Bold Proclamation of Faith
September 18th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-18-77 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy for us to share this hour with a multitude of you who are watching on television and listening on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the concluding message in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. In our preaching through this unusual and interesting introduction of the Christian faith to the world called the Book of Acts, we are studying about this ordinance of baptism. We have spoken of its nature, of its mode, and in this last and concluding message, concerning its meaning. And the title of the sermon is called A Bold Proclamation of the Faith. In the latter part of the eighth chapter, the story of the statesman from Ethiopia, returning from Jerusalem with a scroll of Isaiah in his hand, and he is reading the fifty-third chapter. And as he reads, he turns to Philip, this lay deacon, evangelist, and says:
I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet thus? of himself, or some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and 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?
And Philip said: If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – the Savior of the world.
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 of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing – praising God.
In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus, the Lord spoke to Israel saying, "In time to come, when your children ask you, What mean ye by this service? You will answer thus and so" [Exodus 12:26-27]. That is the same kind of a natural question that any one would raise concerning the ordinance of baptism. Why do you do this? Why does the Lord command this? What is the meaning of this service? Why do you baptize?
Reading the Holy Book of God, and just echoing – not in anywise inventing my message – just like a voice in the wilderness, just repeating the message of God, echoing what God has said, there are three tremendous proclamations in the ordinance of baptism. The first proclamation is this is the gospel in dramatic and visible form. It is a bold publication, a dramatization, a presentation of the gospel itself. If you sent out a missionary to preach the gospel, what would he preach? When you sit in the congregation and say, "That man is a gospel preacher. He delivers the message of the Lord." What is the gospel that he preaches? And what is this message that he’s delivering? The answer is very meticulously delineated in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, in the first four verses. Paul says, "My brethren, I declare unto you" – I make known unto you the gospel – "I define for you the gospel wherein we stand; whereby we have been saved". . .Namely, this is it – "how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And he was raised, after His burial, the third day according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. And that is the gospel – that Christ died for our sins according to this Holy Book; and He was raised from among the dead after his burial according to this Holy Book. That is the gospel, and that is the bold proclamation in the ordinance of baptism – it is a burial and it is a resurrection. Our Lord died and was buried, and He was raised from among the dead – the picture, the proclamation, the dramatization in baptism.
First, His death: we are saved by the death of Christ [1 Corinthians 15:3], not by His life. You see that dramatically presented in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John themselves. It is a wonder. Out of all of the life of our Lord – and John said that He did so many things that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written if he put down all of them [Revelation 21:25]. Out of all of the things in the life of our Lord, the Gospels are mostly taken up with the last few days of His life – His passion, His suffering, His death on the cross [Matthew 27:26-50], and His resurrection from the grave [Matthew 28:1-7]. That truth, of the emphasis upon the death of Christ is seen in the Apostles’ Creed. Where did the Apostles’ Creed come from? You can go back and back and back through the Christian centuries, until finally you come to the apostles themselves. It apparently arose out of a baptismal formula. This is the Apostles’ Creed; I would not object if we recited it every time we gather together:
I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary –
And immediately, jumps from the cradle to the cross; never refers to His life –
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into Hades. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
There is no finer summation of the Christian faith in this world than the Apostles’ Creed. And isn’t that a remarkable thing? "I believe in God the Father Almighty. I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary." And immediately, the avowal, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried." What a remarkable thing; but a true thing. The lamb must be without blemish [Exodus 12:5]. It must be spotless.
But we are not saved by the holy life of our Lord. We are saved by His death [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Not by His beautiful life; but by His stripes we are healed [Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24]. It is the death of Christ that makes atonement for our souls [Romans 5:11]. And it is the death of Christ that lays open the purpose of His coming into the world [Hebrews 10:4-14; John 12:27]. That is a remarkable thing in itself.
All other men are known by their doings, by their deeds, by their words. But Christ is known because He is our Savior. He was a preacher, yes. He was a teacher, yes. He was a reformer, yes. He was a marvelous physician and healer, yes. But Jesus is dear to us because He is our Savior. Never did a man speak like He [John 7:46]. Never did a man do as he [Matthew 9:33]. But the great ministry of God in Christ for us lies in His death. And that is portrayed in His baptismal service. "He died for our sins according to the scriptures . . . He was buried" [1 Corinthians 15:3, 4]. This is the honor and the glory that we shall accord to the Lord Jesus for ever, that He died for us. When we get to heaven and mingle with the saints and with the angels and all of the redeemed of all ages; that shall be our song and our praise.
There is no scene I have ever read in human literature as dramatic as the fifth chapter of the Apocalypse. John the sainted seer sees the Almighty on the throne with a sealed book in His hands [Revelation 5:1]. And a search is made in heaven and earth and in the nether world for someone who is able to break those seven seals to open the book and to look thereon. And not one it found. And John weeps much, because that book of redemption is closed. It is sealed. We are lost forever [Revelation 5:2-4]. And while John is weeping, one of the elders puts his hand on the shoulder of the sainted apostle and says, "Weep not – weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. . .hath prevailed to break the seals, to open the book and to look thereon" [Revelation 5:5]. And John lifted up his face and through his tears, he saw the Lamb of the tribe of Judah. "Behold, the Lamb of the tribe of Judah . . . hath prevailed to break the seals and to open the book and to look thereon." And when he turned to look at the Lion of the tribe of Judah, what did he see? He saw "a Lamb as it had been slain" [Revelation 5:6]; the death of the Son of God. And when John looked upon that Lamb as it had been slain, all of the redeemed in heaven and all of the angels ten thousand times ten thousand – the Greek is "myriads times myriads" – uncounted numbers and throngs and multitudes with the cherubim and the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him [Revelation 5:8, 11] saying, "Worthy is the Lamb . . . to receive riches and honor and glory and power and dominion forever" [Revelation 5:12]. For He bought us with His blood and made us kings and priests unto God and we shall reign world without end, through all of the ages of the ages [Revelation 5:9-10]. That is why I like you to sing that song about every Sunday, "Worthy is the Lamb." Ah, that’s God. And that is baptism. What mean ye by this service? [Exodus 12:26]. This is a picture of the atonement for our sins, "Christ died and was buried" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4].
The other part of that gospel message: "and the third day, he was raised from among the dead" [1 Corinthians 15:4]. Baptism is a picture of the death and burial of our Lord [Romans 6:3-5]. And it is a dramatization of the emergence, the resurrection of our Lord from the tomb. He is alive. "He is not here. He is risen!" [Matthew 28:5-6]. That is the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by His death, much more, being reconciled, shall be we be saved by His life" – that is, His resurrected life [Romans 5:10]. His session at the right hand of God, lest we fall into hell. Jesus lives, that we might appear some day in the presence of the great Glory and answer to our name when the roll is called up yonder. Same kind of a thought as Paul closes the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans: as "He was delivered for our offenses, He was raised for our justification" [Romans 4:25]. Christ was raised to declare us righteous in the presence of the holy and heavenly God. And baptism is that. It is a picture of our resurrection from the dead and our raising in the glory of Christ [Romans 6:3-5].
There is no experience in the Christian faith, there is no form or facet of the Christian religion but is an overtone of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is where the good news began. The disciples, so plunged into despair; this is the end – the Lord is dead, buried in a tomb, behind a Roman seal, guarded by Roman legions [Matthew 27:62-66]. The end had come. Then the announcement of the angel: He is alive! He is risen! [Matthew 28:5-7]. And the apostles saw Him [Matthew 28:16-20] and they filled Jerusalem, and up and down every highway in Judea, and in Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth with the good news [Acts 1:8]. He is alive! He is alive! That is the beginning of the gospel of the Christian faith; out of the empty tomb, the resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:5-7].
That is the reason we meet on Sunday. There is no commandment in the Bible for us to gather together on the first day of the week. The disciples did it. The New Testament Christians did it. It was an Easter to them. Every first day in the week is an Easter Sunday. They gather together to celebrate the resurrection triumph of our Lord. That is the baptism, raised out of that watery grave. Everything that a Christian does reflects that resurrection [Romans 6:3-6].
The first century Christians buried their dead. Under the city of Rome, you will find those endless, endless, endless catacombs. Why? Because the pagans burned the body. But the Christians lovingly and tenderly and preciously laid their beloved dead away. They believed in the resurrection of the body. That was the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in where He lives. He lives in us, and this house is holy because it is the temple of the Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. That is the unique doctrine of the Christian faith. Every religion in the world believes in some kind of immortality. But the Christian faith is the only religion in the world that believes in the resurrection of the body. Every facet of the Christian faith, every piece, part, and parcel of its gospel message is an overtone and a reflection of the resurrection. And that is baptism. We are buried in the likeness of His death, and we are raised in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5].
Baptism, what does it mean? It is not only a bold proclamation of the faith itself, of the gospel message, but it is a delineation. It is proclamation. It is a dramatization. It is a publication of our own personal experience. We who have found refuge in Christ, we have died with the Lord and are dead to the world. We have been buried and we have been raised to walk in the new life in Christ [Romans 6:4]. It is our public announcement that we have put on Christ and put off the old man [Ephesians 4:22-24] – dead to the world and its blandishments and alive to the spiritual things of God. It is a bold proclamation of an experience we have had with the Lord. We have been saved. We have found Jesus dear to our hearts. And this is our public announcement.
Now look, baptism is not the experience itself. It does not wash our sins away. It is not the medium of our salvation. It is not the experience that brought us into the redeemed family of God. The Lord in His blood washes our sins away [Revelation 1:5]. And we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:8]. Baptism is but a proclamation, an announcement, a dramatization of that conversion experience that we have found in the Lord. Always in the Bible, first they are saved. First they believe, first they give themselves to Jesus, and then they are baptized [Acts 8:36-38]. It is a public proclamation of an experience we have had with God in our hearts.
Let me give you a good illustration of that. You heard this boy Peter Shepherd pray this morning. He comes from Great Britain. He comes from England. He comes from London. And those people over there to which he belongs, our forefathers and our cousins, they have an unusual custom, and it is this. When the king dies, the people all shout, "The king is dead. Long live the king!" Well, you would think they are idiots over there – "The king is dead. Long live the king!" But there is a profound meaning in that. The king is dead. And, that moment, his successor is king. That moment, this king, this successor inherits the crown and the throne. The minute this king is dead, this king becomes king and they shout, "The king is dead. Long live the king." Then, at some later time, there is a beautiful ceremonial expansive, impressive coronation. As with most of you, I listened to the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, one of the most religiously impressive ceremonies in the world. But she became queen when her father died; and that coronation was but the publication, the proclamation, the ceremony but published abroad what had happened to her.
That’s exactly what baptism is: it is not the thing itself – we’re not saved by the water, we’re not washed from our sins by the flood – it just proclaims to the world, publishes abroad what has happened in our lives. We have died with Christ, we have been raised with Him, we have been saved, and this is our public coronation [Romans 6:3-5].
Third: not only does the ordinance of baptism proclaim the gospel, beautiful in form; not only does it proclaim an experience that we have had with the Lord, we’ve been saved, dead with Him, raised with Him; but, a third thing, baptism is a proclamation of a great commitment of our lives. It is a tremendously meaningful dedication. That is, we are resolved, we have given ourselves, to walk in newness of life with Him [Romans 6:4]. New Testament baptism is always followed by the New Testament life [Romans 6:6-23]. That’s the purpose of this discussion of baptism in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans. Paul writes:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Me genoito, God forbid. May it not be. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin –
but serve God in Christ. It is a high and a holy and a heavenly commitment; it is a dedication. Dead to the world and the old man is buried, and alive to Christ, quickened by Him, that we should walk in newness of life [Romans 6:4]. It is a giving of ourselves to the whole pilgrimage of Christ.
Like Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress turned his back on his city of destruction and now is a pilgrim with his face toward the holy and New Jerusalem, baptism is that: "I am resolved. My face is turned upward, and Christ-ward, and God-ward, and heavenward." It is that verse in Jephthah, in the Book of Judges, chapter 11, when Jephthah is faced with the awesomeness of his vow, Jephthah says, "I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot turn back!" [Judges 11:35]. That’s exactly what baptism means: "I have given my life to Christ, to walk in the new way with Him, and I cannot turn back. I am resolved, so God help me" [Romans 6:4].
As some of you know, when I held a revival meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, some of the brethren said, "We want to take you to the most famous restaurant on United States Highway One, the most famous restaurant on the Eastern Seaboard." So we went out to that restaurant located at the edge of the city, beautiful and spacious. And when I walked in, I saw a portrait of a godly, saintly woman, very large, very impressive; and when you walked into the restaurant that was the first thing that you saw, was that godly mother. Then seated we were invited to go into the kitchen – anyone could – it was an impressive place, spotlessly clean, beautifully attended, with the most delicious food you could ever, ever eat.
So while I was seated there with the brethren, they said, "We’ve brought you out here for a reason. We want to tell you about this restaurant." They said, "Up there in southern Georgia, there was a farmer, poor, with a little place, his wife, and a little baby boy. And in those days of sorrow, the father, the husband died, and left that poor farm in the hands of that mother and that little baby boy. She could not run the farm; she didn’t know how to plow, she didn’t know how to raise cotton and corn. So taking what little money she could get out of the place, she took her little baby boy and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and there opened a little place to eat. She cooked the meals with her own hands, and served them herself. Because she was unusually gifted in cooking and preparing dishes, soon word spread, ‘What a place to eat!’ And the people began to come, and the place began to grow. And the little boy grew up to manhood. As the days passed, that saintly mother died, and left the restaurant to her son. Because of the great patronage of the restaurant, he built that spacious place on the edge of the city, on United States Highway Number One. And when he built it, and the doors were opened, there came to see him the beer peddler with his truck loaded with slop. And there came the wine peddler with his wagon loaded with wine. And there came the liquor dealer with his wagon loaded with whiskey. And they said to that young man, ‘This beautiful and spacious place you’ve built out here on United States Highway Number One, you can’t succeed, you can’t succeed unless you sell our beer’" – which is another name for "slop." We fed it to hogs when I was on the farm. We took grain, put water in it, it fermented, and we fed it to the hogs. You drink it here in Dallas by the barrel. "You can’t succeed," they said, "if you don’t sell beer and if you don’t sell our wine, and if you don’t sell our whiskey. You can’t succeed." That’s plain enough, isn’t it? Anybody understand that.
You know what the boy did? He gathered those beer peddlers and those wine sellers and those liquor dealers, and he carried them to the big entrance hall into that restaurant, and he pointed toward that picture. And he said, "You see that picture? That’s the picture of my sainted mother. And when she died, she said to me, ‘Son, promise me that you will never sell beer, or wine, or liquor in the restaurant.’" And he said, "I promised my mother I would never sell beer or wine or liquor in my restaurant." And then looking at them, he said, "I’d rather die than break that promise." God bless him, and a thousand like him.
That is exactly what baptism means: it is a public and open and unashamed proclamation, "I have decided to follow Christ! And there’s no turning back, there’s no turning back."
What is the song y’all sing when you come into this sanctuary?
I am bound for the Promised Land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the Promised Land.
["On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand," Samuel Stennett]
And that’s our invitation to your soul this glorious Lord’s Day morning. "I have decided to follow Jesus, and here I am, here I come. I have accepted Him as my Lord in my heart, I have looked to Him in faith for the forgiveness of my sins, and when I die I commit my soul to the blessed Jesus, to serve Him in life, to believe in His ableness in death, and I’m coming."
"I want to be baptized, just as it says in the Book [Matthew 28:19]. I want to be baptized. I want to put on Christ publicly, openly" [Acts 8:36].
"But, pastor, I’ve already been baptized." Wonderful! Come by letter, come by statement. Bring your family and come. Or maybe just two of you, or just one you, make the decision in your heart. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming down that stairway, walking down this aisle, "Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way." God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
BOLD PROCLAMATION OF FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Proclaim the gospel
A. What is the gospel? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
1. His death
a. The Gospels mostly taken up with last few days of His life
b. Apostles’ Creed
c. Our Savior (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
d. A Lamb slain (Revelation 5:5-6, 12)
2. His resurrection (Romans 5:10, 4:25)
a. Christian experience in all its forms reflects the resurrection
i. Christianity began in a resurrection
ii. The day they meet is the day of resurrection – Sunday
iii. The burial of the dead
iv. The sanctity of the body
v. Christianity only religion to believe in a resurrection
II. Proclamation of our personal experience
A. Public announcement we have put on Christ
B. Baptism is not the experience itself
1. First they believe and are saved
2. Proclaims abroad what has happened in our lives
III. Publishes a dedication and commitment
A. We are resolved to walk in newness of life with Him (Romans 6:1-6)