Jeff Noblit is the Senior Pastor-Teacher of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He has served on the pastoral staff for 26 years, the last 18 as senior pastor. Jeff is the founder of Anchored in Truth Ministries, an expository preaching ministry, and is the author of The Accountability Notebook and the witnessing booklet, The Great Answer to the Great Question. He has written articles for various magazines and journals.
[Note: After the section on “the purpose of baptism,” the wi-fi connection timed out, and I lost my transcription of the rest of the message. I have, however, provided the rest of the outline of the message and was able to catch some of the concluding words.]
The glory and marvel and wonder and even majesty of baptism is lost because the Church is so weak. It’s like being part of a football team that hasn’t won a game in five years. When you tell them that you are on the team, people shrug their shoulders and say, “So what?” We need to bring the significance of believer’s baptism in the Church.
There are glaring, malignant, unscriptural issues in the Church. Someone in the editorial world said, “Just when we needed the Church the most, they have become like us.” We need to strive for the glory of God. When people are baptized in your church, it ought to be talked about in your town. Their witness and testimony ought to be manifested in the changed life expressed in the world around them. Baptism just doesn’t have meaning anymore.
Mark 8:38 – This was written in the context of professing Jesus. Ordinarily, there was quite a cost associated with baptism. It meant something to publicly identify in baptism with Christians. If you aren’t ready and willing to be baptized and confess your loyalty to Christ, then you are not Christ’s disciple.
Mark 16:15-16 – When the Lord gave His commission, He wanted to make sure that you baptize them. When you pledge your allegiance to Christ, it means something.
For the Jews, to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was to be outcasted by their family, some eventually martyred for it. The implications associated with publicly professing Christ in baptism in Jesus’ day were great, and we need to recover that today. You don’t have to raise the standard; just be biblical, and the world will hate you and those who will criticize you the most will be fellow Christians.
What is our duty to God? To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love is expressed through obedience. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
“We are not baptizing another single person that we have to convince to be baptized.” I am not sending my report to the Vatican in Nashville anyway.
Obedience in every area should be our goal. Baptism is not as importance as the gospel, but it depends upon the gospel. We must be examining the genuineness of the conversion of people through baptism. Let’s reclaim the Church and its ordinances being the high, lofty, and glorious things that they are.
People who are being baptized today cannot give you two sentences of explaining what just they just did. We don’t have an age required for people to be baptized. If you look at the ages of baptism throughout church history, it is generally 15-18; rarely if ever were children baptized. Restoring baptism to its lofty places it deserves should be our goal.
The Purpose of Baptism
1. It proclaims the gospel that saves us. Col. 2:12 – Our people need to have a profound understanding of what baptism is all about. Baptism chiefly speaks to the death and resurrection of Christ.
2. It proclaims the believers death to sin, self, and Satan and raised to new life. The purpose and pattern of life has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rom. 6:3-5 – The old is passed and buried. Rom. 6:11 – You are baptized into a family; lots of imperfection yes, but the purpose and pattern of these folks become your folks. You used to be with the world, and now you are with the family of God.
If your church hasn’t actively updated its roles, if it has not exercised church discipline, then baptism doesn’t mean much because it is full of unregenerate members alive to sin, self, and Satan and dead to God.
When somebody joins this church, it is a big deal here.
3. It proclaims our purification from sin. 1 John 1:7 – Christian conversion has a cleansing to it. What a glorious truth that is! You know what, we need cleansing. At our very best, we are like a filthy rag before God. By a miracle of God, you have a restful peace, having been exposed by God and covered in Christ’s righteousness. Titus 3:5 – “by washing of regeneration and renewing of the H0ly Spirit; Acts 22:16
4. Baptism anticipates our resurrection from the dead. Jesus entered into death’s house and tore it down. We know we will live again because our big Brother has beat up the bully, and we have nothing to worry about. Christ has conquered sin and death, and our confidence is in the gospel and the hope of the resurrection. Rom. 6:5 – “like Him in the likeness of death . . . like Him in the likeness of His resurrection.” God slays you before He raises you. This is not just pie in the sky by and by; this is a fact. Life doesn’t end in the grave. Don’t hold onto this life too tightly. We have an everlasting inheritance imperishable which cannot pass away. It is pointing to another land, another kingdom, and another King.
5. It establishes our membership into Christ’s visible local church and our commitment to all our duties of membership. Acts 2:41, 47 – The ordinance of baptism is a local church ordinance. You are to pledge a loyalty to a body of believers. You may lose your family or your friends, but you have a new family. You have with that new family a commitment and responsibility. You must stay loyal to God’s family. This is part of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is a formal, meaningful commitment to your covenant commitment to the church. You are saying, “Hold me accountable and discipline me if I stray.”
The Importance of Baptism
1. Seen in Christ sending John the Baptist to baptize Matt. 3:5
2. Christ Himself submitted to baptism Matt. 3:13
3. Christ and His disciples baptized during His earthly ministry John 4:1
4. Christ commanded His disciples to baptize after His ascension Matt. 28:18-20
5. The early church baptized all believers Acts 2:41
6. Baptism is necessary for salvation (from the power of sin in daily life or sanctification) Phil. 2:12
I long to be in a church that shows God’s glory, that baptism is what baptism ought to be, and the Lord’s Supper is what the Lord’s Supper ought to be, and love is the crowing gem of our fellowship together.
2 Cor. 6:17 – The ordinance of baptism pressing upon the soul that one has come out from among them. They are marked, and there is a marked difference in the new believer.
Acts 2:40-41 – Be saved from this perverse generation, because salvation isn’t just missing the wrath of God, but it is treasuring and enjoying the God you once despised. The God your flesh hated, your heart loves. You have turned from the perverse generation which hates and turns from God.
Have you been saved from this wicked and perverse generation? If not, you have not been saved. The Word that destroys the flesh is the Word that builds up the spiritual man.
One practical note:
How do you become a candidate for baptism? If biblical faith and repentance has occurred in your life, there is procedure where you can communicate your desire to be baptized. The one true, God ordained, initial public act for professing Christ is and always will be baptism. Baptism is the profession of faith.
Our churches are desperately weak in these areas. I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ that you be an agent of revival and reform in God’s Church, one day at a time, one ordinance at a time, one battle at a time.
It is a serious thing for me to charge you to go out there and get fired. But I know God will take care of you. Don’t waste your life. Give it for the glory of God through His Church.