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“What Is Baptism?


(Romans 6:3-4)

I. Introduction.
A. Orientation.
1. Last week, we began looking at the means of grace.
a. The means by which God gives us help, grace, the Holy Spirit.
(i) He’s not a quantity, a substance, an impersonal power.
(ii) He’s a person, who works in us more or less, His own nature.
(iii) He makes us holy; being holy makes us happy: so the more holy, the
more happy.

b. Basically, we’re looking at three of these means:
(i) The Word.
(ii) Baptism.
(iii) The Lord’s Supper.

2. First, we considered the Word.
a. We know it’s a means of grace because:
(i) The Bible says it is milk and solid food.
(ii) Ordinarily, no one is saved apart from it:
(a) The Gospel is the power of God to salvation – no one is saved where
the Gospel is not present.
(b) Which is why we have missions.

(iii) Also, where its truths are known and practiced, righteousness flourishes;
but doesn’t where it is not.

b. We also saw the Word doesn’t contain the grace itself.
(i) God doesn’t energize His Word and send it into the world.
(ii) The Word can’t convert by itself.
(iii) Merely reading the Word won’t save or sanctify you.
(iv) Merely receiving the sacraments won’t either.

c. The Spirit of God must work through and with the Word.
(i) It is the means He uses.
(ii) But it must be listened to, understood, believed, received by faith, loved,
treasured, and practiced, if it is to produce any holy effects.
(iii) Even at the initial preaching of the Gospel, the Spirit must work with it,
producing new life, or no one will respond to it.

B. Preview.
1. This evening, we’re going to begin looking at the sacraments.
a. What is a sacrament?
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(i) Something Christ instituted for His church.
(a) This means they are holy, for the church only.
(b) They are not for everyone.

(ii) They are signs and seals of Christ and His benefits.
(a) They are signs:
(1) They point beyond themselves to the reality.
(2) They are not the reality.
(3) Sometimes in Scripture they are spoken of as the reality.
(4) Ex: “And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after
a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take,
eat; this is My body.’ And when He had taken a cup and given
thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this
is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for
forgiveness of sins’” (Matt. 26:26-28).
(5) Ex: Jesus told those who followed Him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you
have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My
blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John
6:53-54).
(6) Peter wrote, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you –
not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a
good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter
3:21). Corresponding to what? The ark and flood. Those who were
in the ark were saved through the waters of judgment. Those who
have the reality baptism signifies are safe in Christ from God’s
judgment.
(7) Our text states, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through
baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of
life” (v. 4).
(8) The same is true of the tree of life, of the OT sacrifices.
(9) We call this sacramental union: the sign is represented by what is
signified.

(b) They are seals:
(1) Like the seal of the king showing the document has authority.
(2) They are God’s guarantees: if we have faith, we have the reality.

(c) They represent Christ:
(1) The water represents the blood of Christ that removes sin.
(2) The bread represents the body of Christ broken for us.
(3) The wine His blood shed for our sins.

(d) They represent His benefits:
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(1) The water represents the washing of regeneration by the Spirit
(Titus 3:5).
(2) The bread and wine spiritual food – the Spirit Christ gives.

(e) The same was true of the Old Covenant sacraments:
(1) Circumcision represented circumcision of the heart by the Spirit
(Deu. 30:6).
(2) It was a seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:11).
(3) The Passover represented the sacrifice of Christ (Ex. 12; 1 Cor.
5:7).

(iii) They are meant to point us to Christ and to His work, to receive Him
and His benefits by faith.

b. How many sacraments are there?
(i) Rome believes there are seven:
(a) Baptism: sprinkling with water; gives initial grace.
(b) Confirmation: one baptized owns their responsibility to walk in the
ways of Rome; gives additional grace; includes access to the Lord’s
Supper.
(c) Lord’s Supper: eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood.
(d) Penance: works of satisfaction for sin; a punishment that repairs a sin
committed and obtains absolution or forgiveness.
(e) Marriage: only for those who actually marry; in their view, it is better
not to.
(f) Ordination or holy orders: special grace given to the priest to perform
the miracle of transubstantiation and consecrate the waters of baptism.
(g) Extreme unction – anointing of the seriously ill.

(ii) Protestants only two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
(a) Christ has given to us many examples to follow: washing feet,
picking up our crosses, laying down our lives for one another.
(b) But He has left us only two sacraments that represent Him and His
work.

2. This evening, we’re going to look at baptism.
a. What it is.
b. To whom it is to be given.
c. How it is a means of grace.

II. Sermon.
A. First, what is baptism?
1. It is a sacrament – a sign and seal of union with Christ and all His benefits.
a. It is a sign pointing beyond itself to Christ and His benefits.
(i) It is a bloodless sign – as opposed to circumcision.
(ii) It represents the effect the blood of Christ has – washing away sins.
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(iii) It does not take away sins.
(iv) But it does point to the One who can.

b. It is a seal of God’s promise to remove our sins if we trust in Christ.
(i) It does not guarantee that the one who has it will have his sins removed.
(ii) But it does guarantee that if you trust in Christ – if you are united to Him
in faith, you have been buried with Him and raised with Him to walk in
newness of life.

2. It is God’s mark of ownership on us.
a. It is the sign of the covenant God made with us in Christ.
b. The same was true of circumcision.
c. It’s not something we do, but what God does to us.
d. It shows that we are His holy people, set apart to serve and worship Him.
e. Since we submit to it, we are also promising that we will follow Jesus, even
to death, in His service:
(i) It represents our death.
(ii) Our resurrection to walk in newness of life.
(iii) Our commitment to be His disciples.

3. It is the application of water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
a. Our catechism calls it a “washing with water” (Q. 94).
b. There is a debate as to the meaning of the word baptizo.
(i) Some believe it means to sprinkle, some pour, some immerse.
(ii) There’s evidence that the early church practiced all three modes.
(iii) Westminster says regarding this, “Dipping of the person into the water is
not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or
sprinkling water upon the person” (28.3).
(iv) Basically, all three are allowed, since all three involve washing with
water.
(v) As water removes dirt from our skin, so Christ’s blood removes the guilt
of sin from our record.

B. Second, who is to receive baptism?
1. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
a. Peter said to those convicted on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and let each of
you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
b. Repent is a synecdoche – a part for the whole – the whole is faith and
repentance – flip sides to each other – conversion.
c. Those who turn to Christ in faith are to be baptized.
d. There’s no debate in the church on this issue, though there are groups who
deny the continuing validity of baptism, such as Campingites.

2. The real debate has to do with whether the children of believing parents should
be baptized.
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a. As you already know, the position of the Westminster divines was that they
should.
(i) They believe the sign is to be given to those who are a part of the visible
church.
(ii) Scripture indicates that children are a part of it, and therefore should
receive baptism.
(iii) You already know the arguments:
(a) Throughout history, God has always included the children in His
dealings with family heads.
(b) Peter said the promise signified by baptism was for the Jews and their
children (Acts 2:39).
(c) Jesus received the children of covenant parents and blessed them
(Matt. 19:13-15).
(d) Paul said the children of believing parents are holy (1 Cor. 7:14).

b. This doesn’t mean the child has received the reality signified and sealed.
(i) Even all professors haven’t received it.
(ii) Faith is – technically speaking – not the prerequisite to baptism,
profession of faith and inclusion in a covenant household are.
(iii) No one receives the reality unless they repent and believe on the Lord
Jesus Christ.

C. Last, how is baptism a means of grace?
1. Like the Lord’s Supper, it is a means through which the Lord gives grace.
a. It doesn’t contain that grace; it doesn’t give it automatically.
b. But those who have faith receive that grace signified and sealed in baptism.
c. That is one of the ways that it conveys grace.

2. But there are other ways:
a. The fact that God has put His mark on us setting us apart makes the necessity
of our obedience more solemn.
b. The fact that we have owned that mark and wear it as a badge of honor binds
us to walk more closely in His ways.
c. Whenever our faith is weak, we can look back on that sign and realize that
God’s seal has been set to us – if we have repented and believed, we are
saved, we are forgiven.
d. And so baptism is a means of grace, a way God strengthens us.
e. But again, we don’t receive anything except through faith.
f. What we receive is the additional help of the Spirit – the same we receive
through the Word, through the Lord’s Supper, through prayer.
g. Let this be a reminder to us not to rest on our baptism for salvation.
h. But let our baptism remind us of our need of Christ, His benefits, His Spirit,
to strengthen us in our walk with Him. Amen.