Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23
Idea: Baptism is more than a plunge in the water—it is an identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is a celebration of our death to the old life, the burial of our sins, and our resurrection to a new life in Christ. It is accompanied by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It moves us into church membership and ministry for Christ.
Story: A long time ago there was a woolly man on the banks of the Jordan River whose fiery preaching cut right to the heart of the times. In that far-flung voice crying out in the wilderness, a young carpenter recognized that the time had come to change professions. He wrapped up his last orders, put away his tools, and swept out his shop. He said good-bye to his mother and a walked the 65 miles to the Jordan River. Walking right up to John, Jesus said, “I want you to baptize me.” John shrank back from the request. How could he, a sinner, baptize Jesus, the holy Son of God? Jesus responded, “Let it be so now. It is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness.” You see, Jesus is not only our Savior, he is our example as well. In his baptism Jesus underscores the method and meaning of baptism for us today.
The Method of Baptism: John took Jesus into the river, leaned him back into the flowing water, and brought him up again. Jesus was immersed in the water, and yet there are many churches today that baptize people in many different ways. Some sprinkle with water. Some pour a pitcher of water or wine over the head of the baptismal candidate. Some sprinkle rose petals or salt on their people. Some even offer mail-order baptisms over the phone, through the mail, or via e-mail. All through the New Testament we can find a consistent practice when it comes to the method of baptism. John baptized people in the Jordan River. Philip baptized the Ethiopian Secretary of the Treasury in a river. The original Greek word for baptism means to dip under. The artwork and the baptistries of the oldest Christian churches indicate that for hundreds of years, new believers were immersed when baptized.
The Meaning of Baptism: The method of baptism is important because it is directly tied to the meaning of baptism.
(1) Baptism identifies us with the passion of Christ (Romans 6:3,4). When we are baptized by immersion, we affirm our faith in the saving gift of Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. And we rejoice in the parallel experience that is ours as we die to sin, have our past buried, and rise to a new life in Christ.
(2) Baptism is a public witness to the fact that we have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus. Like a wedding, it is a public declaration and celebration of a commitment that was made in private.
(3) Baptism in water and the Holy Spirit brings us into a life of service for Jesus Christ. Baptism initiated the ministry of Jesus Christ, and it is baptism that moves us into a gifted life of ministry for Christ.
(4) Baptism in water and the Holy Spirit brings us into church membership. When Jesus was baptized the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” That’s family talk. When you are baptized, you are added to the church just like the 3,000 who were converted and baptized on the Day of Pentecost. When you are baptized, you receive your ordination for ministry, and ministry always takes place within the context of the church. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. Authentic, growing Christians are part of God’s church.
Submitted by Dan Martella. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.