Gospel Faith in the Old Testament 1

Gospel Faith in the Old Testament

Hebrews 11

 

In a world where people dismiss faith as ‘wishful thinking’, or simply identify it with the beliefs and practices of a particular religion (e.g. ‘the Muslim faith’) or hi-jack faith to make it a tool used to yank Father’s proverbial chain so that he gives us stuff, it would be good to have a picture of the faith that actually pleases God.

 

Hebrews shows the link between faith, hope, obedience and perseverance, illustrating that it (faith) is more than intellectual agreement with certain beliefs. God-honoring faith takes God at his word and lives expectantly and obediently in the present, waiting for him to fulfill his promises. (However) such faith (can) bring suffering and persecution in various forms.[1]

 

Faith can bring suffering in that waiting for the fulfillment of hope can be difficult emotionally, mentally and physically via persecution.

 

As a people who are seeking the glory of God to build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus through the means employed we are going to need to understand and have encouragement to live out the link between faith and hope, faith and obedience and faith and endurance.

 

We will need to practice the reality that God honoring faith takes God at his word and live expectantly / eagerly and obediently in the present while waiting for him to fulfill his promises.

 

Our section that we will be looking at for the times we look into examples of Gospel faith in the Old Testament is Hebrews 11.

 

Hebrews 11 is set up by the content of chapter 10:19-39 and frankly, the entire book.

 

(Here, 10:19-39) a special encouragement to persevere in faith is found in the assurance that Jesus will return and not delay in fulfilling his saving plan.

 

The writer quotes from Habakkuk 2:3–4 in a form that depends on the Greek translation of the OT (the lxx).

 

That version makes the subject a person, rather than a vision or revelation as in the Hebrew text and the English versions.

 

In Hebrews, the implication is that Jesus is the one who is coming and who will not delay. Jesus is that vision that will come!

 

The introductory words (For in just a very little while), which probably come from Isaiah 26:20, emphasize the point and suggest that the readers had a problem about the need to wait patiently for Christ’s return.

 

This would have been especially the case if they could see more persecution and suffering on the horizon.

 

The writer has also reversed the order of the sentences in Hab. 2:4 to make it clear that the person who lives by faith (my righteous one), rather than he who is coming, may be tempted to shrink back. God will not be pleased with those who shrink back in unbelief: they will be destroyed in the coming judgment.

 

However, the writer ends the chapter on a positive note by suggesting that his readers are those who believe and are saved (lit. ‘who have faith which leads to the preservation of the soul’).[2]

 

Also, after the warning passage in 6:4–8, the writer encourages his readers to persevere (6:9–12), concluding by encouraging them to ‘imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.’

 

The same pattern is found at the end of chapter 10. A warning about the consequence of rejecting Jesus (by the way, this is written to the church not non-Christians, therefore, the admonition about rejecting Jesus is to Christians) is followed by encouragements to maintain ‘confidence’ and ‘persevere’ in faith, in order to ‘receive what he has promised’ (10:26–39).

 

Then, in chapter 11, various models of faith from the OT are given. 19 specific people or events involving all of the people are given as examples of Gospel faith in the OT, faith that helped them to have hope, obey and endure.

 

Summiting this honor role of faith is the portrait of Jesus as ‘the author and perfector of faith’ (12:2–3). Our eyes follow the faithful, but our eyes follow lines of faithful people to the author and perfector of their faith that we might see Jesus!

 

Believers, (Three Rivers Community Church) are to look to this ‘great cloud of witnesses,’ and particularly to Jesus, for encouragement to endure opposition and hardship of every sort  (12:1–13).[3]

 

TRCC, while we wait for the Lord we are not simply to wait here in a holy huddle. We are to be working, with hands to the plow of Gospel work, encouraging one another and being encouraged by each other’s encouragement so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin but rather are set up to stay the course in joy in faith which pleases Father and results in our salvation.

 

So, let’s ask some questions.

 

1. What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1

Here we discover the essential characteristics of faith.

 

Faith deals with things future (what we hope for) and things unseen (what we do not see).

 

The niv translation (being sure of what we hope for) puts the emphasis on faith as an expression of our confidence in God’s promises.

 

However, it is also possible to translate, ‘faith is the assurance / substance [hypostasis] of things hoped for’, or ‘faith gives substance to our hopes’ (neb).

 

Such a translation suggests that what we hope for becomes real and substantial by the exercise of faith. This also assumes what we hope for it informed by Gospel hopes.

 

This does not mean that the gospel is true simply because we believe in it! Rather, the reality of what we hope for is confirmed for us in our experience when we live by faith in God’s promises.

 

Again, faith is being certain of what we do not see or the conviction of things unseen.

 

It is the means of ‘proving’ or ‘testing’ invisible realities such as the existence of God, his faithfulness to his word and his control over our world and its concerns. That proving or testing is shown in the person who believes living out what they are assured of.

 

Example: If I believe God is faithful to save through with the Gospel, I’ll proclaim the Gospel to people who need to hear it.

 

True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured “hope-so” feeling. Neither is it an intellectual assent to a doctrine. It is certainly not believing in spite of evidence! That would be superstition. True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.[4]

 

Faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house: it gives confidence and assurance that he will stand. [5]

 

For such faith the ancients were commended (2, Gk. emartyrēthēsan, cf. vs 4, 5, 39), that is they were spoken well of / approved.[6]

 

2. What made faith necessary? Genesis 3

A. The Fall

B. Father was now no longer accessible in face-to-face interaction

C. Our parents not only alienated themselves from Father, Son, Spirit but they

alienated all of their descendants from God thus leading to the nations

scattering and inventing the God of their fathers in their own image.

 

3. How do we get faith? Ephesians 2; Romans 10:14-15

A. Faith is a precious gift from Father

B. Faith comes by through the preaching of the Gospel

How do we maintain our faith once we have believed? (Colossians 2:6-7)

A. Come to Jesus daily for Gospel

B. Remain in Jesus

C. Stay in Scripture Romans 15:4

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

(Romans 15:4 ESV)

 

4. Faith trusts Father for the future Hebrews 11:3

The writer begins where Genesis begins, because faith in God as the Creator of everything that exists is fundamental to the Bible’s view of reality. By faith we understand that the universe [Gk. aiōnas, as in 1:2] was formed at God’s command. If God is in control of nature and history, past and present, every generation of believers can trust his promises about the future, no matter what it may cost them. When the writer says what is seen was not made out of what was visible, he alludes to the definition of faith in v 1. Faith discerns that the universe of space and time has an invisible source and that it continues to be dependent on God’s command (lit. ‘God’s word’). Such faith is based on the revelation he has given us in Scripture.[7]

 

5. Conclusion

A. What stands in the future that you / we need to trust Father for based on his

clear call and command? What do you have to hold on to faith for? Is it a Gospel

reality? Is it a clear call from Father? Is it a good pursuit that would make Father

look astounding in?

1. Pray that his name is made great

2. Pray that his will is done

3. Scour the Scriptures for encouraging instruction that is alive

and powerful

4. Pray that Father makes a way where there seems to be no way

5. Pray for necessary resources, physical / emotional, to do or see what

what is out in front

6. Pray for perseverance to, if necessary, die in trust having never seen the

outcome

7. Refuse to fret and worry


[1] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

lxx Septuagint (Gk. version of OT)

[2] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 10:19–39.

[3] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–12:13.

niv New International Version

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Heb 11:1.

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Heb 11:1.

cf. compare

[6] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

[7] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Heb 11:1–40.

What was really going through my mind

 

I have to admit something. As our band led us into one of my favorite song, Holy, Holy, Holy, my mind began to wander on why I love hymns and gospel songs that communicate big God, Holy God and joyous man responding to and enjoying the Lord. Then, dang it, then, this video came to mind spoofing worship. I immediately could not sing but had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud. I totally missed the moment, but dude, I was have a blast inside.

Watch again and ask yourself, have you ever sang “he has made me glad” with a poisonous reptile draped across your trembling shoulders? Oh my goodness. My cheeks are hurting now from smiling and laughing at this. I’ve had lots of laughs from this video.

TRCC Distinctives: Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper

Matthew 26:26-29

1 Corinthians 11:20-30

 

The Lord Jesus instituted two ordinances to be observed by the church. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are those two ordinances.

 

Baptism dramatizes the work of the Gospel in our death with, union with and following of Jesus Christ.

 

The Lord’s Supper is to be observed repeatedly throughout our Christian lives as a sign of continuing fellowship with Christ.

 

1. Lord’s Supper: Instituted by Jesus from the Scriptures

Matthew 26:26-29

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

A. Passover (Exodus 12:1-28; Matthew 26:17; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13-17; 1 Corinthians

11:23-34)

1. Lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and if they don’t observe right they are cut off

2. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper from the context of the Passover Meal

a. The Passover reflects the person and work of Jesus

 

B. Eating and Drinking in the presence of the Lord (Exodus 24:9-11; Deuteronomy 14:22-26)

 

C. Looking forward to a more wonderful fellowship meal in the future when Eden is restored

(Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:9)

 

And the angel said1 to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” – (Revelation 19:9 ESV)

 

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – (Matthew 26:29 ESV)

 

D. For Christians only

 

E. To be celebrated as often as we gather (Acts 2:42-47)

“That such was the practice of the Apostolic Church, we are informed by Luke in the Acts, when he says, that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Thus we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms. We may gather from Paul that this was the order observed by the Corinthians, and it is certain that this was the practice many ages after.” (Calvin’s Institutes IV, xvii, p. 44).

1. Luke uses the same terminology Luke 24 that he does in Acts 2:42 to describe

breaking of bread in the context of remembering the Lord. Jesus said, to do this

in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

 

From Genesis to Revelation, then, God’s aim has been to bring his people into fellowship with himself, and one of the greatest joys of experiencing that fellowship is the fact that we can eat and drink in the presence of the Lord. It would be healthy for the church today to recapture a more vivid sense of God’s presence at the table of the Lord.[1]

 

2. Eating and drinking together are holy moments and not to be overlooked

 

2. Lord’s Supper: Proclamation of Jesus’ death

1 Corinthians 11:26

 

The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone. – John Stott, The Cross of Christ

3. Lord’s Supper: The Christian’s participation in the benefits of Jesus’ death

Matthew 26:26

 

When we reach out and take the elements for ourselves we are proclaiming that the benefits of Christ’s death are mine through faith. What do we proclaim those benefits are?

 

A. Regeneration: I have been awakened to life

B. By faith, I have repented of my sin/sins and have followed Jesus

C. I have been justified

D. I have been adopted

E. I have been sanctified/being sanctified

F. I have received the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing my inheritance of the Kingdom

G. I have received the capacity, by grace, to persevere in the Gospel

 

4. Lord’s Supper: Spiritual nourishment by partaking of Christ, Spiritually

John 6:53-57, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, (particularly v.18)

 

Not Transubstantiation – (Catholic) the bread and the wine actually become the body of blood of Jesus

 

Not Consubstantiation – (Luther) the physical body of Christ is present “in, with and under” the bread of the Lord’s Supper through the ubiquitous presence of Christ in his post-resurrection state. Yeah, I don’t get it either. It must be said that Jesus spoke of spiritual realities using physical objects. Jesus is talking in literal, physical terms about bread (John 6:27-59) but he is continually explaining in terms of spiritual reality.

 

So, just as ordinary food nourishes our physical bodies, so the bread and the cup give nourishment to us, if done within the context of a larger meal, even the small amount taken has physical effects. But that is not the point, fully.

 

The Lord’s Supper pictures the fact that there is spiritual nourishment and refreshment that Jesus Christ is giving to our souls (see John 6:53-57).

 

So Jesus said to them, “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 you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. (John 6:53-57 ESV)

 

Certainly Jesus is not speaking of a literal eating of his flesh and blood. But if he is not speaking of literal eating and drinking, then he must have in mind a spiritual participation in the benefits of the redemption he earns. This spiritual nourishment, so necessary for our souls, is both symbolized and experienced in our participation in the Lord’s Supper.[2]

 

A. By coming to the table we show we have believed

B. By eating and drinking we show we are following the Lord Jesus

C. By coming, eating and drinking we are saying that these realities are food for our souls

D. By coming, eating and drinking we are reminded of the truth of salvation exhorted to continue

 

The efficacy (effectiveness / usefulness) of the sacraments …resides not in the faith or virtue of the minister but in the faithfulness of God. As the preaching of the Word makes the gospel audible, so the sacraments make it visible, and the Holy Spirit stirs up faith by both means. – J.I. Packer

5. Lord’s Supper: The unity of believers

1 Corinthians 10:17

 

When Christians eat the Lord’s Supper together they are indicating that they are in unity with one another.

 

A. One Bread

B. One Body

C. One Bread

 

When we eat and drink we are eating and drinking to show that Jesus has broken down the hostile wall of division between peoples and made them into one people while maintaining our diversity.

 

Do deny unity among believers is to deny the work of the Gospel.

 

To segregate by color, age or interest is to communicate that the Gospel is not bigger than what makes me different from other people.

 

When you put together the total proclamation of the Lord’s Supper 1) that Jesus instituted the meal 2) that we proclaim Jesus’ death when we eat 3) the fact that I participate in the benefits of Jesus’ death 4) that we are spiritually nourished, 5) and that we are unified, what a marvelous reason to celebrate in great joy!

 

The fact that Jesus instituted this for us is an affirmation of some truths emanating out through the Gospel.

 

Conclusion:

Here are some final affirmations that come from the Lord’s Supper.

 

1. Jesus affirms his love for his people

 

2. Jesus affirms that all the blessings of salvation are reserved for his people

 

3. The Christian affirms their faith in Jesus

 

 


[1] Grudem, p. 989-990

[2] Grudem, p. 990

How to Kill Unity

Unity among Christians is vital. No doubt, there are some things we should divide over. The inerrancy of Scripture, the humanity/deity of Jesus, Trinity, the Gospel, salvation, etc. If there are groups who deny the inerrancy of Scripture, the person of Jesus, the Trinitarian nature of God, the content and power of the Gospel or salvation by grace alone through faith alone we must separate from them.

However, disturbing trends can creep in among Christians who agree on the “majors”, that is the major doctrines that define the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.

Paul calls Satan, in 2 Corinthians 2, a “schemer”. Sometimes, Satan can take a “minor”, that is a minor doctrine that should not define fellowship, and use it to stir up strife and create disunity and a lack of love.

Make sure you are not killing solidarity among Christians my making “minors” into “majors”.

There are a number of other schemes. I’d like to share some with you. Think on these and see if you are a victim of a scheme and killer of unity.

1. Make minor doctrinal issues into major doctrinal issues.

Dude, its ok to disagree on minors and agree on majors and still lock arms in Gospel work. See Whitfield and Wesley. One preached the other’s funeral and both vehemently disagreed on the doctrines of grace.

Frankly, take a look at our church, Three Rivers Community Church. We are an eclectic blend of new Christians, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Charasmatics and hybrids of all these. We hold some pretty hard distinctives among us while being clear on what we believe corporately as a church. We try to major on the majors and minor on the minors and hold real high, Jesus person and work, the Gospel.

The only explanation for that is Holy Spirit unifying his church. Unity among diversity can be a reality, but it takes clarity on distinctives and a willingness to put aside minors and hold up majors and be clear what those are.

2. Assume the worse about a fellow Christian

Never assume because you can make an…

Well, you know. Please don’t believe anything based on “he said she said…”. The bottom line is that if you have some questions about a fellow Christian’s thinking, acting or speech, then ask them about it and do it with gentleness and respect.

3. Hypocritically judge each other

Remember, Jesus never said not to judge. He said not to judge hypocritically. Read Matthew 7 carefully. One can only see what is in another’s eye and help them remove it if they are looking. Jesus just warned to make sure each of us removes the same problem we see in others before we go and help them remove that problem. And this assumes that it’s a problem we see in the first place.

If I have a problem with using God’s money to waste on unnecessary stuff and am up to my eyeballs in debt and can’t give to the church and you are equally in debt and don’t give, you have no right to tell me to sell one of my boats. Hypocrite! First sell your boat and then you can see clearly to help me learn how to budget.

4. Don’t allow for Holy Spirit Conscience

Paul addressed the Romans on eating food and drinking wine and never rebuked either one for their abstaining or their indulgence. He rebuked them for not being in unity. The mandate is to love, be in unity and allow for each other’s Holy Spirit informed conscience to dictate their indulgence or abstinence of food and drink. We are not to divide over such trivial things. We are to care for each other’s conscience and each other’s needs while not allowing our freedom or compelling be spoken of as evil when it is not. Unity in diversity on minor issues.

5. Back bite each other with venom and vigor

Hey, nothing will kill the atmosphere among Christians quicker than complaining about another Christian to someone else and never working toward understanding and fellowship. Go ahead. Eat each other alive and watch where that one gets us.

You can feel it when you know one has been tearing you up to other people. You may never know a single thing said, but you can feel the spiritual residue. You know what I mean? You can see the people who the back biter spoke to distance themselves from you and you can just feel it. It’s spiritual cancer.

6. Telling other Christians everything you think they did/do wrong all the time

This is the opposite of having problems with one and telling others about it. You go to the poor soul and incessantly violate their ears with what you have a problem with that they do, and you do it as though you were being spiritual. Don’t be a moron. That is not encouragement. If you do this, you are driving a wedge between you and others and people will run when they see you coming or worse, they may take a poke at you. Hey, we are only human.

It take discernment on knowing what is worth dealing with face to face and what you just need to get over and not burden the person with. Having a problem with something one says or does is not warrant for telling them about it every time. If it were we would never have peace. Use discernment, prayer for and love for the other.

You get the picture?

By all means, if you don’t know the majors, you need some training. If you look at another as inferior because of your view and your perceived weakness of the other persons, you need training on how to be kind and gracious. But let us love each other who are sheep together of the Chief Shepherd and by all means, if a wolf invades, let’s shoot it together, but let us do it TOGETHER.

 

TRCC Distinctive: Baptism

TRCC Distinctive: Baptism

Colossians 2:8-15

1 Peter 3:21

Romans 6:3-4; Romans 9:8

Galatians 3:26-27

 

Regarding this message this morning, I must place a large front-end footnote. My study and reading of pastors, seminary professors and dead theologians on this issue has been extensive. Much of the thought can’t be footnoted because I can’t place much of it in a book or article or lecture I was attending in seminary (Dr. Estep was huge, The Anabaptist Story.)

 

I’m riding the Systematic Theology of Grudem, leaning heavy on the sermons of Piper, juiced on the articles of Packer, nibbling on the works of Keller, Admiring Estep, loving and hating Edwards, admiring the missionary work of Judson and Carey and feasting on my favorite Calvinist Baptist, Spurgeon.

 

There is nothing new here and nothing original from Jolly. (Except one footnote of something I wrote and thought I’d just footnote myself for kicks). I’m riding the coat tails of great men who have gone on before.

 

Having said that, I don’t disagree lightly with some of the men I’ve mentioned. I consider these men a hall of fame of the faith. I take issue with some of their beliefs based on Sola Scriptura and what I believe is a failure to fully complete the reformation in their own hearts. I don’t say that lightly. I almost say it with tears.

 

The reason is that I more in common with men I disagree with than I do men in my own tribe (denomination). I’m barely tolerated in my own tribe. I’m never invited to preach there because I’m a reformed theologian, however, my brothers with whom I hotly disagree over the issue of baptism readily invite me to speak. So, I don’t disagree lightly with my brothers in arms.

 

Historically, the reformers, because of this very issue hated Baptists. Luther believed the Baptists were rodents.

 

Men who had taken believers baptism as a second baptism for the sake of their conscience in the reading and interpretation of Scripture were bound hand and feet and drowned in the Danube river jokingly as their “third baptism”. I am a Baptist on purpose.

 

The early Baptists were condemned for refusing to baptize their infants into the covenant community in fear of what would be produced socially over time.

 

So, I approach this with a firm belief that Scripture is enough to define baptism and a sober reality that the men I disagree with are greater, more intelligent and would bury me in a public debate.

 

So, the first thing to be said is that baptism gets its meaning and its importance from the death of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, in our place and for our sins, and from his conquest over death in the resurrection that guarantees our new and everlasting life.

 

Baptism has meaning and importance only because the death and resurrection of Jesus are infinitely important for our rescue from the wrath of God and our everlasting joy in his glorious presence.[1]

 

Baptism is not just religious ritual.

 

Baptism is not just church tradition.

 

Baptism is screaming about Jesus Christ and his work of salvation in dying for our sins and rising for our justification.

 

Talking about baptism means talking about how Jesus taught us to express our trust in him and his great salvation.

 

It’s also important to remember that as a church we do not separate on the issue of baptism. We are a glorious reality that only exists as a result of the glorious work of the Gospel. We are a unity that truly looks like diversity and I believe all of us see and know that.

 

We would be willing to divide over salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

 

We would be willing to divide over the full deity and humanity of Jesus.

 

We are NOT willing to divide over other issues like the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

 

Let me give you the concluding points on the front end and then I’ll try to defend them:

 

Baptism

1. …was uncompromisingly commanded by the Lord Jesus.

2. …was universally administered to Christians entering the early church.

3. …was uniquely connected to conversion as an unrepeatable expression of saving faith. [2]

4. If you can hold to your baptism with a clear conscience and you can clearly articulate your belief in it’s validity, then we lay no further demand on you. But if your conscience is not clear and you can’t defend your baptism, we would urge you to be baptized as a believer and forever clear your conscience so you can move forward.

 

 

What We Believe About Baptism

 

1. Baptism: Ordinance of the Lord Jesus

 

Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord. What I mean by this is that the Lord Jesus commanded it. The Lord ordained it in a way that would make it an ongoing practice of the church.

 

We find this most explicitly in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

 

“Make disciples” is the main verb: “… make disciples of all nations.”

 

The defining participles are “having gone”, “baptizing them” and “teaching” them. So the church is commanded to do this for all disciples.

 

Making disciples of all nations includes baptizing them.

 

And the time frame is defined by the promise of Jesus’ help in verse 20: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The promise of help is for as long as this age lasts. So the command he promises to help us with is as long as this age lasts.
So baptism is a command, and ordinance, of the Lord Jesus to be performed in making disciples until he returns at the end of the age.

 

2. Baptism: Christians are United with Christ

 

Baptism “expresses union with Christ in His death and resurrection.” The clearest teaching on this is Romans 6:3-4.

 

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

(Romans 6:3-4 ESV)

 

In the wider context of Romans, it’s a mistake to say that water baptism is the means of our being united to Christ.

 

In Romans, faith in Jesus Christ is the way in which we are united to Christ and justified.

 

But Christians show this faith with the act of baptism. Faith unites to Christ; baptism symbolizes the union.

 

Just as a wedding ring does not a marriage make but rather symbolizes the covenant made, so baptism does not make salvation, union with Christ and Justification, but symbolizes it in a physical act.[3]

 

Likewise Paul is saying, “With this baptism you are united to Christ.” And the point we are focusing on here is that we are united to him in his death and burial and resurrection.

 

So the imagery of baptism is death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus was buried and raised to new life.

 

By faith, we are united with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

 

Baptism dramatizes[4] what happened spiritually, in your soul, when Jesus saved you: Your old self of unbelief and rebellion and idolatry died, and a new you of faith and submission and treasuring Christ came into being.

That’s what you confess to all of creation when you are baptized.

 

3. Baptism: Immersion in Water

 

Baptism, as union with Christ and death and resurrection is done by immersion.

 

The clearest evidence for this are the words of Romans 6:3-4 which describe the act of baptism as burial and rising from the dead.

 

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

(Romans 6:3-4 ESV)

 

This is most naturally understood to mean that you are buried under water and then come out of the water to signify rising from the grave.

 

The word baptism in Greek means dip or immerse. Most scholars agree that this is the way the early church practiced baptism.

 

Only much later does the practice of sprinkling or pouring emerge, as far as we can tell from the evidence.[5]

 

A few other indicators of baptism by immersion:

In Acts 8:37-38, the Ethiopian eunuch comes to faith while studying Isaiah with Philip in his chariot and says, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Philip agrees and it says, “He commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

 

That they “went down into the water” makes most sense if they were going down to immerse him, not to sprinkle him.

 

Likewise it says in John 3:23, “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there.”

 

You don’t need plentiful water if you are simply sprinkling.

 

So there is really very little dispute that this was the way the early church baptized. They did it by immersing the new believer in water to signify his burial and resurrection with Jesus.

 

4. Baptism:  Done in the Name of the Trinity

Baptism means doing this sign of the New Covenant in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

That’s what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19 ESV)

 

This means that not just any immersing is baptism.

 

There is a holy appeal to God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to be present in this act and make it true and real in what it says about their work in redemption.

 

There is no salvation without the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

A. Father sends the Son and draws men. John 6:44

 

B. The Son comes, dies and rises to save. Bible

 

C. Holy Spirit baptizes, fills and seals. Ephesians, John, etc.

 

When we call on their name, we depend upon them and honor them and worship the Triune God and say that this act is because of them and by them and for them.

 

5. Baptism: Believers Only

Acts 2:41

Acts 8:12

Acts 10:44-48

Matthew 28:19-20

 

The point of these passages is that baptism is appropriately given to those who have received the gospel and trusted in Jesus for salvation.[6]

 

The New Testament authors wrote as though they clearly assumed that everyone who was baptized had also personally trusted Jesus and experienced salvation. See Galatians 3:27[7]. Paul here assumes that baptism is an outward sign of inward regeneration.

 

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

(Romans 6:3-4 ESV)

 

Romans 6:3-4 is a passage, I believe, Paul could not have spoken/written regarding infants.

 

If Paul could not have argued those things for infants, then an advocate for infant baptism must say that baptism means something different for infants than what Paul says it means for all of us who have been baptized into Jesus.

 

It is here that infant Baptists begin to use vague language about infants being adopted into the covenant or into the covenant community, but the New Testament does not speak that way about baptism. On the contrary, it says that all of those who have been baptized have been buried with Christ, have been raised with him, and have put on Christ.[8]

 

This sounds like salvation, and clearly infants are not saved by infant baptism, so either there is a failure to fully embrace the reformation or an inability to embrace the Scripture’s affirmation of what baptism is.

 

One of the most important passages for baptism is Colossians 2:11-12.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12 ESV)

 

So the image of spiritual circumcision is closely connected with the image of baptism: “You were circumcised . . . having been baptized . . .” The old “body of flesh” was cut away in conversion; you died and rose again in baptism.

 

So, circumcision, being the sign of the covenant with Abraham, has it’s parallel in salvation and the work done by the Gospel in taking out a heart of stone and putting in a heart of flesh.

 

Baptism, then, is the ordinance of the Lord that shows outwardly in a dramatic fashion what has happened in the work of the New Covenant in the circumcision of the heart.

 

Infant Baptism’s Argument

 

It’s probably right to say that baptism has replaced circumcision as the mark of being part of the people of God.

 

In the Old Testament men were circumcised to signify membership in the old-covenant people of God, and in the New Testament men and women are baptized to signify membership in the new-covenant people of God.

 

That has led many Christians to assume that, since circumcision was given to the male children of the people of the old covenant, therefore baptism should be given to the male and female children of the people of the new covenant.

 

Why Infant Baptism’s Argument Will not Work

 

Look carefully at Colossians 2:12: “. . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith . . .” The words through faith are all important on this issue.

 

Paul says that when you come up out of the water signifying being raised with Christ this is happening through faith. Verse 12: “. . . in which [baptism] you were also raised with him through faith.

 

Baptism as a drama of death and resurrection with Christ gets it’s meaning from the faith that it expresses. In baptism you are “raised with him through faith.”[9]

 

Infants are not capable of this kind of saving faith.

 

Through Faith!

 

Paul shows the same way of thinking about baptism and faith in Galatians 3:26-27: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

 

We become sons of God through faith and no other way. Then he says, “for”—connecting this way of becoming sons of God with baptism—“for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

 

That explanation with the word for only makes sense if baptism is understood as an acting out of faith.

 

“In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

 

Or to turn it around: Since you were baptized into Christ, therefore we know that in Christ you are all sons of God through faith. Why? Because that is what baptism means: You were baptized into Christ by faith. Baptism without faith was inconceivable to Paul.[10]

 

Baptism and Circumcision

Colossians 2:11-12

 

So, is water baptism the Christian counterpart to Old Testament circumcision?

 

No it is not! Circumcision’s equivalent in the New Testament is the spiritual work of Jesus cutting away the old heart of stone and replacing it with a new heart of flesh! Baptism is then brought in (I would argue from the OT rituals of purification to which the LXX gives the Greek word baptidzo) as the expression of the New Covenant work of the Gospel on the human heart.

 

The New Testament equivalent of circumcision is not baptism, but the work of Christ in circumcising the heart, giving us a new heart to love him and follow him with. Baptism is then introduced as the new sign of this new covenant.

 

The following is a long excerpt of Piper’s sermon on this issue from Colossians 2:11-12:

“The key verses are verses 11-12. Notice the linking of the two ideas of circumcision and baptism:

. . .in Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. It’s clear there’s a link here between baptism and circumcision. But it isn’t, I think, what many infant baptizers think it is.[11]

 

Notice what sort of circumcision is spoken of in verse 11: it is precisely a circumcision “without hands.” That means Paul is talking about a spiritual counterpart of the Old Testament physical ritual. Then baptism is linked in verse 12 to that spiritual counterpart to the Old Testament circumcision. This is extremely important. Try to get it.

 

What is the New Testament counterpart or parallel to the Old Testament rite of circumcision? Answer: it is not the New Testament rite of baptism; it is the New Testament spiritual event of the circumcision of Christ cutting away “the [old sinful] body of the flesh.” then, baptism is brought in as the external expression of that spiritual reality. That is precisely what the link between verses 11 and 12 says. Christ does a circumcision without hands : that is the New Testament, spiritual fulfillment of Old Testament circumcision. Then verse 12 draws the parallel between that spiritual fulfillment and the external rite of baptism.[12]

 

Notice what verse 11 stresses about the new work of Christ in circumcising: it is a circumcision “without hands.” But water baptism is emphatically a ritual done “with hands.” If we simply say that this New Testament ordinance of baptism done with hands corresponds to the Old Testament ritual of circumcision done with hands, then we miss the most important truth: something new is happening in the creation of people of God called the church of Christ. They are being created by a “circumcision without hands” by God. They are being raised from the dead by God. And baptism is a sign of that, not a repetition of the Old Testament sign. There is a new sign of the covenant because the covenant people are being constituted in a new way : by spiritual birth, not physical birth.”[13]

 

6. Baptism: New-Covenant Membership by Spiritual Birth (Tribal Re-identification)

Ephesians 2:11-22

Romans 9 (verse 7 stating that it is not physical descendants who are of Abraham, but children of the promise, through Isaac)

John 1:19-28

 

Fine, you say, but what has this to do with baptism? You can, of course, be converted without knowing about baptism, just as you can be baptized and know nothing of conversion. For all that, however, there is a threefold connection.

 

First, baptism requires conversion. It signifies not only God’s saving work in us, through Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, but also our entry thereby into the new life through “repentance to God and … faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21)—that is, through conversion. Conversion, credibly professed, qualifies adults for baptism,… (and it is to conversion that baptism commits infants.) Note, that the portion is parenthesis is not agreed with.

 

Second, baptism shapes conversion. From the symbolism of baptism we learn that becoming a Christian means accepting death with Christ (entire separation from the world), being washed through Christ (entire forgiveness for the past), and identifying with the risen life of Christ (entire consecration for the future); and that genuine conversion has to be a real response to God at all three points.

 

Third, baptism tests conversion. Conversion as a psychological recoil to religion is known outside Christianity; what identifies a conversion experience as Christian is its positive orientation to baptism’s threefold summons (identified with Jesus, cleansed from sin in ritual purification and united with Christ).[14]

 

On this point, it is interesting to note that when the Pharisees come to see John they do not ask what John is doing. They had a framework for understanding baptism (ritual cleansing for natives and proselytes as well to be included in the people of God). The LXX rightly translates the words around the ritual cleaning passages of Leviticus “baptidzo” signifying the cleansing and identifying with the LORD required to stay in or come into the camp.

 

Note, the Pharisees ask, “why are you baptizing?” Why? They do this because John is baptizing Jewish folk. They are already in. They have seen the priest. They are not proselytes. So, John’s baptizing of people already “in” was confusing.

 

John was not baptizing Jews who needed ritual cleaning according to the old covenant. John was baptizing people into the New Covenant identity of followers of Jesus. There was a whole new tribe who would be marked with Baptism.

 

“So when the shift happened in redemptive history from the old covenant to the new covenant and from circumcision to baptism, there was a shift from an ethnic focus on Israel and only males being given the sign of membership in the people, to a spiritual focus on the church of all nations with both male and female being given the sign of membership in the people, namely, baptism.

Membership in the new-covenant people of God is not by physical birth, but by spiritual birth. That new birth happens by the word of God, the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25). Therefore, the church should be composed not of the believers and their infants, but believers only. And the sign of membership in the new covenant people is not a sign for infants but a sign for believers.”[15]

 

Baptism dramatizes the work of the Gospel and gives the people of God a chance to celebrate the Gospel. Therefore, baptism points to the Gospel as our ground of hope and fellowship.

 

 

 

 


[1] Piper

[2] Piper

[3] Jolly

[4] I like the word dramatizes because it seems the Lord uses images all throughout Scripture to display his message in a vivid way to drive home the point. This also gives a sense of holiness to the arts as a means of bringing people closer to their Creator, Father, Son and Spirit.

[5] Piper

[6] Grudem, p. 970

[7] For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

(Galatians 3:27 ESV)

[8] Grudem, p. 971, Spurgeon

[9] Piper

[10] Grudem, Piper

[11] Piper

[12] Piper

[13] Piper

[14] Italics added

[15] Piper