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Sermon: What Is This Thing Called Baptism?

Sermon: What Is This Thing Called Baptism?


Purpose: Give everyone a clear picture of baptism, avoiding the centuries of debate

What Is This Thing Called Baptism?

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • February 21, In the year of our Lord, 2016

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Kevin Michael – Songs on obedience


  1. Lately several people,
    1. even someone from out of state,
    2. have asked me various questions about baptism.
  2. This made me think
    1. that it has been a while since I have devoted a sermon to baptism,
    2. so I thought it was time.
  3. Through the centuries you would be hard pressed
    1. to find a subject that has been debated more
    2. by virtually every church or denomination on every part of baptism.
      1. Every part of it has advocates who will stake their faith upon it.
      2. I will not solve those controversies, but
        1. I will only show you what the Bible says, or
        2. even what did it does not say.
          1. If I am right,
            1. accept what I show you, but
            2. not because I said it;
              1. no, rather because you saw it in the Scriptures for yourself.
              2. What does the Bible actually say?
          2. If I am wrong,
            1. do not accept it, but
            2. do not treat me as an enemy;
              1. no, let’s sit down together as grownups and
              2. search the Scriptures together,
                1. listening to one another explain the Bible, and
                2. go on from there.


  1. The Water
    1. The place or kind of water has advocates of one kind or another:
      1. River?
      2. Baptistry?
      3. Running water or still water?
      4. Sanctified by a priest?
    2. We know that the Jordan River was used, but
      1. it was not the only place.
      2. Acts 16 says Paul and Silas baptized their jailer
        1. at midnight, but
        2. the record says nothing of the location of his baptism.
    3. We have no teaching in the New Testament on the water.
      1. We just know that baptism happened in water.
      2. Does water cease to be water,
        1. if it is in a baptistry?
        2. if it is in a lake?
        3. if it is in the ocean?
        4. if a priest does not sanctify it? (Who created the water?)
  2. Who Does the Baptizing?
    1. Initially it would have been the apostles,

      18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matt 28.18–20).
    2. However, I know of no passage or teaching
      1. that establishes an apostolic succession.
      2. Even so, people insist that it has to be done by one of their guys.
    3. Actually, First Corinthians 1 shows
      1. that who does the baptizing is not important, but
      2. what a person is taught and
      3. who is being baptized is what counts,

        14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect (1Co 1.14–17).
        1. Paul did not deny the necessity of baptism,
        2. no, he just knew that anyone could do the physical act, but
          1. he had a new revelation from the Lord, and
          2. not just anyone could reveal it.
  3. At What Age?
    1. Some baptize babies.
    2. Who can and should be baptized?
    3. Everyone in the New Testament
      1. had an awareness of their need for baptism.
      2. Babies cannot ask what the Ethiopian Treasurer asked,

        36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8.36).
        1. Philip used Isaiah 53 to preach Jesus to this Ethiopian,
        2. doing so because the Ethiopian had a question,

          34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” (Acts 8.34).
          1. He could learn,
          2. although he needed more information.
            1. He made the choice for baptism.
            2. Babies cannot make the choice, but their parents do.
    4. If babies are too young,
      1. when is a person old enough?
      2. Many kids want to be baptized
        1. because they want to go to heaven, and
        2. they know that baptism is part of it.
          1. Therefore, some very young children will seek baptism, but
          2. we need to find out
            1. if they realize that failing to be baptized leads to hell.
            2. When I have presented this to most children,
              1. they did not believe they were on the road to hell,
              2. which shows that they have not become aware of sin.
  4. What to Say
    1. In Long Beach, we had a sailor who was stationed on the USS Missouri.
      1. He taught and baptized 6 of his fellow sailors.
      2. An occasion for rejoicing, right?
        1. Not for one lady in the congregation who went ballistic. Why?
        2. He did not say, “for the remission of sins.”
          1. She argued that since he did not say, “for the remission of sins,”
          2. the guys would not know why he baptized them.
            1. However, they would have known from his teaching.
            2. His teaching led them to that baptistry.
    2. Some people insist that you have to say a certain formula, or
      1. the person has not been baptized properly.
      2. However, the Holy Spirit had Scripture written to destroy that idea,

        19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt 28.19).

        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 2.38).

    3. Believe it or not, some take what I just showed you and for a new teaching.
      1. Since Jesus used the singular “name” in Matthew, and
      2. Peter said in the name of “Jesus Christ,”
        1. they conclude that the name of all three is Jesus, and
        2. that Jesus is one person,
          1. the Father in the Old Testament,
          2. Jesus in the Gospels, and
          3. now the Holy Spirit.
    4. Again,
      1. we have no examples of the exact way to say anything at baptism, nor
      2. do we have a dissertation on it in the New Testament.
    5. I just say,
      1. “John Doe, based upon your belief and confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins that you may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
      2. No one has ever disputed what I say!
        1. Hallelujah!
        2. I just want people thinking about the one baptized.
  5. Purpose
    1. For the remission of sins

      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 2.38).
    2. To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

      Acts 2.38
    3. To enter into Christ

      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 (Rom 6.3–4).
    4. To imitate His death, burial, and resurrection

      Rom 6.3–4
    5. To be born again

      Rom 6.3–4
    6. To be saved

      16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16.16).
  6. Re-Baptism
    1. Acts 19 presents a case of re-baptism,

      1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19.1–5).
      1. They lacked information, and
      2. when they found the upgraded information,
        1. they responded to it.
        2. Therefore, we must know what we are doing when we are baptized.
          1. We must know its purpose.
          2. We must know what is happening to us.
    2. Many people seek re-baptism when they learn more.
      1. However, you do not and cannot know everything at any time in life.
      2. You should know:
        1. That you are lost and need salvation,
        2. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
        3. That baptism is part of becoming a disciple,
        4. That you are making a commitment to the Lord forever.
    3. Many seek re-baptism when they realize how young they were.
      1. Did you think you were in rebellion against God?
      2. Did you know the difference between right and wrong?
      3. Did you believe you were accountable before God for your behavior?
    4. The way I see it,
      1. you need to be sure.
        1. Do not go to the grave with doubts.
        2. If you have questions,
          1. erase them by doing it again,
          2. especially knowing what you know now.
      2. However, if you truly knew what you were doing, and
        1. if you have examined the Scriptures and
        2. you believe you did what the Bible says,
          1. rest in peace and contentment.
          2. Now get with the program and start growing.
  7. When Should You Be Baptized?
    1. Many people want baptism on a Sunday.
    2. Others want certain people present.
    3. Some want a particular preacher to do it.
    4. Some churches want it done at their convenience.
      1. Acts 16 shows the jailer’s after midnight,

        25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16.25).

        33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized (Acts 16.33).

      2. The jailer and the preachers did not wait for anything.
        1. He did not wait until Sunday.
        2. He did not wait for a large group
          1. that would make it convenient
          2. for the church and preachers.
  8. Just the Beginning
    1. For many people, baptism is the end.
    2. However, this is not the official teaching of anyone of which I know.
      1. Yet, many practice it,
      2. thinking that the Lord wants nothing else from them.
    3. If you saw baptism as the only thing involved in your Christianity, because
      1. of our teaching,
      2. shame on us.
        1. If you had no intention of following Jesus,
        2. shame on you.
    4. I showed you Romans 6,
      1. that when you come up out of the water,
      2. you “should walk in newness of life.”
        1. Walking is not vegetating.
        2. Walking is not stagnating.
          1. Walking is moving.
          2. Walking is following the Lord wherever He leads you.
      3. Newness of life is not a one time thing.
        1. Otherwise, you die on the spot.
        2. Even as you came from your mother’s womb, and
          1. have been living (and all that means) to this day,
          2. so is our new life in Jesus.
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