Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Vision (6.19.14): What is Baptism?

Note:  Here are some notes from last Sunday afternoon’s message in the Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism series:

Q 75:  What is baptism?

A:  Baptism is an ordinance of the NT, instituted by Jesus Christ, to be unto the person baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection, of his being engrafted into Him, of remission of sins, and of his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ to live and walk in newness of life.

We might make three basic observations on this answer:

1.  The Baptist Catechism prefers to describe baptism here as an “ordinance” (stressing that the practice of baptism comes by the order or command of Christ) rather than as a sacrament.

The framers of our confession and catechism had a high view of the ordinances, but they did not want to confuse the sacrament with “sacramentalism” (the view that baptism and Lord’s Supper are beneficial regardless of the spiritual state of those who partake of them).

2.  Baptism is “instituted by Jesus Christ.”


First, by his person example in being submitted to baptism (see Matthew 3:13-17).

Second, by his direct command to his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).

Third, by the demonstration of this as the practice of the early church in the book of Acts, which as part of Holy Scripture, is also the very words of Christ (see, for example, Acts 8:35-38).

3.  Baptism is a “sign.”

So the Catechism reads:  “to be unto the person baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him in his death, burial, and resurrection.”

Notice it prefers the word “sign” rather than “symbol.”  Sign has more weight to it than mere symbol.  When a person is baptized an announcement or public declaration is made.

Our catechism teaches that baptism is a sign of at least four things:

First, it signifies our fellowship with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (see Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-13).

Second, it signifies our being engrafted into Christ (John 15:1-7; Romans 11:16-24).

Third, it signifies remission of sins:

Baptism does not achieve remission of sins.  That is only done through the cross work of Christ.  But it pictures what Christ has done by calling to mind the ordinary act of washing in water to cleanse the body.

When Paul reports how he was discipled or catechized by Ananias as a new convert he records that Ananias said to him:

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Now, did Paul mean by this that Ananias taught him that by the “work” of baptism one had his sins washed away?  Certainly not!  As Peter taught, what saves is not “the putting away of the filth of the flesh” by physical washing, but “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).

Fourth, it signifies our giving up ourselves “unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.”

Having heard and believed the gospel, the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip:  “See, here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).  To which Philip responded:  “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest”, and the Eunuch confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (v. 37).

The language of giving up oneself or submitting oneself is prominent both here and later in Question 79 (“What is the duty of such as are rightly baptized?”) when the catechism stresses the importance of those who are baptized giving themselves up “to some particular and orderly Church of Jesus Christ, that they may walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

1 comment:

Phil Brown said...

I would like to recommend a book on this subject that I think you and your readers would enjoy. It is written by Dr. Hal Brunson. He spoke at our seminary years ago on this subject, and hits the nail on the head. The name of the book is:"The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror: Two Parables of Paedobaptism and One Parable of the Death of Jesus Christ" you can find it on amazon at the following link: