“Waters That Unite”

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

In the New Testament, baptism identifies Christians with their Lord publicly. Jesus gave his disciples their final instructions: Go into all the world and make disciples – followers of Jesus – of all people. Once people became followers of Jesus, they were to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Too often baptism is seen as waters that divide. We see in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, instead of unifying the people, baptism was dividing the church. In response to the news that the Corinthian church was fractured based on the following personalities and who baptized them, Paul reminds them of their unity in the Gospel. He then reproves them for the way baptism was dividing them, and in the process presents several truths about baptism: Baptism Identifies Us With Christ

The Corinthians made the mistake of identifying their baptism with the person who baptized them. However, baptism does not connect us to the individual who immerses us; baptism is the way Jesus gave his disciples the means to identify with Him. He could have said build an ark, or move to Israel, or stop cutting your hair, but he said baptize or immerse new believers in water. You see, baptism is what marks Christians and divides them from the world, symbolizing unity in Christ and bringing visible unity to Christ’s church.
 
Baptism Doesn’t Save You; It Announces Salvation
 
When you are water baptized, it is because you are already saved. The act of baptism doesn’t save you. It is God’s grace through faith by which a person is saved. Baptism is an individual announcement to family, friends, the church and the world that you are no longer following yourself, but you are following Jesus Christ. It is a public announcement of an inward work of God in the heart of the believer. When I was 17 and just beginning to learn how to walk with God, I was asked if I wanted to be baptized. I certainly did. Somewhere during that year, God opened my eyes to see my need for Jesus and filled my heart with faith. I spent weeks preparing to give my testimony, so that before entering the water I would testify of what Jesus had done in my life. The visible act of baptism was personalized by the verbal announcement I made just before. In every baptism, the individual makes a public confession of their sin and their need for a savior. Baptism symbolizes the Gospel – that we believe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 
Baptism Follows Belief
 
Believer’s baptism, defined as baptism following belief, is the pattern in Corinth. Acts 18:8 says, “And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” This follows the regular pattern in Acts: the gospel preached, people believed, and they are baptized. To a church divided by the practice of baptism, Paul emphasized their belief in the Gospel. In Corinth, the people had lost sight of Christ’s cross, the Father’s calling, and the Spirit’s illumination. For that reason, Paul called the church to look at the real meaning of baptism – not to forgive sins, but to identify with Christ in obedience as well as to reflect on the powerful work of salvation in the heart of the believer. Today, baptism is both overemphasized and under emphasized. Some make baptism necessary for salvation which is unscriptural, while others put no barrier around baptism, letting anyone who wants to dive in. While baptism is not essential for salvation, it is essential for the health and witness of the church as we celebrate with joy new life in Christ.
 
Changing Lives for Eternity,
Pastor Terry & Tina Richardson Senior Pastor