The Ordinances of the Church


The Ordinances of the Church

April 10th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM

Matthew 3:5-16

Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway 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:
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 3: 5-16




In our Articles of Faith, we have come to the ordinances of the church; on baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Tonight we shall discuss the first, the initial ordinance—that of baptism.  And if you have your booklet on the Articles of Faith, share it with everyone in reach, and let us read the first paragraph together.  This is the one on baptism.  If you have it, let us all share it, together.  Read it out loud:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.  It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead.  Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

Thus the reading of the article on baptism; now for the lesson.  The meaning of the word, b-a-p-t-i-z-o, the Greek word baptizō, translated baptize, is found first in Matthew 3:5, 6, 13, 16.  There is the introduction of John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 3:2].

Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and all the region round about Jordan,

And were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing

their sins.

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized of John.

But John forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?

Jesus answering said, Suffer it to be so now:  for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.

[Matthew 3:5-6, 13-15]

What is that word that describes what John the Baptist was doing and the ordinance to which Jesus submitted?  What did John do when he was baptizing in the Jordan River?  Whatever John was doing, it was an amazing innovation.  The world had never seen it before.

In the first chapter of John, verses 25, 26, 28, and 33 [John 1:25, 26 18, 22], we have the story of a committee from the Sanhedrin who were sent down to John the Baptist on the Jordan River to ask him of this amazing innovation.

 “Are you Elijah? “

“No” [John 1:21].

“Are you the Prophet Moses spoke of?”

“No” [John 1:21].

“Are you the Christ, the Messiah?”

“No” [John 1:20].

“Then who are you, and by what authority, and by what right do you introduce this new ritual?” [John 1:22].

  In Matthew 21:25, the Lord Jesus asked the Jewish leaders, “The baptism of John—was it from heaven, or was it from men?”  Where did he get it?  The first time that the world ever saw a man take another man and wash him was when John the Baptist did it in the Jordan River.  The Jews had many ablutions, many washings.  They washed their hands, their feet, their face, their heads, their pots, their pans.  Sometimes they washed their bodies, all over.  But the first time the world ever saw a man take another man and wash him was when John the Baptist was doing it in the Jordan River.

Well, what was he doing?  What was John doing when the Greeks said he was baptizō ?  He was baptizing [John 1:25].  Now, in the Greek, the word is a common, ordinary, household word, meaning one thing, “to immerse.”  There was a man by the name of Dr. T. J. Conant, a noted philologist and translator.  He wrote a long book, Baptizein.  That’s the infinitive of baptizō, to baptize.

And in that book, he listed every passage in Greek literature, from 500 BC to 1,000 AD, where the word baptizō is used.  In every passage, the word requires for its translation our English word “immerse,” or some kindred word bearing the same imagery.  It inevitably means a submergence in a liquid like water.  No Greek lexicon of standard repute gives any other meaning.  No one has ever yet found a single passage in the New Testament, or in any other piece of Greek literature, in which the word baptizō is used in any other sense than to immerse.

Now I have taken several illustrations; first, out of ancient Greek literature, and then out of modern Greek literature.  Out of ancient Greek literature, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, who lived in 460-357 BC, describing the respiration of a patient, affected with inflammation and swelling of the throat, he says, quote: “And she breathed, as persons breathe after having been baptizō’d—immersed.”

Aristotle, who lived from 384-322 BC, quoting:

The Phoenicians, sailing beyond Hercules’ Pillars—that’s what they called the Gate of Gibraltar—the Phoenicians, sailing beyond Hercules’ Pillars, came to a land uninhabited whose coast was full of seaweeds and is not laid underwater at ebb, but when the tide comes in, it is wholly baptizō’d—wholly baptized—wholly immersed.

Hereclides, writing around 325 BC, in the Homeric Allegories, a disciple of Aristotle, moralizing the fable of Mars being taken by Vulcan, says, I quote:

Neptune is ingeniously supposed to deliver Mars from Vulcan to signify that when a piece of iron is taken red-hot out of the fire and baptizō’d into water, the  heat is repelled and extinguished; that is, the iron is baptized, is immersed in water.

I’m pointing out to you that in the literature of the Greek language, baptizō is just an ordinary Greek word meaning to immerse.

Now in the Greek Septuagint—that’s the translation of the Hebrew Bible made in Egypt in about 300 BC.  It is Greek—the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.  In 2 Kings 5:14, the sentence:  “Then Naaman went down and baptizō’d himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God.”  You remember the story, when Elisha said to Naaman, who was a leper [2 Kings 5:1], “You go down to the Jordan River, and there”—in the King James translated—“dip yourself seven times” [2 Kings 5:10].  The Greek is baptize yourself—immerse yourself seven times—“and your flesh shall come again like unto the flesh of a little child” [2 Kings 5:10, 14].

Polybius, a historian, who lived in 204-122 BC, I quote:  “Even if the spear falls into the sea, it is not lost, for it is compacted of oak and pine so that when the heavy part is baptizō by the weight, the rest is buoyed up and it is easily recovered.” that is, when the iron head of the spear even sinks into the water—baptized into the water—the oak and the pine rod, shaft, keep it buoyed up so it’s easily picked up out of the water.

Then again from Polybius, “The vessel, being baptizō, became filled with seawater.”  Now Polybius again in his history, describing the passage of soldiers through the River Phebia, which had been swollen during the night by heavy rain, says [quote]:  “They crossed with difficulty, those on foot baptizō’d as far as the breast.”  That is, they were immersed in the water, up to the breast.

 Diodorus, who lived in BC—about 60—a Roman historian, says, and I quote:  “The river, rushing down with the current, increased in violence and baptizō’d many.”

Then again:  “Most of the wild animals, surrounded by the stream, perished, being baptizō’d, but some escaping to the high grounds were saved.”  That is, the animals were drowned.  They were immersed by the overflowing river.

Now Strabo, the great historian and geographer—he lived BC 63, to AD 24—I quote:  “To one who hurls down a dart from above into the channel, the force of the water makes so much resistance that it is hardly baptizō’d.”  It is hardly immersed.  Now Strabo again, in his geography, describing the march of Alexandria’s army, on one occasion, says:  “It happened that the whole day long, the march was made in water, the men being baptizō’d up to the waist.”  That is, they were immersed, up to the waist.

Now Flavius Josephus, who lived in 37 to 96 AD—the great historian that describes the times of Christ and of the apostles—in describing the war with the Romans on the Sea of Galilee, says of the Jews—and I quote:

And when they ventured to come near, they suffered harm

before they could inflict any and were baptizō’d, along with their vessels and those of the baptizō’d, who raised their heads, either

a missile reached or a vessel overtook.

They were immersed, and so destroyed.

And then again from Josephus:  “And stretching out the right hand, so as to be unseen by any, he baptizō’d the whole sword into his body.”  He plunged the whole sword—he immersed the whole sword—into the body of the victim.  And, one of the most amazing stories in the whole work of Josephus concerns Herod’s—the king who destroyed the babes at Bethlehem [Matthew 2:16]—the king under whom Jesus was born [Matthew 1:20-2:1]—Herod’s destruction of Aristobulus, the brother of Mariamne.

Mariamne was a Maccabee, and she had a brother, Aristobulus; and he was a tall, good-looking boy.  So when Aristobulus was sixteen years old, Mariamne persuaded Herod, her husband, to make Aristobulus high priest.  So the tall, good-looking young Maccabean prince, dressed in the high-priestly garments, with mitre, breastplate, linen ephod, bells and pomegranates, at the head of a procession, marched out of the temple through the streets of Jerusalem, followed by the priests, and when the people saw him, tall, good-looking and Maccabean, they went wild in joy.  And Herod looking out his palace window, seeing it, said in his heart, “That, I must destroy.”

As you know, Herod murdered his wife, Mariamne.  He murdered their two children:  Alexander and Aristobulus.  He murdered—the Lord only knows how many.  The reason you don’t find the destruction of the babes in Bethlehem is because it was a peccadillo.  It was an incident in the life of bloody Herod.  So Herod planned the death, the murder, of young Aristobulus.

And this is the way he did it.  He called in his faithful household servants and said, “We’re going down to the warm springs at Jericho,” where there was an elaborate Roman bath, built by him; a great, large swimming pool.  And he said to his servants, “I’m going to take Aristobulus out into the middle of the pool.  And then after we have swum, and after we have enjoyed the weather, the water for a while, I’m going to leave and go with my family—go with Mariamne and the family.  And then I want you to take the young Aristobulus out into the middle of the pool, and I want you to play with him until you drown him.”

So they went down—the whole family, including Aristobulus—down to the warm springs of Jericho, into the Roman bath.  And after Herod and Aristobulus and the servants had enjoyed the water a moment, Herod left, dressed, and went with Mariamne up to the house.  And then Josephus says, “The servants of Herod took Aristobulus out into the middle of the pool and they baptizō’d—they baptizō’d—they baptizō’d—Aristobulus, until they drowned him.”

Now, I’d like for anybody to translate that, “and they sprinkled him, and they sprinkled him, and they sprinkled him, until they drowned him.”  It has one meaning, universal, without exception.  It means to immerse.

There’s a Greek poet, Julian, who lived in 525 AD, and I quote, one of his beautiful little poems:  [quote]

As I was once trimming a garland, I found Cupid in the roses.

Holding him by the wings, I baptizō’d him into wine,

And took and drank him.  And now within my members,

He tickles with his wings.

Isn’t that pretty fancy?  It means one thing:  to baptize, to immerse.

Now we come to modern Greek.  There has been less change in the Greek language in the last two thousand three hundred years than in English in the past five hundred years.  Socrates, and Plato, and Xenophon, and Demosthenes, and even Homer himself might sit down today at the foot of the Acropolis and read the morning paper published in Athens with comparatively little difficulty.  The only thing that might happen is, Xenophon might observe, “I, say, Socrates,” and “I say, Plato, somebody has been tampering with our good old Greek.”  There is a difference, but he could still read it.

When I was in Athens one time, I was going around with a very devout Greek layman.  And to my amazement, the Greek Testament that he had was exactly like mine.  He had Nestle’s Greek Testament, and I had it too—took it around with me for devotions.  Now in modern Greek, a modern Greek writer on natural philosophy, in explaining the method of determining specific gravity says, quote, “We first weigh the body, then baptizō it in water, and then weigh it thus suspended by a cord.”  That is, you immerse the body.  To get specific gravity, you have to put it in water, and suspend it in water, and then weigh it.

Doctor Ken Cooper did me that way, and if any of you had been out there, you’d have been done that way.  In order to get the specific gravity—the specific weight of your body—he puts you in water, submerges you in water, and weighs you there in water to see how much fat you’ve got in your system.  And some of us would be ninety-seven percent fat.  Well, I was plenty fat myself.  That’s the way you get specific gravity.  You immerse it.  You baptize it in water.

Now, the Minerva, an Athenian newspaper, in explaining guncotton—explosive guncotton—says, quote: “Common cotton, well-cleansed, is taken, which being baptizō’d for about half a minute in strong nitrate acid,” so-and-so, and so-and-so.  That is, you take ordinary cotton and immerse it in nitrate acids, and then they make guncotton out of it, explosive.

Cereas, learned modern Greek man of letters writes, quote:  “Righteousness forbids a man to baptizō his pen in the filth of flattery”—that is, dip his pen, immerse his pen in the filth of flattery.

In the present ritual of the Greek Church, quote:  “And when the whole body is anointed, the priest baptizō’s—immerses him, holding him erect, looking toward the East, saying, ‘The servant of God is baptizō’d in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, unto the ages of ages, amen.’”

Now the persistent act of immersion is found in the church throughout all of its history.  The Greek Church immerses today.  You go to the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church here in Dallas—or wherever it is in the world—wherever they read the Greek language, they immerse.  You couldn’t do anything else because in Greek, baptizō is “to immerse.”  So the Greek Church immerses.  They immerse little babies, which we don’t believe in, but their baptism is an immersion.

Now in the Latin Church, the Roman church, the first instance of pouring water created deep schism in the church.  There was a man by the name of Novatian, who lived at about 250 AD, and he became sick.  He became ill.  Now in the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius, Eusebius writes, quote:

Being delivered by the exorcist, he fell into a severe

sickness.  And as he seemed about to die, he received

baptism by a  fusion—sprinkling, pouring—on the bed

where he lay, if, indeed, we can say such a one did receive it.

That’s the first, historical instance of some other kind of baptism, other than immersion, in 250 AD, and it created a violent schism in the church.  It was called, “clinic” baptism.  If they felt that a fellow was going to die—and at that time they believed you would go to hell if you weren’t baptized—so they tried to baptize a man who was sick and about to die.  And if they couldn’t do it by immersion, why, then they sprinkled him.

Now Thomas Aquinas, who died in 1274 AD, was the first theologian in the Roman church who took the position that effusion under ordinary circumstances would answer for baptism.  And the Roman Catholic Council of Ravenna in 1311 allowed free choice between immersion and effusion.  This was the first time in history that sprinkling or immersion was made indifferent.

If you’ll go look at the great church of St. Paul’s in Rome, there are four basilicas in Rome; St. Peter’s, St. Mary’s, St. John’s Lateran, and St. Paul.  There are four of them.  If you’ll go visit the church of St. Paul in Rome, it has the most beautiful, spacious baptistery I’ve ever seen in my life—a beautiful, gorgeous baptistery.  You could baptize one hundred fifty people at the same time in it.  And when you visit it, I want you to ask the priest why they don’t use it.  Just see what he says to you.

If you were to go to see the great cathedral at Pisa, the Leaning Tower is the bell tower, and right by the side is a beautiful, glorious baptistery in another building.  When you go to the Duomo, the great cathedral in Florence, you’ll find the same thing.  The beautiful brass walls of the bell tower, there are three buildings there; the sanctuary, the bell tower, and the baptistery.  And Michelangelo, looking at those bronze gates, those bronze doors, said that they were beautiful enough to be the doors of glory.  All of those ancient churches had baptisteries and beautiful ones.

Now in the English church, the Anglican Church, the second prayer book of Edward VI in 1551, and the first prayer book of Queen Elizabeth in 1559, and the prayer book of King James in 1604, all read, quote:

The priest shall dip the child, shall baptize the child in

the water, but, if they certify that the child is weak, it shall

suffice to pour water upon it.

This is the first time that authentic permission was given for altering the act of baptizing.  That is, if a child was sick they did not have to baptize it, they could sprinkle it.

Now in the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, who died in 1564, made the mode of baptism a matter of indifference.  And John Knox, who died in 1572, brought Calvin’s teaching to Scotland and thus the doctrine found its way into England.  The Westminister Assembly of Divines, in 1643, keenly debated whether immersion or sprinkling was to be adopted.  The great influence of Dr. Lightfoot, the moving spirit of the assembly, changed the picture.  So sprinkling was allowed by a vote of twenty-four to twenty-five in the Presbyterian Church.

Now the Methodist Church: I speak of John Wesley, and this is one of the strangest things you will ever hear in your life.  John Wesley was expelled from the coast of American because he refused to sprinkle a baby.  Now I take it out of his journal.  John Wesley was born 1703, died in 1791.  In his journal for February 21, 1736, he says, “Mary Welsh was baptized, according to the customs of the First Church and the rule of the Church of England by immersion.”  All right in his journal, May 5, 1736, in Savannah, Georgia, John Wesley over here in America, quote:

I was asked to baptize a child of Mrs. Parker, second bailiff

of Savannah.  But Mrs. Parker told me, “Neither Mr. Parker

nor I, Mrs. Parker, will consent to it being dipped.”

I answered, “If you certify that your child is weak, it will suffice

to pour water upon it.”

She replied, “Nay.  The child is not weak, but I am resolved

it shall not be dipped.”

This argument I could not refute, so I went home, and the

child was baptized—sprinkled—by another person.

But this was not the end of the matter.  On September 1, 1737, John Wesley was tried by a grand jury of forty-four men.  He was found guilty, and ordered to leave the country—to leave the United States, it wasn’t the United States then—to leave America.  John Wesley wrote the charges, among them this one, now from his journal:

He had broken the laws of the country by refusing to baptize

Mrs. Parker’s child otherwise than by dipping, except the

parents would certify it was weak and not able to bear it.

This is one of the strangest things in history, that the father of Methodism, John Wesley, was tried and found guilty by the courts of the land for refusing to sprinkle a baby.  In his journal, on March 21, 1759, I quote from Wesley’s journal:

“I baptized by immersion two adults.”

Well, why the reason—the modern change from immersion, baptizing, to effusion, sprinkling?  Why?  All right, the first reason.  It came about because of the growth of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; namely, that if we’re not baptized before we die, we go into hell.  Early, early, early, that doctrine came to be received by the people in the churches, that we are lost if we are not baptized.

  That’s the reason that Novatian was poured on.  He was going to die—everybody thought he was—and his soul would fall into hell.  So they poured water on him.  That’s called “clinic baptism,” and those who were so baptized were called “clinics.”  And the thing, the controversy, raged for centuries between the Christians and the Clinics; that is those who had been immersed, and those that had been sprinkled.

The doctrine of baptismal regeneration gave rise to the baptism of infants.  The first recorded instance of an infant being baptized was in 370 AD.  And when the doctrine came to be accepted by the people—that if you weren’t baptized, you were going to hell—why, of course, the people having children were afraid something might happen to them, or the child was getting ready to die and couldn’t live.  So by all means the child must be baptized.  And that doctrine of baptismal regeneration gave rise to people being baptized who were sick, lest they fall into hell, and when they couldn’t be immersed, they sprinkled water on them.

Finally, the generally accepted doctrine was published by the churches, that one form of baptism is as good as another.  And they’re totally indifferent to it.  If you were to go to some of these seminaries, one of which—two of them of which are here in Dallas—and you go out there and ask those professors about baptism, chances are they would say, “Baptize—baptizō—that’s “to immerse.” “But,” it’s indifferent, “it doesn’t matter whether you’re immersed or not.  Just choose any way that you please.”

But the church has always been troubled by the change.  The conscience is never quite clear about the change.  For example, in 1611, the translators of the King James Version of the Bible—this one here—when they came to the Greek word, baptizō—knowing it meant “to immerse,” and knowing the practice of the Anglican Church that they could sprinkle—they dared not translate the word without conferring first with the king.

“Shall we translate this word:  b-a-p-t-i-z-o, or not, because it’s just an ordinary Greek word, meaning, “to dip,” or “to immerse?  Shall we translate it?” said the translators, when they came to the king.

And the outcome of the conference with King James, was this:  By the king’s request, the word was not to be translated, but was to be transliterated—it was to be Anglicized.  So they took the Greek word, b-a-p-t-i-z-o, and they Anglicized it:  b-a-p-t-i-z-e, and just let it stay in the text.  They refused to baptize.  They refused to translate it because baptizō, baptize, means, “to immerse.”  And the church was sprinkling, so they didn’t dare translate it.

Now we come to a discussion of the mind and purpose of God in the ordinance, the rite, the ritual of baptism.  God has a reason for all of His commands and expects His children to obey them faithfully.  God has a purpose in His mind for it.  For example, in Hebrews 8:5, the author there quotes Exodus 25:40, where God said to Moses, “See that you do everything in making the tabernacle, according to the pattern that I showed thee on the mount.”  To the last detail:  the color, the bars, the pens, the draperies, the curtains, the door, the gate, the furniture, the lampstand, the showbread.   “Do everything,” said God, “just exactly according to the pattern that I showed thee in the mount” [Hebrews 8:5].

So Exodus 39:34-43 says faithfully Moses obeyed God, and he made everything according to the pattern that was showed him on the mount.  And when finally we came to know the meaning of all of those parts of the tabernacle, they are types and pictures of our blessed Lord.  “See that you do it exactly according to as I showed you on the mount,” and Moses did it faithfully.

And when we came to know what it meant, all of it is a type and a picture of our blessed Jesus.  I think that’s why Moses could not enter the Promised Land, for God has a regard to His types.  One time God said to Moses, “Strike the rock, and water shall pour out” [Exodus 17:6].  And Moses struck the rock, and the rock gave forth abounding water.

But the next time, God said, “Moses, speak to the rock—speak to the rock” [Numbers 20:8].  And Moses, in his anger, struck the rock! [Numbers 20:11].  And God said, “Not so, Moses.  You have ruined My type.”  How many times is Christ struck?  How many times does He die?  How many times is He crucified?  Once! just once, not twice; and because of his disobedience to God, the Lord said, “Moses, you cannot enter in” [Numbers 20:12].  These types and these patterns and these purposes in the mind of God, are dear and precious, whether the seminary says they’re precious or not.  They are to God.

So the pattern of baptism, it was given to John the Baptist from heaven.  To John the Baptist, there was a man sent from God to baptize: John 1:33, “’He that sent me to baptize,’ God, that sent me to baptize.”  In Matthew 21:25, again the baptism of John.  Was it from heaven?  Where did he get it?  God gave it to him!  It was a pattern in the mind of God.  And when John was down there administering it, Jesus accepted it, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness, and He was baptized” [Matthew 3:15].  The Father God delighted in it.  As the Holy Spirit fell upon Jesus, He said, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Mathew 3:16-17].

The Great Commission embodied it, included it:  “baptizing them in the name of Triune God [Matthew 28:19], and the disciples and the apostles faithfully obeyed it.  Then they that received His word, gladly were baptized: in the same day there was added unto the church about three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41].

Now what did God have in mind in that pattern?  When finally we came to know what it meant, it pictures burial and resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].  John didn’t know that.  To John, it was an ablution.  It was a washing.  It was a cleansing.  It was a sanctification.  It was a purification.

“How do you know that, pastor?”

Because in the third chapter of John, when the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus began arguing over purification, sanctification [John 3:25-29]—when they brought it to [John], they asked him about baptism [John 3:26].  So I know from that, when they argued about purification, they were talking about the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus.

John never knew the great purpose that God had in His mind when He sent him to baptize.  But when finally we came to know what it meant, it means burial and resurrection.  According to Romans 6: 3-5, it means, first, the burial and resurrection of Christ.  It means, second, with our burial with Jesus, and our resurrection to a new life in Him.  And third, if we are planted together in the likeness of His death, if we die before Jesus comes, we believe that He will raise us from the dead.  And the picture of that faith is baptism.  That was the purpose and the pattern that God had in His mind when He gave it to John the Baptist.

Now, finally and hastily—baptism is never for the remission of sins.  In 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 14 and 17, Paul says, “I thank God I baptized none of you, except Crispus, and Stephanas—and one or two others like that—because God sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” [1 Corinthians 1:14, 17].  He makes a great distinction there.

“Well, what do you mean, then, in Acts 2:38?”

And, Simon Peter says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you… for the remission of sins, and ye has received the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  What is that, “for”? [Acts 2:38].

All right there are two uses of the word “for,” in Greek and in English, and both of the ways are used.  It can be “in order to,” or “because of,” either one.  Now I’m going to use the word, “for,” in English, and I want you to tell me what it means.  “The man was hanged for murder.”  What does it mean there?

Second, “A man—this man was wanted for robbery.”  What does the word, “for,” mean there—for a robbery?  In order to robbery or because of robbery?

All right, “The man applied for a job.”  In order to, or because of?  Because he wanted a job.  The man applied for a job, in order to—in order to get a job—because he wanted a job.

The man was hanged for murder because he was a murderer.  So, it is in Act 2:38, we are baptized because of the remission of sins.

What cleanses us from all sin?  [First John 1:7] “And the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  So baptism is a sign of our commitment to Christ.  When we accept the Lord in His grace and goodness to us, the sign of that acceptance is, “I am baptized, want to be baptized.”  And if I’m not baptized, I have great spiritual difficulty in my life.

 There came down the aisle here a young Jew and took my hand and said, “I want to be a Christian.  I want to be saved, and I do today accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior.”  “But,” he said, “I don’t want to be baptized.  I want to go back to my seat.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s all right.  You go back to your seat, but I don’t think it’ll work.  I don’t think it will.”  But as the days passed, the weeks passed, down the aisle he came again, and he said, “It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work.  I can’t accept the Lord as my Savior and refuse His first command.  I want to be baptized.”  And I baptized him.

And in one of those Jewish families, there was a young fellow in college who came down this aisle and gave his life to the Lord and accepted Jesus as his Savior.  And the family said to him, “We don’t mind that.  You go down the aisle all you want to.  You go to church all you please.  We just ask one thing of you.  Don’t be baptized.  Don’t be baptized.”  And the family said to him, “You can believe in Jesus all you please.  Go to the church all you please, and it’s all right with us.  But if you are baptized, we will bury you, read the Prayer of the Dead, and we will disinherit you from the family.”  And they did.  When the boy was baptized, he was disinherited.

Baptism is the surest sign in the world that a man has really and genuinely accepted Christ as his Savior.  And I think that is one of the intentions of God.  When we accept the Lord, here we are—“Here we are, Lord, ready, gladly, willing, yielded, surrendered.”

“See, here is water.  What doeth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36]  The first thing the Ethiopian treasurer wanted to do.  “I want to be baptized.  I have given my heart to Jesus.”

That’s a sure sign of a genuine conversion.