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Diving In: Unpacking the Meaning & Journey of Baptism (Ep 67)
Episode 6713th June 2024 • My Ministry Mission • Jason McConnell
00:00:00 00:27:31

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In this episode, I dive into the topic of baptism. I’ll go over the significance and background of baptism, and then we’ll talk about preparing for a baptism and addressing concerns & fears.

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References to Bible Verses:

Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9; Leviticus 16:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4; 1 Peter 3:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 19:28-42; John 20:1-10; John 3:5; Acts 22:16; Matthew 28:19; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; Colossians 2:11-12; Acts 2:38; Psalms 51:5; Romans 6:3-5; 1 John 1:9; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16

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Thank you for joining me. My name is Jason, and I'm your host. In today's episode, I'm going to dive into the topic of baptism, pun intended. I'll go over the significance and background of baptism, and then we'll talk about preparing for a baptism and addressing any concerns and fears.

If you're considering baptism for you or your child, the short answer is this. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, I highly recommend baptism. It is a great way to honor the Savior by joining Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. But let's talk about why.

It's been a while since I've added a lament or prelude to an episode, so I want to take some time and go off on a tangent here before we really get into this episode, because there's something in the Christian community that has been bothering me.

There are some hot button, controversial Christian topics. Things like women in ministry, worship music versus hymnals, spiritual gifts, politics from the pulpit, and yes, even baptism. In my ESV study Bible, there is a doctrinal hierarchy from the perspective of Eric Thoenne. It basically breaks down doctrine into one of four categories.

Absolutes, convictions, opinions, and questions. According to Thoenne, absolutes define core beliefs of the Christian faith. Convictions generally have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of a church, even if they're not, maybe, maybe not the core beliefs. Opinions are views or personal judgments that really aren't worth dividing over. And finally, questions are the issues that are currently unsettled.

Now, Thoenne isn't alone in his assessment. Albert Mohler has identified three orders of doctrine into First Order, Second Order, and Third Order doctrines. A denial of First Order doctrines represents the eventual denial of Christianity itself.

Second Order doctrine doesn't deny Christianity altogether, but disagreements over these create significant boundaries between believers. And finally, third order are things we Christians may disagree over, but we can still remain close in fellowship despite those disagreements. So what's my point here?

Basically, there are components of our faith that are not absolutes, are not first order doctrine. And my question to you is this. Is it worth having a fragmented body of Christ because of non absolutes? Now I'm asking this question because I've joined Christian theological groups online and I've found that Christians can be incredibly cruel and abusive towards each other on matters of non absolutes, and quite frankly, I'm tired of it.

If you're out there arguing with other Christians, you're not out there making disciples of non believers. If you find yourself in a theological argument, and understand there is a difference between a spirited discussion and an argument, but if you're in an argument, ask yourself this question, How does it impact my salvation?

If you can't draw a direct line between the issue and Jesus sacrifice, maybe it's time to let it go. Agree to disagree, and then get out there and witness to someone who really needs it. Now, I recently hosted Rick and Jane McKinney, who wrote "Until the Whole World Knows: A Guide to Sharing Jesus for the Introvert, Extrovert, and Jesus Freak."

I have added a link to this book in the show notes. Go buy it, read it, and then find ways to share Jesus with others. All right, now that that's over, on to the episode.

As I begin this episode, I want to establish some context. And I know there are several methods used for baptism. I touched on a lot of these in episode 54. So if you want a refresher, listen to the first part of that episode. In this episode, when I refer to baptism, I'm primarily talking about complete submersion, where the person goes underwater and comes back up. Now, full submersion baptisms may not be the most popular, but when we think about baptisms, that's generally what we envision.

Plus, when Jesus was baptized by John, he was fully submerged underwater in the River Jordan, which we see in Matthew 3:13-7, as well as Mark 1:9. I also believe this method of baptism provides a better visual representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which we'll talk about a bit later.

Now, understand that I'm not taking anything away from aspersion, affusion, or even partial immersion baptisms. Baptism is baptism. And as we'll see in this episode, the act of baptism is a representation of something much deeper. So the how is far less important than the why or the who.

So let's really get into this. What is baptism? The word baptism comes from the Greek word "baptizō", which means to "dip repeatedly", "to immerse" and "to submerge." And it represents a ceremonial washing. In Strong's definition of the word, it also represents "to overwhelm," which was kind of interesting to find, but it could represent the spirit overwhelming you. But that's just my opinion though.

When we think about the origins of baptism, we often think about John the Baptist who baptized Jesus, which I mentioned a moment ago. But Christian theologians suggest that baptism didn't actually originate with Christians. While it was and is a common tradition for us, The idea of an act of purification goes back to Leviticus 16:4, which tells us how the Levite priests were commanded to perform a symbolic cleansing in water before doing their priestly duties. It reads, "He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body. He is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe himself in water. before he puts them on."

So, while these acts aren't specifically called out as a baptism, it does highlight how important it was to perform ceremonial cleansing for God. John the Baptist performed baptisms of repentance, which we see in Luke 3:3 and Acts 19:4, which followed this act of cleansing. But, of course, the final cleansing from sin is only available through Christ. So, John's baptisms were basically a foreshadowing of that. Yet, this act was so significant that Christ himself was baptized by John at the start of his ministry.

In 1 Peter 3:21 we gain some clarity into the symbolism of baptism. "And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also. Not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

So, what does this tell us? Now Peter was careful to point out that the ceremonial act of baptism wasn't about the actual water and washing ourselves. It's not what saves us. The physical act of baptism is an outward show of faith, a public declaration that we have accepted Christ as our Savior. But what saves us is what happens spiritually. We receive a conscience made good through the complete works of Jesus Christ. Now the baptismal covenant will only save us through Christ if we keep that covenant.

The washing is just a visible sign of our promise to keep Christ's commandments and believe in him. Of course, we are going to fall down. We get lost. We have doubts and so on, but we should always get up and come back to Christ.

Like many things related to Christianity, it's not what people see that is important. It's what God sees that makes the difference. If you go around telling people you believe in Christ, but that's not in your heart, you're not saved. It's like the sinner's prayer. And I know there's some debate and controversy about the efficacy of the sinner's prayer, but basically anyone can say the words, but if the pledge is not in your heart, you're not saved.

Ultimately, baptism comes down to one word identity. It represents your personal identification with the most important act in human history, the death, the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism alone doesn't save salvation comes by faith alone, which we learn in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves. It is a gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast." Let's put a pin in that because I'm gonna circle back to that passage in just a moment.

Now I just wanna take a couple of minutes and discuss how baptism is related to Jesus. First, baptism is a demonstration that we have turned from our old life of sin towards a new life in Jesus Christ. Second, it means that we publicly and openly identify with Christ's death, burial and resurrection. And finally, it means we are openly joining others who believe in Christ.

ng on the cross, such as John:

So as you are being baptized, you are declaring that you died with Jesus Christ. You were buried with Him, and now you are raised with Christ into a brand new life. By being baptized, you are confessing your faith without saying a single word at all.

There are debates in the Christian world about whether baptism is necessary for salvation. Many of the mainstream denominations do believe that baptism is necessary, including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Angelic Churches, and some Protestants. They call this baptismal regeneration, and their basis for this is often rooted In several Bible verses, starting with John 3:5, where Jesus tells Nicodemus, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and of the Spirit."

I've also seen them cite Acts:

When you pull these together, it does kind of make sense why this belief is held. However, many Protestants and non denominational churches do believe that baptism is a good idea, but not necessary for salvation. Their argument is that adding anything, any additional works for salvation indicates that Christ's death was not sufficient enough for salvation, and this camp will often cite the famous John 3:16, "For God. So love the world. He gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Accompanied by Ephesians 2:8-9 which I mentioned before, but as a reminder, it tells us, "For it is by the grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourself. It is a gift from God."

Now, what's really interesting about this, as I was researching this topic, I found both of these camps tend to reference Titus 3:5. Which reads, "He saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit." Which draws upon this idea that he saved us not by works, but by his mercy alone.

But it also references through the washing of rebirth and renewal, which can also be translated as, "Through the washing of regeneration." There's that word again. However, Paul doesn't specifically indicate whether this is meant through baptism or not. And the use of the word washing is where this gets a little sticky because According to Strong's translation of the word, it means the act of bathing. However, in Ephesians 5:26 this same word is used in the context of spiritual cleansing. Truthfully, I can't tell you which camp is ultimately correct. I personally believe that baptism is not necessary for salvation, but certainly can't fault those who believe it is. I strongly recommend baptism, just in case I'm wrong. Plus, if you are genuinely a believer of Christ, Why wouldn't you want to be baptized?

Now, there's another area of baptism that has a little bit of debate surrounding it, and that is the age a person should be when they get baptized. Now, many mainstream churches believe in paedobaptism , which is the practice of baptizing infants.

These again include Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, as well as Angelican and Episcopal churches. Other churches prefer credobaptism or baptizing adults, and some of these churches include Baptists, Pentecostals, and most non denominational churches. So let's take this one at a time, though.

Infant baptism was an accepted standard by Augustine's time around 354 to 430 AD, and it wasn't until the Protestant Reformation did this practice come under examination. Those that do support infant baptism seem to do so as a symbol of the New Covenant equivalence of circumcision, based on Paul's statement in Colossians 2:11-12 and I'll read that for you really quick. "In him you are also circumcised with the circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you are also raised with him through your faith in the working of God. who raised him from the dead."

Now, these churches that do practice infant baptisms also hold that it is how a person receives the Holy Spirit based on Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

So these believers feel this kind of sets the child apart. and secure salvation right up front. If you notice, most of these believers rest in the same camp as those who believe baptism is necessary for salvation. So this view really isn't a surprise. Most Protestant groups challenge the idea of infant baptism, believing that baptism should be reserved for a person who can first make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and this is known as believers baptism or credobaptism.

Now I did mention that represents baptism of adult, but in truth, the Latin word credo means "I believe." So it's really baptizing those who consciously choose Christ. Those who rest in this camp feel that A believer's baptism is clearly taught in Acts 2 where Peter is preaching the gospel message on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.

I have noticed that those churches that lean towards credobaptism also offer a dedication ceremony where soon after a child's birth, parents can make a public statement that they will teach their child in the Christian faith and seek to install that faith within them.

Now, this also leads us to a quick discussion about the age of accountability, which is the age when a person is held accountable for their sins. Now, understand, this doesn't suggest that children are sinless. In fact, Psalms 51:5 teaches us, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." The idea behind this age of accountability is that a child who is not old enough to understand and make that profession of faith is basically kind of automatically absolved of their sins.

Now, based on Jewish customs, when a child turns 13, he or she becomes an adult. I've seen other denominations, such as the Catholic Church, suggest that age 7. I'm honestly not sure what to believe for certain regarding this, because I haven't been able to find any specific age in scripture. But I'm inclined to believe that it depends on the person and his or her ability to actually comprehend the impact of sin. For people who are developmentally disabled and never able to make that discernment, can't help but wonder if they are not held to accountability. One of those things we can ponder, I suppose.

When it comes down to baptism, I do suggest that you speak with your pastor. I do suggest that you follow the recommendations or the tenets of your denomination regarding this topic, because I'm really not here to tell you what you should and shouldn't do, or to offer reasons to challenge your chosen faith family.

I believe everyone should be baptized, I really do. If that happens as an infant, that's fine. If you're grown up in a secular household, and have never been baptized as a child, I suggest you pray on it. And when you feel that calling, go for it. I was baptized as a Presbyterian as a child. At least that's what I'm told. I'm not sure how old I was, but I don't remember it. I was just told that that happened. So even though I grew up in a more secular environment, there was at least something that happened that was Christian related. However, when I truly committed myself to Christ, I got baptized in my church and it was a glorious and life changing moment for me. Honestly, when it comes to any profession of faith in Christ, I don't think there's such thing as too much, right?

Okay, you've decided to get baptized. Let's move on to preparing for baptism. addressing any fears or concerns. And then we'll finish this episode by talking about the joy of baptism. Getting prepared for baptism will vary depending on your church.

In some denominations, such as Catholicism, there is a series of steps you have to follow prior to having your child or yourself baptized. And it may vary depending on whether the person being baptized is a child or an adult. For example, when an adult gets baptized in a Catholic church, my understanding is that they have to go through this process known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA. I've also seen this called Catechumenate. And if you're Catholic and I said that wrong, feel free to email me. Anyhow, for children, this process isn't necessary, but parents may be asked to choose a Christian name for the child and appoint godparents. Now, other denominations or non denominational churches may be less formal in the lead up to baptism, meaning you sign up and show up.

However, even in this case, I think it's important to make your heart ready. And make sure that you are right with God. But before I go too far, I just want to say that if you are interested in being baptized, again, I suggest you talk to your pastor or priest and get the information directly from them on what to do and what to expect and so on.

Now, that being said, when we talk about getting your heart right with God, it's important to have it in your heart that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose to life again. And we begin to understand the significance of this in Romans 6:3-5, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his."

Now I've already touched on the views around necessity of baptism. However, Whether you believe it is important for salvation or you don't, understand that baptism has no saving virtue in itself. Jesus is our only savior and baptism is to signify the decision to accept him as your savior. But those who do believe in baptism and believe that it's necessary for salvation, understand that salvation is through Christ, not the baptism itself.

According to the Bible, there are three prerequisites for being baptized. First is to confess your sins. Now, I believe we need to confess our sins to God as seen in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he's faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

as your savior from sin. Mark:

Believe in what you might ask Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God Believe that he lived a perfect life. He was crucified, died and buried and rose again, all to forgive our sins and overcome death and sin and hell. Amazing, right?

The idea of getting baptized can be a bit scary or overwhelming. If you've ever attended a baptism, they are some of the most powerful and passionate experiences, but being the center of all that attention can give a person some performance anxiety. Maybe you feel like you don't deserve to have your sins forgiven. And the truth is, you probably don't, neither do I, but that's what makes our Lord's love and forgiveness so amazing. Some people even have a fear of water, and that whole getting submerged by a pastor can seem very much like being dunked.

My advice, do it anyway. I know it's easier said than done, but here's the deal, you will be the center of attention. But once you become part of the moment, you probably won't even notice the crowd. I certainly didn't. My focus was on making the commitment to Christ that my pastor had asked me to make. My focus was on receiving the Holy Spirit and what it would mean to be born into a new life.

I didn't even notice the people cheering, singing, and taking pictures and videos. It all faded into the background as I sat there in that holy moment between me and my Lord. And once it's over, I guarantee you'll be cheering along with everyone else. If you have fear of water or being dunked, talk to your pastor about it. They can offer alternatives to being fully submerged if that's what your church does. This is also an option if you have mobility challenges as well. There is an option for everyone. So talk to your pastor. Talk to your priest.

The purpose here is to publicly pledge your devotion to Christ. Receive him and be born into a new life. That's for everyone. Being baptized is a moment that defies description. And it'll make grown men cry. Savor the experience and take it with you wherever you go. Looking back on my baptism, even a few years later, brings me so much joy. It reminds me of Christ's light and that He loves us beyond any love we could ever understand or even hope for.

Jason: All right, that's the episode for today. Hopefully it answered some of your questions or concerns about baptism. Whether you are getting baptized or you are baptizing a child, it's a holy sacrament that will change your life. Like many things Christian, there are different ways to carry it out and to look at it in terms of salvation, but the intent is pretty much the same across the board. You are publicly committing yourself or your child to Christ. Rejoice in this event. Rest in the joy and the comfort that comes from joining God's family.

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Until next time, be sure to read your Bibles, love your neighbor, and may God bless you and keep you. God bless everyone.

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