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Redeemer Bible Church


Unreserved Accountability to Christ. Undeserved Acceptance from Christ.
Remember Your Baptism
Selected Scriptures

Introduction
As you know, we are in the middle of our detour from the study of the book of
Exodus in order to take some time to address the definitive and characteristic rites of the
Christian church: the Lord’s Supper and baptism.

In fact, so central to the life of the church are the sacraments that the Reformers
considered their proper administration to be one-third of their sine qua non for what
constitutes a true church. If the word is not properly preached, if church discipline is
ignored, and if the sacraments are not rightly administered, then though a crowd may be
present, a true church is absent.

And it is with much regret and sorrow in my heart that I say that the contemporary
church has become grossly negligent in its commitment to these three essentials, these three
marks of the church.

With that said, I need to add that our church’s attention to the exposition of the
word, the practice of formative and corrective discipline, and the administration of the
Lord’s Supper and baptism is not because we are so much better than the church at large.
Not at all! We are sinners saved only by the sovereign grace of God, like every other
Christian church in America.

Rather than an act of self-congratulation, I cite the condition of the evangelical


church simply to call on our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ to take seriously what
God takes seriously. If we can do it, weak as we are, then all the churches can do it, too.
And since God has equipped us sufficiently to be obedient to him in all things, we ought to
do what he has empowered and commanded us to do.

When it comes to the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it is obvious from
Scripture that the Lord intends for us to take them seriously.

Take the Sacraments Seriously


In 1 Cor 11:23-26 the Apostle Paul rehearses the Communion tradition which had
been handed down from the Lord Jesus himself:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord
Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given
thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in
remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying,

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"This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in
remembrance of Me."

From the Lord Jesus to the Lord’s apostle under the inspiration of the Lord’s
Spirit, the duty of participation in the Lord’s Supper is reiterated to the Corinthians,
and by implication, to us as well. Partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Table is
not simply a good idea, a fringe benefit of life in the believing community; it is much
more—it is our solemn obligation.

In fact, failure to participate in Communion properly can result in the Lord’s


immediate discipline: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord….For he who eats
and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For
this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Cor 11:27, 29-30).

But Communion is not our only sacramental duty. There is another, prior duty,
called baptism.

Now in order to reflect on that duty with you this morning, I want you to do what
the title of the message says to do: remember your baptism. And by that, I mean for you not
simply to remember that you were baptized, or even when you were baptized, but I want you
to remember what it means, I want you to remember its blessings, its significance, its
wonder. In fact, I want us all to remember our baptisms so that we may be profoundly
encouraged by the miracle of our salvation.

Remember that You Were Baptized


Of course, if we are going to spend some time reflecting on our baptisms, each of us
needs to have been baptized.

Now if you can’t remember your baptism it means one of two things: first, you have
never been baptized; or second, you have been baptized as an infant. (I guess it’s also
possible that it happened such a long time ago that you have forgotten, but for the sake of
our lesson, indulge me here.)

In each case, having never been baptized or being baptized as an infant, if you
profess the Christian faith, you have not yet been properly baptized.

To explain this, I will begin with infant baptism. Very simply, infant baptism is not
found anywhere in the New Testament. You will search long and hard and will invariably
come up empty in your attempt to witness an infant baptism in the pages of Scripture.

Now there are some who would point out the so-called “household conversions”
referred to in the book of Acts as evidence that infants were baptized, but upon closer
examination, it is clear that the members of the household who believed were those who
were baptized. Take, for example, Acts 16:25-33:

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But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise
to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great
earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and
immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. 27
When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was
about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out
with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" 29 And he
called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and
Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31
They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your
household." 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who
were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their
wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

In this passage, Paul and Silas are thrown into prison unjustly—Paul exorcised a
demon from a slave girl who was making her masters good money through fortune-telling.

Notice that the command to believe in the Lord Jesus in v 31 is extended to the
jailer and his household. It does not say, “Jailer, if you believe, then rest assured, your
household will be saved with you.” Rather, the way the sentence is structured implies that
if the jailer’s household obeys the command to believe in the Lord Jesus the result will be
his household’s salvation along with his own.

This becomes even clearer in v 32: And they spoke the word of the Lord to him
together with all who were in his house. Paul and Silas speak the word to the jailer
together with all the members of his household.

Now reread the end of v 33: and immediately he was baptized, he and all his
household. The reason why the jailer and all his household are baptized is apparent: he
and all his household received the word spoken by Silas and Paul. It was not that the jailer
received the word alone and then the members of his household were baptized irrespective
of their faith.

Such a procedure would be completely foreign to the portrait of baptism presented in


the book of Acts. In fact, everywhere a baptism takes place in Acts, it is preceded by faith.

1. Acts 2:41: After Peter’s first sermon, those who “received his word” were baptized.
2. Acts 8:12-13: Philip had been preaching the gospel in Samaria, and those who had
believed the preaching were subsequently baptized. Simon the magician also made a
profession of faith, following which he was baptized.
3. Acts 9:18: The Apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, and then he was
baptized.
4. Acts 10:47-48: The Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit (i.e. they were converted).
Then Peter ordered them to be baptized following their conversion.
5. Acts 16:14-15: Lydia had her heart opened to the truth and was subsequently baptized.

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The point here is that the Bible preserves no example of an infant being baptized or anyone
else incapable of faith being baptized for that matter.

So if you were baptized as an infant and have not been baptized since you came to
saving faith, you need to be properly baptized. Notice that I am not saying that you need to
be baptized again. The reason I do not say you need to be re-baptized is that I believe that
Scripture’s silence on the matter of infant baptism means that you were never truly baptized
to begin with. Biblical baptism is believers-only baptism.

Of course, as I said earlier, you may not remember being baptized simply because
you have never stepped into the waters of baptism in the first place. Well, if you belong to
that category, you need to be baptized as soon as possible. In fact, if you claim to be a
Christian, you ought to have been baptized immediately upon your conversion. For
baptism is a rite of initiation into the believing community. It is the doorway into the
household called Christianity.

Baptized for the Forgiveness of Sins


The reason I call baptism the doorway into the household of the faith is in part
because biblically it is front-loaded in the preaching of the gospel. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter
said to them, ‘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.’” And listen to
Paul’s recollection of what Ananias told Paul when Paul was first converted, “And now
why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name”
(Acts 22:16).

The normal timing for baptism was immediately upon one’s exercise of repentance
from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. This is why in passages like Acts 2:38 and 22:16 baptism
is connected with benefits of salvation that we traditionally connect with faith alone.

Peter says, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive
the Holy Spirit.” Now I thought that the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy
Spirit were conferred upon us through repenting from sin and believing the gospel.

Ananias says, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on His
name.” I thought that the washing away of sin was associated only with faith in Christ.

With that said, let me ask this: Does the New Testament teach salvation by baptism?

Well, the answer to that question is categorically no. That kind of thinking runs
completely counter to the teaching of the entire New Testament. “For by grace you have
been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of
works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

So then, how do we explain texts that seem clearly to teach that Christian baptism
results in things such as the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit? Well,

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the answer is simpler than you might think. And it’s found in part in what Christian baptism
is.

Baptism is a water rite that symbolizes our identification with Christ in his death,
burial, and resurrection that became ours through faith. By faith we are united with Christ
in his death, burial, and resurrection, which baptism symbolizes. Turn with me in your
Bibles to Rom 6:3-7:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him
through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the
glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become
united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness
of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order
that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves
to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

Water baptism signifies the reality of our union with Christ. When you came to
saving faith, you died with Christ. As v 6 puts it, your old self was crucified with him. Or
as Paul explains in Gal 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who
live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son
of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” We have been crucified with Christ,
and our baptism, our entrance into and submerging under the water represents our death to
sin, our death to our former way of life.

In addition, by faith in Christ we are united with Christ in his resurrection. Verses 4-
5: Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ
was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in
newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death,
certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.

By grace through faith, we have been raised together with Christ, and our baptism,
our coming up from underneath the water represents our own resurrection to walk in
newness of life.

So Christian baptism symbolizes the benefits we enjoy in union with Christ through
faith. This is why the language of baptism predominates in a passage that comes on the
heels of Paul’s careful exposition of justification by faith alone earlier in Romans. By faith
we are baptized into Christ Jesus and therefore baptized into his death—v 3. By faith we
have been buried with him through baptism into death so that we might be raised to walk in
newness of life—v 4.

And I might add that it should be obvious from this text that the rite of baptism is the
perfect way of symbolizing this. For baptism is not a water rite of sprinkling. It’s not even
a water rite of pouring. It’s a water rite of immersion and as such provides the ideal visual
illustration for what it is meant to signify.

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Though it is linguistically possible to say that baptism refers to pouring or sprinkling,


it is highly unlikely in light of the predominant use of the term in Scripture and the
extrabiblical literature of the period as well as the practice of baptism from the first century
forward. In fact, it is so unlikely that even John Calvin, himself an infant baptizer, says,
“Yet the word ‘baptize’ means to immerse, and it is clear that the rite of immersion was
observed in the ancient church.”1

Getting back to our question: If the early Christians did not teach that benefits like
the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit were contingent upon one’s baptism,
how do we explain texts like Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; and Acts 22:16: “Be baptized and wash away
your sins”? Well, as I said earlier, the answer is simpler than you might think.

It’s found at the intersection of two truths that we have covered so far in our
message. First, baptism symbolizes the benefits of your union with Christ, such as the
forgiveness of your sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Second, the normal timing in
Scripture for the administration of Christian baptism is immediately upon one’s profession
of faith.2

Now then, how do these two truths help us to understand why the New Testament
can say that we are baptized for the forgiveness of sins, or baptized to receive the Holy
Spirit, or baptized to wash away our sins? Well, since baptism took place at the same time that
faith took place, and since baptism symbolizes what faith realizes, baptism and faith came to be used
virtually interchangeably. That’s a mouthful. I’ll say it again, though differently.

Since baptism is the depiction of the effects of faith, baptism and faith came to be
used interchangeably.

This is not to say that baptism and faith are synonyms; rather, it means that to cite
one is to imply the other. For if you were baptized in the Triune name you were a believer
(you had been united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection). And if you were a
believer, you had been baptized in the Triune name (signifying that you had been united
with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection).

Let me see if I can give you a more up-to-date example.

Let’s consider what happens on Inauguration Day: “Raise your right hand, placing
your left on the Bible and take the presidential oath of office.”

Now because you understand that the symbolic act of raising one’s hand with one’s
left on the Bible invariably accompanies the oath of office, you would understand what I

1
John Calvin, Institutes, 4.15.19.
2
In Acts 19:1-5, Paul came upon some people called “disciples” who had not received the Holy Spirit and
had only been baptized with John’s baptism. Although there is an apparent delay here, the point of the text is
that their lack of Christian baptism is immediately remedied. This is why I say that “the normal timing in
Scripture for the administration of Christian baptism is immediately upon one’s profession of faith.”

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meant if I said something like this to the President-Elect: “Raise your right hand, placing
your left on the Bible to assume the office of the presidency.” You would not bristle at such
a statement because you know full well that the symbol does not itself install a man in the
office of the presidency.

You would not conclude from my words that the symbolic gesture is the means by
which someone actually becomes the President of the United States. By referring to one,
you’d understand me to be implying the other. By citing the symbol, you’d understand me
to imply the reality.

Well, something similar is happening with respect to the relationship between faith
and baptism. One writer explains this beautifully: “If it be remembered that repentance and
faith, with baptism in water and the reception of the Spirit…constituted one complex
experience of Christian initiation, then what is true of the experience as a whole can in
practice be predicated of any element of it.”3

So if I were to say, “Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins”
or “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” I am saying essentially the same
thing. In the case of repent and believe, I am implying your need to be baptized. And in the
case of repent and be baptized, I am implying your need for faith in Christ.

So to you who have not been properly baptized, either having never been baptized or
baptized as an infant, “Why do you delay? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins,
calling on the Lord.” Follow the Lord’s command and signify what by faith has taken place
in your life.

Now I say this to you because I need to, because I am compelled to by the witness of
Scripture. Nevertheless, that’s not the heart of this message; for this is not essentially a call
to the unbaptized among us to follow the Lord’s command; instead, it is a call to us who
have been baptized to remember with wonder the reality behind the symbolism, the
significance of the sign.

Remember Who You Were


To do this, we need to begin with where we all were before we were baptized; that is,
we need to remember that what brought us to faith in Christ and the waters of baptism was
our sinful and miserable condition. Reflecting on our baptisms provides us with a fabulous
opportunity to remember who we were before we were saved, to remember all that we died
to.

Do you realize that like the unregenerate around you, you also were once foolish
yourselves—disobedient, deceived, that you were enslaved to various lusts and pleasures,
content to spend your life in malice and envy, full of hatred, hating one another (Titus 3:3)?

3
F F Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 186.

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Do you realize that that you were formerly alienated from God and hostile to him as
you engaged in evil deeds (Col 1:21)?

Do you realize that you once walked in sins like sexual immorality, impurity,
passion, evil desire, and greed (Col 3:5)?

Do you realize that some of you were fornicators, or idolaters, or adulterers, or


effeminate, or homosexuals, or thieves, or covetous, or drunkards, or revilers, or swindlers
(1 Cor 6:9-10)?

Do you realize that you were dead in your trespasses and sins, under the power of
the devil, held captive by him to do his will (Eph 2:1; 2 Tim 2:26)?

Do you realize that you lived in the lusts of your flesh, that you indulged the desires
of your flesh and of your mind, and were by nature a person subject to God’s almighty
wrath (Eph 2:3)?

Do you realize that before you entered the waters of baptism, you were all these
things and more? You were children of darkness and happy to stay that way, loving your
sins and the violence you did to your soul and others.

So understand and remember that when you received the word and stepped into the
waters of baptism, you brought with you all the filth you can name! Remembering this puts
you on the path to appreciate afresh all your baptism means.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate,
nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were
washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

You were washed of all these things, and your baptism signified that. So remember
your baptism that you might be conscious of just how much you needed salvation and how
much the Lord has saved you from.

Remember Who You Are


But that’s not all. We can look at our baptism not simply in terms of what we have
been delivered from, but what we have been delivered to. For our baptism signifies more
than the negative notion of washing away sins. We have seen from Romans 6, that baptism
signifies a relationship with Christ. And this relationship is more than a casual one; it is the
closest possible relationship with him; namely, our mystical union with the Lord.

We are not simply followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; we are his body—united with
him in his life, death, burial, and resurrection. Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who
were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Christ belongs to us so
much, so deeply, so powerfully, that we can say that we have definitively clothed ourselves

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with Christ. Our baptism demonstrates that we have taken on the characteristics and
intentions of Christ. Our baptism demonstrates that we have become like the one we love
so much.

To me, this is enormously encouraging. Because I don’t feel that I by definition have
put on Christ as a garment. My heart identifies more with passages that command me to put
on Christ-likeness, texts such as Col 3:12: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy
and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
But what my baptism shows with amazing vividness is that regardless of how I feel, I have
put on Christ. My life is hidden with Christ in God.

And because of the reality of what my baptism signifies I have hope in my battle
against sin. It is not that I have nothing on and I have to put on virtues that seem so elusive.
It is that I have put on all the virtues; I have been renewed after the image of Christ. And so
my putting on is a becoming more of what I already am in Jesus Christ. Putting off my sin
sheds the scales of what prevents me from being who I already am by my union with Christ.

The same is true for you. Your baptism demonstrates that you are united with Christ
in every way, that you have clothed yourselves with Christ. And so, the progressive
clothing that you struggle to perform every day is not an exercise in futility, though it often
seems to be the case; instead, it is a process of transformation, already accomplished in
principle through your union with Christ.

When you were baptized, you depicted your entrance into a relationship with Christ
that moves way beyond a student/teacher relationship or a rabbi/disciple relationship.
When you were baptized, you depicted a relationship of union with Christ that so identifies
you with him, that his life and death and resurrection has become your life and your death
and your resurrection!

So you cannot overestimate the importance of this doctrine of our union with Christ.
Without the union signified by your baptism, everything that Christ accomplished for you
by his death, burial and resurrection would be useless to you, utterly useless. You would be,
if you will, standing by the waters of baptism indefinitely!

Think about it. How can something accomplished by another person—he died for
sin, we did not; he was buried, we were not; he was raised again, we were not—how can
something so wholly alien to us be ours? Somehow we need Jesus’ life to be our life. We
need his death to be our death. And we need his resurrection to be our resurrection. As
long as he remains outside of us, we are hopeless.

The only thing that makes this possible is our miraculous union with Christ, our new
status of being in Christ. That’s what Romans 6 is all about. Turn back there with me:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may
increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you
not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized
into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into

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death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so
we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the
likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin
might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who
has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall
also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never
to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He
died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider
yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Without this real, spiritual participation in Christ all of the benefits of the gospel that
are his sole property remain his. This is why the “in Christ” motif is so central to the
teaching of Paul. Without it, we miss the heart of the Christian message.

Listen to this wonderful quotation from the twentieth century theologian, John
Murray:
What is it that binds past and present and future together in the life of faith
and in the hope of glory? Why does the believer entertain the thought of God’s
determinate counsel with such joy? Why can he have patience in the perplexities
and adversities of the present? Why can he have confident assurance with reference
to the future and rejoice in hope of the glory of God? It is because he cannot think of
past, present, or future apart from union with Christ. It is union with Christ now in
the virtue of his death and the power of his resurrection that certifies to him the
reality of his election in Christ before the foundation of the world—he is blessed by
the Father with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ just as he was chosen
in Christ from eternal ages (cf. Eph. 1:3, 4). And he has the seal of his eternal
inheritance because it is in Christ that he is sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise as
the earnest of his inheritance unto the redemption of the purchased possession (cf.
Eph. 1:13, 14). Apart from union with Christ we cannot view past, present, or future
with anything but dismay and Christless dread. By union with Christ the whole
complexion of time and eternity is changed and the people of God may rejoice with
joy unspeakable and full of glory.4

So as you remember your baptism, remember what it signifies. Remember who you
were before you entered the waters, how lost and feeble and needy and pathetic and wicked
and vile and evil you were. And as you do, remember that you have been washed clean,
completely transformed by your union with Christ. Amen.

Redeemer Bible Church


16205 Highway 7
Minnetonka, MN 55345
Office: 952.935.2425
Fax: 952.938.8299
4
John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed
Publishing, 1955), 164-65.

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info@redeemerbiblechurch.com
www.redeemerbiblechurch.com
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Remember Your Baptism © 2005 by R W Glenn