BURIED IN BAPTISM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-15-57 7:30 p.m.
We turn now in our Bibles to the second chapter of Colossians: Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, the second chapter. This morning our text was the sixth verse. Now, we’ll have to begin reading there because of the sentence. So let’s read from the sixth verse through the fifteenth: Colossians, the second chapter beginning at the sixth verse through the fifteenth verse. Now, we all have it? Share your Bible with your neighbor if he doesn’t have his Bible, and let’s all read it together: Colossians 2:6-15. All right, all of us:
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him,
Rooted and built up in Him and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;
And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power,
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.
And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Now, that was the passage – this latter part. That was supposed to be presented in the message announced tonight, and I prepared the message. It will be delivered next Sunday morning. There is a tremendous imagery here. "Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" [Colossians 2:15]. Paul evidently saw or had read of a Roman triumph when the general came back to Rome with his armies, with the trains of booty, when the patriarchs of the Roman Senate voted him a triumph. "And He made a show of His enemies openly, triumphing over them" [Colossians 2:15].
Well, as I studied the passage, every time I read it, I read this verse, the twelfth one: "Buried with Him in baptism . . . risen with Him through the faith of God." Well, I’m a Baptist, amen; and the more I tried to overlook that text, the more it looked at me. So I just quit and prepared me a sermon tonight on that text, Colossians 2:12: "Buried with Him in baptism . . . risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God."
Paul, in one other place, wrote a like passage – in the sixth of Romans:
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’ve been planted together in the likeness of his death" –
buried with Him in the likeness of His death, if we’ve been buried with Him by baptism into the likeness of His death –
we shall also be raised in the likeness of His resurrection.
Now, those two passages from Paul are the same thing: "Buried with Him in baptism, risen with Him through the faith of God."
Now, I think the reason the thing stayed in my mind so is explicable. All of you who have been listening on the radio or who have been attending these eight-fifteen o’clock Sunday morning services know that I have been presenting these pictures – these pre-figurations – of God in the Bible. We sometimes call them types [Romans 5:14; Hebrews 11:19]. It’s a thing that God minutely describes, and every little old detail has a wonderful meaning. In itself, it may be nothing. It may be a sheaf of wheat; it may be a lampstand; it may be a very crude badger skin tabernacle, but it has in it a vast and meaningful revelation of the truth of God.
I have just about come to the conclusion that God’s lasting and greatest revelations are made in these figures. They hold the truth as a dipper holds the water, and they are vastly meaningful pre-figurations of the great truth God would have His people keep in their hearts. In our New Testament church, the Lord’s Supper is one of those. In itself, it is nothing to eat a piece of bread or to drink of the fruit of the vine, but it has a marvelous meaning and it is a promise of the great victory of our Savior that is yet to come. "As oft as ye eat the bread and drink the cup, ye do show the Lord’s death" – you dramatize it, you typify it – "until He comes" [1 Corinthians 11:26].
Now, this thing of baptism is a like ordination of God. It is a thing that the Lord contrived. He invented it. I didn’t, nor did this church, nor did it come of men. But it came of God. It is an ordinance; it is a pattern; it is a type; it is a figure; it is a meaningful picture; and it is given of God for a wonderful and meaningful truth to which we’ve given our lives. Someday in its fulfillment, it means our resurrection from the dead.
Now, I say, God does that thing all through this Bible. He will take a picture, and there He keeps it before the minds of the people. The language by which God might describe His truth may change, but a picture doesn’t change.Whether they do it in Arabic, or they’re doing it in Greek, or they’re doing it in Hebrew, or they’re doing it in English, or they’re doing it in Chinese, every time it’s done, the picture is exactly the same in every language, in every dialect.
Now, I say, God does these great revelations in marvelously meaningful pictures – types. That was the lamb, the lamb, the Paschal Lamb: not a bone to be broken [Exodus 12:5, 46], none to be left over [Exodus 12:10], to be eaten on the night that the death angel passed over [Exodus 12:11-13]. It was a picture of the Lamb of God, the Passover sacrifice for us [1 Corinthians 5:7]. And every year through their centuries did that people keep alive the fact that they were a redeemed family of God [Exodus 12:24; Matthew 26:19; Mark 14:16; Luke 2:41; John 11:55]. They were bought with a price. They were delivered in the sacrifice of the lamb, pointed to Jesus – a type, a picture.
Same thing of the manna that fell from heaven [Exodus 16:1-35]. It was a picture of the Bread of Life: "Except a man eat My flesh and drink My blood, he hath no life in him" [John 6:53]. The manna from heaven is a type, a picture, of Jesus upon whom we feed – the Bread of Life [John 6:30-35].
Or the smitten rock: "And out of the smitten rock poured forth streams of life" [from Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11], living streams in the desert. John says in his gospel that is a picture of the Holy Spirit that came into this world through the sacrifice of Jesus [John 4:13-14, 7:38]. After His glorification, after His resurrection, after His crucifixion, returning to heaven, He sent to us that living stream touching our hearts and our church today [John 16:7-15].
Or the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits before the Lord [Leviticus 23:4-25]: there was a sheaf, the firstfruits, bound, brought to God’s house and there presented to the Lord, and it was done at a meticulously detailed time. It was on the first day on the morrow after the Sabbath immediately following the Passover. It was on Sunday of the Sabbath of the Passover, and Paul says that that firstfruit is a picture of the resurrection of Christ [1 Corinthians 15:20]. Raised from the dead, planted in the ground, the seed of cornraised from the dead; and that picture is on that one day, Sunday, immediately following the Sabbath, immediately following the Passover.God was saying there that His Son, planted in the earth – the corn of wheat that dies in the ground – should be raised, resurrected, on the first day of the week, on the morrow after the Sabbath following the Passover [Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-9; John 20:1-17]. Those are pictures that God kept before His people.
Now, this thing is just another typical instance of what God does to keep alive before His people these great, everlasting, unchanging, fundamental revelations of the promise of the glory we have in Christ Jesus. "Buried with Him in baptism, risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God" [Colossians 2:12]. Now, that is what it is to be baptized, buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection; and the meaning of the ordinance is found in our meticulously obeying just that thing that God said: "You’re not to change it; you’re not to add to it; you’re not to take away from it, but you’re to do it exactly as I say."
That’s what God said to Moses. Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: "For, ‘See,’ said the Lord, ‘that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.’" That’s in Hebrews 8:5. "Moses," said God, "you may not understand what that seven-branch lampstand means, or the bread on the table of showbread, or the mercy seat, or the cherubim, or the holy of holies, or the veil in between; but Moses, whether you understand it or not, you are to do that thing exactly as I have told thee." Even as Moses was admonished of the Lord: "See," said He, the God, "that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount" [Exodus 25:40].
Now, let me tell you this. I do not think, I know, that when John the Baptist received the ordinance of baptism, he had no idea what it meant. To him it was a thing given him of God. Jesus said in Matthew 21:25 that John’s baptism was given to him from heaven, and John said in John 1:33, "He that sent me to baptize, He said to me . . . " John said God sent him to do that.
The first time this world ever saw one man take another man and baptize him was when John the Baptist did it in the Jordan River. And they came to him and said, "Why baptizest thou? You say you’re not the Christ, you’re not that prophet, you’re not Elijah. By what authority do you bring this new initiation and this new rite and this new ordinance into the family of the people of God?" [John 19:1-25]. And John said God sent him to do it [John 1:26-34].
Now, the Lord says we are to keep the pattern "exactly as I gave it unto thee" [Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5]. And if you change it, it doesn’t have its meaning, and the whole Bible and the revelation of God in the Word falls to the ground. It itemizes itself when you change these great patterns of the Lord.
I came across a crazy, funny thing this week in my studying. The fellow was talking about Acts 8:38: "And he commanded the chariot to stand still. And they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him." And here’s what happened, so the thing I read.
There was an old codger. He was an old country preacher. He didn’t have any sense like the book sense, but he knew the Bible. And he went to hear a fellow preach, and the fellow preached that night on this.
He said "into" means "in the neighborhood of, nearby, at" – not into, but close. You know: on the edge of, standing there on the edge, close to, nearby, in the neighborhood of. That’s what he preached that night.So this old codger, the next day, happened to see that preacher walking by in front of a saloon. He went on down the street and he said to the fellow’s leading elder, he said, "Say, did you know I just now saw your pastor in the saloon?"
Well, the elder made a beeline to the pastor and said, "Did you know that fellow" – and called his name – "he said he saw you just now in the saloon?" Why, the preacher got the elder and went up there andthat old codger and said, "What do you mean slandering my name and ruining my reputation? I wasn’t in that saloon. I’s just passing by it!" And the old codger said, "Well, I’s just trying to be true to your exposition and interpretation." He said, "Last night you said that ‘into’meant ‘nearby, close to, at, passing by,’ and he said, "I thought it meant the same thing today."
I repeat: whenever you change it, whenever you tamper with it, whenever do you read into it a meaning extraneous to what God has given it, you always fall into trouble and the thing turns to dust and ashes in your hand. This thing God hath given us is a simple and beautiful thing, and it has a tremendously meaningful significance. We are buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death; we are raised with the Lord in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:5].
And, as Paul writes here in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, it is a three-fold picture. It is a picture of the death of our Lord and the resurrection of our Lord. That’s the gospel. Paul says in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians: "Brethren, I declare" – I make known unto you – "the gospel which I have preached unto you . . . How that Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4]. That’s the gospel, and baptism is a picture of the gospel. Our Savior died; He was buried, and He was raised again for our justification. That’s the first picture.
The second picture is this. We are dead to the world [Romans 6:6, 10-11]. That’s our Red Sea [Exodus 14:1-31; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2; Hebrews 11:29]. Out of the bondage and slavery of the night and of the world and of Egypt, we are dead to the world and now we are risen with Christ [Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12]. That’s our Jordan [Joshua 3:1-17]. We are alive in Him.
Then it has a third picture. Some of these days, if He delays His coming, we shall die, but baptism is a proclamation of a Christian hope beyond thisgrave. If we die, we shall also be raised and live again in His sight. "Buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection" [from Romans 6:5].
Now, it seems a strange thing to say this, but did you know it is just in comparatively modern and recent times that this baptism was ever changed? All of the history of the church in these ancient days, all of it consummated and culminated in great baptismal services, every one of them.
In my studying this week, I came across such revival meetings as I didn’t know happened in this world. Chrysostom [John Chrysostom, 3-407 CE], for example, on an Easter day, baptized more than three thousand converts; and Patrick that some people call St. Patrick [c. 387-3 CE] – Patrick was a Baptist preacher, and on St. Patrick’s Day next year, we’re going to have the best time preaching about St. Patrick, the Baptist preacher: our Baptist patron saint, St. Patrick. Did you know that in a great revival meeting that Patrick had, he baptized in one day the king and the king’s son and more than three thousand of his subjects?
Boniface [672-754 CE], who was that glorious English missionary to Germany, Boniface baptized more than 100,000 people in that missionary tour of Germany. My soul, I never read such in my life! I didn’t know it happened that way. This fellow HÃ¼bmaier [Balthasar HÃ¼bmaier, 1480-1528 CE], whom I mentioned last Sunday, for several years baptized every year from six to twelve thousand people in Moravia. In 1878, six missionaries in India baptized 2,222 Telugus in one day: 2,222. They did it in nine hours – six of them did.
Have you been to Europe, and have you looked at those old churches – not the new ones, not the modern ones, but the old churches? Have you? Have you been to Pisa and looked at the leaning tower of Pisa? Well, that’s a bell tower. I went up there and looked at those bells, got underneath one, started to stand up to look at it, and got a nail right in my head. I’ll never forget the leaning tower of Pisa. I’ve climbed it for the last time. That’s the bell tower. Then you have the church. Then right over here you have the most beautiful baptistery you ever saw. That’s an old church with a beautiful baptistery.
Have you been to St. Paul’s in Rome? The most gorgeously, sumptuously decorated of all the baptisteries I’ve ever seen in my life is in St. Paul’s Church in the city of Rome – built where St. Paul is supposed to have been beheaded on the Ostian Way. Why, I would say there would be as many as fifty to a hundred people that could stand in that beautiful baptistery at the same time. When I asked the officiating prelate, "Why don’t you use that baptistery," he said he didn’t understand English anymore. Beautiful baptistery.
Right by the side of the beautiful Duomo, the great cathedral in Florence in which Savonarola [Girolamo Savonarola, 1452-18 CE] preached, right by the side of it, of course, is the Campanile – that’sthe bell tower – but right by the side of it and in front of it is that glorious baptistery. When Michelangelo [1475-1564] looked upon it he said, "These doors are worthy to be the doors to paradise itself" – the most beautifully wrought of all the bronze work in this earth.
These old preachers and the old preachers and the old revivalists and the old men of God and the old church, and without exception, they baptized their converts. They were true to the Word and the picture of God. It is just, I say, in comparatively recent and modern times that we’ve turned aside from this most beautiful and meaningful of all God’s types and ordinances.
Now, just briefly, may I say a few things about it? First, this holy ordinance of baptism – buried with the Lord and raised with the Lord – it has a most exalted place because the only time in the Bible where all three persons of the Trinity are present and active is in the baptism of Jesus Christ. It has an exalted place. Our Savior attended [Matthew 3:15], the Holy Spirit descended [Matthew 3:16], and the Father in heaven commended [Matthew 3:17], and the three were there actively together. The only place in the Bible where the three are present and active at the same time is at the baptism of Jesus.
The first word that Jesus says in His public ministry is in Matthew when he spake to John and said, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" [Matthew 3:15]. And the last word that Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew is this: "Into all the world making disciples, baptize them in the name of the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" [Matthew 28:19]. It has the most exalted position. It is commanded in the most exalted Name: in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit because the Father thought it and planned it, the Son brought it, the Holy Spirit in a yielded heart will appropriate it in the name of the greatest of all names, the Triune God.
It is done in obedience to the most beautiful and precious of examples. Our Savior left Nazareth, walked thirty miles to the waters of the muddied Jordan to be baptized of John in the Jordan River [Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22]. I have looked at the Abana River in Damascus and at the Pharpar River just this side: beautiful, clear mountain streams flowing from Mount Lebanon – the snows of that beautiful Lebanese range, so clear and so beautiful, flowing down to make Syria and Damascus. I have also stood and looked at the muddy waters of the Jordan River. And I could understand how Naaman said to Elijah the prophet, "Down there to wash, to bathe, to dip in the Jordan River. Can I not go," he said, "and be baptized and be washed in the Abana and Pharpar?" [from2 Kings 5:12] "Are they not worth better than all the waters of Israel? Man, I’ll wash in them and be clean." I don’t blame him. I don’t blame him.
But when the servant said to him, "Naaman, when the prophet says wash and be clean" – and Naaman paused and turned and went down to the muddy Jordan and dipped himself seven times, and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:13-14]. Jesus did that. He didn’t need to do that. He didn’t need repentance or baptism or purification, but He did that as an example for us to do.
"Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he baptized Him.
And Jesus, when he was come up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended.
The Father spake, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
[from Matthew 3:15-17]
I have a last word. I think it is the truth of God. I think when the Holy Spirit really touches a man’s soul and he loves Jesus and he loves the Word of the Lord, I think God will do something to his heart like this:
And he preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What doth hinder me to be baptized?" –
"I want to be baptized" –
And Philip said, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." And he said, "I believeHe’s all that He said He was, all that He promised to be, will do all that He said He would."
And he commanded the chariot to stand still. And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
I have seen that all of my ministry. When God touches the heart and you look in faith to Jesus, first thing you want to do, "I want to be baptized." There’s a little girl that father and mother brought to me tonight before the service, and I said, "Little sweetheart, why do you come to see the pastor?" And she replied, "I have been saved. I’ve given my heart to Jesus, and I want to be baptized." The Holy Spirit does that. First impulse of a converted soul: "I want to be baptized." God does that. The Spirit of Jesus does that.
It was years and years and years – it was ten years almost – before I ever baptized in a baptistery. I was preaching out in the country out in those areas where it’d just have a revival in the summertime, and we had baptizing in the summertime. And we’d do it in ponds here in Texas when it was dry, and it’s always dry. Thank the Lord for the ponds. And in Kentucky, it was in those beautiful streams. I’d get out in the middle of the creek or the river or the pond and take my Bible with me. And on Sunday afternoon when we’d have the baptizing, I’d stand out there in the water, and to those great throngs of people who’d gather on the bank, I’d preach to them the Word of God. Then I’d go up to the edge of the river and hold out my hand. "Is there somebody here today that’ll take Jesus as his Savior? Will he come and give me his hand and his heart to God?"
I have received many, many, many people at the water’s edge. I had a fellow come down – he and his wife and his kinfolks and his family, the whole tribe of them. And I said, "This is glorious. When do you want to be baptized?"
He said, "We all want to be baptized right now, right now."
Well, I said to him, "You don’t have any clothes you’ve brought."
He said, "That doesn’t matter. We all going be baptized right now, and we’ll dry out on the way home."
That’s the heart and the spirit of a convert: "I want to be baptized just like Jesus was baptized, just as it is commanded in the Book." It’s that, I say, is of the Holy Spirit. It’s the leading of theSpirit of God: buried with Him in baptism, raised with Him through the faith of the operation of God [Colossians 2:12]. Ah, blessed example, blessed and meaningful hope. If we die, we live again! [John 11:25] If we are buried in Him, we shall be raised in Him [Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 4:14]. That’s what it is to be a Christian.
While we sing our song of appeal and invitation, in the great throng, in God’s presence tonight, should you come? Should you come? Somebody you, does the Spirit of God speak to your heart and should you come? Then do it now. Make it now. "Pastor, here I come. I am following Jesus tonight. I’ll follow Him through the waters of the Jordan. I’ll follow Him in the pilgrimage to come. And in His grace, I’ll follow Him beyond the veil into heaven. And here I am." Is there a family of you to come? As God shall lead the way and open the door, would you make it now? Down these stairwells from the balcony, from side to side in the auditorium, while we sing, while we make appeal, while we pray, into that aisle and down here to the front: "Here I come, pastor, giving my heart to God." Or coming by baptism or putting your life by letter or promise of letter in the church, while we sing, you make it now, while all of us stand and share in the appeal.