Scripture: Romans 6:1-4
(preached at FBC Nitro May 6, 2012)
While preparing this message last week, I listened to the song, “Mercy Came Running” by Philips, Craig and Dean. I heard it previously, but listened to again when I came across someone mentioning the title. I am always fascinated by God’s mercy and His grace. I have heard some people saying that they want to get into the “deep things of God and His Word.” If that’s ever the case with you, try exploring more about God’s mercy and His grace. It is an inexhaustible storehouse of treasure. Anyway, this song is about a special place in the Temple called the Holy of Holies. Part of the words say, “Once there was a holy place, evidence of God’s embrace.” The Ark of the Covenant was kept there. In that room, God’s presence dwelt. In this small area, the justice of God, the righteousness of God, and the grace of God were all mixed together. This room was blocked off from the people of Israel because they had sin in their lives. There was a veil that separated this area from the rest of the Temple. In this Holy of Holies, only the high priest was permitted to enter once each year to offer a sacrifice for the people’s sins. God’s mercy had not yet been extended to all the people. Then the song continues later by saying,
“Looking down with longing eyes, mercy must have realized once His blood was sacrificed freedom would prevail.” The scene shifts from the Temple to Calvary. Jesus is hanging on the cross, and God is looking down upon it all. Once this transaction between God and man’s sin is completed, all mercy will break loose. When Jesus said, “It is finished” and died, the veil in the Temple was split from top to bottom and God’s mercy began to flow in a way it had never done previously. That mercy has chased down each of us who have been touched and changed by Jesus Christ, and our lives will never be the same.
What do all of these things have to do with baptism? Before anything else, baptism is an act of worship. It is the first step of following Jesus after we have become a part of His family of grace. We see baptism described several places in God’s Word, and one of them is our passage for this morning. Baptism is an extremely important part of experiencing God’s mercy and grace. It isn’t required to receive them, but it is one of the first things we want to do after we have.
Baptism humbles us through obedience. Jesus and the authors of the NT tell us very clearly that everyone who has been transformed by God’s mercy and grace is to be baptized. After we have professed Jesus as our Savior, after we have realized that we have done nothing to deserve salvation, and that God has saved us from self and from hell for all eternity, then we are to stand in front of a group of people and be baptized. There are two types of baptism practiced in churches today – one is infant baptism, the second is believer’s baptism. As Baptists, we are very particular about the matter of baptism – we don’t do infant baptism, we only do believer’s baptism. The reason is that the Bible doesn’t tell us to baptize infants – baptism is something a believer in Christ freely chooses to do. Someone else does not make a choice for that person – the person who has come to Christ makes the choice. Now if we think about it, baptism is rather weird. A guy stands in the water next to another guy (or gal) and dunks the person under the water. Then the person is lifted from the water and a lot of people watch it. The person who is baptized gets wet – for women it isn’t very attractive, and for men it isn’t very macho. Actually baptism is humiliating. One of the first things we learn as followers of Jesus however, is that we need to kiss our pride goodbye. If there is a choice to make between our own ego and image, and obedience to God, obedience to God is to win every time. That’s the design of following Jesus. Does anyone remember the story of Naaman? 2 Kings 5 tells us about him. Part of what happened to him is that he was initially too proud to be submerged in water in obedience to what God had told him to do. He humbled himself however, and he was blessed for his obedience. Baptism humbles us through obedience.
Then, baptism reminds us of our sin. Listen to our passage again from Romans 6:1-4, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Sin is a fatal problem that each one of us faces. No one is exempt from it, and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves from it. Our sin separates us from God – there is nothing we can do to remedy that separation. We can’t be good enough. We can’t be religious enough. We can’t be nice enough or loving enough. Sin is an insistence on doing things our way rather than God’s way, and every single of us is plagued with it. There is only one remedy for sin – that is surrendering our lives to Jesus and asking Him to forgive us of our sin. If we continue in our sin without a relationship with Jesus that saves us from it, we are deprived of life. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin results in separation from God now, and separation from God after our bodies die. Apart from God, there is no true life. We may think we are living, but we cannot truly live without Jesus. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” To put it another way, when we begin to realize that we will be forever separated from God, it takes away joy from life today. Imagine yourself standing before a jury. The jury determines you are guilty of horrible crime, and then the judge gives his ruling. His gavel slams on the bench and he say, “you will be sentenced to death.” So you enter a cell, but you must wait three months before the lethal injection comes. You could say, “I only have three months left, I’m really going to enjoy them.” Thing is, it is tough to enjoy life and be happy on death row. When we come to grips with the reality that we will spend eternity separated from God, the situation is the same. Some of us may have only a few hours left, others of us a few years – we really don’t know for sure. Regardless of the time we have left, if we do not have Jesus we are sitting in a cell on death row. Baptism reminds us of our sin.
Then, baptism symbolizes our salvation. v. 4 again says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” As we trust in Jesus, we believe that he died for us, that he took the punishment and the death that we deserve for our sin. As Jesus did so, He saves us from our sin and gives us new life. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” So we come to believe in Jesus for our salvation, as Chloe, Trey and Dallas have done, we stand before God and say, “I can’t live my life anymore by my own efforts. I am claiming the death of Christ for me. I believe that He is the Son of God and that He rose from the dead. He alone can save me from sin.” At the moment we come to that point, we are then washed clean by the blood of Jesus. As a result of our trusting in what Jesus did for us, we have a relationship with God beginning now that lasts for all eternity. Baptism is an outward expression of what took place inside our hearts and minds. When we are placed under the water it symbolizes being buried with Christ in his death. We are raised from the water, it symbolizes being raised with Him to new life. The Greek word for baptism in our passage is baptizo – it means literally to immerse. Everybody who was baptized in the Bible was baptized after placing their faith in Christ. So it isn’t that we believe in adult baptism, we believe in believer’s baptism. Children and youth can believe in Christ just as adults can. It isn’t restricted to adults. In fact, Jesus says that unless we have more of the attitude and trusting nature of a child, we can’t be saved. Baptism is something we do after trusting in Jesus to save us, but it is soon after that event. In the Bible, salvation and baptism are closely linked – we don’t have to be baptized to be saved, but if we are saved we will want to be baptized, and it will occur as soon as possible after we’ve trusted in Christ. Baptism symbolizes our salvation, and it is God’s way for us to identify ourselves publicly with Jesus. Baptism symbolizes our salvation.
Then, we see that baptism demonstrates our devotion. Let’s go back to the first century in the days of the disciples in Jerusalem. Most of the people living in the city were devout Jews, following the law as given in the Old Testament and through the Pharisees and Sadducees. Whenever a Jewish man, woman or child came to trust in Jesus, it was a very dangerous thing. New believers would go into the Jordan River in a very open, public place. There were a lot of people there watching. Members of the early church were watching, community and business leaders were watching, friends and family were watching. Several of them would say, “If he or she goes down in that water, I’m done with him or her.” You would be looked down, others would talk about you in a negative way. Your reputation in some ways would be ruined for identifying yourself publicly with Jesus. So because of the social pressure, it was tempting to believe in Jesus privately, but not to identify with Him publicly through baptism. For them the cost of identifying with Jesus was too high. If the cost of identifying with Jesus is too great for us today, then we need to ask ourselves if we know Jesus at all. When we truly know Jesus, we will want everyone to know that He is our Savior. Baptism demonstrates our devotion. How would a man or woman’s fiancée feel if the statement was made, “I really love you, but I don’t want to stand in front of a crowd of people and say so. It’s just too embarrassing for me.” Would there be enough of a relationship there at all on which to build a marriage?
Will you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and give you new life? Will you place your confidence in your own ability to overcome your sin, or in Jesus’ ability to save you from your sin? Will you be baptized to be obedient to Him and to demonstrate your devotion to Him? Will you become a part of a local church family that seeks to lead others to Jesus?