The Baptism in Water
September 11th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
PREACHING JESUS: THE BAPTISM IN WATER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-11-77 8:15 a.m.
It is a gladness for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the throng of you who are listening on the radio station of the city of Dallas and on KCBI, the radio station of our Bible Institute. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we are in the last part of the eighth chapter. Acts chapter 8, and the title of the sermon is Preaching Jesus: The Baptism in Water.
In the story that closes the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts there is the treasurer of Ethiopia who, coming to Jerusalem for to worship, returning, had in his hand a scroll of the prophet Isaiah [Acts 8:27-28]. And reading out loud, such as we do here in the church and such as God intended for all the Scriptures to be read, reading it out loud, he was following the verses in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Acts 8:28]. Not knowing of whom the prophet spoke when it said “God had laid on Him the iniquity of us all. By His stripes we are healed” [Isaiah 53:6, 5], he invited this stranger, who seemed to be a man of authority, to sit with him [Acts 8:31], and asked him of whom does the prophet speak [Acts 8:34], here in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.
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, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?—
I want to be baptized.
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch—
Dr. Patterson, following this text in Greek, we’ll see the emphasis upon that both.
They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him—
He submerged him; he immersed him; he buried him in the flood.
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 praising God, rejoicing.
It is a truism; it is very plain that in preaching Jesus there is an inextricable correlation between the gospel and the ordinance of baptism. Beginning at the same Scripture, “He preached unto him Jesus, and coming to a certain water, the treasurer of Ethiopia broke into the message and said, Here is water. I want to be baptized”—preaching Jesus [Acts 8:35-36]. It carried with it the message of the ordinance of baptism. And this man, believing the gospel of Christ, immediately responded, “I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:36].
Well, that is very apparent in the life and ministry of our Lord. When the Gospels begin, this is the way they begin. When you read Matthew you’ll read the ministry of John the Baptist, and his baptizing in the Jordan River, and the baptism of our Lord Jesus [Matthew 3:1-17]. When you read the life of our Lord in Mark, it begins with a ministry of John in the Jordan River and the baptism of Jesus [Mark 1:1-11]. When you read the life of our Lord in Luke, once again is the baptism of our Lord in the beginning of His ministry [Luke 3:22]. When you read the Gospel of John, the whole first chapter is the introduction of our Lord by the Baptist in the Jordan River, pointing to the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world [John 1:19-34].
When you start here in the Book of Acts to which I’m preaching now, there is an election for a man to be numbered with the apostles, to take the place of Judas who had hanged himself. And the qualification for that man was twofold. One, he must have been baptized by John the Baptist. And second, he must have been a personal witness to the resurrection of the Lord from among the dead [Acts 1:21-22]. It would be impossible for a man to preach the gospel of the Son of God and not carry with it the story, the integral story, of the baptism of our blessed Lord [Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-10; Luke 3:21-22].
Why was Jesus baptized? One: it authenticated the ministry of John. “His baptism was not of men, it was from heaven,” so avowed our Lord in the twenty-first chapter of Matthew [Matthew 21:24-27]. The baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River [Matthew 3:13-17], gave testimony in his own turn to the divine call and divine mission of the great forerunner, John the Baptist [Matthew 3:1-3].
Number two: why was Jesus baptized? This is the introduction of our Lord to His messianic ministry. His baptism marked the great transition from His private life of thirty years to His public and messianic ministry of three and a half years. The introduction of our Lord as the Messiah Savior of the world was one of the purposes of His being baptized [John 1:29-34].
Number three: why was our Lord baptized? His baptism identified Him with our fallen humanity. He came into this world to be one of us; made like unto us, living our life, suffering our trials, identified with humanity. It was because of the perfection of our Lord, the sinless nature of Jesus, that when Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized of John, John forbade Him saying, “I could not baptize Thee. I have need to be baptized at Your hands. And the Lord said, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” [Matthew 3:13-16], namely the great mission to which God had sent Him into the world [John 3:16-18]. And in His baptism the Lord identified Himself with us, lost humanity. As Paul writes it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ identified Himself with us because John preached the baptisma. Not just the baptistmos, the washing, but Mark says that John preached the baptisma. That’s the doctrine, the meaning, the baptisma of repentance for the remission of sins [Acts 2:38]. And Christ identified Himself with us who must find hope and salvation, forgiveness of sin in the mercy of God [Titus 3:5].
Number four: Christ was baptized that He might dramatize; it was a harbinger of the life and ministry He was yet to live. Baptism represents, dramatizes, the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord [Romans 6:3-5]. And He was baptized, giving Himself to that ministry of suffering and reconciliation [Matthew 3:13-17].
Now, in the act of baptism there are four things that followed after, as there are four meanings of the ordinance observed by the Lord. There are four concomitants that accompanied it. Number one: it pleased the Father. “And the Lord, when He was baptized … the Spirit of God came upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:16-17]. The only time you will see all three manifestations of the Godhead together is at that baptismal service in the Jordan River: the Son submitting to the ordinance, and the Holy Spirit coming upon Him in the form of a dove, and the heavenly voice of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:16-17] Our Lord said, in the eighth chapter of John, “I do always those things that please Him” [John 8:29]. And it pleased God when Jesus submitted to the ordinance of baptism.
I remember reading in the life of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the great missionary doctor of Labrador, in his life his mother taught him to pray, “Dear God, may I this day do those things that please Thee.” And Jesus’ submission to the ordinance of baptism pleased the Lord. It carried with it the blessing of God [Matthew 3:17].
Second: it carried with it the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I read here in the sermon of Simon Peter in the household of Cornelius. Presenting the message of the Lord, he says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” [Acts 10:38]. When did God do that?
I turn to that Gospel of Luke and this is what I read:
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 from heaven, This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.
Now follow the text, “And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan” [Luke 4:1].
Now I read in that same chapter of Luke, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” [Luke 4:14].
And I read in the same passage, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach” [Luke 4:18].
When was Jesus anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit? He was anointed for that messianic ministry in His baptism. Not only did His baptism carry with it the pleasing of the Father, but it also carried with it the anointing of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 3:16-17].
His baptism carried with it, third: a commitment to His life and ministry, His saviorhood; He came into this world to die for our sins according to the Scriptures; to be buried, and to be raised the third day according to the Scriptures [1 Corintihians 15:3-4]. And in His baptism, He committed Himself to that ministry of suffering, and death, and burial, and resurrection [Matthew 3:15-17].
Baptism is a commitment to the calling of God in our lives. I have renounced the world; I am now following the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God. I am a Christian. I have renounced the things of the world, of the flesh, of the devil. I am dead to the world, to the flesh, to the devil; and I am alive to God [Romans 6:11]. It is a commitment to the assignment God hath called us to in our lives.
I could not but be moved. Spurgeon, whom I read all the time, Spurgeon writing in The Sword and the Trowel, his little paper, in April of 1890, spoke of his baptism, and I quote from that paper:
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 ferryboat, 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 with 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.
It was a tremendous thing for Spurgeon to be baptized. He had no Baptist people in his family, not in all the generations previous, growing up in England, finding the Lord as his Savior in a primitive Methodist chapel on a snowy winter’s night—preacher wasn’t there; the storm was too heavy for him. Isn’t that a rebuke to the ministry? A layman was there, and in his stumbling, stammering way, he was speaking on that text in Isaiah, “Look onto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the world: for I am God, and there is none other” [Isaiah 45:22]. And he picked out young Spurgeon, pointed to him—and the little handful of people in that Primitive Methodist chapel—pointed to him and said, “Young man, you look so miserable. Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus!” Spurgeon writes, “And that night, I looked, and lived.”
Then he began to study the Word of God, something he did all of his life, and came to the conclusion that he ought to be baptized. He went to the pastor of the church at Alford, and on the sixth day of May, 1850, he writes of his baptism, forty years later; converted in January, baptized after the studying of the Scriptures in May, and writes of it forty years later. And what a wonderful thing is that ordinance to us—a commitment of our lives to be a follower of the Lamb; one of the purposes that follows our baptism.
Last: not only in the act do we please the Father [Matthew 3:16-17], not only does it carry with it an anointing of the Holy Spirit [Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38]; not only is it an outward, public commitment of our lives to the ministry and high calling we have in Christ Jesus [Romans 6:11], there is another corollary that followed the act of our Lord’s baptism, and that is this: it is an example for us who follow after [Matthew 3:13-17]. If a man follows in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, he’ll follow down through the waters of the Jordan. He just will.
When we are following Christ, that’s one of the ways in which we will follow. “Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36], following our Lord through the waters of the Jordan. Why are not all of God’s people baptized? I’ll tell you exactly why. It is because of human pride. “I submit to that ordinance. I am too proud to be baptized, to submit, to bow.” Human pride intervenes and interdicts.
Thinking of that, I cannot help but think of the fifth chapter of 2 Kings. Naaman was a great man with his master. He was the captain of the hosts of the king of Syria, because by his hand God had given deliverance to the Syrians. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper [2 Kings 5:1]. And the Syrian bands invading Israel had brought back to Damascus a little maid from the land of Canaan.
And she waited on Naaman’s wife, and she said to her mistress, “Would God my lord was in the land of Israel, for then would he be healed by the prophet of his leprosy” [2 Kings 5:2-3]. And thus and so went to Naaman and said, “And thus and so saith the little maid from the land of Israel” [2 Kings 5:4].
And it came to the ears of the king, and the king wrote a letter to the king of Israel, saying, “With these wedges of gold and talents of silver and changes of raiment have I sent my captain of the hosts that you might heal him of his leprosy” [2 Kings 5:5-6]. The king of Israel read the letter and said, “See how the king of Syria seeks a quarrel against me, for am I God, to kill and to make alive, that I would heal a man of his leprosy?” [2 Kings 5:7].
And Elisha the prophet and man of God heard of it and said to the king, “Send him to me that he may know that there is a prophet in the land of Israel” [2 Kings 5:8]. And Naaman came to the house of Elisha with his horses, and with his chariot, and with his talents of gold and silver, and his changes of raiment [2 Kings 5:5, 9]. Elisha did not so much as go out to look at him, but he sent one of his servants, saying, “Go down to the Jordan River and dip yourself”—Septuagint Greek says “and baptize yourself seven times, and you will be clean” [2 Kings 5:9-10].
And Naaman turned away in a rage! “Why, I thought,” said that great and mighty man, “at least the prophet would come out and call dramatically upon the name of the Lord his God, and strike the place, and heal the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean?” He took his steeds and turned them furiously toward Damascus, driving back in pride and in anger, and a leper [2 Kings 5:11-12].
While he was furiously driving those steeds back to Damascus, one of the servants, tenderly and humbly, put his hand on the strong arm of the mighty man and said, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee, do some great and mighty thing, like conquering a kingdom or bringing forty thousand talents of gold—prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he said, wash, wash and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:13] And the great man pulled up those steeds, “Woah, woah, woah.” And he turned his chariot around and went down to the muddy Jordan, and he baptizo, the Septuagint said—the Bible out of which the apostles preached, the Greek Bible—and he baptizo himself one time and two, four times and five, six times and seven, according to the word of the man of God. And when he baptized himself the seventh time, his flesh came again, like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:14]. Look, look, look, look! How is it that a man can persuade himself to be proud in the presence of God? Our place is down on our knees, our place is down on our face; we’re in the presence of the great and mighty God.
And how is it that a man made out of dust and ashes could ever hesitate to follow in the example and commandment of our Lord? [Matthew 28:19]. “Look, look, look. Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:36]. And humbly, following in the way of our Lord, both of them [went] into the water. And that treasurer of Ethiopia, buried in the likeness of the death of our Lord and raised in the likeness of the resurrection, of our Lord [Romans 6:3-5], went on his way. Hallelujah. Bless God, rejoicing [Acts 8:38-39].
That’s God’s will for our lives [Matthew 28:19]. There never was a man who ever lived, including Spurgeon, who ever followed in obedience that humble ordinance but had the fullness of the Spirit of God in his heart, “I have done it Lord, just as You have commanded in the Word.”
And that’s our invitation to you. “Having accepted the Lord Jesus, I want to be baptized. I want to be counted among the followers of the Lamb. And I’m coming, openly and publically today. I want to be baptized.” “Having been baptized, pastor, I want to put my life in the circle of this dear church. Here I come; my whole family is coming. This is my wife, these are our children; we’re all coming today.” Or just a couple, or just you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when you stand, stand walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle: “I’m on my way, pastor. Here I am.” Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.