The Meaning of Baptism
September 19th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
THE MEANING OF BAPTISM
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
9-19-54 7:30 p.m.
Turn to the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, and the message tonight is from the first five verses of the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans. Sunday morning, practically all of our people bring their Bibles to the house of God. I wonder tonight, how many in the evening hour, you also bring your Bible with you to church? I have never asked, I would like to see. If you have your Bible, everywhere upstairs, down, hold it up, if you have your Bible. Ah, there is a multitude of them! It is good to see you bring them. Tonight, you can follow me, especially to the first part of the message as we turn to the Word of God. Now let us read the text, Romans 6:1-5:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
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.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also – someday, some glorious day – in the likeness of His resurrection:
That is the text for the night, and the sermon is entitled "Baptism Has a Meaning." What could it be? The Meaning of Baptism.
Now to the true to the Scriptures, in the passage that I have read, Paul is not speaking directly of baptism. That is, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans here, his purpose is not to present an exegesis, an exposition of the purpose and mode and meaning of baptism. He is doing something else. He is talking about something else, and he uses baptism as an illustration of that something. But the way he uses that illustration is so poignant, so pointed, so certainly apropos that it is fine and useable in the hands of any man of God to present exactly what baptism is, what it ought to be, its form, its meaning, and its message.
Now first: what Paul was speaking of when he started this chapter, the sixth of Romans. The fifth chapter of Romans, through which in its closing part we preached this morning, Paul was talking about the multiplication of sin in the earth, and where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. The more sin, the more grace, the more villainy and wickedness and rascality, the more the love and mercy of God piled up to overwhelm it and overcome it. Then he says in the sixth chapter: "What shall we say?" If the more sin, the more grace, then let us sin more that grace might abound more." That’s the way the thing is set up, says Paul, why the more we sin, the more God can love us, and the more God can forgive us, and the more God can make His grace abound all around us. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Ah," says Paul, "that is impossible; it’s preposterous; it’s unthinkable, because!” And he gives several reasons in the chapter and chapters that follow: and his first reason is that we who are dead to sin, who have died to the world in Christ, how is it possible that we can live any longer therein? We who have died to the world and are dead to sin, we cannot it is not possible for us to live therein any longer.
"Know ye not," and then, he uses the illustration of baptism. “Baptism,” says Paul, “is a burial.” It’s a burial; it is a submersion, and it is a burial of what? It’s the burial of an old life and an old body, an old spirit, an old love, an old lust, an old sin. Baptism is a burial. It’s a burying; it’s a putting away – it’s a putting out of sight. Baptism is a resurrection, it’s a raising again. What is it? It’s is a resurrection; so a new life, a new faith, a new hope, a new glory, a new life, a new promise, a new victory, a new triumph in Christ Jesus.
So he takes the illustration of baptism and says:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
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 triumphantly, gloriously, in newness of life.
Where we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.
Now in the days of the future, we shall return to the great point of Paul’s message here about the triumphant Christian life. But tonight we are turning aside to speak of the illustration that Paul uses to place before the Roman Church, the death of the Christian to the world, and to sin, and to the blandishments of all that Satan could ever offer, and our resurrection to the glory of the new life in Jesus Christ. And the baptism, I say, and the best illustration, I say, is baptism. Baptism has a meaning then and that meaning is found in its mode. It is found in its form. And if you change the form, if you change the pattern; if you change the mode, then you change its significance and its Godly and heavenly meaning. The meaning of baptism, I repeat, is in its form, it’s in its mode, it’s in the pattern that God made in heaven. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author of Hebrews speaks in the fifth verse:
Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle,See, saith the Lord – See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed unto thee in the mount.
That refers back, in the Book of Exodus, to the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus. God says to Moses – after he talked to Moses forty days and for forty nights about all of the pieces, and parts, and parcels of the tabernacle – then it closes: God says to Moses, "Look, that thou make them after there pattern which was showed thee in the mount." [Exodus 25:9]
Now in the thirty-ninth chapter of the Book of Exodus, after they have wrought according to the revealed will of God, they brought the tabernacle unto Moses. The tent, all the furniture, the boards, the bars, the pillars, the sockets, the covering of rams’ skins, the ark, the staves thereof, the table, the showbread, the candle sticks, the lamps, the vessels, the golden altar, the brazen altar, the grate of brass, the staves, the laver, the hangings for the courts, the pillars, the sockets, the cords, the pins, the clothes of service – they brought them all before Moses. And then it closes:
According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work.
And Moses did look on all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord has commanded, even so had they done it
The pattern was in heaven; the form was in the mind of God. And the Lord spake to Moses, and for forty days and nights, he said, "Moses, is to be this and this and this, just so, just so, just so." And Moses gave those commandments to the people. And the people faithfully wrought according to the pattern God gave His servant from heaven. At that time, there was no meaning of the pattern to the children of Israel. What did the golden laver – what does the golden altar stand for? What did the table and showbread stand for? What does the seven-branched lampstand stand for? What did the mercy seat stand for? What did the ritual of the Day of Atonement? What was the lamb offered unto God? All of those things were a pattern were received from God in heaven. And only in after years did it ever appear what it was that God meant when He gave to Moses all of the specifications of how the tabernacle and its ordinances were to be built and to be observed. That God had a meaning, God had a pattern; and the commandment of the Lord was to Moses, “See that thou doest exactly after the pattern that was showed to thee in the mount.”
So it is that baptism – baptism is a form, it is a mode. It’s a pattern that God gave to the great forerunner, John the son of Zechariah. It is a pattern, it’s a mode that God gave to John from heaven. In the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus said to the Israelites, "The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?" [Matthew 21:24] "Where did John get it?" said Jesus, "did he invent it himself, or did it come from God out of heaven?"
And in the first chapter of the Book of the Apostle John, John speaks of the baptism. He was baptizing in the Jordan River, "And there was sent to him a committee of the Pharisees from the temple of Jerusalem, and they came to John as he preached the gospel in the wilderness, and as he baptized his converts in the waters of the Jordan. And the committee said to John, "Are You the Christ?" And he said, "I am not."
"Are you Elijah the prophet?" And John said, "I am not."
“Are you the Prophet that is to come, promised by Moses?”
"I am not," said John. Then the committee said, "Why is it that thou baptizest then? – why is it thou dost initiate this new right we have never seen before – if thou be not the Christ, nor Elijah nor that Prophet." [John 1:19-25]
The first time in the history of the world that one man ever took another man and baptized him, was when John the Baptist did so in the waters of the Jordan Rivers. Until the days of John, there were many ablutions, there were many washings, there were many immersions. When the Jew came back from the market place, he bathed himself. He washed his pots and his pans – immersed them, “baptized” them, the Bible says, under certain conditions. And a neophyte, an initiate into the religion of the Jews, a proselyte sometimes was asked to immerse himself in water, to take a bath signifying purification. But that was always done by the candidate himself; when a man washed, he washed himself. When a man bathed, he bathed himself. When a man immersed, he immersed himself. The first time that the world ever saw one man take another man and immerse him, was when John the Baptist did it in the waters of Jordan River.
And that new right, that new ceremony, that new ritual amazed the Jews. And they sent a committee down there from the temple saying, “This new rite you institute – -are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet to come?" He said, "I am not," Then they said, “By what authority and by what by commandment do you initiate this new rite that we have never seen or never heard of before.” And the answer of John is clear and plain, "He, God, that sent me to baptize with water; He it was who said Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, the same is He that shall baptize in the fullness and in the power of the Holy Spirit of God" [John 1:30-33]
John says the baptism, the form, the pattern; he got form God out of heaven. And so he came preaching and baptizing in the wilderness of Judea, in the waters of the Jordan River When John received that mode, that form, that ordinance, he did not know what it meant. He was just to be true to the pattern that God showed him from heaven.
And when, finally, we come to know the meaning of the form, and the mode, and that ordinance of baptism, it means three things: first, it is a picture of the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That like as Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father; we are buried with Him by baptism into death, and then raised in the likeness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When finally, we came to know what the pattern meant, what the ordinance meant that God gave to John the Baptist: it means first of all, a picture of the glorious burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection.
It is a picture of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. There are two ordinances in the church: the initial ordinance of baptism and the recurring ordinance – the breaking of bread, the Lord’s Supper. Both of those ordinances have a tremendous meaning. The breaking of bread is His body given for us, and the sharing of the cup is His blood poured out for us. The initial ordinance, also, has a tremendous meaning: we are buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death and we are raised with the Lord in the likeness of His resurrection. And Paul says that is a picture of the gospel. When a man preaches the gospel, what does he preach? When you send out a missionary to China, or to Japan, or to Africa, or South America to preach the gospel, what does he preach, when a man preaches the gospel? In the fifteenth chapter [verses 1-4] of 1 Corinthians, Paul says:
My brethren, I make known unto you the gospel which I preached unto you,how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,He was buried, and He rose again according to the Scriptures,
The gospel is this: preaching the Lord Jesus coming to die for our sins, buried and raised for our justification. And this first and initial ordinance of baptism is a picture of the gospel message of the Son of God, a burial like Christ was buried, and a resurrection like Christ was resurrected. The eyes that look upon that holy ordinance see there in dramatic form, beautifully portrayed, the glorious, saving, triumphant resurrection message of the Son of God, buried in the waters, raised from the water like Jesus was buried and raised from the dead.
It has a second meaning, "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, we who are buried with Him by baptism into death even so we also should walk in newness of life" [Romans 6:4]. The second meaning of the holy ordinance of baptism is a picture of our death to the world, and our resurrection to a new, holy, spiritual life in Jesus Christ.
No longer are we identified with the world; we are a separated, a holy, a called-out, and elect, a peculiar people. When they laugh at us for being narrow, we are as narrow as God. When they scorn us for refusing to share in many of the worldly amusements of this day, we are doing according to the will and the call of God: a separated, a consecrated, a dedicated, a holy life. We have died to sin, we have died to the world, we have died to the call and the blandishments of all that it could offer. And we have been raised to walk in newness of life with Christ. We love a new thing now: our hearts are dedicated to a new appeal tonight. I am not interested any longer, if I ever was, in being in a theater on Sunday night; I’m interested in going to church. Not interested any longer in all of those things that go on with music, and dance, and drinking, and highball, and revelry, and all of the so called “happy days” of the den, and the dive, and the joint, the ballroom, the road house – just not interested any longer, dead to it, made alive in Jesus Christ; love the church, love the people of God, love our Sunday school, love our Training Union, love all the work of the people of the Lord. Dead to the world, raised to a new love and a new life in Jesus Christ.
And then it has another, a third, a last meaning: "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Baptism is a hope; it’s a promise. It’s a commitment to God, and that commitment is this: if He tarry, and if my life grows old and I die, and this body is planted in the dust of the ground and the heart of the earth, I believe someday I shall live again. The trumpet shall sound, the angel shall call, the Lord shall appear, and the first to rise to meet Him in the air will be His beloved dead, who sleep in Christ Jesus.
We believe in the resurrection of the dead. And when a man is baptized, he is buried in the likeness of Christ’s death – in the hope, the persuasion, and the promise that someday, if he die, he will live again. Buried with the Lord, like the Lord was buried; someday, raised with the Lord in the likeness of His glorious resurrection. Where we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also someday, some triumphant, some glorious day, in the likeness of His resurrection. So when John received, from the hands of the Father, the ordinance of baptism. He received it in a pattern, he received it in a form, wholly committed to him from God in heaven. And the pattern and the form was this: upon a confession of faith, the commitment of life to God in Christ Jesus – buried and raised again. And when finally we came to know what the pattern meant, what the form meant, it meant three things. The gospel of Christ, Jesus Christ who was buried and was raised again, our spiritual resurrection dead to sin and the world, raised to a new life in Jesus Christ, and finally our hope of immortality and the resurrection to come – if we die and are buried we shall be raised in the likeness of our Lord’s triumphed and glorious resurrection.
It has a meaning. And that meaning is found in its form, in the pattern, in its mode. And if you break the form, if you change the pattern, if you do violence to the mode, you have lost its significance. The heavenly pattern is broken, it means nothing at all. Ah! blessed church, blessed church, how heavenly the privilege to keep inviolate that sacred and holy ordinance the Father gave to John, submitted to by the Lord Jesus, and committed to our care in administration to the centuries and the generations that follow after.
Now for just a moment, may I speak of that ordinance of baptism, one or two things, three or four? One: Baptism is accorded that highest honor. Only one place in the Holy Scriptures are all three of the adorable Trinity present and active, just one place. And that one place is in the holy baptism of our Lord Jesus. The Son submitted, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Father commended, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." And the Spirit descended in the form of a dove and lighted upon Him. And the Son submitted to the ordinance of baptism.
The first recorded words of our Savior were, "Suffer it to be so now, thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered Him" [Matthew 3:15]. First recorded words in the public ministry of Jesus, and the last recorded words of His public ministry and the Gospels, "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:19]. Baptism: the ordinance is accorded the highest honor.
Second: Baptism is administered in obedience to the greatest commandment, in the greatest and holiest name, the name of the Trinity: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Wonder why the three? The Father thought it, the Son wrought it, and the Holy Spirit prepared the heart for it’s appropriation: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – baptized in the name of the Triune God.
Third: Baptism is in obedience to the holiest example of God’s Son and our Savior. When Jesus He was thirty years of age, He made His way sixty miles from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized of John.
I call to mind when Naaman went down to than Jordan – muddy, it’s made out of mud. The fall between Mt. Hermon, the headwaters of the Jordan, and the Dead Sea, the close of the Jordan, is thirteen thousand feet. Twelve thousand of Hermon, one thousand below sea level of the Dead Sea. And as that river winds it torturous way precipitously down, it becomes a river of mud.
When Naaman was commanded to bathe, to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River, Naaman said, “Why not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus – better than all such waters in Israel.” Have you ever seen the Pharpar River? It is the smaller of the two coming out of Mt. Hermon, flowing to the east as crystal clear, and cool, and beautiful as any small stream that you ever saw. Have you seen the Abana River? That is the one that flows through Damascus, one of the broad and beautiful mountain streams of the world. When Naaman said “I’ll go back home, and I will bath in them!”
“No,” said the prophet, “in the Jordan, in the Jordan.”
And the Lord Jesus made His way down to the Jordan River, to be baptized of John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan. And when John saw Him, "Nay, nay." "Yea," said the Lord Jesus, "for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" [Matthew 3:14-15].
Every man who is a child of God ought to be baptized. It’s a part of the righteous and holy obedience of the Christian who loves and serves the Lord Jesus: down into the water, down into the water, buried in the likeness of His death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection.
And this last brief word: when you are saved, when you become a Christian, when something happens on the inside of your heart and you become a child of God, first thing you’ll want to do, "I want to be baptized. I want to be baptized.” Like the Lord was baptized, like the holy Word commands, “I want to be baptized, I want to be baptized."
"See here is water," said the eunuch to Philipp the evangelist, "see here is water what doeth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized." As they rode a longer together and Philipp told him about Jesus, He took the Lord as his Savior. "Here is water, here is water, I want to be baptized. What doth hinder me to be baptized?" Philipp answered and said, "If thou believeth thou mayest."
"I believe, I believe." He commanded the chariot to stand still, and they went down both into the water, both Philipp and the eunuch, and he baptized him; buried in the likeness of the Lord and raised in the likeness of His resurrection. “I want to be baptized, I want to be baptized.”
Before I came to the service, a young man whom you will see in a moment, came to my study. He said, "Preacher when I was twelve or thirteen years old, I gave my heart to the Lord and I was saved, but I have never been baptized.” He said, “It’s been a shadow and a trouble ever since. I want to be baptized.” I said, “When I give that appeal tonight, you come down that aisle and stand by my side.”
“I want to be baptized,” it’s in your heart when you become a child of God. As you read the Word, “What doth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized.”
Preached out in the country for ten years, never had a baptistery until about the end of those ten years. I preached when I was out in Western Texas and it was dry and didn’t have any creeks and didn’t have rivers, I baptized in a pond When I went to Kentucky and the six years I was preaching there, I baptized out in a creek. Then in central Texas when I was a pastor there, I baptized in a creek. And I loved it. And this is the way that I did it: after our revival meeting, I’d go out and all the people would gather on the banks of the creek. And I would take my Bible and wade out into the middle of the creek. And on Sunday afternoon at two o’clock, I’d preach a sermon, standing out there waste deep in the water with an open Bible, I’d preach the gospel. And then when I got through preaching, I’d go up to the side of the creek and hold up my hand, "Anybody here today take Jesus as his Savior?" I did it every time that I had a baptismal service, every time – preach out in the middle of the creek, then walk up; I raised my hand.
And when I did it one time in the Leon river, preaching in the Leon river on a Sunday afternoon at a baptismal service, there came down to shake my hand, Will Bert and his wife and his children, and they all lived up there in Bert hollow, so many of them, all of them came down, took my by the hand. "Today," they said, "we give our hearts to the Lord Jesus. We take Him as our personal Savior." I said, "Wonderful." And we all rejoiced. And I said, "When are you going to be baptized?" He said, "We are going to be baptized right now, right now." I said, "Your wife?"
"Right now." he said.
"All these children?"
"All these kinfolks?"
"But you are not prepared,You are not dressed."
And he said, "Preacher, God never said anything about how you are dressed. He never said anything about preparation. All God said was, ‘And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized’" [Acts 22:16]. He said, "We want to be baptized right now."
So with all my other converts, there was the whole Bert tribe from Bert hollow, the whole outfit they came out I baptized them one after another there in the creek. And they dried out on the banks and went back home happy in the Lord, happy in the Lord.
“I want to be baptized. I want to be baptized. I have accepted the Lord Jesus. I believe in the Lord Jesus. My heart is given to the Lord Jesus. I want to be baptized. I want to be baptized.” That is something God puts in your soul when you turn to the Lord and give your heart to Him; and that is our appeal to your heart tonight. Have you been baptized? Have you? In obedience to His command like He says in the Book? Have you been buried in the Lord in the likeness of His death? Have you been raised with the Lord in the likeness of His resurrection? Have you? Have you? In obedience to His command would you do it now?
And listen my friend, if you don’t want to wait until tomorrow – until Sunday night, I’ll baptize you right now, right now. Right now, or we will do it next Sunday night, but you ought to be baptized; you ought to be baptized in obedience to His command. "Preacher I want to be baptized, I want to be baptized."
"All ready baptized Pastor, here we come, here is my family, we are coming by letter, we want to be in this blessed church pray with you word with you help you in this ministry and here we are and here we come." As God shall say the word and open the door anywhere, somebody you, a family you, while we sing this song and make this appeal tonight, would you come? Would you make it now.
Brother Billy, let’s change that invitation hymn, let’s sing, “I Can Hear My Savior Calling,Where He Leads Me I will Follow". And you don’t need a book:
I will go with you to the garden.
I will go with you to the judgment.
I’ll go with you all the way.
[“Where He Leads Me”; E.W. Blandy, 1890]
And I will do it tonight. I’ll make it now. "Here I am, Pastor, and here I come." As we stand and sing, make it now, while we sing.