Baptized into Christ Jesus (Kingdom Salvation #5)

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

– Acts 2:36-38 NKJV

Peter told the seekers in Acts 2:38 that they must repent of their sin and place their trust in the name of Jesus Christ. He explains how God commands them to do this. Those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and know that His lordship includes the authority to judge and save, must seek refuge by calling on His name in baptism.

The word baptism is the English form of the Greek word, “baptizo.” This word simply means “to immerse.” So during Christian baptism a person seeking salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is immersed in water.

Baptism is a Confession of Faith

11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 

– Colossians 2:11-13 NKJV

Christian baptism is a confession of faith. When we go into the water we are declaring that we believe Jesus Christ was dead and buried. But when we are lifted out of the water we are declaring that we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. So Christian baptism is the God-ordained ceremony in which we declare our faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus. As we saw before, this faith includes our belief that Jesus has all authority to rule over all of God’s creatures, to judge the living and the dead and to forgive those that seek refuge in Him.

In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Some have taken this to mean that when a person is baptized the phrase, “in the name of Jesus,” must be spoken over them. But we read in Colossians 3:17, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This does not mean that we should walk around repeating the phrase, “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” It means that whatever we say or do, we should do it through faith and in submission to Jesus Christ.” So it is with baptism. Being baptized into Jesus’ name means we are placing our trust in Him. 

Baptism is a Commitment

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life

– Romans 6:1-4 NKJV

Baptism is not only a profession of our faith in the risen Lord Jesus, but it is also an act of commitment. In baptism we commit to die to our old lives of rebellion and live new lives of obedience towards God through Jesus Christ. In baptism we are making a covenant with God.

Baptism is an Appeal to God

16 ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ 

– Acts 22:16 NKJV

21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’ 

– Acts 2:21 NKJV

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” 

– Romans 10:9-13 NKJV

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 

– 1 Peter 3:21 ESV

Baptism is also an appeal to God for salvation. Acts 22:16 shows us that baptism is not merely a physical and outward ceremony, but it is a form of prayer, a way to “call upon the name of the Lord.” Just as the Old Testament sacrifices were despised by God when offered by insincere rebels and unbelieving hypocrites, so baptism has no benefit before God if the person does not come in faith and with godly fear. God has ordained the ceremony, but the ceremony is nothing without a repentant and believing heart. God searches the heart of men; He is not deceived by mere outward ceremony.

A Modern Tradition

In our day, out of fear of being ritualistic, people have abandoned the biblical use of baptism. Instead of baptizing people when they repent and desire to place their trust in Christ, people have established a new and unbiblical tradition. Instead of leading people to the waters of baptism to call on the name of the Lord, they urge them to pray a “sinner’s prayer,” inviting Jesus into their hearts. Their desire to avoid dead ceremony is commendable, but by replacing the command of God with the tradition of men they are doing just what they wish to avoid.

Baptism is Identification with Christ

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

– Galatians 3:26-27 NKJV

11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses

– Colossians 2:11-13 NKJV

3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

– Romans 6:3 NKJV

When we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, calling on His name, the Bible says we are baptized “into” Him and “put on Christ.” This means that we identify with Christ before God. Jesus Christ first identified with us in His baptism by John the Baptist. He had no need of repentance, but He accepted the baptism of repentance because He was identifying with our lost condition. He bore our identity as sinners all the way to the cross where He suffered for our sin.

When we follow Him in the waters of baptism, we are accepting Him and His righteous life. We are identifying ourselves with Him before God. We are saying to God, I accept the Savior You have provided for me. I am His, and He is mine. Through baptism we die to the guilt of our sins, and we rise to a new and favored position with Christ at the right hand of God. When we are baptized, after repentance and with faith in our hearts, God changes our position from dead in sin, to alive in Christ.

An Evangelical Tradition

Another tradition prevalent in our day has been handed down to us by our evangelical forefathers. It is the doctrine that states we cannot know we are in Christ until we have a direct divine witness to our hearts. Though God is certainly kind to give us such a divine witness, this gracious gift has often been misapplied. And this has led to many anxious souls being brought to despair, some for a season and some forever.

In Scripture souls seeking salvation are told exactly what to do in order to enter into Christ and change their standing from dead in sin to alive in Christ. They are told to repent, trust in Jesus as Lord and call on the name of the Lord in baptism. They are assured that if they will meet these conditions, God will forgive their sins. This is an objective promise that they can depend on. It is not an experience, which they must seek hoping God will at some point give it to them. No, they are given clear instructions and those instructions are coupled with a clear objective promise that they can actively trust. They do not need to wait for God to supernaturally show them that they are now “in Christ.” God has already given them clear instructions in His word.

Having said this, we must acknowledge that life is not so simple. Many have grown up in various traditions, with various practices related to conversion in general and baptism in particular. Some were baptized in their youth without ever having truly repented. Some repented and were baptized, but later walked away from the Lord. Some people who come to repentance and desire to sincerely seek salvation in Christ will have various traditions and past experiences that bring in confusion and doubt. In such cases, the divine witness will need to be sought. The soul will need to seek God for direct and supernatural divine assurance while continuing to actively trust the written word. They must truly repent and believe in the lordship of Christ, and then ask God to search their hearts while they daily search the Scriptures for guidance and confirmation. Hypocrisy, sin, and the traditions of men will always complicate things, so we must avoid them at all costs.

Baptism is Identification with the Church

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 

– Galatians 3:28-29 NKJV

After we repent of our sins, and through faith in the risen Lord receive baptism from the body of Christ, we are identified with all who belong to Christ. We cannot baptize ourselves. It is something we receive. It is a grace given by God, but it is given through Christ’s people. And through it we are also welcomed into the Church. We are numbered among those that God has added to the Church.

Conclusion on Conversion

On the Day of Pentecost, many asked Peter what they should do to be saved. He called on them to repent of their rebellion to God, to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, Judge and Savior, and then to call on the name of the Lord in the waters of Baptism. This is the biblical blueprint for conversion. This is what we are called to do in order to become Christians. But in the next post we will look at what follows conversion, namely regeneration (i.e. re-birth) into God’s family. 

Wait a Second!!! So You Mean…?!

Before we close the post for today let me make one point of clarification. We have noted that Peter on the Day of Pentecost connected not only repentance and faith, but also baptism, with the forgiveness of sins. This is not an uncommon thing in the New Testament. Some denominations have taught that this means baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation without exception. I believe this is pushing things too far and is easily disproved by the case of Cornelius in Acts 10 and the thief on the cross. Though such denominations would reject each of these examples, nevertheless, they are clear examples of God’s freedom to forgive apart from baptism.

We noted in the Old Testament that people who offered sacrifices without repentance and faith were not accepted by God. But we could also note that some Old Covenant believers lived lives pleasing to God though they did not offer any sacrifices according to the Law of Moses; men like Daniel. He lived when there was no temple, and he could not have gone to it even if it did exist in his day, because the people of Israel were in exile. 

God throughout the Old Testament clearly puts an emphasis on the heart over the ceremonies themselves. There is no reason to assume that God works differently in the New Testament. God clearly saved (i.e. forgave them and gave them the Spirit) Cornelius and his family before baptism, so we know that God is free to forgive anyone who repents and believes, even without baptism. 

It seems God worked the way He did in Cornelius’ family because of the prejudice of the Jewish believers at the time. Their culture and understanding were a barrier to them welcoming a Gentile into the Church of God. So God poured out the Spirit of adoption on Cornelius and his family to break down their cultural assumptions. 

Throughout church history, and up until today, there are many cultural and traditional reasons people cannot accept baptism as a necessary step in the conversion of a sinner to Christ. As we look at the movements throughout church history it is hard to imagine that the early Methodists like Wesley, Whitefield and Asbury were not filled with God’s Spirit, even though they were never baptized; they were merely sprinkled with water as infants according to the tradition they followed. Even in the pre-Nicene era, an era that unanimously believed people are forgiven in the waters of baptism, we see that they were not ignorant of divine prerogative. When a new convert was martyred before receiving baptism they did not consider their soul lost. Instead they declared that these martyrs had been baptized in blood, and they considered that baptism acceptable to God. 

So we should let the whole counsel of Scripture inform our convictions on this issue. God does not count ceremony as high as matters of the heart in the New or Old Covenants. It is not His way. And God has shown us in Cornelius, that He can, and does, sometimes graciously bow to our ignorance. So we need not write off all of our brethren that resist the plain teaching about baptism because of their theological traditions, but otherwise manifest lives filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Having said this, let us not go to the other extreme and suppose we can presumptuously ignore the biblical teaching about baptism. God teaches in His word that people receive forgiveness after they repent and through faith in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus when they are baptized. This is the promise. He is not bound to do it only in this way, but we are bound to obey and teach what He has made clear. God can, and we assume as mentioned above, does forgive many outside of the waters of baptism. But it would be presumptuous for us to believe or teach that we can ignore God’s ordained means of receiving grace without displeasing our Lord. 


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