Lessons in Discipleship (14) دروس في التلمذة

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This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith.

        This is lesson 14 on the importance of baptism to a new believer. First, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a retired physician who spent 34 years in family medicine and student health. I became a Christian 50 years ago, and was helped early in my faith by the Navigators, an international non-denominational Christian organization whose stated goal is “To know Christ and to make Him known.” I’ve been on associate staff with that organization since 1980. Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned from the Bible, and under the guidance of the Navigators. What I learned then I now pass on to you. Today’s session is on the importance of baptism to a new believer.

        First, what is baptism? The word literally means to baptize or to be baptized. Baptize means to immerse. It is used 91 times throughout the Bible, mostly in the New Testament. But unlike most words in the New Testament, this word, baptize, is not a translation from the original Greek. The word baptize, in English, of course, did not exist. It’s what we call a transliteration from the record, but it also means to dip, to immerse, to be identified with.

        Well, to start with, there are three major reasons why baptism is important to a new believer. First, and most important, it’s a commandment from Jesus. It’s an act of obedience. Second, it’s an act of identifying openly with Jesus before other people.  It’s also an opportunity for me to share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let’s look at each of the above. First, it’s a command from Jesus. In Matthew 28, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Second, it’s an act of identifying openly with Jesus. In Galatians 3 it’s written, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” It’s like wearing a wedding ring on the finger is an outward symbol of marriage.  It tells others that we belong to our spouse. So baptism is an outward symbol, and notice to others that we belong to Christ. Third, it’s an opportunity for us to share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Colossians 2, it’s written, “Having been buried with him in baptism, and raised with him, that is, with Christ, through your faith and the power of God who raised him from the dead.” And in Romans 6 it says, “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” In first Peter 3 it’s written, “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

        Well, here’s an obvious question you may be asking at this point. Is water baptism the only way where baptism is used in the Bible? The answer is in our next slide. Baptism is used in three ways in the Bible. First and most common is water baptism. And Matthew 3 says, “People went out to him (John the Baptist) from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” And Matthew 3 is also another method of baptism with the fire of the Holy Spirit. John said, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one with more power than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Third, as we’ve already mentioned, baptism with fire speaks about suffering and judgment. In Luke 12, Jesus said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish  it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” Jesus was talking about suffering, and upcoming judgment.

        Let’s look at this special case of baptism with the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 2 we see the birth of the Church.  The Bible says, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.”

        Here’s a few thoughts on this type of baptism by the Holy Spirit. In this case, it resulted in believers speaking many languages. But they were not unknown tongues. They were known languages. Second, there was a special purpose for speaking in tongues. It was declaring the wonders of God in their own languages and sharing the gospel with them, with people who did not know Christ. Third, God was glorified and many came into the kingdom through repentance and trusting in Christ.

        Here are a few additional questions you may be asking. First, because baptism is used three ways in the Bible, how am I to know which usage is meant? Here’s the answer. From the context.  Throughout the Bible, the overwhelming use of the word baptism means water baptism. That’s how the early church identified it and used it.  When other meanings are intended, these usages are specified and made clear from the passage. Another question, is baptism necessary for salvation? Answer – as seen in Luke’s gospel, at the end of Jesus’ life when he was on the cross, one of the two thieves crucified with Jesus was repentant and asked Jesus to remembered him when he came into His kingdom. Jesus promised, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with me in paradise.” That’s Luke 23 verse 43. There was no time for baptism, yet he was definitely saved. Salvation is by faith alone. No work is needed.

        My own story about baptism is very personal. I honestly did not get water baptized for a full year after I came to know Christ. And I can remember there was some opposition from my family. I knew that they would be displeased with what I was going to do because they knew I was taking a further step away from what they had taught me. I remember praying and asking God that as he gave opportunity, I wanted to follow this act of obedience. A year later, when I was attending another Christian conference with our church, I heard the speaker say, “If anyone has not had the opportunity to be baptized and would like to, come down to the front right now.” Well, I figured this was from the Lord and I chose to do it and I got baptized right then.  Yes, it was uncomfortable and my family found out about it later, and yes, they were displeased.  I did get opposition from them but it was not violent. But I’d also taken a further step closer towards Jesus.

        Let’s summarize what we’ve learned from this brief presentation. First of all, there are three good reasons for every new believer to be baptized. First, it’s a commandment from Jesus – an act of obedience. Second, it’s an act of identifying openly with Christ – it’s taking a stand for him. Third, it’s an opportunity for us to share in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

        Here is another summary thought.  Baptism is a very personal decision. Doing this immediately may not be the best idea, although certainly it can be done right away. But I would encourage you, whenever you choose to get baptized, don’t delay too long. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to do it. For some, the act of baptism may be dangerous and involve persecution and possibly even death. We must seek God and help prepare new believers for this key step. Finally, God is glorified by our obedience. Jesus is worth the risk.

        Well, we will see you next time when we cover lesson 15 of Lessons in Discipleship when our topic will be: How to follow up a new believer. Well, that ends this presentation. Thanks for coming and being a part of it. Until next time, keep following Jesus. He’s worth it.

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