Dr. Ronnie Wolfe – July 4, 2017
Most people, especially those who are Baptist, know the positive side of baptism. Baptism is a beautiful picture, an illustration, and a memorial of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know that it has no saving power and that it does not bring anyone near to or into the covenant of grace.
Baptism is the act of obedience to Jesus Christ to fulfill all righteousness in our lives. A full righteousness we cannot fulfill, as Jesus did, but we can press toward the mark of the high calling of God (Phil. 3:14).
Baptism is also a prerequisite to our being a member of a local church. Three thousand were born again, baptized, and added to the local church at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When baptism is done scripturally, it satisfies this requirement for church membership, and the candidate for scriptural baptism, upon his baptism, becomes a member of a local church with all rights and privileges of any other church member.
The Negative Side Of Baptism
Besides being an act of obedience to Jesus Christ, baptism also has a negative aspect attached to it. The act of baptism not only symbolized our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it is also a symbol of our turning away from our own righteousness to the perfect and completely fulfilled righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Our own righteousness is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we must turn away from our own righteousness and trust the righteousness, the perfect obedience and purity of our Savior, Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 2:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
John the Baptist said to many who came to him for baptism in Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. A change of heart must exist in a candidate for scriptural baptism. John refused to baptize anyone who did not show evidence of that changed heart.
The baptismal candidates in John’s day were also to turn from their Judaism to a freer way of life, a life that was ordered by the Spirit of God and the freedom of conscience to serve the Lord Jesus Christ through the word of God and through love and not through obligation.
This is the negative side of baptism. Baptism is illustrative of a complete change of life, for we read in Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
In scriptural, water baptism, the candidate is raised symbolically from death unto life in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, in symbolism to Christ’s literal death, burial, and resurrection with no spiritual merit upon the soul from the water, only a real and apparent merit in the real and literal work of Christ in his perfect life and his substitutionary death and his resurrection.
The Case Of Circumcision
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the meaning and purpose of circumcision faded away, and there was no further need for circumcision. The New Testament is very clear that circumcision has no meaning to New Testament believers – 1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
Circumcision was a strict order under the law of Moses as we read in Romans 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Since we are not under the law (Romans 6:14), we are, then, no longer obliged to circumcision.
Baptism, then, especially to the Jew in New Testament days, was performed as an act against the need for circumcision, and yet it was not a replacement for circumcision, as some say. Circumcision was a mark of distinction for the Jews as against the Gentile world; so baptism is a mark of distinction against circumcision and against the world and is for Jew and Gentile alike, being made one by the Spirit of God, the middle wall’s having been broken down between us (Ephesians 2:14).
An Illustration Of Repentance
Baptism is not only a looking forward to a new life in Christ (Romans 6:4), but it is also a turning away from that which is behind us, that which was bondage to us and was a hindrance to our coming to the Lord in faith; that is, our works, our human and evil mind, depraved by our sinfulness totally so that we could not attain to the righteousness of God.
The negative side of baptism here is that we have turned our backs on our former life; and, whether we have had a life that is good in men’s eyes or a life that is evil in men’s eyes, the need for salvation by grace was then prevalent and necessary, for with men it is impossible, . . . but with God all things are possible (Matthew 10:27).
The moment a candidate for baptism is immersed in the water, submerged beneath the water, and emerges from the water, he is to walk in newness of life and to forget those things were before – Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
In this short and incomplete article on the negative side of baptism, we see the importance in knowing that baptism in symbol pulls us from the world, turns us symbolically in a new direction in public profess of our faith in Christ with the understanding and the attitude that we should be repenting from our sins on a consistent basis and serving the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24).
In the positive side of baptism, one joins himself to a local assembly of believers who are come together to serve Jesus Christ according to the pattern laid down in the New Testament, and the negative side of baptism encourages us to never turn again to the weak and beggarly elements of the world to serve the devil or the world (Galatians 4:9).
May God prick our hearts to steadfastly stand for our faith, being baptized as a sign of our commitment to Christ and his commandments to be obeyed with love in our hearts. May we be true to our own church, through which God received the glory; and may God be honored and Jesus be glorified in our efforts to turn away from our former life to live in our new life in Christ. There is so much to be gained by obeying and so to lose by disobeying.