Table of Contents / Overview
- What Must We Believe?
- What is Baptism?
- The Significance of Baptism
- The Only Way of Salvation
- The Privileges and Responsibilities of Being "in Christ"
In the course of our studies we have now considered most of the basic principles of Bible teaching. As we have gone through the lessons we have frequently noted aspects of practical teaching. For example, when we studied the creation in Lesson 3, we learnt about the Divine standard for marriage and when we studied the life of Abraham in Lesson 9, we came to appreciate what "separation" means.
Now for the next six lessons we are to concentrate on such practical matters, learning thoroughly what God requires of those who desire to please him. First we look at "Baptism".
The last lesson outlined what Christianity meant in the first century. Truth does not change and Christianity today should mean the same as it did in the days of the Apostles and the immediate followers of Jesus. After his resurrection and before he ascended to heaven Jesus said to the Apostles:
"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mark 16 v 15-16).
In this lesson we shall see exactly what this command meant, how the Apostles carried it out and the way in which we must obey it today.
The Acts of the Apostles contains the record of the preaching of the Gospel in the first century. The Apostle Peter preached about the death and resurrection of Jesus and his coming again.
Some of his listeners were much moved and wanted to know what they should do. Peter said "Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ".
- Acts 2 v 37-40
- Acts 3 v 19-21
The record tells us that no less than 3,000 people gladly obeyed.
- Acts 2 v 41
This is the pattern for us.
Repent means "to have another mind". It calls upon one who has heard the Gospel and believed it to change his outlook and way of life. The first step in this new way of life is to be baptised.
If we follow the record in the Acts of the Apostles we find there were three stages leading to men and women becoming followers of Christ:
- Acts 8 v 12
- The gospel was preached to them.
- They listened and believed.
- They were baptised.
- Acts 8 v 26-38
- Acts 10 v 34-48
- Acts 16 v 14-15
- Acts 16 v 30 & 33
They then met regularly with other believers and lived a life of obedience to God's commands.
- Acts 2 v 41-47
We must believe the Gospel.
- Mark 16 v 16
This is made up of "The things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ", in other words the basic principles we have been learning in these lessons.
- Acts 8 v 12
The importance of this knowledge is clear from many passages of scripture e.g. Philip preached to an Ethiopian who had been converted to the Jewish faith. He would have understood about the Kingdom of God so Philip "preached unto him Jesus". Then, after he had said he believed, he was baptised.
- Acts 8 v 27-38
Cornelius was "a devout man", and "one that feared God with all his house", but God sent Peter to him specially to preach the Gospel. Then he was baptised.
- Acts ch. 10
Other examples are: The conversion of Lydia.
- Acts 16 v 14-15
The conversion of the jailer at Philippi.
- Acts 16 v 28-34
Baptism is complete immersion in water of one who has shown a full understanding of the Gospel and declared a willingness to try to keep the commandments of Christ.
This is clear from:
- The references to the carrying out of baptism
- Acts 8 v 36-39
- The meaning of the Greek word "baptizo" - this word means to "dip under", "to immerse". It was used in the dyeing trade because cloth was dyed by immersing in dye. A "Baptistes" is one that dips, a dyer.
- John 3 v 23
- The significance of Baptism.
From the above it is clear that true Christian baptism has nothing to do with the "christening" of babies by sprinkling water on them. This is not a Christian rite. It is not baptism.
Baptism represents a washing away of past sins as was explained by Ananias when he baptised the Apostle Paul.
- Acts 22 v 12-16
The believer is able to make a new start.
- Romans 6 v 3-8
The Apostle Paul describes it as a resurrection to a new life. As Christ died and went into the grave, so the believer is "buried" in the waters of baptism. But just as Christ rose again to a new life, so the believer rises from the water to a new life in Christ.
- Colossians 2 v 12
- Colossians 3 v 1-4
He is now associated with the salvation made possible by Christ's death and resurrection and lives in hope of being raised to eternal life when Christ returns.
NOW READ ROMANS CHAPTER 6 ALL THROUGH
Baptism also associated the believer with the promises to Abraham. As we learned in Lesson 9, Jesus was the "seed" through whom the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled. Baptism - by associating the believer with Jesus - makes him heir also to the same promises.
- Galatians 3 v 27-29
Paul says there is only "one baptism".
Belief and baptism as defined in the Bible is the only way to salvation and immediately divides the true followers of Christ from all others. Christ's followers are described as being "in Christ". Apart from baptism we are all "in Adam" and must die without hope. But if we are "in Christ" we have a wonderful hope of being related to life - and if we die, of being raised from the dead.
- Ephesians 4 v 4-6
- I Corinthians 15 v 19-23
The Apostle Paul reminded those who were "in Christ" that they had the special privilege of being brethren and sisters of Jesus - they were children of God. As such they were part of a community bound together by having the same beliefs, sharing the same way of life and looking forward to the same hope.
- II Corinthians 6 v 16-18
- Ephesians 4 v 1-6
- Philippians 1 v 17
The command to be baptised is a test of our response to God. He has provided a way of salvation by sending His own Son as a sacrifice for sin but He has told us we can only receive that salvation by believing the Gospel and obeying God's commands. The command to be baptised is a simple one but it requires humility and faith on our part to obey it. In the Old Testament we are told of a leper who came from Syria to Israel to be cured of his loathsome disease. Elisha, a prophet in Israel, told him to go and wash in the river Jordan and he would be cured. At first Naaman, the leper, refused, but his servants pleaded with him to obey the simple command. They said,
"My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he said to thee, Wash and be clean?"
He then went and did exactly as the prophet had commanded and was immediately cured. (II Kings ch.5).
We can be saved from sin and death by obeying God's simple command to be baptised and then trying to live in a way which will be pleasing to Him. What this means will be explained in Lessons 19 and 20.
Meanwhile in the next lesson you will be shown that now you understand the Gospel message and what is required of you, you have a responsibility to obey God.
- What does God require of a person in order that he might be saved? Give references to support your answer.
- How do you know that Baptism in New Testament times was by total immersion in water?
- Describe in your own words the conversion of the jailer at Philippi.
- What is the significance of baptism?
- Quote a passage from the Bible which shows that baptism relates a believer to the promises to Abraham.
- What do you understand by being "in Christ"?