Friday, March 1, 2013

Belief and baptism

Mark 16:15-16
Dr. Paul Manuel—November 10, 2012

We are here to witness Jim's baptism. A variation of this event took place much earlier in his life. In the New Testament, however, there are no instances of infant baptism. That is because baptism accompanies decisions a child cannot make and his parents cannot make for him, such as confession of sin and repentance from sin.1 Another personal decision baptism accompanies is belief, which raises two questions.
  • First, what must a person believe?
  • Is there a prescribed subject for this faith, or can he believe anything he wishes?
  • Second, when must a person believe it?
  • Is there a proper sequence to these steps, or can he do them in any order he wishes?
Jesus answers both questions with the final instructions he gives the disciples before his ascension.2

Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."
Jesus says here that it matters what a person believes, that it is not enough to believe in...
  • Magic or miracles,
  • Aliens or angels,
  • Flying pigs or fairy tales,
  • Santa Claus or even yourself.
For baptism to mean what God intended, a person must believe the gospel, "the good news" about Jesus—that his sacrifice redeemed you from paying the penalty your sin required. That is the message his disciples carry "to all creation," because it matters what a person believes.

Jesus also says here that it matters when a person believes the gospel, that his belief must precede his baptism, and he cannot reverse the order without potentially ruining the outcome. According to this passage, life ends in one of two ways: salvation or condemnation. According to Jesus, "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." Does that mean a person cannot be saved unless he is baptized? ...No. At Calvary, Jesus promised salvation to a condemned man who expressed faith in Jesus yet could not be baptized.3 Jesus includes baptism in these final instructions to indicate what is expected of disciples not what is essential for them. This distinction become clear when Jesus says, "whoever does not believe will be condemned." Baptism without belief accomplishes nothing. What matters is when a person believes the gospel, because belief must precede baptism, and belief is the requisite to salvation.

As you witness Jim's baptism, it presents a duel opportunity, a chance to rejoice with him in this expression of faith and to review with him the essentials of faith. Belief is the beginning of knowing God. As you become more aware of His will for your life, you realize the need to revise your thinking, your speaking, your doing, in countless ways. When that task seems overwhelming, and you wonder at the complexity of what is expected for your sanctification, adopting the character of God, remember the simplicity of what is essential for your salvation: only having faith in God because of His gracious provision through Jesus of pardon for sin.


[1] Examples include:
  • Confession
Matt 3:6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mark 1:5b Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Acts 22:16b Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
  • Repentance
Matt 3:1 la I baptize you with water for repentance.
Mark 1:4 ...John came...preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 3:3 He went...preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Acts 2:38a Repent and be the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
Acts 13:24 ...John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.
Acts 19:4a ...John's baptism was a baptism of repentance.
Baptism is also joined with another adult decision: discipleship
Matt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...
[2] Other passages confirm the prescribed subject and the proper sequence.
Acts 2:41a Those who accepted his message were baptized....
Acts 8:12 ...when they believed Philip as he preached the good news...they were baptized.....
Acts 8:35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?"
Acts 16:14b The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. 15a When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.
Acts 16:31 ..."Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 33b ...then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
Acts 18:8b ...many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
Acts 19:4 ...John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.
[3] The relevant passage is:
Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will he with me in paradise."