The Place of Baptism in God's Plan

INTRODUCTION

The subject of baptism is indeed one of the most hotly-debated issues in the religious world. Almost every religious group claiming to follow Christ's teachings believes in and practices some form of baptism; even some non-Christian cults practice it. But there is widespread disagreement over the significance of baptism in God's plan for man's salvation.

Why be baptized? Many answers are given. Some say baptism is a sacrament which mystically produces a mysterious inward change in the person who receives it. Others say that baptism signifies in a symbolic way that the believer has already been saved from sin. "Baptism," they say, "should...never (be) offered as a means of salvation but only as a result of the one being saved." There are still others who say that baptism is an ordinance by which one gains admittance into a particular denomination. And, then, there are many who teach that baptism is not really necessary; that something else will do just as well in bringing man into a right relationship with God.

But what does the Bible say? This must be the emphasis of our examination of the "Place of Baptism in God's Plan." In the 269 chapters of the New Testament, some form of the word "baptism" is used more than 100 times. Clearly, God has given us enough information on the subject of baptism to allow us to understand exactly what its significance is! God is not the author of confusion. (1 Corinthians 14.33.) The Bible does not contradict itself. Uncertainty about the place of baptism in God's plan comes not because God has failed to speak plainly, but because men have failed to listen carefully! There are some vital questions we must allow the Bible to answer: "What does baptism do?" "What is it for?" "What constitutes scriptural baptism?" "Is baptism really necessary?" "Have I been properly baptized?" These questions are directly linked to "The Place of Baptism in God's Plan." Let us seek to determine the significance of baptism from an examination of the scriptures!

SOME THINGS BAPTISM DOES NOT DO

Baptism does not end all temptation. People sometimes have unrealistic expectations about baptism. They sometimes mistakenly believe that baptism will remove them from temptation...that after baptism they will no longer feel the tug of sin. And, then, when they become aware of the continuing presence of temptation in their lives they feel that something is wrong...that their baptism was not effective. But the Bible teaches that baptism does not end temptation. "And Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, while tempted by the devil." (Luke 4.1-2.) The Apostle Paul also experienced temptation after his baptism. He described his inward conflict like this: "For I joyfully concur with the law at God in the inner man, but l see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin..." (Romans 7.22-23.) We can expect new resources to use in fighting temptation. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10.13.) As a result of baptism, we have received "the gift of the HolySpirit"--the indwelling Spirit--which gives us the incentive to holiness and helps us in "putting to death the deeds of the body." (Romans 8.13) But that does not mean we are done with temptation!

Baptism does not cure all problems. Many expect their problems to vanish after baptism. Perhaps the joy which accompanies salvation from sin will even succeed in pushing their problems into the background for a time. But when the euphoria wears off, many of the problems remain to be dealt with...and then discouragement and disillusionment set in. Baptism is not a cure-all for every human problem. The person who is baptized with physical infirmity will be raised with it; the same is true of family problems, money problems, criminal charges, etc. In fact, Jesus taught that baptism may even bring on new problems: "You shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake...Brother will deliver up brother to death...You will be hated by all on account of my name." (Matthew 10.18,21, 22, cf 34-66, etc.) A person will be better equipped spiritually to deal with his problems as a result of being baptized, but baptism will not magically erase all problems. As a result of baptism we have access to a new dimension of power in coping with problems; baptism provides us with a new reference point in dealing with problems. But baptism does not bring us into a trouble-free life!

Baptism does not produce spiritual maturity. Baptism is a beginning; it is a birth; it is the starting point for the Christian life. One who has been baptized is a new creature; he is a babe in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5.17; 1Corinthians 3.1.) Spiritual maturity comes only after a long process of growth, development, and feeding with spiritual food. It is necessary to grow up "to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4.13.) People sometimes feel they have failed in the Christian life because they cannot immediately exhibit the spiritual maturity of those who have been Christians for many years. They feel guilty, frustrated, and frightened..."Why is it taking me so long to get better?" they wonder. In a sense, baptism only establishes a beachhead; it is a place to begin the struggle to take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10,5.) Baptism must be followed by the study, pursuit, and practice of Christianity. "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." (Colossians 3.1.)

Baptism does not grant immunity from sin. Baptism provides complete forgiveness for all past sin, but does not place us beyond the reach of future sin. If we expect to be immune from sin after baptism we are bound to be disappointed. John says: "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1.8.) Baptism does provide us with an effective antidote for sin in the blood of Jesus. (1.7.) John explains the basis of this continued forgiveness: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1.9.)

SOME THINGS BAPTISM DOES DO

Baptism puts a person into Christ. (Romans 6.3.) Paul contends that baptism produces a union between Christ and the believer. "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3.27.) "For we have become united with Him..." (Rom. 6.5.) Being baptized into Christ means that we are given access to all that is to be found in Christ:
  1. SALVATION. "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2.10.)
  2. NO CONDEMNATION. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8.1.)
  3. REDEMPRION AND FORGIVENESS: “...in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1.14.)
  4. NEW CREATURE. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature." (2 Corinthians 5.17.)
  5. EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing...in Christ." (Ephesians 1.3.)
To be in Christ is to obtain the blessings which are in Christ; salvation, no condemnation, redemption, etc. are in Christ; Therefore: We are baptized into salvation, into redemption, etc. This gives us a powerful insight into the place of baptism in God's plan: It stands between man and Christ... between man and all that is in Christ!

Baptism links a person with Christ's Death. (Romans 6.3.) To be baptized into Christ's death is to become involved in Christ's death. We become participants in Christ's death "if we have been united with him in death..." (Romans 6.5/NIV) We die with Christ: "Now if we died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him." (Romans 6.8/ NIV) In baptism, we reenact the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; we obey the form or pattern of the Gospel which is Christ's death, burial and resurrection. (Romans 6.17,1 Corinthians 15.1-4.) In baptism we become the people for whom Christ died, for whom His blood was shed; and we obtain the right to all that His blood has made possible. (1 Peter 1.18-19.) To be baptized into the death of Christ is to obtain the benefits of Christ's death at Calvary. Christ died to purchase the church. (Acts 20.28.) We are baptized into the benefits of Christ's death; The Church is a benefit; Therefore: We are baptized into the Church. Thus, Paul can say, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body..." (1 Corinthians 12.13.) Baptism is the act which causes God to add us to the Church. (Acts 2.47.) We now have a second reference point to help us locate the place of baptism in God's plan: Baptism is what ties us in with the death of Christ; it stands between us and the right to share in the victory Christ won at Calvary!

Baptism causes a person to die to sin. (Romans 6.4.) We are not only baptized into Christ's death; it is also baptism which signals the believer's break with sin. Paul says that in the act of baptism we actually die to sin. This is precisely what Paul is trying to show in the sixth chapter of Romans. In the book of Romans, Paul is concerned with the great theme of righteousness. In the opening chapters, he shows the need for righteousness and how God makes men righteous.

In chapters 5-8, he describes the results of righteousness:

Chapter 5 - Freedom from wrath through God's love.
Chapter 6 - Freedom from sin through baptism.
Chapter 7 - Freedom from the Law through Christ's death.
Chapter 8 - Freedom from death through the Holy Spirit.

In baptism, the old man of sin is crucified and the body of sin is destroyed (Romans 6.6), we are freed from sin (6.7), and we become dead indeed unto sin. (6.11). In baptism, "the old order of living comes to an end, to be replaced the new order of life-in-Christ." Thus, Paul gives us a third perspective on the place of baptism in God's plan: It is baptism which stands squarely between the old life of sin and the newness of life in Christ. Baptism is the door by which we exit kingdom of darkness and enter into the kingdom of God's dear Son.

CONCLUSION

Baptism is a subject of crucial importance. In God's plan, baptism stands squarely between life and death; condemnation and forgiveness--being lost and being saved! Baptism is the point at which man gains admittance into Christ; participates in Christ's death; and dies to sin! Baptism is vitally concerned with the forgiveness of sin and a right relationship with God.
Baptism is not a matter of indifference to be taken lightly. It is a solemn act of obedience to God. If one can be saved without it: he can be saved without being in Christ, without sharing in the benefits of Christ's death, and without breaking with sin!
If baptism is important enough to be mentioned more than 100 times in the New Testament, it is important enough to demand our most careful study, and most sincere performance. Christ emphasized the importance of it by being baptized himself to fulfill all righteousness. Are you ready to follow His example and obey His commands?

"And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized..." (Acts 22.16.)