ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-27-57 7:30 p.m.
Now let us turn to the middle of your Bible, your New Testament, to the fourth chapter of Ephesians; the fourth chapter of Ephesians. We are going to read my text tonight; my text is the fifth verse, but the paragraph is through the sixth verse; Ephesians, the fourth chapter. I have been preaching in that third chapter of Ephesians for about a month and a half; now we are in the fourth chapter. Ephesians 4, do you have it? Ephesians 4. Now the paragraph is 1 through 6. You ready? Now let us read it together:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
And my text is the fifth verse, and of the fifth verse my text is the last substantive: he says in the context, "There is one body, one Spirit, one hope; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" [Ephesians 4:4-6]. Don’t you think it is an unusual thing that the inspired apostle should have placed this ordinance of baptism in that beautiful revelation and text? "There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one God, and one baptism."
Now if you want, you can take your Bible and follow me through this message tonight. We are going to follow five passages of Scripture as we present this one baptism. The first passage is in the third chapter of Matthew: baptism receives the highest honor. It does so in my text. In the very midst of what Paul writes, "One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" [Ephesians 4:4-6]; in the midst of that great announcement of the Christian faith he has this ordinance of baptism. It receives in the text the highest honor. And it does so here in the record in the third chapter of the First Gospel. There is only one place in the Bible where the triune God is present and active, and that place is in the third chapter of Matthew. Here God the Father speaks, the voice from heaven; here God the Son submits to baptism at the hands of John; and here the Holy Spirit falls upon Christ, descends upon Him in the bodily form of a dove. It’s the only place in the Bible where all three Persons of the Trinity are actively present, just here at the baptism of Jesus; no other place, just here. I say this ordinance of baptism receives the highest honor: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." The Son submits to the ordinance, the Spirit descends, and the Lord God our Father commends.
And Jesus, when He was baptized, went straightway up out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him:
And lo a voice from the Father in heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Another thing about this highest honor accorded to the ordinance of baptism: the first word of Christ after His public ministry, as He begins His public ministry, is the institution of baptism. And the last will and testament and commandment of our Lord is the perpetuation of the ordinance. The first word of our Lord as He begins His public ministry is this: the first sentence that falls from His lips: "And Jesus answering said unto John, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" [Matthew 3:15]. That’s the first sentence that Jesus said when He began His great public messianic ministry. "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." It’s a thing that is righteous and holy for a man to do: to submit to the ordinance of baptism, to receive it at the hand of God’s appointed minister.
And the last commandment of our Lord in the Great Commission, before He returned to heaven, "Go ye therefore, 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 receives the highest honor.
The second passage of Scripture is the one I have just read in the last chapter of Matthew, the nineteenth and the twentieth verses; Matthew 28:19-20: baptism is commanded in the greatest name. It receives the highest honor; it is commanded in the greatest name. There is only one commandment, just one, in the name of the triune God, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and that one commandment in the name of the triune God concerns the commandment to be baptized. Matthew 28:19-20:
Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the triune God: God our Father, God our Savior, and God with us the Holy Spirit:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
Baptism is commanded in the greatest name: the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. "Well, pastor, why should it have been commanded in all three of those names of our God?" Because a disciple who is baptized thereby owns that the work of grace that has been wrought in him has been due to the appointed offices of all three of the Godhead. It was God our Father who planned it, who loved us in the beginning; it was God the Son who perfected it, who wrought it out, this salvation belongs to us; and it was God the Holy Spirit that opened our hearts and prepared our hearts for that effectual working of the grace and mercy of God. All three have a part in our salvation; and a disciple that has given his heart in faith to Christ is baptized in the name of all three of the Godhead: the Father who planned it, and the Son who wrought it and perfected it, and the Holy Spirit who regenerated our hearts, who effected it in our lives. It is, in the second place, commanded in the greatest name.
Now, in the third place: baptism symbolizes the greatest doctrines. We read from the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans and the third through the fifth verses; Romans, the sixth chapter, the third through the fifth verses:
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 in the likeness of His resurrection.
Baptism symbolizes the greatest Christian doctrines. First: it symbolizes a past redemption. Second: it symbolizes a present regeneration. And third: it symbolizes a future resurrection.
Baptism symbolizes the greatest doctrines. First, it symbolizes the greatest fact of our faith: that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. The greatest fact of our faith is that Christ died for us, that He was buried, that He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], that He sits at the right hand of the throne of God making intercession for us [Romans 8:34]. And that is pictured in baptism: buried like Christ was buried, and raised like Christ was raised. Baptism is a symbol of something; it has a tremendous meaning. It represents the burial and the resurrection of Christ: buried in the likeness of His death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:4-5]. That’s the great fact of the Christian faith, the heart of the gospel itself. When a man preaches the gospel of the Son of God, that’s what he preaches: that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, that the third day He rose again for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25]. And that is pictured in the symbol of baptism.
Not only that, but it represents the greatest fact of our experience: our regeneration. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" [Galatians 2:20]. We are buried with Christ in baptism [Romans 6:4]. The old life is dead and buried, and we are raised to walk in newness of life in Christ. That’s the experience of the Christian. The world, sin, the flesh, buried with Christ; and the new resurrected life, our spiritual life that lives forever, beyond death, beyond the grave, in the resurrection. That is pictured in our baptism: buried like Christ was buried, and raised like Christ was raised [Romans 6:3-5].
Not only that, it is the greatest doctrine; not only that, the greatest experience; not only that, but our greatest hope: the hope of our own resurrection is symbolized in baptism. "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death," if someday we die and are buried in the heart of the earth as our Lord was buried, "someday we shall be raised in the likeness of His resurrection" [Revelation 6:5]. The greatest hope of the Christian is that he shall live again. "Though worms through this skin destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" [Job 19:26] .
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man, by us, came death and we die, so by Man came the resurrection from the dead.
We shall live in Christ.
[1 Corinthians 15:19-22]
And all of that is symbolized in baptism: we are buried – someday, if He delays – we are buried as our Lord was buried in the heart of the earth. But baptism is a symbol, it’s a confession, it’s an announcement that by the power of the grace of God we shall someday live again: He shall raise us from the dead, as the Holy Spirit raised Christ from the tomb [Romans 8:11].
Now that thing of the ordinance of baptism symbolizes the entire Christian faith. I say it represents the greatest doctrine, the fact of our faith. This is the gospel [Romans 6:3-5]. As the Lord’s Supper symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus [1 Corinthians 11:23-25], so baptism symbolizes the entire gospel message that a minister of Christ preaches. Paul defines it like this:
Brethren, I make known unto you the gospel, which I preached unto you, whereby ye are saved.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
That He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
When a man preaches the gospel, so Paul says, that’s what he preaches. If we send out a missionary to preach the gospel in China, if we build a chapel over there in West Dallas for a preacher over there to preach the gospel, if I preach the gospel here in this sacred pulpit in the heart of Dallas, this is what they preach, this is what I preach: namely, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
Now baptism symbolizes the whole gospel message [Romans 6:3-5]. Christ died for our sins and was buried, and we are buried in the likeness of His death. And Christ was raised from that death by the power of God, and we are raised from the watery dead. Buried with the Lord, and raised with the Lord, it is a symbol of the whole gospel message of Christ. God gave it that to us for that purpose. The Lord said to Moses, when He gave him the pattern of the tabernacle, "Now Moses see to it, said God, That you make everything according to the pattern that is showed thee on the mount" [Exodus 25:9, 40; Hebrews 8:5]. And Moses did faithfully all of those things that God commanded. He did each one according to the pattern showed him on the mount" [Exodus 25-30]. So it is in the ordinance of baptism: the meaning of it is in the pattern of it; the meaning of it is in the form of it; the significance of it is in the way of it. When you break the pattern, it has no meaning at all. The meaning is found in the pattern, it’s found in the mode, it’s found in the method, it’s found in the way that it’s done. For baptism is a burial and a resurrection. And if you break the pattern, you break the meaning; it has no meaning whatsoever. The picture of baptism is a picture of the whole preached gospel of the Son of God: that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. All of that is symbolized in the ordinance of baptism: buried with the Lord and raised with the Lord [Romans 6:35]. And if you break it, it has no meaning whatsoever.
God invented baptism. He gave it to John [John 1:33]. The first time one man ever saw another man in this world baptize another man was when John the Baptist did it. They were amazed at that new ordinance. There had been many baptisms, there had been many washings, many ablutions, many of them; but in every instance in the whole history of the world, in every instance where a man was baptized, he baptized himself. If he washed, he washed himself. Every instance it is that. But the first time that one man ever took another man and baptized him was when John did it. And they gave him a name: Ioannes Baptistes. There were many Ioannes, many Johns, as there are today. But that man who baptizes, ho Ioannes ho Baptistes, John the one who baptizes; and they sent a committee to him from the Sanhedrin, and they said, "Are you the Christ?"
"No," he said, "I am not."
"Are you Elijah?"
"No, I am not the forerunner," he said, "Not Elijah in the flesh."
"Are you then that Prophet that Moses predicted?"
"Well then," said that committee from the Sanhedrin, "by what right and by what authority do you initiate this new ordinance that we’ve never seen before?" And John said, "He that sent me from heaven to baptize." John said he got it from God [John 1:19-33]. The Lord gave him the pattern. Just as God gave to Moses the pattern on the mount [Exodus 25:9,40], so God gave to John the pattern from heaven of baptism [John 1:33]. And John didn’t realize what it meant; but when finally it came to be and we could see what it meant, it meant burial and resurrection, it meant the gospel of the Son of God [Romans 6:3-5].
Now may I in passing make a comment? Whenever you break that pattern, you not only do violence to its meaning, you not only do violence to the Word of God, you not only do violence to what God intended for baptism to be, but you do something else: whenever you break that pattern, contrary to the revelation of the Word of God, you lay the whole world and the whole church open to the most vicious of all of the perils and tragedies that have overwhelmed it.
"Well, what do you mean by that, pastor? You mean, just by changing the form of baptism, you bring into this earth and into the church the source of all trials and the most tragic of all stories?" I mean just that. "Well, how could that be?" You listen to me, you listen to me: the only way that it was ever possible for the church and the state to be congruent, to be the same, was to turn aside from that great purpose of God, which was that on a confession of faith as a disciple, a man was to be baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. To turn aside from that great plan of God, on a confession of faith, "What hinders me to be baptized? If thou believest, thou mayest. And he said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Then they went down, both into the water" [Acts 8:36-38]. Upon a confession of faith, to be baptized, buried with the Lord, and raised with the Lord; when men turned aside from that, it became possible to identify the church with the state. You were born as a citizen of the state; and by sprinkling a baby, an unconscious infant can also become a member of the church. So you are born into the state, and they enroll your name as a member of the state; and you are sprinkled as a baby, and you can become a member of the church, just as a baby, born that way. You lose the regenerate church membership; the state becomes the church, and the church becomes the state. They become congruent. And that’s why you have the terrible and tragic story of the persecution that’s written large on the pages of history: persecution, terrible inquisition, in the name of Jesus Christ.
But a churchman once in a while will say to me, "But, pastor, remember, the church did not do the persecuting, the state did it." But that’s what I am talking about: the state becomes identified with the church, and the church becomes identified with the state, and the state persecutes! On what basis? At the command of men and the insistence and at the behest of the church.
In Spain today, our preachers are in prison, our seminaries are closed, the doors of our churches are locked. Why? Because of the decree of the state! And who is the power behind the state? The state church! Wherever there is a state church, you have those same terrible possibilities of coercion and persecution and inquisition. It could never have been done, it would never have been done, had they not broken this form and meaning and pattern of baptism. Upon a confession of faith, not an unconscious infant; upon a confession of faith, not a little baby that knew not what [he] was doing; upon a confession of faith, according to the Word of God [1 Peter 3:21]. Upon a confession of faith: "Taking Jesus as my Savior, I want to be baptized and be buried in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" [Matthew 28:19]. I say it represents the greatest Christian doctrines.
This fourth avowal is that baptism comes in response to the holiest urge of the human heart. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts is a beautiful and a wonderful story. This man Philip is holding a revival meeting in Samaria, and it’s a great one [Acts 8:5-12]. It’s a great one. And while they are holding that revival meeting, the angel of the Lord sends Philip down there into Gaza [Acts 8:26]. And while he is there, passing by before him is an officer in the government of Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. And while Philip is waiting, that chariot comes by, slowing passing; and this man is reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:7-8]. And he’s reading it out loud [Acts 8:27-28].
Isn’t that why I encourage us here to read the Bible out loud? It was written to be read out loud. Read it out loud. Read it here together out loud.
And he was reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah out loud, reading aloud. And the Spirit said, "Go join yourself to the chariot" [Acts 8:29]. So over there walked Philip, this evangelist. And he said to that eunuch as he read, "Do you understand? Do you understand?" [Acts 8:30]. Isaiah had written that prophecy seven hundred fifty years before. And Philip, when he asked that question, got the reply from the man: "It is a prophecy. It is a prophecy of someone who is to come. But I don’t know who that someone is" [Acts 8:34]. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and told him about Jesus [Acts 8:35]: "All we like sheep have gone astray; and we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was brought as a Lamb to the slaughter," fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:6-7].
And starting at that same passage, Philip said Isaiah, the great prophet, was telling about Jesus. "And he preached unto him Jesus" [Acts 8:35]; and he told the story of Jesus: the day of His baptism, and His ministry, and His death on the cross, and His resurrection, and His glorious coming again. "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; I want to be baptized. What doth hinder me to be baptized?" I say that’s the holiest urge of the human heart. "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, Look, here is water, I want to be baptized. And Philip said, If you believe with all thine heart, thou mayest" [Acts 8:36-37]. You are to be baptized upon a confession of faith in the Lord Jesus: never as a baby, never as an infant, never as an unconverted soul!
"What doth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized." And Philip said, "If thou believest, if you take Jesus, if you trust Him with all your heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 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" [Acts 8:38] – buried with the Lord, raised with the Lord – "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip: and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:39].
I say that’s the holiest urge that comes in a man’s heart: "I’ve taken Jesus as my Savior; I have trusted Him, I believe on Him with all my heart. Pastor, I want to be baptized. What doth hinder me to be baptized?"
I’d been preaching for years and years and years before I ever had a baptistery. I baptized my converts in the creek and in the river and in the pond. And we’d have those services mostly on a Sunday afternoon, and mostly in the summertime. And I’d take my Bible, and stand in the middle of the creek, or in the middle of the pond, or in the middle of the river, I’d take my Bible, and I’d stand there and to throngs of people on either side of the bank, I’d preach a sermon, standing in the middle of the river. I’ve done it time and time and time again. And I would make an appeal, the best appeal that I could. I’d make an appeal for God and for Christ as I stood in the water, and preached the gospel to the people who were on either side of the banks of the river or around the pond. And this thing has happened not once, but many times, but I remember this family. Way up there in Burt Hollow lived a man with a large, large family, and brothers with families. And upon that Sunday afternoon, when I got through preaching in the middle of the river, and waded to the shore, and gave an appeal and exhorted people to give their hearts to Christ, that man came and his family and his kinspeople, a whole group of them there. And they took the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and they said to me, "We want to be baptized." And I said to them, "But you haven’t come prepared. You don’t have any other clothing." They said, "That matters to us not at all. We have given our hearts to Christ, we have been saved, we were converted here, and we want to be baptized here, and we want to be baptized right now." And I baptized them, the whole large family. I baptized them right then and right there. And they made a blessed and precious help and comfort to me as I pastored that little church. And the last time I heard of him, he was the superintendent of their little Sunday school. That was a mark of their regeneration: "Pastor, right here we’ve given our hearts to Christ, and right here we want to be baptized, and right now, pastor, right now."
The only reason I ever delay the baptism of a little child is on account that he might learn more what it means, that’s all. No other reason. We ought to be baptized immediately; upon a confession of faith we ought to be baptized. This is the only church I have ever pastored where we had our baptismal service at the front of the hour. Everywhere I’ve ever preached in my life we have had our baptism at the end of the hour. And many, many, many, many, many times the people who come down the aisle that night I take them back there and baptize them right there, right there, right there. We ought to be baptized. And I say it comes in response to the holiest urge that comes to the human heart. "Preacher, I’ve given my heart to Christ, I’ve taken Him as my Savior; I want to be baptized."
"See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe. I believe. And he commanded the chariot to stand still, and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch." You don’t have any doubt from God’s Book the pattern, the form, the method, the mode. "They went down both into the water"; buried in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection. "And he went on his way rejoicing" [Acts 8:36-39].
"One Lord, one faith," two baptisms? No sir. "One Lord, one faith," three baptisms? No sir, not according to the Word of God. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" [Ephesians 4:5]. Oh, the deep significance and meaning the Lord God hath poured into that holy, holy ordinance!
May we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, bless Thou the reading of the Word in the Book. We have done none other thing but read out of God’s Word and make an appeal upon the basis of what God hath written in His Book. Lord, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, may my right hand forget its cunning if this is not the true message of Jesus, the Son of God, if it is not God’s will for our lives. But, Lord, if Thy servant hath read God’s Book as it is written, and made his appeal on the basis of the revelation of God, then Lord, bless and sanctify the truth of God’s will for our lives, and give us a harvest tonight. Lord, somebody whom the Spirit calls, somebody whom God hath chosen, whom the Lord doth love, whom God bids come, somebody putting the faith of his heart and life in Jesus, somebody putting his life with us in this precious church. Lord, tonight, give us a harvest. In Thy precious name, amen.
While we sing this invitation hymn, you who are in the balcony, does the Lord bid you come? In obedience to His command, following the will of our Savior, would you come down one of these stairwells and here by my side? Somebody in this great press of people on the lower floor, somebody you, into that aisle and down here to the front, "Pastor, tonight I take Jesus as my Savior," or, "Into the fellowship of the church, here I come. I give you my hand; my heart I have given to God." Would you so, while we stand and while we sing?