Sermons & Sunday Schools

Observations on Believer’s Baptism

In this special baptism day sermon, Pastor Joe Babij presents three key observations on believer’s baptism from the Bible:

1. Believer’s baptism underscores the common experience of all believers (Ephesians 4:4-6)
2. Believer’s baptism underscores the centrality of the gospel in saving people (1 Peter 3:18-22)
3. Believer’s baptism unites believers with Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4)

Full Transcript:

We are going to start off this morning in Ephesians 4. I thought today we’d step out of Jude just to give some observations from scripture on what the Bible says about baptism. Then we’ll be looking at 1 Peter 3 and then Romans 6.

Let me have a word of prayer. Let’s pray. Father, this morning as we come before You in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Father, we are mindful today that your Word is powerful. It’s sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces to the deepest recesses of our heart, and it exposes us. I pray, Lord, that it would always do that. And as it does that, we would quickly come to the place where we realize we’re in trouble and that Jesus Christ is the solution to our trouble for He’s the One who is taking care of our greatest problem and that is the problem of sin. I thank You today that we’re able to come to the word of God and gain and get comfort because of what You have accomplished on behalf of Your children. Encourage us today, not only as we look at the scriptures, but as we heard the testimonies of those that you have saved and that You have worked in their lives. I pray today that you would receive all the praise, the glory, and the honor that’s due your name—and only Your name. I pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.

Let me just start off by saying this, just to give a little bit of my testimony, I grew up as a faithful Polish Roman catholic. I went to parochial school until third grade and then transferred into public school in fourth grade and right up to eight grade I went to my CCD classes. That’s the catholic classes for teaching whatever they taught. I was baptized as an infant and then I was galvanized, homogenized, and of course, in the catholic church. I attended every Sunday faithfully, especially with my father. During that time in my life, however, I grew very dissatisfied with life. Most of my friends were partiers and all that they wanted to do was work and then party from Friday to Sunday. I just didn’t fit in there. I didn’t like that and didn’t want part of that. So, my dissatisfaction just grew deeper and deeper and I really became so spiritually restless in my soul and I had everything I wanted. I had everything I needed, and I had a very loving family. I just was empty. So, one day as I was working with heating and air conditioning, I was in this crawl space, it was very cold and damp, and I got up that one day from that crawl space and got into my truck, went back home, went down to the marine corps recruiter, and joined up for the marines. That’s insanity.

The Lord had a plan, because at that point in my life two people had witnessed to me, shared the gospel with me. I didn’t really get it. I said I am already religious and don’t really need that. I wasn’t looking for God, I thought I had God. So, the Lord put me in Rota, Spain while I was in the marine corps. I was in nuclear security duty, and he put me there, took me out of my environment, and the only thing I was ready to hear was the gospel. I heard the gospel and I got convicted of my sins, understood I never received Christ as my Lord and Savior. I never read the scripture until that time, and I saw it in the scripture, and I trusted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Then suddenly, to my surprise, my life had meaning! It had a purpose to it. The lights went on and everything became clearer, and from that day it has been clearer and clearer. I knew something happened to me and then I went to the Word of God, and I opened it up and I was able to understand it. I thank the Lord for that. Someone said to me: you need to be baptized. I said, oh I got that covered, I’ve already been baptized. And he says, no, I am talking about believer’s baptism. So, on December 25, 1977 in Florida, I was baptized as a believer and from that day forward it’s been history. God has worked in my life, and He’s done the same for many of you here today.

We are going to listen to testimonies in a minute, but before we do that, I just want to share with you three biblical passages that mention baptism and just give you some observations about those passages. We’re not going too deep into any one of them, we are just going to look at them. The first observation is from the Epistle of Ephesians and it’s this, that believer’s baptism underscores the common experience of all believers. You are all going to hear different testimonies of how the Heavenly Father drew these baptismal candidates to Himself, and even though you’ll hear differences in their stories, they all as genuine believers all share a common saving experience. They were all saved by Christ. One of the realities held in common by all believers is really put forth very directly in this passage of scripture. Notice in Ephesians 4:4-6 it states,

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

If you notice, one baptism here designates an initiation right common by all those who belong to the church of Jesus Christ. This one baptism refers to the one immersion of the Spirit, including water baptism, in which is a public identification and confession of Jesus Christ before an assembly of followers of Jesus Christ. The whole context in Ephesians is addressing unity that has been brought into the family of God by the Holy Spirit of God and it is to be maintained by believers. It says in Ephesians 4:3,

Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Baptism is a common experience for all believers, there’s no such thing in scripture as an unbaptized believer, at least part of the Church. One body meaning that Christ is the head of the Church. He is the body, including Jews and Gentiles, that means people from all tribes and nations are coming into the body. One Spirit means unless the Spirit be in the Church, the Church would remain dead, He gives it life. One hope is that we are all proceeding toward the same goal to share in the established Kingdom of God at the time of Christs’ coming. We are all headed to the same place, we all have that same hope. One Lord, there can only be one Master. The true Church is in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s one body of truth, that’s one faith. The truth once delivered to the saints that I’ve been preaching on in Jude. That Christians have bound themselves together with one body of truth and have completely surrendered in that truth to love for Christ.

One immersion in the Spirit, one baptism, also referring to water baptism which is the public identification and confession of Jesus Christ. Then, it ends in that passage of one God who created all things, referring to everything. The one God and Father ties everything together. God the Father, He is the gentle and the longsuffering, the kind, the gracious, the merciful Father. He is over all and in control of everything. He is sovereign over all things. He has created everything and works everything intentionally through and in all things to accomplish His intended goal for the universe He created. He is through all; He is providentially working throughout His world sustaining it and directing it to carry out His eternal plan unto completion. He is not complete yet with that plan, we are still in and part of that plan. Then it says in all that God’s presence is in the world and in His church, it occupies a critical plane in God’s divine plan to display to the world the unity of believers in the Church.

How will we be known by? By our love, our love for Christ and our love for one another. This is a common expression of all believers. There is no such thing in Christ’s church as an unbaptized believer. It is for every Christian. A regular part of becoming a Christian. That’s why in the passage we read this morning, it says, so then who received the Word—that came first, which means to trust God, were baptized. That day they were added about 3,000 souls to the Church. Believing first and then baptism. Not baptism first but believing first. That is a common experience in scripture. That is the first observation.

The second observation is found in the epistle of 1 Peter. Take your bible and turn there. This second observation is that believers’ baptism underscores the centrality of the gospel in saving His people. Here is a very difficult passage of scripture, but one in which emphasizes for the believer God’s intention to save His people. Wherein those people what they do is make an appeal to God before being baptized. In other words, they ask God to save them. That’s all part of God’s plan. It doesn’t just happen to you. You must ask for it. Of course, information comes before you are asking.

Notice what it says in 1 Peter 3:18-22,

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

The survival of Noah and his family in the flood waters function as a type of baptism. It seems that the waters of baptisms are conceived as a raging flood that destroys and kills. Baptism pictures death because submersion underwater kills. Death overwhelms and conquers its subjects, so the waters represent the flood of God’s judgement on account of sin. What was God waiting for during the times of Noah? He was waiting for the world of people to repent and hear Noah’s message—a message of salvation from God. That message was, listen, God is going to send judgement and he is building this ark so that you could get into and be protected from His judgement and be saved. If you don’t get into the ark, then you’re going to be destroyed and come under God’s judgment. Jesus explains to us in Mark 10, where He went underwent a baptism where He absorbed God’s wrath on the cross for the sake of His people. When He said this to His disciples, do you not know what you are asking, are you able to drink the cup I drink, or be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized? And He says, they said to Him, we are able. Jesus then said to them, the cup I drink you shall drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized. In other words, submersion underwater in baptism indicates that the person baptized have experienced God’s judgment in Christ Jesus.

We’re going to look at in a minute in Romans, where we’re baptized into His death. When Jesus died, we died with Him. Just as Noah and his family survived the chaotic waters of death during the flood, so too believers in Jesus Christ have come through the baptismal waters alive! And believers would be preserved through the waters of baptism and escape eternal death because Jesus underwent a baptism in which He absorbed God’s wrath on the cross for the sake of His people. Like He started out in 1 Peter, for Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. That was God’s goal all the time, that He would bring us to God, but someone had to pay the price. Someone had to take the judgment of God for your sin and for my sin. Jesus did that. In a sense, we are saved from the judgment of God because of what Christ has done. If you notice in the text, also there is an appeal mentioned. It says in verse 21,

Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

If leave that statement alone, people will think baptism saves you, no it doesn’t because that’s not what he is saying. The focus in the passage is on God’s saving work based on Christ’s cross and resurrection. It naturally leads to what occurs at the inception of a Christian life, which is the forgiveness of sins, cleansing of your sins. In other words, the sinner appeals to God to cleanse him of sins on the basis of Christ’s death and His resurrection. Baptism symbolizes sins cleanse because of the sacrifice of Christ in an appealing sinner. Someone who appeals to God because they realize He is the answer, He is the way, the truth, and the life. What specifically does that appeal to God include? It is an appeal to God for a good conscience. In other words, a conscience that is now freed from guilt from our own sin. Sin incurs guilt. We know when we do things wrong because we have a conscience, and that conscience tells us we did something right or wrong. Every time we do something wrong, we feel that guilt which comes from God. He’s placed it there and it’s good for us to feel that guilt, because if we don’t feel that guilt, and of course the bible does talk about a seared conscience, somebody who has blown off every conviction they had, and their conscience becomes likes calluses on their hands and they don’t feel it anymore. That’s not a good state to be in, and some people we know have progressed to that state and they at that point commit the worst crimes because they have no conscience. Their conscience is deadened by their own refusal to want that guilt to lead them to an appeal before God. Similar language is used in Hebrews 9:14 which says,

How much more will the book of Christ, who through the ternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The bible is concerned that our conscience gets cleansed, so we have no more guilt. It doesn’t mean that after you become a Christian you don’t feel guilty, but you know what to do with your sin. You bring it to Christ. He’s faithful and just to cleanse you from your sin and all your unrighteousness. That cleansing of the conscience comes in so we are walking steadily, progressing, growing in Christ. Water baptism does not clean you. The appeal for a good conscience could only be made through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It had to be the full work of Christ that cleanses us of an evil and guilty conscience. We had to be washed clean.

Baptism only saves because it is anchored in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the work of Christ that saves people. This appeal is asking Jesus, God in the flesh, to save you. To remove your sin, cleanse your conscience of guilt, so you’re no longer guilty before God. Who is guilty? Christ is guilty. Christ is the One who takes our guilty and pays the full price for us. He takes care of everything, nails our sins to the cross, and puts His righteousness on our account and is the One who does that. There must be this appeal that comes from us to God. Just as Noah and his family were brought safely through the judgment of the flood water, we are brought safely through the waters. Christ’s death saves the repentant sinner from the flood of God’s judgment on account of our sins. Christ’s resurrection underscores the believer’s confidence that Christ is the victor, and if He is the victor then we are on the winning side, and if we are on the winning side then that’s good news. That’s how he ends the passage in 1 Peter 3:22, it says,

Who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

He started our saying in the passage of scripture that He’s done this to bring this to God, at the end of the passage Jesus has gone to heaven. Well Jesus says, where I go, you’ll come also. That’s the promise that we have, that Jesus won, and we are saved from God’s judgment. Sin is removed, guilt is removed, so that we may go to heaven. The thing that was keeping us out of heaven is taken care of completely. That is an observation and a picture when we think about baptism.

That brings me to my third observation in Romans 6. The third observation is that believer’s baptism unites believers with Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism carries the meaning of identification or the concept of being made one with someone else. It symbolizes union with Christ and union in which way? In His death, burial, and in His resurrection that Christian baptism is also a public announcement of a bonafide inward change. Something happened to me, Christ saved me, I appeal to Him, He offered me salvation, He gave His Spirit, and now what do I want to do after that? I want to obey Him. What’s one of the first steps of obedience of a believer? It’s baptism. Baptism symbolizes a believer’s union with Christ, a symbolic proclamation of what happened to me at salvation. Romans 6 includes the thought of water baptism while speaking of the spiritual symbolism behind the physical act of water baptism and the identity that we now have with Christ Jesus our Lord. Look at Romans 6:3, the believer’s identification is first in His death, it says,

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

That means we’re placed and submerged in His death. When Jesus died, we died with Him. That had to be the case. That’s why when we’re saved, we’re saved in Christ. Before the foundation of the world, we were saved in Christ in God’s place. It had to be that way because our identification must be in only one person, and that is Jesus Christ. Our standing outside of the water represents our old life, we go down into the water representing death—we died. Romans 6:4 says,

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Down into the water is symbolic of our dying to ourselves and our old life. We die to the path of sin. If we went over Romans 6, there’s all kinds of passages of scripture that shows the difference between a believer’s old way of listening to the master of sin in their life, and the new way of no longer listening to that rebel voice of sin in us, but now listening to God’s voice. Now our desire is for righteousness, not for sin. Even though when we do sin, we are very convicted about it and want to take care of it right away. In fact, if you take your bible and look at Romans 6:8-11 it says,

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ. Having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

All believers must come to the place where they actually consider this: this is the sin that so easily beset me, and when it called men I was there, but now there’s another voice and it’s the Spirit of God saying you can’t go that way anymore, in fact, I have given you the power to say no to that sin and not go that way anymore. You and I must consider that we are dead to sin and if we’re dead to sin, a dead person can’t respond to something, but we don’t often consider that right away. Then when you start practicing it, that sin voice that’s calling you gets dimmer and it’s hard to hear, and then the Spirit of God’s voice gets louder and you say yes Lord, I don’t want to go that way anymore, I am different, Christ made me different! See, that’s what happens to us. We died with Christ, we were buried with Christ, so baptism is an acknowledgment that the old man and his ways are dead, and the new believer is freed up to live and serve the Lord in righteousness. That’s the Christian life. If that never happens to you, you probably don’t have the Holy Spirit of God and you probably don’t have new life. You have a bunch of facts in your head, but you don’t have regeneration. This happens to all genuine believers.

The third thing that happens there in our passage, Romans 6:4-5, is resurrection. Coming out of the water means a picture of being reborn, rebirthed. It says in Romans 6:4,

As Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Right the day you become a believer, receive the Spirit of God, and are exposed to the Word and people of God now you want to live a new life and you begin to see what that is. I know what a new life is and what an old life is. I see clearly those two distinctions. Baptism is a profession that we are living a new life and a profession that you once served sin and satan, but now you serve God as Lord and desire to walk in the path of righteousness. Where does that come from? World, satan, flesh? No, it comes from the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God gives you an overwhelming desire to do that which is right before God. If that’s not there, you are just deceiving yourself. People say, well I want to see a miracle, the biggest miracle is when God saves someone. That’s the greatest miracle. Do you realize what God must do to save people? He has to move heaven and earth and hell to save you! That’s what He has to do. People don’t realize that’s the greatest miracle, a new life that went from sinning to a life that lives righteously and knows how to deal with their sin and know Who dealt with it and removed that guilt.

Who are the proper candidates for baptism? Baptism is only to be administered to a person who has repented of their sins, their sin of unbelief, and verbally confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They understand the gospel and they know what they’re doing. It’s not just a head consent, it’s a heart conviction too. You receive something. It’s a wholehearted belief—I believe Jesus is the only way to be saved, and there’s not many ways to be saved, there is just one and it’s Christ and He has taken care of all of it. That’s always been God’s plan from the beginning of the council room in eternity, to the creation of the earth, to the cross, to the resurrection, to the new heaven and new earth. That’s always been God’s plan.

Who should participate? Only those who are saved. Observably, no one who does not know Jesus can or should profess Him and identify with Him in the waters of baptism. To be saved through faith in Him is the minimal essential. That means at least four things about the person. In their appeal to God for a good conscience and a clean conscience and forgiveness of sin, is that they have come to grips in their own personal life of the realistic problem of their own personal sin. That their sin is under God’s judgment. They are under God’s judgment. That has to be the first thing they realize. When they come under that conviction they realize and say, well I am in trouble—what do I do and where do I go? Christ provides the answer. The second thing they do is they seriously take into account God’s one and only remedy. That one and only remedy is Jesus Christ. Run to the cross! Run to Jesus Christ with all your sin, baggage, everything! Don’t think you can clean your life up and then come to Christ. Come with all of it because He has taken care of it. See, you make that appeal to the Lord. Then what you do is you submit to the terms for obtaining God’s provision for sin. That’s repentance, turning from what you’re trusting in—everybody is an idolater, they are trusting in something to save them. You turn from trusting your religion, religious systems, your own philosophy, whatever you’re trusting, you turn from it, and you trust completely in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Repentance towards God the Father and what’s God the Father’s solution? Faith in Christ.

After that, they exhibit in daily life evidence of their repentance and faith in Christ. It doesn’t just end there. It doesn’t end in a profession, it doesn’t end in just appeal, the rest of your life is going to change. God begins to guide you and direct you and you begin to exhibit the evidence of salvation. You need to know that, too. You need to know you’re saved after you get saved. You need to know that God is keeping you, working in your heart, transforming your mind. You and I need to know that because we do doubt. Then God shows you evidence that you are—we all go up and down in this Christian growth pattern, but hopefully as you grow in your knowledge and wisdom of Christ in the Word of God, your pattern starts going up instead of down until you’re prepared to go into eternity.

This means that Christian baptism is only to be administered to followers of Jesus Christ who have personally received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. By inference, infants are not candidates for baptism. You do not find infant baptism in the Bible. Infants may not be baptized since they’re not able to believe. This means also that infant baptism prior to true conversion, like my own, is not a scripturally authorized baptism. That person must be baptized following conversion to Christ. Scripture gives no age requirement for baptism, only that the individual must understand, believe, and profess faith in Christ, and then be baptized. Every time individuals are baptized in the Bible, they are baptized after they believe. Some examples, Acts 2:41, after Peter’s first sermon, says,

So then, those who had received his word were baptized.

Who received the word of God in that passage? The Jews. Well, the Jews thought they were good, God’s favorite people, and His chosen people. But no, they found out that day they’re the ones who nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. They weren’t good and were under God’s judgment and that’s why they cried out after they were pierced in their heart asking what they must do in which he tells them what to do. Believe and be baptized, that’s what he tells them to do. Then Saul, who became Paul, was converted on the road to Damascus. Saul was probably the quintessential Jew, he had all the boxed checked, it tells us that in the Word of God, and he needed to get saved. Of course, God had to do this with this drastic conversion to save him, but He saved him and then the Bible says, once he got saved on the road to Damascus he was baptized. Then of course, the gentiles had received the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. When they were converted, Peter ordered them to be baptized following their conversion. Lydia, a merchant woman who sold purple, had her heart open to the truth and was then subsequently baptized. The roman jailer and his household heard the gospel, and then what happened, they were baptized. See, all these things, they were baptized.

Remember, baptism does not get us saved or help us get saved, it is an act of obedience after conversion to Christ. Being obedient to God in baptism testifies to our love for Him and to the community of believers of the reality of our spiritual transformation. Baptism is by immersion, that means you go into the water, you symbolize the death, burial, and you come up out the water to represent resurrection. It’s a solemn and a beautiful testimony of a believer showing forth his faith in the crucified, the buried, the risen Savior, and union with Him in His death to sin and His resurrection to new life. Since it’s an integral part of the great commission, this church is committed to administering this ordinance to those who are examined and can give their testimony of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ and evidence of the fruit of repentance in their life. Failure to be baptized is disobedience to God. I don’t know all of you here, some of you may not be baptized yet. If you have trusted Christ, and you believe you have, as Lord and Savior, and you understand the gospel then you need to be baptized as soon as possible, so you need to speak to me or someone else that can help you do that. We do have regular baptism classes here. We should have one coming up very soon with a sign-up sheet.

Here at Calvary, we ask them when they’re baptized to present their personal testimony, so we are part of listening to what they have to say, and maybe many of you have been part of their life in some way and contribute to where God brought them right now. If God used you or not, God gets the glory. Believe me, if there is evidence that the God who created the heaven and the earth is still working in this world that is really going down the pits, it’s when people get saved and are baptized. I don’t think God reads the local papers or the new, because maybe He’ll change His plan, right? No, His plan does not change no matter what’s going on in the world. He is preparing His church, building His church, the gates of hell may try to kick against it—but the Church of Jesus Christ is doing fine! It’s right on schedule. That doesn’t mean that we sit down on our laurels, it means that we have to take the responsibility of believers to do what God calls us to do. As we do that, we are part of the work. We get fulfilled by God as we use our spiritual gifts to build up the body. That’s God’s plan and there is no greater thing than that.

Let’s have a word of prayer, Lord, this morning I do thank You for Your kindness to us today not only to share with each other but also, Lord, to be witnesses to the baptism that we are about to experience and hear their testimonies. Lord, thank You so much that You are still working in people’s lives. We praise You for that. I ask this in Christ’s name, amen.