Baptism: Completing Righteousness.

July 3rd, 2009

Matthew 3:13-17

3:13. Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
3:14. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?''
3:15. But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'' Then he allowed Him.
3:16. Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
3:17. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.''

One of the few sacraments of the Christian church is Baptism. What is a sacrament? It is an action that has deep religious meaning attached to it. The act should be considered an act of worship, and an expression that demonstrates our faith.

Baptism completes our faith. The word complete can also be said as finish, or perfection, or fulfillment. It puts the final touch to our coming to terms with who Jesus is, and the acceptance of his payment for us, and our salvation into his kingdom. It marks the moment of the time when we begin our life, dedicated to his service. It is a personal statement, and is why Baptists don't believe in baptizing babies. How can you put a seal of completion on a work that hasn't been done yet? Babies can and should be dedicated, but that is a commitment that is more for the parents to dedicate themselves to raise their child according to the teachings of the Bible.

How important is Baptism? Even Jesus went to be baptized as he left his former life as a carpenter and began his service of teaching and healing. John the Baptist recognized Jesus as more than being just a regular man. He was surprised and even reluctant to baptize him.

Baptism is a matter of putting the seal on your faith. It isn't a matter of being worthy. It isn't a magical ritual that washes you any cleaner than another. It isn't a magical charm against falling into evil. In fact, as soon as Jesus came up from his Baptism, the next passage tells about how he faced temptation.

John's preaching had brought the message to the people to, "repent and be baptized to prepare the way of the Lord." Baptism comes at that moment when we turn our backs on our former lifestyle. It marks the time when we have discovered our wrong doing, face towards God, and begin a life where we do things to honor God. Jesus may have been a special man, one without sin, but at this moment he turned away from his work, family, and lifestyle to turn entirely towards God and live according to the mission that God had for him.

God is pleased to see believers make this statement of faith. He had a special message for Jesus when he was baptized. Some people have a fear of water, or of the ordeal of beingplaced under water, and having faith they will be brought up without problem. God knows those concerns and to overcome those kinds of obstacles is all that much more a demonstration of faith and symbol of the dedication to him that a person has.

Why not sprinkle? Does a person have to be emmerwsed in water? The word Baptize itself means to dip. Discriptions of baptisms in the Bible all indicate being emmersed under water. I won't debate the merits of sprinkling over emmersion, or the other way around. There is nothing magical about the water. It doesn't have to be holy water, any water will do. With that in mind, the important thing is that once a believer wants to complete the demonstration of their faith, don't hold them back. Baptize them with what ever water is handy. The attitude of worship is the important thing, not the ceremony, water, or method.

If I'm Baptized do I need to leave my life behind and become a preacher or teacher? Not necessarily. It means that all sinful elements of our life need to be put behind us. Replace those activities with ones that please God. If God is calling you to a particular work, then by all means, drop any activity that might keep you from it.

Use Jesus as your model. Whether you feel worthy to be baptized or not, it is the sacrament that is right to do in worship, and to let others know of your changed life.

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