"If ye love Me, keep My commandments." John 14: 15.
In the New Testament there are three marks of the Christian Church which show forth its inner glory to those who are ready to see. Wherever there is an assembly of true believers you will find a clear testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ for one commission and one only has been given to the Church: "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me" The Church is not to find a place for Jesus in its message but He is to be the message entirely. Where there is no preaching of the gospel of grace by redemption through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ there is no church. If the minister is concerned with earthly matters, politics whether local, national or international, religion, morals, ethics, but not life out of death through the blood, then no matter how ornate the building, however splendid the robes, there is no church there.
With the preaching of the Gospel you will also find the observance of the Lord's Supper. This feast of remembrance is to be observed "until He come." It is the duty of every fellowship to manifest its unity in Christ in the bread and wine. The third outward mark of the Christian Church is baptism by immersion of those who are believers only. These three ministries of the Word, the Table and the Water are comprehended in the specific commands of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1: 8; 1 Corinthians 11:26 and Matthew 28:19. Imitations of these marks may be made by those who are not of the true company of the blood redeemed company who belong to the Risen Lord, the Body of which He is the Head. That is to be deplored, but it nevertheless remains true that where the living, church is, these signs will be manifested.
It may be strange news to some to know that the baptismal pool, as distinct from the sprinkling font, has been kept open through the centuries only at great cost. Early in the second century there were those who were teaching that when a person was baptised into the Name of the Father,Son and Holy Spirit, he or she was there and then, by the act of the priest, made a child of God. So soon after the apostles, did error in this respect, begin to creep into the church. Before the end of the second century Tertullian condemned the practice of sprinkling infants as being contrary to Holy Scripture. His protest was unavailing and the church persisted in its error. As a consequence in Europe, if the historians are correct, for more than twelve centuries baptism as taught in the New Testament was an offence against the law, punishable by death.
It would take an undue amount of time to record how the little assemblies of the Lord's people in various parts of Europe have stood for believer's baptism by immersion. Large numbers have been burned at the stake and hundreds drowned because they refused sprinkling for themselves and would not agree to it for their children. The testimony of the waters has been preserved by the blood of the martyrs! It has already been observed that the Christian Church is a fellowship with certain distinctive marks. Every society has its own marks by which it is defined and separated from others. Within the Christian Church, every member without a single exception testifies to the fact of faith. Without such faith it is impossible to be in the true and eternal Church, the Body of Christ.
One may be a member of an ecclesiastical organisation, but ,without faith one cannot be in the living Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not merely a subjective faith, for a living faith needs to rest objectively. The Scriptures therefore make it clear that sin is the curse of the race as a whole, and of each individual in it. To deal with sin Christ died on the cross. He died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. God therefore makes it clear in His word that sin is our calamity and our condemnation and that Jesus in dying for our sins is become our Saviour. Freely on the cross He offered His blood for our redemption, taking in death the penalty and curse of our sin. How He did it, how God laid our sin upon Him, we do not know, but God declares it and in token that His death has expiated our sin, God raised Him out of the dead.
Since God has accepted Him as the Sin-bearer in death, it only remains for the sinner to accept Him likewise. Therefore from the heart to accept Him as Saviour and to thank Him for His salvation is to believe on Him and to trust Him. From that moment the unbeliever is a believer! There is no unbeliever in the true Christian Church. Immediately a man rejoices in Jesus the Lord as Saviour, he will inevitably proceed to seek the fellowship of those who are similarly rejoicing. He will desire to join their fellowship, and to be welcomed by them as a fellow believer. He will wish to be acknowledged as one with them in the Glorious Name of the Risen and Ascended Lord, once crucified. The pull will be irresistible. The step by which he declares his belief is by baptism.
In the New Testament, without a single exception, baptism is the step by which the man who is already a believer, comes into public association with the Lord's people. He is to declare his faith in Christ as his own personal Saviour and to ask the local church to receive him as one of them in the blood and life of Jesus our Lord. Thereupon the minister, elder or other Christian shall plunge him beneath the waters into the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a Name which belongs exclusively to the Church and not to the world. Emerging out of the waters he shall sit down at the Table of the Lord with those who name Him in His enthroned glory. Baptism is always the duty of the believer before he sits down at the Table. It is the door into the Church.
A person entering a house of a friend knocks, for, however intimate may be the association, it is courtesy to knock before entering and sitting down at the table as a guest. Let us be courteous before sitting down at the Table, let us enter by baptism into the fellowship. Even so, before we sit down in this most intimate fellowship of the Bread and the Wine, the Bride of Christ, let us publicly confess by the waters of baptism that we belong to Him by redemption.
The two sacraments of the Church were intended of God to set the Church apart from the world. In the New Testament the ordinance of baptism divides the believer from the world. A National Church linked to the State is Scripturally a conception as fabulous as the unicorn. By dividing a town into parishes, and sprinkling all children brought to him, the priest presumes to make each sprinkled one a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. He has made baptism not a division between the Church and the world but a link.! With a few drops of water the carnal becomes eternal!
It cannot be too clearly stated that there is not the slightest authority in Holy Scripture for such a practice and all who trust such a ceremony for eternal salvation put their confidence in a delusion which, unless light come, may end in their eternal undoing. Baptism in the New Testament separates the world from the Church, the unbeliever from the believer. Sprinkling, as it is practised in the parish church, unites them. In the New Testament baptism is a declaration of a faith already possessed; in the sprinkling of an infant, baptism usurps the faith without which no man can be saved. Therefore let it be clearly established that baptism has nothing whatsoever to do with our birth into this world. It is connected entirely with our second birth from heaven. To sprinkle a child, giving it its baptismal name, is a travesty of Christian baptism and devoid of Scriptural authority.
Baptism in the New Testament is concerned with the entrance into the fellowship of those who have been redeemed in the blood of Christ and belong by faith to the new creation of the Holy Spirit. Why is it immersion? Is it not strange that such a mode should be employed? The answer lies in the grave of the Lord Jesus. Why was He buried? Because He was dead. When death took place, burial was a necessity. The baptismal waters are waters of burial. The person who is baptised was once dead in sin, but has been brought to life through faith in Christ. Now, as the Lord's redeemed one, he is in Christ, dead to sin, and to the world. Jesus, when He went to the Cross, not only died for sin, but He died to sin.
It was because the world did not know what to do with Him that it crucified and buried HIM. The world never knows what to do with the true believer. He is a mystery and the world counts him a dead thing. The believer knows too that by that same cross the world is a dead thing to him. He can never again enter wholeheartedly into its pleasures and interests. Therefore as a dead thing to the world he is buried in baptism. Hence the believer steps down into the waters. But Jesus was raised from the dead in the new life of resurrection by the power of the Father. Even so the believer who in simple faith thus dies with Christ to the world, is endued with newness of life to walk in the power of His resurrection. Up from the waters the believer emerges with one desire in the heart that the Spirit of God dwelling in him may live through him, to manifest the life that is from God and to make him a channel of blessing to a world perishing in its sin and whose only hope is Jesus, Saviour and Lord. What a wonderful privilege thus to follow in His steps! If we think of how His death, burial and resurrection involved Him in suffering, in the agony of the Cross, in the shedding of His blood, we shall count it no cost whatsoever to follow Him, not through blood but through water.
Why waitest thou ?
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