Dallas, in conjunction with baptism services for a few friends, preached two sermons on the topic for his home church, Valley Vista Christian Community. It seems to have been part of a sermon series on Hebrews 6 and the “elementary doctrines of Christ.”
Dallas: If you will turn in your Bibles to Romans, the 6th chapter and Hebrews, the 6th chapter. If you have enough fingers to put in there and hold those, we will begin there with our reading and will try to keep them before us as we go along.
Now, the truth of the matter is in the prevailing atmosphere of thought in our churches, if people were faced with a list of sermon topics which they were going to have through the year and one of them said Baptism, they would say, “Well, that’s the Sunday I can afford to miss” because it has been trivialized. It has been rendered pretty meaningless, to tell you the truth partly by centuries of debate over how it’s to be done and what it means by misunderstandings of various kinds as to what its significance is for our lives. [00:48]
It’s somewhat of an irony that in my own denominational background, which is Southern Baptist where the very word, “baptism” is involved in the name of the denomination; normally there is absolutely no understanding of any deep significance to baptism at all. It’s simply a matter of being right. Right? It’s a matter, “Well, we are Baptists!” Yes! “We are Baptists!”
And most of you I think are essentially Baptists in this regard because if I understand most of your backgrounds, you are from what is generally understood in church history to be from Anabaptist origins. Anabaptist means, “baptizing again.” You know, when you used to play “Ante-Over” when you were kids? Throw it over again! Anabaptists really refers to baptizing again with a special reference to infant baptism and in the 16th century in Switzerland and then in Holland and England and then in the United States, this movement about baptism was very important. People were killed for it. And the significance of it is today so little understood that of course, to look back at something like that and see well, why did that happen, it makes no sense at all—and the truth is, it doesn’t make any sense. [2:19]
But then, when we look further back into our Bible, we see an awful lot made about baptism and let’s read first from Romans 6. Romans 6, beginning with the first verse. “Well then, shall be keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! (Why) Should be keep on sinning when we don’t have to? For sin’s power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through his death the power of your sinful nature was shattered. Your old sin-loving nature was buried with him by baptism when he died; and when God the Father, with (His) glorious power, brought him back to life again, you were given his wonderful new life to enjoy.” (Romans 1:1-4 – TLB)
“For you have become a part of him, and so you died with him, so to speak, when he died; and now you share his new life and shall rise as he did. Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body (or flesh) is no longer under sin’s control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you. And since your old sin-loving nature “died” with Christ, we (you) know that you will share his new life. Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. He died once for all to end sin’s power, but now he lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. So look upon your old sin nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:5-11 – TLB) [4:14]
And then in Hebrews 6—” . . . stop going over the same old ground again and again, always teaching those first lessons about Christ. Let us go on instead to other things and become mature in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be. Surely we don’t need to speak further about the foolishness of trying to be saved by being good (our own works), or about the necessity of faith in God; you don’t need (any) further instruction about baptism (and about laying on of hands) (and spiritual gifts) and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. The Lord willing, we will go on now to other things.” (Hebrews 6:1-3 – TLB) [4:56]
Now, the significance of that last verse I just read is this—until you get clear about the foundations, you cannot go on to other things as you should. Now, I always have to add a little “as you should” you see, because in the spiritual life, because of the grace of God, we are absolutely forbidden to make general formula. There are almost no foolish idea that cannot succeed with the blessing of God…almost none. There have been repeated hundreds of them that have been greatly blessed. God does not wait until we get it all right. Thank God for that.
And so, we blunder and we stumble along and we try to prove one thing or another to be right and wrong and in baptism—this is one of the clearest places where we simply have to say, “Now, God be merciful to us. Help us to understand. Help us to stay away from formulas with which we try to kill one another sometimes or ourselves, and help us to get into the depth of the meaning that is here.”
Now, regardless of what we may think of baptism today, baptism and the laying on of hands are listed as fundamentals of the Christian faith. They are listed along with repentance from dead works, faith towards God, resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment. And you, as a New Testament Christian, as a serious disciple of Christ have got to ask yourself the question, “Why is that there?” Why is that there? What does that reflect in reality? [6:45]
And this morning, we have got to do our very best to try to make that clear. You see we are in great danger of emptying both the words and the actions, which we see in the New Testament and which we see in church history—we are in great danger of emptying them of all significance and of all reality. This has happened with many people with regard to what we call The Lord’s Supper. Many, many people just have no idea what that is and if you get a church and a ministry and a tradition where they have no idea what it is or what it’s significance is, it becomes nothing. It becomes nothing. Now, probably that’s a good thing because otherwise, we could get badly hurt with it. [7:35]
You remember in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians we have a discussion on Paul’s part about how they were misbehaving around The Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper then, I think was rather different from what we take it to be now because it was a real meal. One of the indications of the degeneracy of the symbolism is seen in the fact we use these little bitty things in many churches, which wouldn’t nourish a mouse. Perhaps that’s where they got the name “poor as a church mouse” because the mice had only that sort of thing to eat. And we overlook the fact that when Jesus instituted The Lord’s Supper, He used the food that was on the table. He used the food that was on the table.
For example, if we were to come in sometime and use cornbread and buttermilk or something like that, we might come closer to the real significance, because the point is that in the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of the Lord are to be present. Now, if that gets your Catholic hackles up, I’m sorry about that. OK? We don’t have to go into doctrines of transubstantiation in order to make this real and Jesus Himself has some teachings about this in His own day. But, the point is that in the Lord’s Supper as it functions within the living body of Christ, up to speed where all the parts are present and the faith and the love and hope is rolling because the presence of God is upon that community, you’d better be careful about taking The Lord’s Supper because you are apt to bite into a 5,000 volt line that will do you in. [9:14]
That’s exactly what Paul said in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians—he said, “Because you come and you do not discern the Lord’s body.” You don’t discern the Lord’s body. You don’t see it. You are not aware of it. (1 Corinthians 11:29) See? That didn’t protect him when it was there. And he said because you take this and you don’t discern the Lords’ body, and there is something powerful flowing there, many of you are sick and some of you are dead. (1 Corinthians 11:30 – KJV) [9:40]
You see, when I spoke last time about life before an open Heaven, I was trying to lay the foundation for a discussion of baptism. We live in unreality. The reality is the Kingdom of God. In our un-reality, we are blind. “The whole world,” the scripture tells us, “lies in darkness.” (1 John 5:19) The reality is the Kingdom of God and God in His mercy has brought that to earth in the form of His son and His son has started a community in which that reality is to dwell. And The Lord’s Supper and baptism and the preaching of the Word and everything else we do has to be understood in that context or it will appear ridiculous—and it does appear ridiculous to many people. And not just because they are blind; sometimes it appears ridiculous because it is ridiculous. [10:44]
We have to be very, very careful that when we say the words and do the deeds of Jesus, we have the spirit of Jesus upon us and that the Kingdom of God is dwelling in our midst or we harden people’s hearts. “We are”—as the Scripture says, “we are wells without water, clouds without rain.” (2 Peter 2:17) And the world comes to drink and there is nothing there. The people who come find nothing. It is in the rich reality of the presence of God that all of the things that we do and say as Christians makes sense and when that is lacking and in the degree to which that is lacking, what we do and what we say makes less and less sense. There is not a fine line here. There are many degrees to which God may be present, not only in our lives, but we see in the Scriptures also.
Sometimes God is present and sometimes He’s not. But the assumption of baptism is the real presence of God and His Kingdom in the life of the community and in the life of the minster who stands to carry through with baptism to perform it as a deed; and if we don’t have that, then baptism becomes meaningless or if our faith is not there. Sometimes it’s merely a matter of our lack of faith. God is there but there is no faith. The water is there but no one believes it and when we baptize and when we give The Lord’s Supper, it is awfully important that our faith is open to the reality that is there or nothing will happen. It will be a useless ritual. It will be empty. [12:21]
So, because it is so much like that, we have the trivialization of baptism but let me tell you, there is nothing trivial about baptism in the Scriptures. There is nothing trivial about it in the Scriptures. When Jesus was baptized by John, the Heavens opened and old Matthew Henry says, “The heavens were opened when Christ was baptized to teach us that when we duly attend to God’s ordinances, we may expect communion with Him and communications from Him.” And the reality of the New Testament is the realty of this life of the open Heavens in which people live in communion and in communication with Him and the history of the church is predicated upon that reality.
If you go back and you study how baptism occurred in the New Testament and you watch its continuity in the age, which follow, you will see that it was a tremendously powerful kind of thing and we have so watered it down, if you will excuse the language—we have so watered it down. We have so weakened it. We have so trivialized it that now we have to go back and reclaim it because I want to tell you something. If you are going to be the people of God in this world, you’ve got to have a way of doing the work of God. And, if you think well, baptism isn’t the way of doing the work of God, then we’ve got to get something better. [13:43]
Now, there have been groups in the history of the church that have made a great deal out of just renouncing baptism all together. The Friends Society or the Quakers is one of them and there was a day when it was very important to say that because you see, the church at that time was taking a monopoly on baptism as a means of monopoly on salvation. If you are not baptized, you are not saved and we are the only ones that can baptize so you better come to terms with us and be sure and pay your tithe. [14:10]
So, there is a time to protest against it. The misunderstandings become too strong and sometimes something can become so badly misunderstood, the only thing you can do is walk away from it; but the question always comes back—what are you going to put in its place?
And in order to try to make clear the importance of the understanding of water baptism in relationship to this background of a life lived before the open Heaven, I want us to look this morning at the four kinds of baptism, which are found in the Bible. All of these are in the New Testament though one of them refers in particular to events of the Old Testament. There are four kinds of baptisms, which are found in the Bible. [14:58]
Look with me first at the Baptism of Moses. You find this in 1 Corinthians as far as the New Testament reference is concerned. You find this in 1 Corinthians, the 10th chapter and the first verse and following—1 Corinthians 10. “Moreover brethren, I would not that you would (ye should) be ignorant, how that all of our Fathers were under the cloud and all passed through the sea.” Now, I’m afraid that doesn’t say a lot to us because the Old Testament events are often rather obscure in our minds. “And were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea; and did eat of the same spiritual meat; and did (all) drink of the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them: and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4 – KJV)
Now we are going to have to fill in the details here so turn back to Exodus 14 and Numbers 20 with me but Exodus 14 first. Exodus 14—there are some really shaking events occurring here and the reality of the open Heavens was something, which could not escape the attention of the people involved.
In the 13th chapter of Exodus, we see the people getting ready to leave Egypt and they are starting across the plains there of the delta heading towards the Sinai Peninsula and we know that God chose not to lead them directly to Egypt because they were not ready—I’m sorry, not to lead them directly to Palestine or The Promise Land because they were not ready for it and in Exodus 13, they 18th verse, we see God’s reasoning here that He felt they might return to Egypt and instead God lead them along the route of the Red Sea wilderness because they were not ready to fight. They were not ready to fight. [17:10]
A lot of your wilderness wonderings that you go through are times when you are to be prepared to fight and we don’t go directly into the fullness of life in Christ without a long process. Did you know that? You must believe that or you will be tremendously disappointed and you will not know what is happening in your life.
Many of our churches believe in the “quick fix.” “You’ve got a feeling? Oh, you have a need. Well, listen if you will just come now, I’ll fix your need and then would you like to get baptized? Well, yes, we will baptize you today.” We sill sock you under and you’ll go in dry and come out wet and as someone said, “you go in a dry sinner and come out a wet sinner.” It’s not that way all the time but the problem is that it is such a quick and fast process and there is no process to it at all and you come up and you say, “Well, what have I got?” And they tell you what you’ve got. You have to be told what you’ve got because you wouldn’t know it otherwise. [18:11]
Now, the wilderness wanderings of the people of Israel are deeply indicative of the nature of the spiritual life generally speaking. There is no quick fix and if you follow the story of how the Israelites came into the Land of Promise, you will see over and over this principle. When they got into the land, God told them, “Don’t drive the citizens out all of a sudden because if you do, the lions and the bears will move in. Wait until you grow to where you can occupy the land you conquer before you drive them out.” Now, so that doesn’t mean you are supposed to wait to quit lying until you get strong enough to occupy the ground that is occupied by your lying now, right? We are not supposed to do that. That’s not the analogy. [19:07]
The point is that there is, in the depths of our personality many parts that we must be very careful with emptying of other things. You often see people; they get converted and they just throw everything away. I remember a young man who played the piano beautifully and got converted and thought he ought to give up playing the piano. Well, why? Well, it’s vain. Well, what else are you going to do with your time? Hmmm? You have a life that is to be occupied with good things. Why throw everything away? See, but that’s one of the things that comes with the “quick fix.” [19:41]
And we look at Paul and say, “Well, he met the Lord on the road to Damascus, didn’t he, and changed completely?” Listen, Paul had been on the road to Damascus for about ten years and when he got up, he didn’t do anything else really but go for a longer period of preparation. OK? So, let’s remember that when we are thinking about the way of Christ today.
Now, when God got ready to bring the people out, he was very careful about how He handled them and of course the most important thing He did was He gave them His presence.
When, over in chapter 14 of Exodus, the people had traveled away and they had come to the Red Sea and they get down to verse 11 or so and the people turned to Moses whining . . . “Have you brought us out here to die in the desert because there were not enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Isn’t this what we told you, while we were slaves, to leave us alone? We said it would be better to be slaves to the Egyptians (in Egypt) than dead in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 14:11-12 – TLB)
“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch, and you will see the wonderful way the Lord will rescue you today. The Egyptians you are looking at—you will never see (them) again. The Lord will fight for you and you won’t need to lift a finger!’” (Exodus 14:13-14 – TLB)
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ’Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march! Use your rod—hold it out over the water, and the sea will open up a path before you . . . and I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will go in (take off) after you . . .’” (Exodus 14:15-17 – TLB) [21:17]
Exodus 14:19—“Then the Angel of God, who was leading the people (of Israel) moved the cloud around behind them . . .” Ahhh! Here’s this little thing called “the cloud.” Look back at verse 20 of chapter 13 (of Exodus). This is where the cloud emerges in the history of this story of Israel. “Leaving Succoth, they camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. The Lord guided them by a pillar of cloud during the daytime and by a pillar of fire at night. So they could travel either by day or (by) night. The cloud and fire were never out of sight.” Remember what I told you about life lived before an open Heaven? The cloud and fire were never out of sight.
Now, when they get down to where they are in tight with these Egyptians in verse 19 of the next chapter (Exodus 14)—“Then the Angel of (the Lord) God, who was leading the people of Israel, moved the cloud around behind them, and it stood between the people of Israel and the Egyptians. And that night, as it changed to a pillar of fire, it gave darkness to the Egyptians but light to the people of Israel! So the Egyptians couldn’t fine the Israelis!” [22:31]
“Meanwhile, Moses stretched his rod over the sea, (and) the Lord opened up a path . . . the people of Israel walked through on dry ground! Then the Egyptians followed them between the wall . . .” (Exodus 14:22-23 – TLB) Now, you have to sort of think about how it would be if you were one of these Israelis and you are going through here on the dry ground and you look on one side and you see about a twelve foot wall of water over here and you look on the other side ad you see another twelve foot wall of water, and the thought occurs to you, “What’s holding that up?” [Laughter] “What’s holding that up? Could we move a little faster possibly?”
The Egyptians followed and the wheels began coming off of their chariots and they yelled, “Let’s get out of here, Jehovah is fighting for them and against us.” (Exodus 14:25 – TLB) And “when all the Israelites were on the other side, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand again over the sea, so that the waters will come back . . . and Moses did, and the sea returned to normal beneath the morning light. The Egyptians tried to flee, but the Lord drowned them in the sea. The water covered the path and the chariots and the horsemen. And of the army of Pharaoh that chased after Israel through the sea, not one remained alive. The people of Israel had walked through on dry land, and the waters had been walled up on either side of them. Thus Jehovah saved Israel that day from the Egyptians. . .” (Exodus 14:25-30 – TLB) [23:55]
“When the people of the Lord saw the mighty miracle the Lord had done for them against the Egyptians, they were afraid and revered the Lord, and believed in him and in his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:31 – TLB)
Just one other episode out of these events to help us understand now the baptism of Moses—that’s what we are talking about; it’s the baptism of Moses. In Numbers, in the 18th chapter—17th and 18th chapters—we see one of these times where there is a great deal of complaining about who is supposed to lead and who is supposed to minister and you may recall that in the 17th chapter, a very special rod was given to Aaron. The question was, who is supposed to do the preaching and the leading, the teaching and the guiding, and the contest had been raised because many people were saying, “We are just as good as Moses and Aaron. Why shouldn’t we do the same thing?” and of course, in a sense they were, right? [24:55]
In a sense, they were just as good as Moses or Aaron and that’s really of the essence of what we are talking about this morning because Moses’ leadership and Aaron’s leadership was based upon the presence of God with them—the Spirit of God upon them—that was the whole thing. No minister stands and minsters because they are so blasted smart and good looking and well educated and all of that sort of thing. Now, I say, no minster does that but the pity is a lot of them do but that is not the ministry of the Kingdom of God and they were involved in this discussion about who is supposed to minister here and God said, “Alright, let’s have a little test. All of you go select a rod or a branch if you wish and bring it in here before the Lord” in chapter 17 of Numbers and “you bring the branch in. You go cut one off of a tree and bring it in here” and this was apparently a time when there were no leaves on it and verse 5 –“ . . .it shall come to pass, that the man’s rod whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.” [26:10]
This is a pretty good test. This would put it pretty clear whether or not God was with you or not. Moses had them do this. “ . . . every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece,” verse 6 says. Verse 7 says, “Moses laid the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness and verse 8—“ And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds (fruit), and blossomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” (Numbers 17:8 – KJV)
Now, this is what you call stacking it on. [Laughter] OK? I mean, this little branch—it not only had the buds, it had blossoms and almonds as well. That’s pretty unusual, isn’t it, you know? You have probably never seen an almond tree that did that in the natural even. But, you see, God did not want to leave them under any misimpression about this matter and it was going to be very clear that Aaron had been chosen. [27:16]
Aaron, the old “stumble bum,” if you will excuse me, the guy who was always getting in trouble, really—always doing the same thing, always ready to lie. I mean, sometimes he was so childish, you know—when he made that calf. That story he told Moses—“Well, I mean it just came out,” you know? It reminds you of the kid, when you say, “Who ate the cookies?” “Well, a tall green giant walked in and did it.” Well, Aaron was like that. He just never got it straight. He really didn’t. See? Moses was always having to straighten it out somehow and yet, his rod budded. God had chosen him.
The people of Israel were not chosen. God told them a number of times, “I didn’t choose you because you were the best people in the world. I didn’t choose you because of the great nation. You have nothing to recommend you overall. The only thing is I love your Father Abraham. I love him and I gave him a promise and I am going to bring it to past.” You see that’s the presence of God in the people of God. [28:22]
Now, later on another grumble session over in chapter 20 of Numbers. These people are hollering for something to drink. The people of Israel arrived in the wilderness then in April and camped at Kadesh where Miriam died and was buried and there was not enough water to drink. Verse 2—so the people again rebelled against Moses and Aaron. You know, you could almost see Moses and Aaron saying, “Here they come again.” [Laughter] A great mob formed and they held a protest meeting and marched around with placards and sang songs, no doubt. Would that we too had died with our dear brothers the Lord killed? Hmmmm…… you can tell how bad they wanted it. You have deliberately brought us into this wilderness to get rid of us along with our flocks and herds. Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?—over and over and over and over again, isn’t it? Moses and Aaron turned away and went to the entrance of the tabernacle where they fell face downward before the Lord “and the glory of Jehovah appeared unto them” and He said to Moses, “Get Aaron’s rod, the one that budded, and you and you and Aaron must summon the people and as they watch, speak to that rock over there and tell it to pour out its water.” (Numbers 17:1-7) [29:42]
Now, the old version just says, “Speak to the rock.” Which rock? What rock?—probably rocks all over the place. This is a very special rock, as we will see in a moment. As they watched, speak to the rock over there and tell it to pour out its water and you will give them water from the rock, enough for all the people and all their cattle. So, Moses did as instructed. He took the rod from a place where it was kept from the Lord—kept before the Lord and then Moses and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rocks and he said, Listen, “ye rebels!” (Numbers 17:8-10) Moses had had enough. He was fed up! He was not prepared to speak kindly to them. They had challenged his leadership so often—he made a mistake. He got a little out of order here, and probably “rebels” is a very nice and tame way of putting what he said. [30:35]
Must we bring you water from this rock? Then Moses lifted the rod and struck the rock twice and water gushed out and the people and their cattle drank but the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe me, and did not sanctify me”—you see, Moses had focused the thing entirely on himself—“must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Numbers 17:11-12)
That’s the greatest temptation of anyone—man or woman, boy or girl—who attempts to minister the Kingdom of God is to focus on themselves and to think that somehow, what is going to be done is their doing. It isn’t! God help us if it is. God help us—it often is! But it need not be and it cannot be and baptism has no significance when it’s just somebody getting somebody else wet and speaking the word has no significance if it’s just someone making someone else’s ears ring. The idea of working with God in the presence of God is the whole thing. [31:38]
What was that rock? You remember what 1 Corinthians says it is? [Christ] Christ! That Rock was Christ. Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 10 a moment and just look at that passage. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all of our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2 – KJV) Now, you know, when these folks stepped up out of that place there in the Red Sea and the water closed, you better believe that was some kind of baptism. That was some baptism and the cloud was over them and that cloud stayed with them. [32:28]
“And did eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4 – KJV) That Rock was Christ.
The complete provision for the people of God in the presence of Christ, whether in rocks or in clouds or in fire or whatever may be required; that is the condition in which baptism occurs and God surrounds His people and those who lead His people and those who are a part of His people in all of those positions, they have power to do His work. The primary baptism is simply the engulfing of the people of God in the presence of God. Let’s go on though to some other baptisms. [33:41]
Let’s look at the baptism of John. We looked at it briefly last time so we are not going to spend as much time on it this time. The baptism of John, we are told over and over in the synoptic Gospels was from Heaven. This Heaven, which was open, chose John to come and baptize but it was unto repentance. The baptism of John was unto repentance. It was a time of proclamation of an alternative way of life and John came to announce to people that it was time to turn away from the old way and turn to the new and there is no question about what he mainly talked about. The main message that John brought was if you wish, a moral lesson—stop lying, stop stealing, stop mistreating people, bring forth fruit—meat for repentance or worthy of repentance; soldiers—treat people kindly; tax collectors—don’t take more than is just and so on—all of these things. [34:49]
Now, another thing we have to understand is—and this sounds, I’m afraid so difficult for us today because we tend to keep the idea that somehow all of these things, which we are forbidden to do really are good things and that God just won’t let us do them. That’s the general idea of the world. It would just be wonderful if we could steal—if we could do all these things; God just won’t let us do them and often we say, “Well, as long as you don’t hurt anybody.”
See, that’s one of the biggest miscues that human beings have in modern society—is the idea that you can do all these things as long as you don’t hurt anybody. You know? The only thing is, “don’t hurt anybody.” Of course, the result is, lots and lots of people get hurt. Lots and lots of people get hurt because I, in my cleverness, may say, “Well now, I can just tell this little lie and it won’t hurt anybody.”
Well, the first person that gets hurt when I tell a lie is me. I’m the one who gets hurt because you see, when I tell a lie, I decide to take things in my own hand. I am going to control this situation and I’m not going to trust God. I am not going to trust God. I am going to control this situation. [36:00]
Now, I don’t want to get legalistic about it, okay? But the important thing you have to understand about the baptism of John is that he is calling us to a clear recognition of God’s way with the open Heaven and man’s way with a closed Heaven. The closed Heaven means we control it. We run it. We run the show. And John’s baptism unto repentance is a call to us to reject the way of the closed Heaven and to walk in the way of the open Heaven—to reject it. And you know, that is a primary task for most of us as we are raised up in the world. The first thing we have to do is to unlearn all these bad things we have learned—all the terrible things that have been done to us—the life of sparring and resistance and hiding. [36:51]
Jane and I were listening yesterday to a marvelous address about what is sometimes called “passive aggressive behavior.” It was talking about teenagers and how they get locked into this, how they get filled with anger, but generally they don’t want to express that anger or perhaps their surroundings won’t allow them to express it and they become passive aggressive. That is, they learn how to not get things done. Uh-huh, yes, Mama and Daddy—they will beat you on that one.
Passive aggressive behavior is one of the things that we learn and then after Mama and Daddy are long in their grave, we still find we are procrastinators; we are dawdlers, we are unable to act, our will is paralyzed because we don’t have the habits of doing things that need to be done when they need to be done. How did we lose that? By adopting a pattern of passive, aggressive behavior in our formative years. Mmmmm—sorry about that, folks. [37:54]
The Lord can deliver us from those things if we see all of the vain ways that we have been trained and formed by the years while we were living in a world that was a real jungle because this world is a real jungle and young people know it and they suffer from it terribly. And then as they grow up, I don’t’ know how many—I see my students just struggling with these desperate, desperate things about how to relate to friends and people of the opposite sex and how to decide on a vocation, how to handle finances. All of these things and they have this terrible sewer of stuff coming at them from their society, from the advertisings that surround them, often from their teachers that just pours upon them and gives them all the wrong and mistaken miscues. [38:42]
John the Baptist’s repentance and John the Baptist’s baptism was calling to people and saying, “Come out of that. There is another possibility. Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is now available.” You see? And he baptized and he baptized as a symbol of what was to happen.
Now, there are many deep symbolisms in baptism—one of them is washing and there are many people baptizing who are not Christians. In the ancient world, baptism was an almost worldwide sort of thing that was done and certainly there were many sects of the Jews that washed. You find even in the New Testament—you have passages talking about how the Pharisees washed their hands and washed pots and cups and that word there is “baptize.” They baptized them. [39:30]
Washing is one of the elements that one of the concepts that is involved in the idea of baptism—purification. Now, we have to be careful with that because in our zeal to be properly—in my own background—to be proper about baptism and make sure that everyone understands; you don’t get saved by water baptism—okay—you don’t get saved by it. We are apt to deny a lot of things that are involved in the concept. One of the concepts here is that of washing, of passing through something, which would cleanse us. [40:02]
John the Baptist was a very powerful speaker and you find over into the middle part of the book of Acts, people who are still preaching the baptism of John. When Apollos, who was a powerful man in the Gospel came to was it Ephesus, I believe or Corinth, or one of those cities that Paul was ministering in, he was still preaching the baptism of John. Now, let me tell you something. There are people today who are still preaching the baptism of John. It’s the only baptism they know. That’s as far as their understanding gets.
Very quickly, a third baptism—this is one we don’t hear much about but it is a baptism and it is a part of the baptism of Jesus and a part of the baptism of the believer. This is the baptism of suffering—the baptism of suffering. If you look in Matthew 20:22-23, you will find that familiar story where James and John bring Mama to request a favor, you know? Mothers are very persuasive and mother comes and says, “Lord, I would like you to do something for my boys.” “Well, what would you like?” And so then you get into this, “Well, we would sort of like for one to be the Secretary of State and the other to be the Secretary of Treasury or maybe head of the National Security Council in our day, who knows? Want a position of power.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink and can you be baptized with the baptism that I am going to be baptized with?” [41:43]
What He meant was that, the position by Him would be occupied by those who go through what He went through. Can you be baptized and can you drink?
By the way, when you study baptism in the New Testament, one of the things you see is, this association with baptism and drinking. The idea you saw in Moses, you were baptized in the sea and the cloud and you drank of the spiritual rock. You see it here in this passage. You will find in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, . . . and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” See, the association here is the outside and the inside.
If you turn a cup or glass of water upside down and put it under the water, it is baptized, but it’s not filled, right? A lot of people who are baptized are not filled. There is a lot there we might talk about but I just want you to think about that. A lot of people who are baptized in the spirit and you walk back out and the sun is shining and the popcorn’s all gone—it’s just a story, just a story. It means nothing to them. [43:05]
The baptism of Jesus is one in which we are covered and we drink of suffering and sorrow. Hmmm. It doesn’t sound like Gospel. It doesn’t sound like Gospel. Paul said to the people in Ephesus, “We enter through much tribulation in the Kingdom of God.” One of the things that slows us down is when tribulation comes, we say, “NO!!!! That’s not God! Enough to do with this!” We reject it! “I don’t want to suffer.” We run and hide. Many times, we may wish we had greater faith. Well for example, if we just stop hiding, we would have greater faith. We spend so much time trying to be friends of the world and not offend it so we won’t suffer, we don’t have any faith. Hmmmm? [44:08]
Jesus said in Luke 12:50—“But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straightened till it shall be accomplished.” The baptism of suffering, the baptism of sorrow, drinking deeply of the bitterness—the bitterness of that world from which we have to separate. We not only try to make it quick. We try to make it painless.
“Are there no foes for me to face? But must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace to waft me on—to carry me on to God. Sure, I must fight if I would gain.” (Am I a Soldier of the Cross Hymn by Isaac Watts) That’s the answer. Accept the fight! Accept the battle! There is a baptism. And until you have that experience, you will never gain the separation from the world that brings peace and joy and God will not be able to bring you out and claim you and make you an outpost of Heaven because you’re still trying to be a friend of the world. [45:20]
You know, from my own experience, being in the universities and around people who are supposed to know an awful lot of stuff—and they do; most of it is worthless but they know a lot of it [Laughter]—I can recall at one point in my life just becoming astonished at myself. It’s almost as if the Lord allowed me to just step over here and look at me and what I was doing. I was worrying about what these people thought. I was worrying about what these people thought and I looked at them and I saw that their lives were in as bad or worse a mess than anyone you could imagine but I was worrying about what they thought. Now, there’s a pain in that before the peace comes and if you don’t accept pain, you don’t get the peace. If you accept the pain and you say, “Lord drive it home; make it clear. Let’s get this operation right. Let’s get it all out;” then you come to peace. And the baptism of suffering is the baptism, which brings us to peace. [46:28]
Sometimes we have to do that about our loved ones. Sometimes we have to accept the pain that is there because some deep and troublesome thing has come—maybe some very bad things have been done or there is some real failure in the family or in some associate of some kind and we can spend so much time denying it! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! NO! NO! NO! No, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO! YES! YES! Yes, yes, yes! It’s there—they are going to fail. You are going to fail them. There will be things in the past. You have to accept the suffering. You have to say, “Lord, hand me that cup. I will drink it and go on.” You accept it! And that’s the third baptism of which the Bible speaks. [47:17]
We’ve got three now, okay? The Baptism of Moses, The Baptism of John and the Baptism of Suffering. We only have eighteen more to go. [Laughter] No, actually we must talk about two more.
The fourth one is the baptism by the Spirit into the body and I am going to give you some scriptures on this and ask you to think about it. It is the baptism by the Spirit into the body. This is the baptism of Romans 6—the baptism of Romans 6 that we read about. It is the baptism of 1 Corinthians 12:13 that I just read, “For by one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body . . . and have all been made to drink of one Spirit.”
Again in Galatians 3:27—“ . . . as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”” And again Romans 6:3, “As many as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.” [48:24]
Now, the literal facts here is that this cloud and fire, the Spirit of God, which dwells in the people of God is taken in hand as it were by the minister and the minster takes the person who is to be baptized, appropriately prepared and taught and led into this event and that minister places that individual into the body of Christ by the Spirit of Christ. That’s what happens.
Well, you say rightly, “God does it.” Yes, God does it! But He chooses to do it with people who are acting with Him. He chooses to do it with people who are acting with Him. And I as a minster of the Gospel have both the responsibility and the privilege of acting with God to put people into the Body of Christ and if I am not doing that, then I am not serving as a minister of the Gospel. [49:41]
Look back now at John the Baptist. John the Baptist had a very significant role. You remember, when he baptized Jesus, something happened didn’t it? Something happened; he didn’t do it but it didn’t happen until he did something, right? It didn’t happen until he did something.
Now, God chooses to work with people and that is what Jesus meant when He said to John the Baptist, “Suffer to be so for now, that it would fulfill all righteousness.” What’s the righteousness involved in there? IF you read what people say about this in the commentaries where you see them just floundering around all over the place—what is the righteousness involved here? It is a righteousness, which Jesus was constant of all along. Namely, the righteousness of submitting to God’s appointed ministers for their service. When He would heal someone, He would say, “Go back to the priest. Do everything that Moses said for you to do.” Okay? [50:41]
Now, this is a hard matter for we wild types to endure and I want to reiterate that I am not saying there is any formula for this. If you get it, get it any way you want to. Get it from walking under an apple tree—that’s wonderful—but make sure you get it. And God’s appointed way is the use of minsters. [51:01]
And the occasion in which this is most often discussed in the New Testament is on the occasion on the fifth kind of baptism, which is water baptism—water baptism.
Water baptism is not going to save you. We all know that the thief got to Heaven without being baptized, right? Water baptism doesn’t save you. There is nothing holy about the water any more that there is anything holy about that rod that Aaron cut off the tree and brought in. Nothing holy about it—God made it holy. God sanctified it. God took the occasion and made something tremendous happen, hmmmm—and so, the important role of baptism—water baptism in the New Testament. Now, sometimes it happens before the Holy Spirit falls upon people. Sometimes it happens after and sometimes there is not even any talk about the Holy Spirit falling on people. Did you know that? [52:09]
OK, now, I am going to take you quickly. I promise you, I won’t hold you much over time. We are supposed to get out at 11:30? [Or so] Or so? Hmmmm? [Laughter] No, I promise I won’t hold you much but I want to make sure you get these verses to think about this because this is a significant thing for you as Christians and for your group. [52:27]
So, let’s just go over some passages here. Baptism by water is not required to get into Heaven. Jesus did not water baptize. His disciples baptized; baptized more people than John the Baptist baptized but if you look in John’s gospel the 4th chapter 2nd verse, you will see it explicitly states that Jesus did not baptize anybody.
You know why He didn’t? Well, I’m going to give you a great theological conjecture here. You know, Jesus was the one who was to baptize with the Holy Spirit with fire and I am very sure.—I’ve often been sure and wrong but I’m very sure that the reason Jesus did not water baptize is He didn’t want there to be any possibility of confusion about what He was doing. [53:13]
His disciples baptized. Paul baptized some. But if you will notice also in 1 Corinthians, the 1st chapter and the 17th verse, Paul says, “ . . . God did not send me to baptize . . .” He’s referring to water baptism. God did not send me to baptize. Nevertheless, we see sometimes that the Holy Spirit does come upon people and then they are baptized in water but sometimes this happens in various ways with reference to them in Samaria in the 8th chapter of Acts, we have Philip preaching and many people there were converted to his preaching and they were baptized but they were not baptized in the Spirit and they were not baptized in the Spirit until Peter and John came down from Jerusalem and laid their hands on them and prayed for them and then they were baptized in the Spirit. [54:05]
On the other hand, if you look at Acts 10, you will see just the opposite happening. Peter goes to preach in the house of Cornelius and as he preaches, the Spirit of God falls upon the people and he uses that as an argument for saying, “We ought to baptize them with water.” You remember that? He says, “Look, God’s baptized with the Holy Spirit. How can we forbid water that they might be baptized?”
So you see now, what I am trying to keep us away from now is any kind of formula. You see it happens a lot of ways. When God is acting, He just gets it done. That’s what we ought to do. Just get it done. [54:41]
The 16th chapter of Acts—there are two interesting cases—Lydia, the seller of purple. When Paul went into this city, what was it? Philippi? He did what he always did. He went where there were religious people. You know what? Religious people are on the whole the best people in the world. Sometimes they get out of control and all of that but they are, on the whole, the best people in the whole world. So, when Paul wen into this town, he went down to a place by the creek, they say in Missouri. They probably didn’t say that in Philippi—down by the creek where they prayed. And down there, there was a lovely lady by the name of Lydia. She was a seller of purple and Paul, as they visited, he preached the Kingdom of God and Lydia’s heart was opened and she was baptized. Right? [55:31]
And then likewise in that same chapter, the Philippian jailer, remember? Earthquake? This is powerful stuff, folks. Earthquake, gets saved, gets baptized. It doesn’t say a thing about being filled with the Spirit.
Same way with the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8, I believe it is. Philip is preaching and Philip is having a big revival over there in Samaria and I tell you the offerings and everything is just rolling in and God says, “Get up! Leave it! Walk off and go to the desert!” He goes down to the desert and is walking along the road and he says, “Lord what in the world do you have me doing down here? I can be just so useful back there in Samaria.” Here comes this old eunuch riding along in his chariot reading the Gospel according to Isaiah and Philip says, “Understandest what thou readest?” And he says, “How can I unless someone explain.” Isn’t that wonderful? See, that’s real guidance. [56:30]
Just incidentally, you know, when God has got someone who needs a message, He knows where they are, and He knows who can give it. Just say, “Lord I am ready to go to the desert” and when you see people, just say, “You understand what you are reading or whatever comes to suit the occasion,” and just let the Lord lead you. Never force these things. You know, if it had been today, Philip would have been standing down there with some song and dance out in the middle of the road trying to stop the chariot, you know? [Laughter] He would have jumped up in the chariot and grabbed the fellow by the throat and said, “If you don’t change, brother!” No, No, No! [57:08]
People are hungry. People are needy. Just relax in faith and love and love on them. Let them come by and give to them, you see.
So, Philip preached Jesus unto him and took that passage in Isaiah and said, “Hey, I can tell you whom this is talking about. This is talking about Jesus.” And then it came by and you know, the old eunuch said, “Hey, here’s water. Why couldn’t I be baptized?” And Philip says, “If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest.” Hmmmm? And so they go down and they got baptized and it says, “The old eunuch went on his way rejoicing.” See, that’s the power that—but there is nothing spectacular about that, is there? Right?
But there was the real presence of Christ in the minister of Christ and because of that, the occasion, which God had ordered as a usual kind of thing; namely, the use of water in baptism was blessed to the heart of this man. [58:19]
Now, we misunderstand so much about baptism. For example, there has long been an idea that somehow baptism is a kind of public testimony and all of that—and it is that—but that’s not the significance. Baptism is not washing. Baptism is not getting your sins forgiven and all of that. I know the scripture says, “He that believeth is baptized shall be saved.” Well, that’s true but he that believeth and is baptized and goes to church on Sunday and washes his feet and combs his hair will be saved also.
You are saved because you believe but remember while baptism does not save the soul, there is a real sense in which it saves the life; and until the life of the individual is claimed by a community that is living before the open Heavens and has the pillar and the cloud over them and minsters the glory of the Kingdom of God that life is going to be so hard, there is going to be such a lack of power. You say, “Why?” I don’t know why; ask God why. The point is that we are given a way of regular ministry of the baptism into the body of Christ. [59:39]
Now, we don’t do it very well and if you just look at these passages I have read with you this morning, you will see the reason why I think that through much of the history of the church, people never baptized unless they also anointed and laid on hands and prayed for the filling of the Spirit. That may scare you to death and I’m sorry if it does but you are going to have to come to terms in your own mind with baptism and the laying on of hands. You are going to have to decide what that means to you and if you decide you don’t want to have anything to do with it, then you get the result—whatever that may be. And I’m not saying God is going to have nothing to do with you because He’s had to deal with lots of people who were never baptized and never hand a hand laid on them.
See, what we are talking about here is the regular order in the ministry of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God where there is a community of people that live under the cloud and the pillar and who know the presence of God in that community and they see it. They are prayerful and they are open and they are acting for the occasions on which God will move. Now, you have to come to terms with that because you keep going the way you are going, you are going to start having people come in here and they are going to be getting converted and they are going to be doing all sorts of things and you are going to have to decide what you are going to do about baptism and you are going to have to decide when you do that whether you are going to take them out and get them wet or something else. Hmmmm? [1:01:02]
There may be many of you here today that in your own mind, you are not at ease about baptism—your own baptism. You need to come to grips with that. You need to think about it. You need to say, “Is this something that I need to look into,” talk with Larry or the other elders in the church and come to peace in your own heart about it. It’s not a matter of getting wet. You can do that in the shower. It’s the matter of being brought into a living relationship with a living God in a living Kingdom in a way, which you have never been before. [1:01:34]
“Lord, we pray that you will take these teachings and make clear the vision and the reality. Empower us to be your body in this place and may there from this group of people go out a sound and a sight of victory of people who are living in the light of Heaven. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.