Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 23 Number 2 February 2021
Page 15

What Does Baptism Mean?

Jerry R. Kendall

To understand the meaning and purpose of baptism as given by God, one needs to prayerfully study the Bible.

Cleansed (Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

There is a God-pleasing washing that cleanses the obedient from the past. God revealed that baptism washes away sins and cleanses one through the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 1:5). “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus…” One goes from spiritual filth to being washed or cleansed beneath the fountain filled with blood provided because of God’s love.

Clothed (Galatians 3:26-27)

The old identity is covered with Christ, whom we are coming more and more to resemble (Romans 8:29). It’s now our heartfelt intention to let the beauty of Jesus be seen in our lives (1 Corinthians 11:1). We pattern our lives after the Lord. We go from being soiled to the whiteness and brightness made possible through His shed blood.

Freedom (Romans 6:16-18; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

Sin is slavery, and only in Christ can we be freed from sin (Romans 6:20-23). As Israel was delivered from bondage in Egypt, we can be led triumphantly from sin’s bondage. Yet, this does not free us to do whatever we please, for liberty is not license but rather freedom to become what we should be through Christ. Imagine the blessing of going from the slavery of sin into the freedom provided by His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Freedom has its price, and let’s remember what it cost our loving Father (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Burial and Resurrection (Romans 6:4)

Something in us dies before we are buried with Jesus Christ, and that is our past lives and desires to practice sin. We don’t want sin to be our master anymore (Romans 6:14), but rather we bury the old life and rise together with Him to walk in newness of life. Baptism is grounded in the authority of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), and when we submit to His Lordship, there must be complete submission to His commands (Luke 6:46). When we believe in Christ, turn from (repent of) the practice of sinning, confess our faith in Him as Lord and the Son of God, then we are ready to be scripturally buried and raised with Jesus. Because a death has occurred, now there must be a burial (Colossians 2:12; 3:3). Baptism is being covered over, immersed or buried, whereby we are cleansed, and then raised with our Lord.

Forgiveness (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16)

Baptism stands between God, man and forgiveness. We will never be saved from sin without responding to what God has commanded. In Christ’s blood is forgiveness and redemption, and God has plainly told us where we contact the Son’s sanctified blood (Ephesians l:7; Colossians 1:14).

May we see the necessity and the eternal importance of complete obedience. Baptism is where one is born into God’s family. One can’t be in Christ without it. Let’s listen to God!

Something by Which to Remember Me

David R. Kenney

David R. KenneyWriting in the modern era has changed in ways that are difficult to assess. We have so many mediums to share ideas that it is hard to imagine the circumstances of writing an epistle in New Testament times. For example, we send a text to someone, and we have conditioned ourselves to receive an immediate response or wonder why we have not received one. Letter writing and delivering then was both time consuming and costly. The materials used were nothing like the quality of materials we have at our fingertips. Writing was not just a task but a profession, and the efforts to preserve that writing were also so formidable that preservation became a form of evidence of validity. The oldest extant copy of Philippians is P46 (A.D. 125-225) and contains all four chapters.

Paul’s relationship with this congregation began with the Macedonian Call, circa A.D. 51 (Acts 16:9-10). I always found it interesting that the call was from a man, but when Paul arrived, he met Lydia and a group of women who helped begin the church. How many of our church buildings today remain open due to godly women? The apostle Paul wrote circa A.D. 62 from prison in Rome. His circumstances were dire, but he wrote an epistle of joy that benefited its immediate recipients and all those who have read it through the centuries. One wonders if Paul gave thought to the possibility this would be the last epistle he would write to this congregation and decided to give the Philippians something by which to remember him. The epistle of Philippians was a work of love and joy, which is as profitable to us today as it has been to others who have appreciated the love and the joy Paul expressed to his fellow Christians.

I have been planning four lessons about the epistle, but many others could be given. The thrust of these lessons is an effort to capture some of the positive thrust of Paul’s writing. I have selected an expression from each chapter for us to explore.

“For to me, to live is Christ,
and to die is gain”
(Philippians 1:21 NKJV)

In Chapter 1, we see that Paul encouraged the Philippians to confirm Christ in their lives, to preach Christ to others and to live for Christ in such a way as to influence others in conversation and conduct. People are watching us, and they examine our character whether we are aware of them doing so or not. Are we living for Christ regardless of what the costs may be? Are we trying to convert others to Christ by our words and actions? Paul put all of his life on the line for Christ. He had the mindset that his death would be gain. How could he say that? Paul could state that because he knew the rewards of Heaven far surpassed any pleasures that this world may offer. How many are ready to go to Heaven someday rather than today? Paul was ready to depart, but Jesus had more work for him to do. We may be ready to depart, but Jesus may have more worship and service for us to do. We may be in circumstances that will inhibit our ability to feel happy, but there is a difference between being in circumstances that feed feelings of happiness and being in any circumstance and having joy with Christ! Some equate the Christian life with pleasant circumstances, happy feelings or leisure days. This is a mistake. Paul lived his life in very difficult circumstances, but it was to be all gain for him. Why? Because he lived for Christ! For whom or for what are we living? Live for Christ!

“Let this mind be in you
which was also in Christ
Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

Sometimes we may forget that Jesus left Heaven to come to Earth. Why did He come? Jesus told Zacchaeus’ critics, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10). There were those who thought Zacchaeus was unworthy to have the Lord in his home, but these were not the thoughts of Jesus. Our Lord demonstrated that while we are all sinners, we are worthy to have Him as our Savior because of His love. If He loved and served us, then, we ought to love and serve others, too. Jesus came as a bondservant, and He expects us to be servants to one another. There are all kinds of thoughts that Jesus could have had, but Paul focused on Jesus’ thoughts of leading by serving (Matthew 20:25-28). Do we lead by serving?

“I also count all things loss
for the excellence of the knowledge
of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8)

Saul of Tarsus had a promising career before him. He was circumcised the 8th day and of the tribe of Benjamin, so there was no doubt about his ancestry. He was a Pharisee, and Pharisees had the reputation of being defenders and protectors of Judaism (Philippians 3:5). Paul stated he had the finest of educations from the famed Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). He also was a natural born citizen of the Roman Empire (Acts 22:28). Paul or Saul was “up and coming” as seen in being commissioned to prosecute Christians and “the Way” (Acts 26:12). However, all of that changed when he met Christ Jesus on the road to Damascus. The conversion of Saul remains a powerful proof for the validity of Christianity today as it did back then. “Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:21-22). Why would Paul sacrifice so much, even counting it as “loss?” Because of the excellencies to be found in being a Christian! Saul of Tarsus had everything going for him, but without Jesus, he realized he was going nowhere. Knowledge of this changed Saul’s life, and knowledge of Christ Jesus will change our and other’s lives, too.

“I can do all things through
Christ who strengthens
me” (Philippians 4:13)

The apostle Paul had a mission. It was not an easy or a pleasant one. Recall what Ananias was told about Saul’s mission. “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). The first part of his mission may have sounded grand, but the latter part would give some pause. Indeed, Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). Did Paul ever regret this? Did he ever wish he were not an apostle? No. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13). Paul went through so much for the cause of Christ. Are we so willing? Perhaps we think we are unworthy. Well, Paul thought the same, but he realized Jesus was merciful to him. Jesus is merciful to us also. Regardless of our past, we have a great future with Christ!

The apostle Paul certainly gave us an epistle by which to remember him. May we read, meditate and ingest these truths in our own lives that we may have the mind of Christ. By faith and obedience to Christ’s will, we can look back at our lives without regret. No matter what we may have lost in this world, we will have great gain from the Lord when He says, “Well Done!” Notice that the word “done” implies doing! Are you doing what the Lord has commanded you to do?

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