Section C: God’s Truth and You
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “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.” Matthew 3:1,2,5,6. Here was a man at the River Jordan who was preaching and telling the people that the Messiah was soon to come and that they were to prepare for this event by confessing their sins, going down into the river, and being immersed under the water as a symbol of washing away their sins.
Baptism is one of the special monuments of the Christian church. The rite was included in the gospel commission. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19,20.
This rite was not merely recommended to Christians, for Jesus Christ gave us His example. “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.” Matthew 3:13. Jesus made it clear that baptism was prerequisite to entrance into His kingdom. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5.
The Biblical mode of baptism
The word “baptize” means “to immerse or dip under,” from the Greek baptizein. If John the Baptist had only sprinkled those who listened to his preaching, he would not have gone to the River Jordan. Any place would have done. The Bible indicates no method of baptism except by immersion.
When Philip baptized the eunuch, it was by immersion. “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. 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.” Acts 8:36-39. Note that they both went “down into the water,” and they both came “up out of the water.”
Does it really make any difference how baptism is performed? To answer this question we must grasp the meaning of baptism – what it stands for. “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 be also 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.” Romans 6:3-6.
Baptism symbolizes the death of the old man and a rebirth to a new life in Christ. The old man is buried beneath the water. This is why in baptism the person goes completely under the water and then rises again. It also symbolizes a washing away of sins (Acts 22:16) as well as a pledge of the coming.
Prerequisites for baptism
There are several prerequisites necessary before an individual is ready for baptism.
1. He must be carefully taught the truths of God’s word. Matthew 28:19, 20
2. He must accept and believe these truths. Mark 16:16
3. He must feel sorry for and repent of his sins. Acts 2:38
4. He must be willing to die to sin and live fully for Christ. Romans 6:3,4
An infant cannot take any of these steps, therefore infant baptism is unbiblical. However it is Biblical to dedicate our children to the Lord. See Matthew 19:13-15.
Baptism is the doorway to God’s church. “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:13. Christ is the head of this body, His church. Ephesians 4:15,16.
Baptism is to be performed in the name of “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” See Matthew 28:19. Normally baptism is performed only once in a person’s life, but there are occasions when it is proper to be rebaptized. For an example of this see Acts 19:1-5. These people had repented of their sins and been baptized, yet they did not have the full light of truth. When this was brought to them, they were rebaptized in the name of the Lord.
“Baptism is a most solemn renunciation of the world. Those who are baptized in the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the very entrance of their Christian life declare publicly that they have forsaken the service of Satan and have become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. They have obeyed the command: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,…and touch not the unclean thing.” And to them is fulfilled the promise: “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 91
The Lord’s Supper
In addition to baptism, the Lord left His church one other ordinance, the Lord’s Supper or Communion, which He instituted the last night He spent with His disciples before the crucifixion. They had gathered to celebrate the Passover, the memorial of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. It pointed forward to the death of Christ upon the cross as the Lamb without spot or blemish. Before Christ celebrated the last supper with His disciples, He found it necessary to give an accompanying ordinance to help keep His people humble – the ordinance of humility, or feet washing. Its purpose is revealed in John 13:14-17: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another”s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
The disciples were often arguing among themselves as to who would be the greatest in Christ”s kingdom. At this observance no one would humble himself enough to wash the dusty feet of the others, so it was Jesus, their Master, who showed them true humility, and He asks us to follow His example. This ordinance is to prepare one”s heart to receive the full blessing of communion.
“This ordinance is Christ’s appointed preparation for the sacramental service…
“There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for self, to seek the highest place; and often this results in evil surmising and bitterness of spirit. The ordinance preceding the Lord’s supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to ring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of heart that will lead him to serve his brother.” – Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 650.
Only as we esteem others better than ourselves are our hearts truly in tune with God; our spirit becomes the same as His Spirit. Then we are ready to take part in the second and most solemn part of communion, partaking of the symbols of the body and blood of our Lord.
Instruction as to how the communion is to be celebrated is found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. Please read these verses carefully. Communion should never be participated in lightly with little thought as to its significance, but the individual’s heart must be prepared for it, not in judging others but in sincere self-examination. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” 1 Corinthians 11:28. Lack of preparation will bring a curse upon a man. See 1 Corinthians 11:29.
The symbolism of communion, also called the Lord’s Supper, has deep meaning for the participants.
1. The unleavened bread symbolizes the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:24.
2. The unfermented wine symbolizes the blood of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:25.
3. Communion both commemorates the Lord’s death and looks forward to His return. 1 Corinthians 11:26.
This ordinance replaced the Jewish Passover, at which nothing fermented was permitted; hence unleavened bread and unfermented wine (pure grape juice) are used to symbolize the body and blood of Christ.
In addition, note that this ordinance is to be celebrated within the church of God. Jesus did not celebrate it with the multitudes but exclusively with His disciples. “The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two monumental pillars, one without and one within the church. Upon these ordinances Christ has inscribed the name of the true God.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 91.
BENEATH THE CROSS
Long as time shall last, my Father,
May I keep my humble place
Just beneath the cross of Jesus, Looking up into His face.
And when time has ended, Father,
And the heavens are all aflame
With the glorious King’s appearing,
Save me then in Jesus name.
–Weldon Taylor Hammond