In the previous post, we began to walk through 8 wonderful realities that our Baptism points to. We finished 3 last time and we will finish another 2 today. Before we get into the list let me say how much my walk with the Lord has been improved by listening to and reading paedobaptists. R.C. Sproul, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Kevin DeYoung, and the list could go on, have all been positively influential in my Christian life. I am tremendously grateful for them. Yet, they also have gotten an important part of the Christian life wrong, namely, Baptism.
Let’s look at two more things Baptism signifies in today’s post:
R.C. Sproul wrote, “even though there is a distinction between water baptism and Spirit baptism, one of the things the new covenant sign of baptism indicates is the participation of every believer in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is a sign of Spirit baptism.” And it is through the Spirit’s work in applying the work of redemption to our souls that God delivers “us from the domain of darkness and transfer[s] us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).
Baptism is an outward symbol that a brother or sister has been relocated if you will. That is, they have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light. When we baptize a person, we are saying that to the best of our ability, we believe this person has already been baptized by the Spirit and this person has been transferred from death to life & from darkness to light. Baptism is an outward sign that this person is now no longer a servant of the world, the flesh, or the devil.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones uses the analogy of a wedding ring. I do not have to wear my wedding ring in order to be married. My wife and I are united in marriage and our wedding rings are not what brought that about.
But what, then, does my ring do? It shows that I am taken. I belong to another. I am not my own. Similarly, water Baptism marks us out as being not our own. We belong to another. We live gladly now in Christ’s Kingdom for His glory.
Before the ordinance of Baptism at our church, we have our candidates read their testimony. I think this is good and edifying. But also know this: Baptism, in one sense, is God’s testimony for the believer. In the visible sign of Baptism God is saying, “I’ve relocated this person from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of My beloved Son.”
Resurrection, Regeneration, Renewal, Relocation, next:
Perhaps I could have used “repentance” here. Baptism doesn’t mean you have repented for sure. But it is a sign of our repentance. And I can’t mention Baptism and repentance without mentioning Acts 2:38. I used to drive to town in Arkansas that had a huge beautiful Church of Christ building. At the top of this building, it said in very large letters, “Obey Acts 2:38.”
What does Acts 2:38 say? “And Peter said to them, “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.” There is more that could be said than I will about this verse, but I do want to mention a couple of things.
First, some make a grammatical argument here to show that water baptism is not the mechanism for the forgiveness of sins. That is, the text is teaching to be baptized on the basis of forgiveness of sins, not that water baptism is what forgives you. And I think grammatical arguments are important and helpful. But really, I think it’s even simpler than that. And I think any average Bible reader could understand this if they would just read the Bible in context.
Curtis Vaughan notes, “Peter had challenged his audience to accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Their baptism in the name of Jesus Christ would be a public acknowledgment that they had done this.”
Thus, Baptism is an outward evidence of true repentance. And how far do you really have to read to find out that heart-wrought faith repentance is the key? Well, you have to read 3 more verses to get to Acts 2:41 – “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” And then from Acts 2:41, you have to read a whole 25 more verses to get down to Acts 3:19 – “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out…”
If the average person will just read the Bible in context, trusting the Holy Spirit, they won’t get confused on the matter. If we really want to obey Acts 2:38 in context we will preach to people to repent and believe the gospel and as a sign of their repentance, they ought to be baptized by immersion.
In fact, one refusing to be baptized at all is a sign that they have actually not repented (I am not applying this to convinced paedobaptists). It would have been easy for the Jews to say they believed Peter’s message. But Peter was showing that true repentance will lead to a person willing to publicly identify with the Lord Jesus Christ in Baptism.
So, Baptism is a sign of our repentance. But it is also a sign of our resolve in the sense that it is declaring before others our allegiance to follow Christ and trust His promises and live for His glory. As Sam Waldron notes, “It is the teaching of Scripture that baptism symbolizes a saving response to the gospel.”
Sam Renihan puts it this way: “Baptism is…a two-way declaration. On the one hand, it is God’s visible promise that all who are in His Son are new creations by virtue of their union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). And on the other hand, it is the individual’s profession of faith in those very promises (1 Pt. 3:21-22).”
In Baptism there is God giving you a sign of His promises. Like the rainbow for example. The rainbow isn’t a cause of God’s promises to come to fruition. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s promises. So too is Baptism. And it also symbolizes your resolve to follow the King.
In Baptism you are saying Jesus is my only suitable and all-sufficient Savior. He is my Lord. He is my King. I follow Him, come what may.
We will continue with more next post…