The Baptism in Water
September 11th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
BAPTISM IN WATER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-11-77 10:50 a.m.
This morning in our preaching through the Book of Acts, this morning, we are in the closing verses of the eighth chapter, Acts chapter 8 [Acts 8]. The story in the closing part of the eighth chapter of Acts concerns a statesman, a great man, a treasurer of extensive authority under the queen of Ethiopia [Acts 8:27-28]. Going to Jerusalem to worship; there found a copy of the scroll of Isaiah, just such as you will see in the Shrine of the Book on the campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Returning in his chariot, he was reading out loud the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. Every syllable in this Bible was written to be read aloud. Our private, quiet, inward reading of it is fine, but it was written, all of it, every syllable of it, to be read out loud.
This treasurer of Ethiopia, reading out loud the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Acts 8:28], “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6], wondering of whom the prophet spoke [Acts 8:34]. By the side of the chariot, under the direction of the angel and Spirit of God, there walked in that desert place Philip, a deacon, a layman, sent there by the Lord [Acts 8;26-27]. Somehow the man seemed to have authority. Isn’t it strange how you can sense people? You just know, intuitively know. So this statesman of Ethiopia, sensing the authority in that man who listened to him read, asked him to come up and sit with him in the chariot [Acts 8:31]. Then asked him, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this?” [Acts 8:34] Who is this One by whose stripes we are healed? [Isaiah 53:5]. Now, we begin reading at verse 35:
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, Look, see, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip said, just one condition, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I do, hereby, herewith, even now, believe that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God, and my Savior.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water.
If you come up here and look at the Greek text that Dr. Paige Patterson, the president of our Center of Biblical Studies always uses, you will see how emphatic that is:
They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptizō, he plunged him into the flood, and raised him out of the waters.
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, down to Ethiopia, rejoicing
This is the beginning of the Coptic church that you can visit in Ethiopia today.
There is something that is very apparent, very plain in the text, in the story. It is this: “And he preached unto him Jesus. And they came to a certain water; and the eunuch broke in and said, Look, here is water; I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:35, 36]. Very apparent therefore is it, that when one preaches Jesus he preaches the ordinance of baptism [Matthew 28:18-20]; they are inextricably interwoven, they are constituent parts of the same fabric and the same gospel message. “And he preached unto him Jesus . . . I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:35, 36].
That is very apparent as you look at the life of our Lord. When you read the Gospel of Matthew, it will begin with John the Baptist, baptizing in the River Jordan [Matthew 3:1, 5-6], and the baptism of Jesus [Matthew 3:13-17] that you read out loud a moment ago. When you turn to the story of our Lord in Mark, it is the same way [Mark 1:1-11]. Here is introduced the Baptist; and there in the Jordan River he is baptizing the Messiah [Matthew 3:13-17], and the story of the Gospel begins. When you turn to the Third Gospel, written by Dr. Luke, the same pattern is followed [Luke 3:1-22]. There is John the Baptist, baptizing in the Jordan River, and Jesus, walking sixty miles from Galilee down to where John was baptizing, in order to be baptized by the great forerunner. When you turn to the Gospel of John, you will find an amazing, an amazing introduction. That incomparable introduction of John beginning with “The Word” [John 1:1-5], that whole chapter is dedicated to the forerunner and the baptism of Jesus; His introduction to the world [John 1:1-34].
When you turn the pages again and begin in this Book of Acts, through which I am now preaching, in the first chapter there is an election on the part of the apostles that one be chosen to be numbered with them [Acts 1:21-22], to take the place of Judas who had hanged himself [Matthew 27:5]. And there were two qualifications for the apostle; number one, he had to be baptized by John the Baptist; number two, he had to be a personal witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from among the dead [Acts 1:22]. Baptism is an integral part, a vital part, a central and dynamic part of the preaching of Jesus. “And he preached unto him Jesus . . . See, here is water; I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:35-36].
There are several mighty, heavenly reasons for the baptism of Jesus [Matthew 3:3-14]. Number one: it was an authentication of the divine mission of John the forerunner. Our Lord’s baptism at the hands of John recognized the authority of the Baptist, who had received the ordinance and its pattern from heaven [John 1:33]. In the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew the Lord avows that the baptism of John is not from men, it is from God in heaven [Matthew 21:24-27]. And the baptism of our Lord, first, was an authentication of the divine mission and authority and ordinance that John received from God in heaven [John 1:33].
Why was Jesus baptized? The second reason: His baptism was His great introduction to His messianic ministry [Matthew 3:16-17]. It marked the transition of our Lord from His thirty years of private life into the three and half years of His public ministry. It was at His baptism that John introduced Him to the world and pointed Him out as the Lamb of God that should take away our sins [John 1:29].
Number three: why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized in order that He might identify Himself with us sinners, to be part of the mankind that He came to redeem, one of us [Philippians 2:7-8]. Not somebody who turned stones into bread [Matthew 4:3-4], but who lived by the sweat of His brow [Mark 6:3]. Not someone who performed miracles for Himself, but someone who came to minister to the needs of fallen humanity [Matthew 20:28]. Not someone in the form of an angel of light, but someone like us: wept our tears [Luke 19:4, Job 11:35], suffered our trials, lived our life [Hebrews 4:15], died our death [1 Corinthians 15:3]. In all ways made like unto us, though He the only one without sin [Hebrews 4:15], and the baptism of Jesus identified Himself with our sinful humanity [Matthew 3:16-17].
That is why, when Mark says, John the Baptist came preaching the baptisma; baptismos refers to washing, baptisma, the doctrine of the faith. John the Baptist came preaching the baptisma of repentance for the remission of sins [Mark 1:4]. It had to do with our fallen humanity. And when the Lord came to be baptized at the hands of John, intuitively John withdrew:
I have need, he said, to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me? Not so, Lord, this is a baptisma of repentance for the remission of sins, and there is no sin in Your sinless life, no fallenness in Your nature, the perfect, sinless, without blemish Lamb of God,
And Jesus said, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill the divine mission for which I was sent into the world.
And Jesus was baptized, identifying Himself with us lost sinners.
Number four: why was Jesus baptized? It was a dramatization of the adumbration of His ministry in the world. Our Lord came into this world to die for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He be buried and that He be raised from among the dead according to the Scriptures. [1 Corinthians 15:3-4] And that adumbration is beautifully, marvelously dramatized in the ordinance of baptism: buried, raised, and the Lord committed Himself to that assignment of the Father in heaven [Romans 6:3-5].
Now there are four concomitants; as there are four reasons why the Lord was baptized, there are four corollaries that accompany it. Our Lord is baptized, now what? Number one: it carried with it the blessing of the heavenly Father. When our Lord was raised up out of the watery grave, the Spirit of God descended upon Him in the form of a dove, “and a voice from heaven saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:16-17]. It carries with it the blessing of the Father. Only one time in the life of our Lord will you see all three of the Godhead manifest at one time, the Savior raised out of the water; the Holy Spirit of God in a form of a dove, lighting upon Him; and the voice of the great Jehovah God in heaven saying, “This is My Son, beloved, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:16-17]. Our Lord said, in the eighth chapter of Gospel of John, “I do always those things that please Him” [John 8:29]. And it pleased God for Jesus to be baptized of John in the River Jordan. And that ought to be our prayer. As Dr. Grenfell, Wilfred Grenfell, the mighty missionary to Labrador for forty years, writing in his autobiography he said, “My mother taught me as a child to pray, ‘Dear God, help me to do this day the thing that pleaseth Thee.’” And it pleased God that the Lord was baptized.
Number two: the baptism carried with it the anointing of the power of the Holy Spirit of God [Matthew 3:16]. When I turn to the sermon of Simon Peter in the household of Cornelius at Caesarea, he said in the midst of that sermon, the baptism which John preached and the baptism of Jesus; how God “anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” [Acts 10:37, 38]. When did God anoint Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power? May I read it for us out of the record of Luke? “And Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased” [Luke 3:21, 22]. Now, look: “and the Holy Spirit descended in shape like a dove upon Him” [Luke 3:22].
Now follow after, “And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan” [Luke 4:1]. In the same chapter, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” [Luke 4:14] And in the same chapter, “And He found the place in Isaiah, Isaiah 61, and He read from the scroll, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel” [Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18].
When was Jesus anointed with power by the Holy Spirit of God? It happened in His baptism [Luke 3:21-22].
Number three: what is a corollary, a concomitant, that attended the baptism of the Lord Jesus? It was the commitment, the public, open commitment of His life to the ministry to which God had called Him, for which He was sent into the world. He came into this world to die for our sins [1 Timothy 1:15]. He came into this world to be raised triumphant for our justification [Romans 4:11], to declare us righteous, to hold us in His omnipotent hands until we too are in His presence in glory [John 3:17]. And the commitment of our Lord to that messianic ministry is found in His baptism. “This is My death, this is My burial, and this is My resurrection” [Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. We also, when we follow the Lord, find that a commitment of our lives, to follow Jesus, that’s our open and public avowal that we have received from God’s hand a mandate, and we are faithfully giving our lives to it [1 Peter 3:21].
As you know, I read Spurgeon all of the time. In my humble opinion he is the mightiest preacher of the gospel of Christ outside of the New Testament. Spurgeon was converted in a Primitive Methodist chapel on the sixth day of January in 1850. It was a stormy night. The preacher didn’t even appear, but a godly layman was there with a little handful of people, and Spurgeon came in. He couldn’t get to the little place where he was going, the church, so he turned into that Primitive Methodist chapel. And that layman was making an appeal that night from that wonderful passage in Isaiah: “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other” [Isaiah 45:22]. And the layman in his exhortation to look to the God and be saved, pointed a finger to young Spurgeon and said to him, “Young man, you look so miserable. Young man, look to Jesus, look to Jesus.” And Spurgeon said, “That night, I looked and I lived.” After his conversion, he studied the Bible. No member of his family was a Baptist, nor of the generations preceding. He studied the Bible, and went to the pastor of the little Baptist church at Isleham and asked to be baptized according to the mandate of God in the Holy Scriptures [Matthew 28:19-20]. Forty years later, writing in his little paper, The Sword and the Trowel, in April 1890, he described that baptism. I quote from him:
The wind blew down the river with a cutting blast, as my turn came to wade into the flood; but after I had walked a few steps, and noted the people on the ferry-boat, and in the boats, and on either shore, I felt as if Heaven, and earth, and hell, might all gaze on me; for I was not ashamed, there and then, to own myself a follower of the Lamb. Timidity was
gone . . . I have scarcely met it since . . . I lost a thousand fears in that River Lark, and found that “in keeping of His commandments, there is great reward.” It was a thrice happy day to me. God be praised for the preserving goodness which allows me to write of it with delight at the distance of forty years.
Isn’t that just like God, and God’s will for us, and God’s blessings upon us?
As I walked out into the flood, out into that river with all of those people gazing upon me, I felt that the whole universe of God could look upon me, for I was not ashamed to own myself a follower of the Lamb. Timidity was gone. I have not met it since. I lost a thousand fears in that river.
That is the experience of the Christian life; it is a commitment unto God. And the Lord hallows it and blesses it through all of the years that follow after.
Not only is a concomitant of the Lord’s baptism the blessing of the Father, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, an unashamed commitment to His ministry to which God had called Him and sent Him; it is, last, an example for us. “Thus it becometh us,” said the Lord to John the Baptist, “Thus it behooves us, it becomes us, it is fitting for us, that we fulfill all righteousness, that we do the thing God has mandated” [Matthew 3:15]. It is right. It is from heaven that a man be baptized [Matthew 28:19-20]. Then John suffered Him, and Jesus, when He was come up out of the water, blessed by the anointing of the Spirit, pleasing to the Father in heaven [Matthew 3:16-17].
Why is it that people who avow love for the Lord Jesus and count themselves as followers of the Lamb, why are they not baptized? The only reason that I know is because, if a man is intelligent, if he can read even English, much less the Greek, it is plain, it is simple, it is emphasized that we are under commandment to be baptized [Matthew 28:19-20]. Why are they not baptized? For one simple reason: human pride. “What? You mean I am going down into that water? I am going to be buried? Not I. Not I.” Proud of spirit, lofty in self, “I refuse to bow, I refuse to submit.”
And it brings to my mind the poignant story in the fifth chapter of 2 Kings [2 Kings 5]. Now Naaman was a great man with his master. He was captain of the host of the king of Syria, for by him God had given deliverance to the Syrians. He was a mighty man of valor, this general of the Syrian army, but he was leper [2 Kings 5:1]. Now the Syrians had gone out by bands and had brought captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And the little maid said to her mistress, “Would God that my lord was in the land of Israel, for there he could be healed of his leprosy” [2 Kings 5:2-3]. And the word came to the ears of the king of Syria, and he wrote a letter to the king of Israel saying, “Herewith I have sent you Naaman, the general and captain of my army; and with him talents of gold, and talents of silver, and changes of raiment that you might heal him of his leprosy.’ And the king of Israel took the letter and read it and said, “Look! See how the king of Syria seeketh a quarrel against us, to declare war against us, for who am I, God, to make a man well, that he might be healed of his leprosy?” [2 Kings 5:4-7].
And word came to the ears of Elisha, the man of God, who sent word unto the king of Israel saying, “Send him unto me that he might know that there is a prophet in the land of Israel” [2 Kings 5:8]. And Naaman came with his horses and with his chariots and stood before the house of Elisha with his talents of gold, and silver, and changes of raiment. Elisha the man of God did not so much as even walk out of the door to look at him. He sent one of his servants and said to him, “Go down to the Jordan River and wash seven times and you will be clean” [2 Kings 5:9-10].
It infuriated Naaman! This great man was insulted! And he said, “I thought surely the prophet would come out and dramatically call upon the name of the Lord his God and strike his hand over the place and heal the leper [2 Kings 5:11]. But to wash in that muddy Jordan? Are not the Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all of the waters of Israel?” [2 Kings 5:12]. Have you seen the Abana and Pharpar? Clear as crystal rushing currents from the top of Mount Lebanon. “Are not the Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all of the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?” And he turned and went away in a rage, driving his steeds and his chariot back to Damascus, a leper [2 Kings 5:12].
As in his fury and anger, he was driving those steeds back to the capital of Syria, one of the servants, sweetly, tenderly, humbly, laid his hand upon his arm and said, “My father, my father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldest thou not have done it? [2 Kings 5:13]. In order to be healed of your leprosy, had the prophet said, ‘Conquer a kingdom!’ would you not have sought to conquer it? Had he had said, ‘Bring back a thousand more talents of gold!’ would you not have done it? How much rather then, when he said just, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” [2 Kings 5:13]
The great man pulled those reins. “Whoa, whoa!” He turned those steeds around and drove down to the muddy Jordan. And the Greek Septuagint says, the Bible the apostles used, says that he baptizō himself, one time and two, three times and four, five times and six. And when he baptizō himself the seventh time, “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” [2 Kings 5:14]. He was clean. “Look. Look! Look, the leprosy is gone! God hath healed me, cleansed me!” Isn’t that right?
The place of a man made out of dust and ashes before the great and high God is on his face, it is on his knees. It is in humble submission to the mandates of the Lord. “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36] “I have found the Lord [Acts 8:37], I want to be baptized, just as the Lord did say.” And that concomitant never fails. Rising up out of the baptismal waters, “he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:38-39]. I have never seen an exception to that in the fifty years I have been a pastor. When one is baptized, following the blessed example of our Lord, there is a fullness in heart in doing it. “Just as God hath said [Matthew 28:19-20], so have I obeyed, walking in the way of the Lord, following His footsteps.” And they always lead down and through the waters of the Jordan.
I am through with my sermon. I could add a little imagery, following our Lord through the waters of the Jordan. The Jordan, as you know, in our hymnology is always a picture of the swollen stream of death. Following our Lord through the waters of the Jordan, raised from the overwhelming flood, it is a picture of our hope in Christ Jesus. Following our Lord into the swollen river of death, and raised from the overwhelming flood in the likeness of His glorious resurrection; it is beautiful, it is meaningful, it is spiritual, it is from heaven [Romans 6:3-6].
That is our invitation to you today. Accepting the Lord as your Savior [Romans 10:8-13], “I want to be baptized. ‘See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?’ [Acts 8:36] I want to be baptized.” “Having been baptized, pastor, we are coming into the church today as fellow members, to pray together, to worship together, to listen to the exposition of the Word of God together. I am bringing my family; we are all coming today. This is my wife, these are our children, we are all coming” [Hebrews 10:24-25].