.
In today's reading, we encounter John the Baptist. We know that for a long time the Jewish people had been waiting for a prophet in the line of Isaiah or Jeremiah or Elijah. Now, in John the Baptist, they finally have a prophet who they’re ready to listen to. Consequently, as the story unfolds, we see that John has become quite popular. People are coming to see him from all over. To those who came to hear him, John says, “I baptize you with water, but one more powerful than I will come... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Luke tells us that “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”
Our passage today talks about Jesus’ baptism, and that’s what I want to talk about today. Because our baptism is the starting point of our walk of faith. So we’re going to look at Jesus’ baptism today, and see a few things that baptism is.
First, baptism is a public event. It’s a public proclamation of our faith. In baptism we come before our church family and we profess our faith in God. In most cases in Scripture, baptism doesn’t happen individually. In fact the only exception I see is with the Ethiopian Eunuch – and Phillip is explaining the Scriptures. The Eunuch, for the first time, understands the Scriptures, understands who Jesus is, and when he does, he asks to be baptized. They stop the chariot along the river, and Phillip baptizes him.
I think every other baptism in Scripture is a public event. There are others present. And certainly, here in the wilderness along the Jordan River, where John the Baptist is preaching and teaching, and offering to baptize those who are ready, there are others here. And it’s important to have others present. Because baptism is a public proclamation of our faith. We confess our faith in our Lord and Savior, and we are baptized in His name.
Even Jesus was baptized with a crowd of witnesses. And Jesus came forward, entered the water, was lowered under the surface, and came up again, just as we celebrate baptism. We celebrate baptism with submerging, in the presence of our church family. We proclaim our faith in the presence of our church family. It’s a very public thing.
But at the same time baptism is public, it’s also private. It’s between you and God. It symbolizes a new relationship has been born. And yes, it’s a relationship not just between you and God, it’s between you and every other believer, yet still, it is a very private thing. You become God’s child. You become a son or a daughter of God. And the Scripture uses the term son, whether you’re male or female, because a son had certain rights of inheritance that a daughter didn’t have. So you are a son. Even if you’re a female, you are adopted into the family with all the rights of a son.
In our reading, Jesus is praying when the voice of the Lord is heard. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures illustrating Jesus’ baptism, with the dove, and the voice while Jesus is in the water. Luke seems to be telling us that part happened after Jesus came out of the water and he was praying. In verses 21-22 we see, “And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.”
For Jesus, while the act of baptism was public, there was a prayer, actually a lifetime of prayer, that followed. And it wasn’t public prayer. I get the image of Jesus on His own, off to the side, praying. It’s a private thing. And that’s when the Holy Spirit comes, and that’s when the voice of God is heard.
When we are baptized, we need to follow that act of baptism with a time of prayer, it is the beginning of our walk of faith, and we need to keep in constant communion with God on that walk, so we know which way to go. It’s through prayer that we put God in the very center of our lives, and keep Him there. Therefore, prayer is essential to our doing God’s Will. And we can see that in the life of Jesus after His baptism. So baptism is at the same time a very public event, yet very private, too.
Baptism is a very symbolic event. Baptism is full of symbolism. It is symbolic of his death and resurrection, and through our baptism, we share in Jesus’ death, and we are cleansed from sin. I’ve identified at least eight symbolisms in the act of baptism. Let’s look at a few.
First, we see that baptism is a symbol of Jesus’ death. Turn with me to Luke 12:50. Jesus is talking about some things still to come, and how he wishes they had already started. In verse 50, he explains why they haven’t already started, “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” He is talking about His suffering and His death on the cross. Here, baptism is symbolic of Jesus’ suffering and death – the extreme sacrifice.
Second, we see that baptism is a symbol of Jesus’ burial. In believer’s baptism by immersion, when we are lowered under the surface, it represents the death of our old self, and when we come up it represents our new life in Christ – a rebirth, if you will. In Romans 6:4, Paul writes about baptism, “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.”
Third, baptism is symbolic of the death of our old sinful, human nature, and the rebirth of a new creation in Christ Jesus. Paul writes a lot about the human nature, which is our sinful nature. In Romans 8:13, he touches on this, “For if you live according the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Baptism is symbolic of this death of our sinful nature, and the new life of our spiritual nature.
Fourth, baptism is a symbol of our being saved from the flood. In Genesis 7, we see that God has had enough of the human race. Everyone is corrupt, no one does what is right, no one follows God’s command. Well, there is one. There is Noah. So God destroys the entire world with a flood, and everyone is killed, except Noah and his family. And Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives, start over.
Peter says, in 1 Peter 3:20-21, I’ll pick it up in the middle of verse 20, “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also.”
There are a number of other symbolic things taken out of baptism. In Colossians 3:11-12 we are told that baptism is a symbol of circumcision. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 we’re told that baptism is symbolic of the Exodus. In Galatians 3:27, baptism is how we are clothed with Christ, we can put on Christ as you might put on a coat or a garment – through baptism. In Ephesians 4:5 we see baptism as a symbol of unity. All believers are united by the fact that they have all been baptized. And finally, baptism was a symbol of the Jewish purification, the hand washing, being washed from our sin. Baptism is the ultimate act of this rite of purification.
So baptism is a very symbolic event. But it the same time, it is very real and very powerful. Because after baptism, real life change takes place. In Acts 2, Peter is addressing the crowds after the Pentecost, and the people are convicted, and they ask him what they should do. In verse 38, he tells them… “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of you sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And folks, you’ve got to know that being filled with the Holy Spirit makes a difference in your life.
In Galatians 5 we see some things to avoid, Paul calls them the fruits of the sinful nature, and then we see some things to work on, fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes upon us during baptism and enables us to live a life pleasing to God. We become, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the very fruits of the Holy Spirit. We become loving, joyful, peaceful, patient – you know the list. There is a real life change that takes place when we are baptized and we put ourselves in God’s will, putting God in the very center of our life.
I’ve seen the effects of this change in people. I’ve seen alcoholics come to Christ and put away the bottle forever. I’ve seen drug users put away their drugs and never use them again. I’ve seen people addicted to pornography walk away and never look at it again. I’ve seen the desires that have held people captive for so many years disappear overnight, when a life was given to Jesus Christ. I’ve seen people healed. Very real, very painful illnesses, completely healed. There is so much power available to us in the Holy Spirit. And when we truly give ourselves over to Jesus, when we truly put Him in the center of our lives and start to do His Will, we will experience it ourselves. And we begin that new life through repentance and baptism.
So baptism is symbolic, yet at the same time, it is very real, and has the power to change lives in incredible ways. Baptism shows that we have faith, and it’s our faith that has the power, it’s the Holy Spirit that comes to live with us, through faith, that has the power – but wow! What power!
So baptism is public, yet at the same, it is private. It’s symbolic, yet at the same time very real and very powerful. If you haven’t been baptized yet, or you’re not sure, or you’ve lost your faith and are just coming back to Jesus now, and would like to be baptized again, let’s talk about it. Come forward during the closing hymn and let me know, we’ll talk about it. But first, let’s sing hymn number #440 – Follow On, and we’ll welcome these three who have already come forward.