The Sacrament of Baptism

May 30, 2021 ()

Bible Text: Selected Scriptures |

The Sacrament of Baptism | Selected Scriptures
Brian Hedges | May 30, 2021

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Matthew 28, if you want to follow along in Scripture. We’re going to be in a lot of different passages this morning as we study together the sacrament of baptism. Because this is baptism Sunday, I thought it would be good for us to just dig deep into the word of God and try to understand the significance of baptism, not only for these new believers, these sisters in Christ who have been baptized, but also for ourselves. How should our own baptisms in the past continue to function in our lives today?

Most of you will know that we’re in an ongoing series in the book of Romans. We will return to Romans 13 next week, but today the focus is on baptism. I will present this as I understand the Scriptures to teach and as our church affirms in our statement of faith; that is, I’m going to present believer’s baptism, not infant baptism.

Now, I know that there may be some in this room this morning who were baptized as babies, you were baptized as infants, you were perhaps raised in a Christian home. I just want you to know you are welcome here; we are glad that you’re here. Our elders have discussed this. You are welcome to share in the Lord’s table with us this morning. This sermon is not meant in any way to make you feel uncomfortable. However, I am going to present what I think the clear pattern is in the word of God, and my hope is that you’ll be persuaded to at least look at Scripture in a fresh way if that is your experience.

I’m reminded of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great Baptist pastor of the 19th century. You may know that he was raised Congregationalist. His father and his grandfather were both Congregationalist pastors. He didn’t become a Christian until he was about 15 years old, when he heard the gospel in a primitive Methodist church, and almost immediately he sought out baptism. His mother said to him, “Charles, I’ve been praying for your conversion, but I never prayed you’d become a Baptist.” He said, “Mother, God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think!” Well, I love Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was one of the great Baptist stalwarts of church history.

This morning, as we look at baptism in the Scriptures, we’re going to look not only at the pattern but especially at the significance of baptism, what it means. Here’s how I want to do it: I want to give you six statements about baptism, six aspects of the sacraments, and I’m going to ground each one in one or two or more passages of Scripture, beginning in Matthew 28.

1. Baptism is a Necessary Step of Obedience in Discipleship

Here’s number one, the first point of six: I want you to see that baptism is a necessary step of obedience in our discipleship. You see this in Matthew 28:19. This is, of course, part of the Great Commission. Jesus says, “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.”

Now, many of you who were here last week heard an excellent message from Marv Newell on this passage, on the Great Commission. It was a call on this International Day for the Unreached peoples of the world, it was a call to remember that a third of humanity, which is over 2 billion, don’t even have access to the gospel. They don’t even have a chance, humanly speaking, to hear about Jesus. The call last week was for us to be engaged in going or in sending, praying, giving, in order to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission. I affirm that message wholeheartedly and am so thankful for Marv and his leadership of our global outreach team, and for this focus on missions.

Today, I just want to call attention to part of this Great Commission in verse 19. It’s not only to go and it’s not only to make disciples, but it’s to make disciples, “baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So, baptism is a part of discipleship.

Notice here that it is those who are disciples who are to be baptized. Right away, you see part of the pattern here, that it is those who are followers of Jesus, learners of Jesus, those who are in a relationship of following Jesus (namely, disciples), who are the right candidates for baptism.

One of the things this means is that baptism is essential as a step of obedience not only for individuals who follow Christ, they should be baptized in obedience to Christ; but it’s also a step of obedience for the church. The church is commanded to make disciples, baptizing them. So we as a church, when we practice baptism, it’s part of our discipleship of new believers.

Now, this is, I think, invariably the pattern in Scripture, and we’re going to see it again and again. Here’s just one more passage under this point: Acts 2:38. This is from Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. This is the day when God through Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to the church, the church filled with the Spirit. Peter is explaining this, and he preaches the gospel, and in doing so he confronts his hearers, those in Jerusalem, for their part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

They say, “What must we do?” and this is his answer. Notice that it includes both an inward and an outward response.

He says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The call he gives them is to repent—that’s the inward response. Repentance in Scripture always implies faith as well. It’s turning from sin and turning to God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to repent; it’s to turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the inward response of the gospel.

But the outward response, the outward first step of obedience, is to be baptized. The baptism is to be a symbol or an expression, an outward demonstration, of that faith and repentance.

2. Baptism is a Public Confession of Faith

That leads to point number two: Baptism is not only a necessary step of obedience in discipleship, but baptism is a public confession of faith. Baptism is how you confess your faith publicly.

Now, what I want you to see is the pattern in the book of Acts. I’m going to list several passages, paraphrase some of them, but quote two.

Here’s the first passage, Acts 8:12. This is part of the story of Philip the evangelist. Philip goes about spreading the gospel, preaching the gospel, and you have a great summary statement in Acts 8:12. It says, “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Now, do you see the pattern? They believed, and when they believed, they were baptized.

There’s a little booklet, that I highly recommend, on baptism, called Why Should I Be Baptized? by Bobby Jamieson. Bobby Jamieson is an author, pastor, and kind of specializes in the doctrine of baptism. This is what Jamieson says.

“Baptism is a visible, tangible, public, dramatic expression of faith in Christ. It’s obvious, memorable, datable. You get soaked, and everyone present sees you disappear under the water and reappear up out of the water.”

That is what confesses faith in Christ. That is the pattern in Scripture. You see this many times in Acts. You see it in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, when those who hear the gospel and are convicted, “cut to the heart,” as the text says; and Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of sins; and then verse 41 says that they were. They were baptized, and they were added to the church.

You see it again in Acts 8, not only when Philip preaches in Samaria, as we just read, but also when he shares the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch. You remember this story? Here’s this eunuch, and he’s sitting there in the chariot, he’s reading a scroll from Isaiah, he’s reading Isaiah 53, and Philip says, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He says, “How can I understand unless someone guides me or teaches me?” So Philip climbs up in the chariot, and it says from that very passage he preached to him Jesus.

Evidently, part of his presentation included baptism, because they come to water and the Ethiopian says, “Here’s water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Right then and there, Philip baptizes him, and this man then takes the gospel back to his home country in Africa. So, once again you have this pattern of baptism following belief.

You have the same thing twice in Acts 16; first of all with Lydia. Lydia attends a prayer meeting, and Paul is preaching and teaching, and it says that “the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to attend to the things that Paul spoke,” she believed the gospel, and then she’s baptized.

Then you remember that Paul and Silas get thrown in prison, and there’s an earthquake, and the Philippian jailor—remember that whole story? He says, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” And he believes and (they’d been beaten with stripes) he washes and cleanses their wounds, and then he is baptized. That’s the pattern.

Here’s one more, Acts 18:8. This is when Paul goes to Corinth, and it tells us in verse 8 that Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians, hearing Paul, believed and were baptized. Once again you see it.

I would suggest to you that if you read Scripture carefully you will see that the invariable biblical pattern is belief followed by baptism. It’s never the other way around.

You might say, “What about the households? It says that his whole household was baptized.” That’s true, and that is one of the arguments that people will make for infant baptism, is that the households are baptized. But notice how it reads in verse 8. It says, “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household.” The entire household believed! This is what would happen in the ancient world when the leader of the household, the father or the husband, the leader of the house; when he converted, everybody in the house would follow his lead and become Christians. So they were all baptized. So I think this is the pattern in Scripture.

Now, a parentheses. As I’ve already said, I know there are some folks here whose personal experience has been and perhaps whose doctrinal convictions are different than this. Some of you were raised in Christian homes and you were baptized as infants, and it’s only as you grew older that faith became more personal and it became your own.

I want to say two things. I want to say, first of all, that I’m glad you’re here at Redeemer, and I want you to feel welcome in our church. Some of my best friends in the world have a different theology of baptism than I do. So I want you to feel welcome. I don’t want you in any way to feel like you’re not welcome here.

The second thing is I would acknowledge that a plausible case for infant baptism can be made from Scripture. I do understand the arguments. I’ve read both sides of the issue. A plausible case can be made, and therefore I warmly embrace you as a brother or sister in Christ if you are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, even if we disagree on this.

However, even though this isn’t a deal-breaker for me, and shouldn’t be for any of us, and even though you are welcome at the Lord’s table in our church, I still believe that the pattern in Scripture, read I think most reasonably, the pattern in Scripture is faith in Christ, followed by baptism. I would just commend to you a fresh study of the Bible for yourself, and just see where the evidence leads. Look up every place in the Bible where baptism is mentioned and see who is it that is being baptized. What is the order? I think you will see invariably that it is belief followed by baptism, because baptism is the public confession of faith that disciples make when they are following Jesus Christ.

3. Baptism is a Personal Identification with Christ in His Death, Burial, and Resurrection

You’ve already heard it this morning, but let me read it again, Romans 6:3-4. Remember the context here. In Romans 5 you have Paul’s great chapter on the doctrine of justification. He ends the chapter by saying that where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more. Then he begins to answer a possible objection. “Well, then, if where sin abounded grace abounded all the more, why don’t we just continue in sin that grace might abound even further?” Paul’s answer to that is, “Perish the thought! May it never be! God forbid,” as the old King James says.

Then he appeals to their baptism, and he essentially says that to live in sin when you’ve been baptized is completely incongruent, it doesn’t match, because your baptism tells a different story. Look at Romans 6:3-4. He says, “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.”

When you’re baptized, Paul is saying, you are buried with Christ. This, by the way, is one reason why I believe the proper mode of baptism is immersion, because it’s only immersion that tells that story. It’s only in immersion that someone is submerged under the water, buried, and then raised, resurrection. That seems to be the pattern of the baptism.

But what is most important is what this signifies, and what it signifies is our union with Christ in his death, his burial, in his resurrection. When a person is baptized, they are identifying themselves with Christ, and they are saying, “What Jesus did on the cross counts for me. His death for sin paid for my sin, and his resurrection from the dead is where I get new life. I’m placing my faith and my trust in him and in what he has done for me.” Then the ongoing relevance of that in the life of every Christian is to remember what your baptism means, that it means you’ve died to the old way of life and you’re now to live in the new way.

St. Augustine said in one of his sermons these words—and Augustine, by the way, did have a theology of baptism a little bit different than what some of ours would be, but I think he’s right in this when he said to a church, “You believed, you were baptized; your old life died, slain on the cross, buried in baptism. The old which you lived so badly has been buried; let the new life arise.” That’s the message of Romans 6, and that’s what it means to be identified with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism.

Let me give you one more passage on this point, Galatians 3:26-27. Here the imagery is slightly different, but I think very helpful. Paul says, “For 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.” You’ve put on Christ.

Many times in Scripture you have this imagery of putting off and putting on, and the idea is to take off the old set of clothes and put on a new set of clothes. In fact, in the ancient church, we know from church history that it was customary that when people were baptized, they would be stripped of their old clothing, and they were then given a new white robe once they were baptized, and it was to symbolize their new life in Christ; that they had put off the old self and they had now put on the new.

We all know that clothing can identify us with something or with someone, maybe with an organization or with a team. Men in uniform wear the uniform to symbolize the authority that they have as the are identified, whether they are police officers or serving in the military or whatever. We all know that when we’re really fans of a sports team, you know, we wear their colors; we wear the jersey when we go to the games (or at least some of us do). It is a way of saying that “this is my team, and I’m supporting this team.”

Now, Bobby Jamieson in his little booklet on baptism makes this point (I think he makes it very well); he says, “God marks his people by baptism. By getting baptized, we are essentially putting on a jersey that says ‘Team Jesus.’ We’re playing by his rules and following his commands. By following Jesus’ commands to get baptized, we’re saying we’re committed to do all that he commanded.”

That is what it means to be a disciple. It’s to be someone who is committed to following Jesus Christ, and baptism is our way of saying that, of identifying ourselves with Christ, of saying, “I have put on Jesus Christ. I’ve put off the old life and now I’ve put on the new.” So baptism is identification.

4. Baptism is an Outward Sign of Inward Cleansing

Now, I’m going to read a verse to you now that, for those of you who were raised Baptist, this is going to cause some cognitive dissonance, okay? You’re going to wonder, “Why is that in the Bible?” because this is not the way Baptist people usually talk. Listen to this, Acts 22:16. This is Paul recounting his testimony, and he talks about how after he had met Jesus on the road to Damascus, a man named Ananias came to him, and this is what Ananias said. “And now, why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” “Be baptized and wash away your sins.”

Some of you are thinking, “Wait a minute. Does baptism wash away our sins? I thought 1 John said that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin! What does it mean, ‘be baptized and wash away your sins’?” How can we say that?

This is what I think it means. This is where I think we need to understand baptism as a sacrament or as a means of grace. A sacrament has been defined as a visible form of an invisible grace, a means of grace. A means of grace is not grace itself, but it is a conduit through which grace is conveyed to us, and baptism is one of the sacraments of the church.

Now, there are several things we need to know about this. We need to know that sacraments do not work automatically or magically. The water itself is not holy water, and there’s nothing about going into the water that washes away your sins in and of itself. They don’t work that way. It’s not that if someone just gets baptized that then they will necessarily be saved and go to heaven. In fact, we do have an example in Acts 8 of someone who was baptized and yet was lost, was unconverted.

We also have the example of, of course, the dying thief, the penitent thief in the Gospel of Luke, who believed in Jesus when he was being crucified there by Jesus’s side, and he said, “Remember me when you come into your Father’s kingdom,” and Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He never had a chance to be baptized. So baptism is not an essential component of the salvation process when you’re talking about being born again or justified or whatever.

Rather, when Scripture talks about baptism, it is a sign of an inward reality. The sacrament doesn’t work automatically, it doesn’t work magically; and then, secondly, it doesn’t work apart from the word. The sacraments are visible gospel. They make the gospel visible. But we can’t understand that gospel without the word of God which explains the gospel, where the gospel’s really found. That’s why every time we take the Lord’s Supper we read the words of institution, because the words explain the significance of the sacrament. It’s why when we baptize people, as we did this morning, we explain it using words such as those from Romans 6, because the word of God explains the symbol, and the sacraments need the word.

Finally, the sacraments do not work apart from faith. It’s actually faith in Jesus Christ that unites us to Christ. It’s faith which is the condition of salvation. It is by faith that we are justified. The sacrament without faith is just getting wet. You get baptized without faith, you’re just getting wet. There’s nothing efficacious about that.

So then, how does baptism work as a sacrament? I want to quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, which I find very helpful; question 88. This isn’t on the screen, but just listen, and I think you’ll follow along easily. Here’s the question, then I’ll give you the answer.

Question 88 asks, “How does holy baptism signify and seal to you that the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross benefits you?”

Here’s the answer: “In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and Spirit wash away the impurity of my soul; that is, all my sins.”

Now, when you understand that, baptism becomes a very beautiful and significant event, because it symbolizes in an outward, tangible, visual way the inward reality that the gospel teaches. The water signifies the blood of Christ that cleanses us from sin and the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The water itself is not the blood of Christ, the water itself is not regenerating, but it symbolizes the real power that does regenerate us and cleanse us and save us from our sins.

Here’s another passage that I think teaches this. This is a complicated one, and I can’t get into all the complexities this morning, but just get this much, from 1 Peter 3:21-22. Peter says, “Baptism now saves you—” again, we do a speed bump when we come to a statement like that. “Baptism now saves,” but then he qualifies it. “Baptism now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body [literally, from the flesh] but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God.”

He says it saves you not through the removal of dirt or filth from the flesh. It’s not that the baptism itself is cleansing—it’s not—but it is rather the appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection. You see, the power that saves us is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; and baptism is our outward demonstration, our outward appeal to God for God to cleanse our conscience through the blood and the work of Jesus Christ! It is an outward sign of an inward cleansing.

5. Baptism is the Prescribed Doorway into the Church

There are two sacraments in the church, and baptism is the sacrament of initiation. It’s how we get into the church, it’s how we come into the church. You see this in Acts 2:41. Again, it’s Peter on the Day of Pentecost. He’s preached repentance, he’s exhorted them to be baptized, and then verse 41 says, “So those who received his word—” note that; these are the people who are being baptized, they’re believers, they received his word. “Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” They were added to what? They were added to the church. The way in which they were added to the church was through their public confession of faith, through baptism.

Here’s another passage, 1 Corinthians 12:13. The context here is an appeal to the church for unity in the use of their spiritual gifts, and Paul says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The body when you read that chapter is very clearly the body of Christ. We are baptized into one body, “Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

To quote Jamieson again, “In baptism you step out of the world and into the church. In baptism you declare your loyalty to Christ. In baptism you enlist in Christ’s company. Your commitment to Christ’s people follows logically, necessarily, and immediately from your commitment to Christ.” Baptism is the prescribed doorway into the church.

Now, one implication of this I think is that only baptized believers should take the Lord’s Supper, because the sequence is always this. It’s always in Scripture that you have people who believe, then they are baptized, and then they come to the Lord’s table.

For example, in Acts 2 they believe the gospel, they receive the word, they are baptized in verse 41, and then in verse 42 they devote themselves to the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship and prayer and breaking of the bread.

Or take 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 11 is the only place where we have explicit teaching on the Lord’s Supper in Paul’s letters. There’s an allusion in 1 Corinthians 10, explicit teaching in 1 Corinthians 11. But it’s very clear from 1 Corinthians 1 he’s writing to baptized Christians, baptized believers.

Now, once again this qualification: Our elders have determined that the table is open even to those who have been baptized as infants, if you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, you really trust in Jesus Christ. We are willing to broaden our definition of baptism for the sake of someone’s conscience. Nevertheless, I do think the pathway and the pattern in Scripture is belief, then baptism, then the Lord’s Supper.

Where this is especially important is if you’re a parent and you have children in the church, and your children have not yet made a public confession of faith in Christ, they’ve not yet been baptized; then you should not let your kids take communion. They should wait until they have made that public confession of faith; they should go through the initiation into the church through baptism before they observe the sacrament of renewal at the Lord’s table.

6. Baptism is a Vivid Picture of the Gospel

Baptism is a prescribed doorway into the church, and then number six (this is so important), baptism is a vivid picture of the gospel. Now, I don’t know, but I just wonder if some of you, when you realized this was going to be a whole sermon on baptism, if maybe you felt a little disappointed, like, “Oh, he’s just going to talk about ritual and religion and this is denominational doctrine,” and this kind of stuff. “I wanted to come hear about Jesus! I wanted to hear the gospel this morning, but he’s doing this teaching sermon!”

But listen, baptism is all about the gospel! It is a gospel symbol. It’s a vivid picture of the gospel. Now, I want you to understand this very clearly: Baptism itself is not the gospel. In fact, Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17 says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel . . .” There’s a clear distinction. “. . . not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Then he does define the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, when he says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.” Then verses 3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Christ died for our sins, as our substitute, on the cross; he was buried, and he was raised in victory on the third day. That’s the gospel. It’s believing that message that saves you. That’s the gospel.

But don’t you see that baptism tells that story? Baptism is a vivid, dramatic retelling of the gospel, because every time someone is baptized they are plunged into that watery grave and then raised to walk in newness of life, and they are saying, “What Jesus did on the cross and in his resurrection, that counts for me! I believe that! I believe that story. I see myself in that story, and I’m pledging myself in faith to serve this Lord.”

Baptism is not the gospel itself, but it is a picture of the gospel, and a very vivid picture of the gospel. To quote Bobby Jamieson one more time, he says, “Baptism is far less important than the gospel. Nevertheless, baptism is important, precisely because baptism is about the gospel. Baptism is attached to the gospel and depicts the gospel. If the gospel is important to you, baptism should be, too, important enough for you to do it.”

Let me give you one more illustration. I’m borrowing this from John Piper; I heard him use this years ago.

I wear on my finger a wedding ring, a wedding band. This ring is a symbol of something; it’s important. I almost never take this off my finger. It’s very, very important. What is it? Well, it’s a symbol of a covenant, of a promise that I made to this beautiful woman over here, Holly, 25 years ago. It is a tangible reminder to me of that promise and of that relationship and of all that it means. When I wear this ring, I am saying to myself and I am saying to her and I’m saying to all the world, “I belong to her.”

Now, could a single guy take this ring and put it on his finger? Sure. Would it mean that he’s married? No. The ring itself doesn’t make someone married. You have to go through the whole ceremony; you have to take the vows. You actually have to have the relationship for there to be a marriage. Nevertheless, we say when we get married, “With this ring I thee wed,” and the ring is a symbol of the real marriage and the real relationship. The ring is not the marriage, but it symbolizes the marriage, and it is an important symbol of the marriage, and if this ring disappeared from my finger, Holly would have probably wondered, “Why aren’t you wearing your wedding ring anymore?”

For a Christian to ignore baptism and say baptism is unimportant is just like that. It’s like someone refusing to wear their ring. For someone to forget their baptism and the significance of it or never pay attention to that is like someone who is forgetting their wedding vows, forgetting this relationship, and all that it means. Baptism is a vivid picture of the gospel; it symbolizes the gospel and all that the gospel means for us.

In summary, baptism is an act of obedience, a confession of faith, an identification with Christ, a sign of cleansing, the doorway to the church, and a picture of the gospel.

How then should we respond this morning? Let me conclude by addressing four groups very briefly.

(1) First of all, Christians. If you are a baptized believer in Christ, may this focus on baptism today and our witnessing of baptisms this morning call us to fresh repentance, renewed faith; to die to sin and to live to righteousness in our lives. That’s what baptism means. May it function that way in our lives.

(2) Secondly, the church, I mean especially our church, Redeemer Church. Redeemer Church needs to grow in our theology of baptism. We need to have a robust theology of baptism. We need to keep baptism as central as it is in Scripture. It’s not the gospel itself, but it’s an important symbol of the gospel. Too often I think baptism is out of sight, out of mind. But days like today are wonderful reminders to us of just how important this sacrament is and why we should celebrate it and honor it.

(3) Number three, those of you who do believe but haven’t been baptized. If you’re a Christian and you’ve never been baptized at all, the exhortation is to follow Christ. The first step of obedience is to follow him in baptism. If you are a Christian and you were baptized as an infant, my exhortation would be, search the Scriptures. Just read your Bible carefully. It may not persuade you; I’ve had good friends whom it hasn’t. If that’s the case, I love you, I respect you; I get it. But I’ve been persuaded, and I think you may be as well if you read the Bible with fresh eyes and look for the pattern.

(4) Finally, for those of you who don’t believe or who’ve never believed in Jesus Christ; you’re not a Christian, you’ve never claimed to be a Christian, but maybe this morning, for whatever reason, you’re here and you’ve heard the gospel, you’ve heard the good news, you’ve seen baptism, and there’s something grabbing you, tugging your heart. My word to you is to turn to Jesus Christ for new life. Turn to him, believe in him, trust in him, and then be baptized. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:14, “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Let’s pray together.

Heavenly Father, we thank you this morning for your word, we thank you for the gospel, and we thank you for the sacraments of baptism and of the Lord’s table. Thank you that you’ve given us baptism as a very tangible, understandable symbol of the relationship we have with you, of our union with your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his death, burial, and resurrection. May we this morning take baptism to heart, the significance of it. May it mean more to us now than it ever has before. Even as we look back, I’m looking back to when I was 18 years old—even almost 30 years later, that baptism still means something, and it calls me to live in a certain kind of way today. I pray that each one of us who are baptized as believers would think of our baptism in that way, and that it would call us to renewed discipleship, faith, repentance.

As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, may we come to this sacrament as believers in Jesus Christ who are expressing our ongoing trust in and commitment to him. May we come to the table and find that as surely as the bread and the juice nourish our physical bodies, so surely does the blood and the body of Jesus Christ nourish our souls when we come by faith. So draw near to us in these moments as we continue to worship you, and I pray that you would work in all of our hearts, and especially those who do not know Christ or those who are on the path towards faith; may today be another step forward. So draw near to us, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.