The One Baptism
January 17th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM
THE ONE BAPTISM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-17-71 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The One Baptism. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians through which we have been preaching these days, this is the passage. Beginning at verse 4:
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
Last Sunday morning at this hour I preached on The True Ecumenism, the true ecumenicalism, the true unity of the church. Sevenfold, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one Father and God of us all; the sevenfold unity of the church. This morning I am taking out one of those, and I do so because it is so unusual and unique, one of those seven: The One Baptism.
As you read the commentaries and the exegete and scholars, what is that one baptism? You will open the book, and one of them say, "That’s water baptism. That’s the baptism in water. There is one baptism." Then you open another book and read what this scholar says, and he avows that that one baptism refers to the Spirit baptism, the one baptism by which we are made a part of the body of Christ, baptized into the body of our Lord. Well, there’s no need to differentiate between the two. That one baptism refers to both of them. It refers to the initial ordinance, the act, where it started, what was done, and it refers to the great spiritual truth that it symbolizes, the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which we are entered into the members of God, the kingdom of heaven, the body of Christ.
In any event and either way, there are not two baptisms, there are not three, there are not half a dozen, there is one. There is one baptism in water. There is one baptism by the Holy Spirit. So, what the pastor will do this morning, we are going to take that one baptism in its initial introduction. What was done, what God commanded, the pattern that was given to John from heaven. And we are going to preach on that one baptism.
First of all, it is recorded the highest honor. Look at its unique and unusual position here in this very text. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one God, and how unusual that out of all of the things of the Christian church and the Christian faith, he chooses that one and one baptism. The company in which the apostle has placed that ordinance is sublime in the extreme; God, and Lord, and Spirit, and faith, church, hope and baptism. You see that in the glorious passage that you read just a moment ago in the third chapter of the Book of Matthew [verses 16-17]. Here and the only place in the Bible, here alone the three Persons of the Godhead are present and active. No other place in the Bible is that found, just here in this story of the baptism of the Lord Jesus. The Son of God submitted and the Holy Spirit in fashion and form like a dove, descended upon him, and the voice of the heavenly Father was heard, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." All three are present there and active, the Son submitting, and the Holy Spirit descending, and the Father speaking from heaven, the highest honor.
Then again in that passage that you read in the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew [verse 15], the first public utterance of our Lord Jesus, the first thing He said as He began His public ministry was the institution of that ordinance. "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Then John baptized Him. And in this Gospel according to Matthew, the last public ordinance of our Lord Jesus established that holy ordinance in perpetuity; the last public utterance of the Lord established that ordinance in perpetuity. "Go, He said, into all the world, make disciples of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:19].
Not only does the ordinance receive the highest honor, but it is commanded in the greatest name. The only commandment in the Bible that is set forth, promulgated in the name of the triune God is the ordinance of baptism. "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The only place in the Bible where a commandment is laid upon us in the name of the triune God is that, the commandment to disciple, to baptize and to didaskalia, to teach our converts. Why should that be?
When I turn to the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, verses 1 through 4, I can see that. When you ask, "What is the gospel? When a missionary is sent abroad to preach the gospel, what does he preach? When a man stands in the pulpit to preach the gospel, what do you mean he preaches the gospel? In that fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul defines it very explicitly. He says, "My brethren, I define for you, I make known unto you, I declare unto you the gospel wherein ye are saved." What is it? "How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scripture." The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised again the third day for our justification.
Now, that is the ordinance of baptism. The ordinance of baptism presents the whole gospel message. Christ died, He was buried, and He was raised from the dead. And in symbol we are dead, and buried, and raised to a new life in Christ. Now, Paul says that by that gospel we are saved. In that salvation, all three Persons of the Godhead had a part. Our Heavenly Father looked down from heaven on this sinful and depraved tribe and prodigy of old man Adam, and in His mercy and in His grace, born in the heart of God was the plan of redemption, how we could be saved. The second Person of the Trinity of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven incarnate, made flesh in order to die for our sins on the cross according to the Scriptures. The purpose of His coming into the world was that He might wash us, that He might cleanse us, that He might save us from our sins. That’s why He came. And the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit of the Lord effects that salvation in our hearts. No man could ever come to Christ in faith except the Holy Spirit leads him and opens his heart to the gospel appeal. In our salvation, therefore, all three Persons have a glorious and worthy part. The Father thought it, planned it, the Son wrought it out, and the Holy Spirit made it effectual in our hearts.
So in that commandment of baptism, the symbol by which we are saved, all three Persons of the Godhead are called upon to seal it. It was Their work, its Their grace and Their mercy, all three Persons by which we are introduced into the kingdom of God. And when a disciple, when a believer accepts baptism at the hands of God’s servant and God’s minister, he thereby proclaims to the world that he is the beneficiary, he is the one who is blessed in that grace and mercy that has saved his soul. It is commanded in the greatest name.
Not only is it accorded the highest honor, and not only is it commanded in the greatest name, but it also portrays and symbolizes the greatest Christian doctrines. I read from the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans [verses 3-6], "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 being raised 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 glorious resurrection." In the symbolism of baptism, our burial and our resurrection, there is a past redemption, there is a present regeneration, and there is a future glorious hope, a resurrection.
Paul sets it forth here in an unusual and emphatic way. It symbolizes the greatest fact of the Christian faith; namely, that the Lord Jesus who died for our sins and was buried is raised for our justification! He’s not a dead Christ. That’s why we could never countenance a crucifix. A dead Christ, nailed to a tree, hung on a wall, never. He is a living Lord! He was raised from the dead, and He ascended into heaven there to be our Savior, Mediator, and Advocate. That’s why the symbol of the Christian faith is a cross, an empty cross, not one with a dead Christ nailed to it, but one who has been raised from the dead and is interceding for us at the right hand of God, dead and buried for our sins and raised for our justification.
What do you mean by that, raised for our justification? He was raised in order to declare us righteous, to see us through, to see to it that we make it to glory someday. Had the Lord just died for us and left us a prey to ten thousand errors, and mistakes, and sins, and the wiles of the devil, we’d have never made it! There’s not enough strength in us. We’re not equal to our adversary. But the Lord God raised the Lord from among the dead, the Holy Spirit raised him from among the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead to make us, to justify us, to declare us righteous, to present us someday in the presence of the great Glory without fault and without sin. That’s Christ the living Lord! That’s the first great fact that is symbolized by the ordinance of baptism. He who died on the cross and was buried was raised to declare us righteous, to present us someday in the presence of heaven.
Second, it symbolizes the great fact of our present regeneration. This new life we have in the Lord Jesus, dead in sins, dead in trespasses and buried, but in Christ we have been raised from the dead. We have been regenerated. We’ve been quickened by the Holy Spirit of God! That’s why Paul could write so triumphantly, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but the Lord 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]. That’s why Paul could write again, "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; all things are become new" [2 Corinthians 5:17]. There’s a new life, and a new love, and a new hope, and a new doctrine, and a new faith, and a new commitment. There’s a new dedication. There’s a new everything in Christ Jesus. These old things are passed away. The whole world with its promise of heaven is become new. Baptism symbolizes that regeneration, that resurrection, that being raised to a new life in the Lord Jesus, buried with the Lord and raised to walk in a new life in Christ.
Third, it symbolizes our glorious assurance and hope everlasting and undying that if we die and are buried in the heart of the earth, God will raise us from the dead. If the Lord tarries and we fall into death, into the arms of the grave, we believe that the trumpet shall sound, and God shall raise incorruptible these fallen bodies that may become heir to decay, and the food for the worm, and disintegration, [unclear] and corruption. Oh, what a fate! This body, this body turned to dust and the wind blow it away; buried in the heart of the sea and a fish eat it; there in a forest, a great oak tree come down and the roots sap its strength. How could one believe that out of the dust of the ground God shall resurrect this body? That is a part and a cardinal part of the Christian faith. We believe in the resurrection of the dead. Wherever that body falls, God marks its very molecules and its very atoms, and someday in the power of God, the Lord shall speak life, and this very body shall live again in His sight, glorified, immortalized, but still the same body.
The Lord Jesus had the scars in His hands. He had the great scar in His side. It was the same Lord glorified. You shall be that way. The Book says we shall be like Him. It will be you that is raised from the dead. You, not something else or something other, or beyond, or beside, you! You shall live again, and it will be you, only it will be a glorious you! We won’t have any faults. We won’t have any sins. We won’t have any blemishes. There’ll be no blind eyes that can’t see and no crippled limbs that can’t walk. What a glory! That is the Christian faith! And that immortal hope and glorious promise is symbolized in the ordinance whereby we are buried and raised again.
Now, when we break that pattern, we lose its meaning. For the meaning is found in the pattern, in the mold, and in the one who is baptized. In one of the chapters in the Book of Hebrews, in the eighth chapter, the author goes back to the day of Moses, and he’s quoting here from the Book of Exodus. And when on top of the mount, the Lord gave to Moses the pattern of the tabernacle and then he quotes from Exodus, "Even as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: See, said the Lord, see that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount" [Hebrews 8:5]. And then if you read Exodus on down it says, "And Moses made everything in the tabernacle exactly as, according to the pattern that God shewed him on the mount."
Now we are to do that. When God gave the pattern of baptism to John there on the banks of the Jordan River, we are to do it exactly as God gave the pattern to John. And if you break the pattern, it has no meaning, none at all. For the pattern of baptism, the ordinance of baptism is a burial and a resurrection. We are buried with our Lord in the likeness of His death, and we’re raised with our Lord in the likeness of His resurrection, a burial and a resurrection. A burial and a raising, and if the mold is broken it has no meaning whatsoever. That is except as a man might sit in a chair and he think, "Well, I’m going to make baptism mean this." And another one sits over here on this side, and he says, "Well, I’m going to make baptism mean this," which is all right for him. He can philosophize as he pleases, and he can suggest as he will, and he can speculate as he may desire, but that’s not God! That’s a man. Baptism is a pattern that God gave from heaven, and the pattern is we’re to be buried in the likeness of His death, and we’re to be raised in the likeness of His resurrection, and that alone, the one baptism! There are not two. There are not three. There is one.
Now may I continue on if I may? When you break that pattern, you not only destroy its meaning, but you lay the church open to the most vicious and horrible of heresies, and doctrines, and finally waste and persecution. To my shame, to my shame, to our shame some of the darkest pages of human history are those by the so-called Christian church. Sometimes the Christian church in the name of the church destroyed whole little nations, genocide. It has been estimated that the Christian church so-called has murdered fifty million people! They burned them at the stake. They drowned them in the water. They let them rot in dungeons. Ah, how could such a thing be?
Why, read this history books. It is very apparent. The day came when to be born was to be enrolled as a citizen of the state and to be christened into the church, and the two were one. God said first you must be saved. You must be regenerated. You must accept the Lord as your Savior. "Go ye therefore and matheteuo, make disciples of all the people, – second – baptizing them." And someone who is not conscious, someone who is not old enough to know what is being done, to be baptized and to be made a member of the church, breaks the pattern of God, and that was the result. The church and the state were congress, and it was done by altering the pattern of baptism. When you were born, you were made a citizen of the state, born into the state, you were christened into the church, and the two were one.
So by the power of the state, the church persecuted, and burned at the stake, and drowned in the rivers, and cast into dungeon. There’s not a darker page in human story than that in the name of God and the church. Had the pattern of baptism been kept, the gospel would have been preached, and men of their own volition would have accepted, and upon that confession of faith, as a disciple of Christ, they would have been baptized into the fellowship of the body of Christ, and you would have had a regenerated church membership. Been no persecution, been no burning at the stake, been no drowning in the river, been no casting into a dungeon, been no exiles. It would have been a free choice, volitionally accepted by the souls of those whom the Holy Spirit had drawn to the blessed Jesus.
We must hasten. Not only that great holy ordinance, the highest honor, the heavenliest name, symbolizing the greatest doctrines, but it also is following the most blessed of all examples, that of our precious and glorious Lord Jesus. Do you ever love to read, say the first chapter of John, John’s Gospel? There’s a man down there on the banks of the Jordan River. He looks like Elijah, his hair uncut, dressed in skins of animals, camel’s hair with a leathern girdle around his loins. Beholden, unto no man, he lives on locusts, grasshopper salad, and wild honey. And in the day of his appearing, he began to preach and to do something the world had never seen before.
Now the Jewish nation had many ablutions, many washings, many baptisms, the Greek word, baptismos, just an ordinary Greek word means to immerse, to dip, and they had many baptisms. They washed their feet. They washed their hands. They washed their heads. They washed their faces. They washed themselves all over. They washed their pots. They washed their pans. There were many baptisms, many ablutions among the Jewish people. But the first time the world ever saw one man take another man and wash him, baptize him, immerse him was when John did it down there in the Jordan River.
So, they sent a committee, all this is right here, first chapter of John, they sent a committee from the Sanhedrin and they said to John, "Who are you? Who are you? Are you Elijah?"
"No," said John.
"Well, are you the Prophet Moses spoke of?"
"No," said John.
"Well, are you the Messiah?"
"No," said John.
Then they said, "Who are you then?"
And John replied, "I’m just a voice crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, the Lord is coming."
Then they asked that crucial question that they had been sent to ask, "Why do you introduce this new rite, then? Why do you baptize this in water if you’re not the Christ, nor the Prophet, nor the coming One? Where’d you get that? Where’d you find that rite?"
And John replies, "The Lord God in heaven sent me to baptize." And this is one of the reasons that He did it. "I don’t know who the Lord Messiah is, and He’s unknown to the nation, but He that sent me to baptize said that in this ordinance, He would be made manifest to me and to Israel and to the world! And the sign will be," said John, "that when I baptize Him, the Holy Spirit of God will fall upon Him." And down the long dusty road, sixty miles from Nazareth to the Jordan where John was baptizing, Jesus walked and submitted Himself to that holy ordinance and was baptized in the muddy Jordan.
Dear me, I read this week preparing this sermon, I read one of our fine Baptist men said, "Always you should baptize in clear water, a clear little pool, or a clear little lake, or a clear river, or a clear creek." My soul, when I read that I thought, "Well, what in the world would I have done when I was a boy?" I never saw any clear water when I was a boy. I always baptized in a mud hole. And what do you think that river was in which Jesus was baptized? That river is called the Jordan, the quick descender, and it falls from twelve thousand feet on top of Mount Herman to twelve hundred feet below sea level in the Dead Sea, and it runs down just like that, muddy, muddy.
I can’t help but think about Naaman when he stood before Elisha and Elisha said, "You go down there and baptize yourself," that’s the Greek septuagint, "you dip yourself, baptize yourself seven times in the Jordan River, and you’ll find yourself clean of your leprosy." And he was angry. He got in his chariot and drove furiously away, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus?" – have you ever seen Abana and Pharpar? They are the clearest, crystal clear streams you ever saw in your life. There’s just nothing clearer than Abana and Pharpar – and Naaman said, "Are not Abana and Pharpar better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean?" And he turned and went away in a rage [2 Kings 5:9-12]. "That muddy hole, that muddy stream, think I’m going to be baptized down there," driving away still a leper.
While he was holding those steeds and they were just tearing away back to Damascus, still a leper, why, one of his servants put his hand on his arm and said, "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great mighty thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith, Wash, and be clean?" And Naaman pulled on those giant steeds, "Whoa! Whoa!" Pulled them and swung them around and drove down there to the Jordan River and got in that muddy creek, baptized himself six times, and when he came up the seventh time "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" [2 Kings 5:13-14]. Wash, and be clean! Wash, and be clean, the great example of our blessed Lord, wash, a symbol of the cleansing we have in His gracious name. I must hasten.
Last, not only the ordinance, the highest honor in the greatest name, symbolizing the greatest doctrines of our faith, following the most blessed of all examples, that of our Lord Jesus, but it is always in response to the holiest urge of the human heart. "I want to be baptized." If you’re ever saved, you’ll feel that in your heart. "I want to be baptized," just like it is here in the Book. Why, there’s no more dramatic story in God’s literature than in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts [verses 27-39]. The treasurer of Ethiopia, a proselyte of the temple, had gone up for to worship, and while he was there he found a copy of the scroll of Isaiah, and going back to Ethiopia, he was reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. And the Spirit of the Lord said to Philip the evangelist, "Go, join yourself to that chariot."
And he heard him read. He was reading out loud. I love to read the Bible out loud. Read it out loud. That’s the way the Bible was written, to be read out loud. He was reading it out loud. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." And just then, he espied Philip. He asked him to sit with him in the chariot. He said, "You see this fifty-third chapter of Isaiah? Of whom speaketh the prophet this? Who is that? Is he talking about himself, or is he talking about some other man?" And the Scriptures say Philip began the same Scripture and preached unto him Jesus, told him all about the Lord Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Look! Here’s water. What doth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized" [Acts 8:36]. Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And the eunuch answered and said, "I believe that Jesus is all that He said He was, that He’s all that God said He should be. I believe He’s the Son of God!"
And he commanded the chariot 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 – after he baptized him –
when they were come up out of the water
– both Philip and the eunuch –
the Lord caught away Philip, the eunuch saw him no more:
and he went on his way rejoicing.
Happy day, happy day when Jesus washed my sins away.
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, happy day when Jesus washed my sins away.
["Oh Happy Day"; Phillip Doddridge, 1854]
When you’re saved, you want to be baptized just like it says in the Book. Now when I was a boy, for ten years I preached out in the country. We never had any baptistery. Out in West Texas, I baptized in stock ponds; down in Central Texas, in creeks. Just wherever I could find water, pray for it to rain for us Baptists. I’d always get out in the middle of the creek, or I’d get out in the middle of the stock pond, and I’d take my Bible, and I’d preach a sermon there standing in the water. And when I got through with my sermon, I’d walk up to the edge of the bank, make an appeal for Jesus. I was standing in the middle of Leon River down there in Central West Texas; standing in the middle of the river with an open Bible preaching the gospel.
People on both sides of the river because when we had a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon they came from miles around. Standing there preaching the gospel, went up on the bank and gave an appeal, and down the bank came Will Burt, and his wife, and his teenage children, and his brother, and his brother’s wife, and the whole tribe of them. They came from Burt Hollow. I don’t know how many of them. All of them lived up there in what they call Burt Hollow. Came down there, and the patriarch Will, took me by the hand, and said, "Today we’re all coming to the Lord, and we want to be baptized."
"Well," I said, "Will, that’s great. We’ll just set another time for you to be baptized cause you’re not prepared. You don’t have any other clothing, and you haven’t come to be baptized."
He said, "Not so. We’ll be baptized right here right now. I, my wife, my teenage children, my brother and his family, and all of the tribe of us, we’re going to be baptized right here."
"Well," I said, "You’re not prepared. You don’t have any other clothes."
He said, "These clothes are well enough. We’ll be baptized, and we’ll go home in these clothes wet and let them dry out on the journey."
So I baptized my candidates, twenty or thirty that I’d won to Jesus in a God blessed tabernacle open revival meeting, and then I baptized him and all of his family, saw the leave on the wagon, wet but happy in the Lord. That’s it. That’s it. When you’re saved, when you’ve been born again, one of the first things you’ll want to do, "I want to be baptized," just like it says in the Book. God honors it. There is one body. There is one Spirit. There is one hope. There is one Lord. There is one faith. There is one God and Father of us all. And there is one baptism. Ah, Lord, bless us as we follow our precious Savior, even through the waters of the Jordan.
Now we’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, into this aisle and down to the front, "Here I come today. I have decided, and here I am." Make it now. In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you, as the Spirit of Christ shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. And when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Do it now while we stand and while we sing.