At the end of a long journey,
imagine arriving weary and careworn at your friend’s house. Eagerly you go to the front door only to find it locked. The lights are off, and no one is home! How disappointing!
By contrast, Jesus assures us: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,… thoughts of peace,… to give you an expected end…. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jeremiah 29:11, 13 KJV; John 6:37). The Father gives every careworn traveler to Christ, who invites all of us to find comfort in Him and pardon and relief from the anxieties and disappointments that are the natural consequences of sin (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus warmly invites us to enter …
The Open Door
1. Where is the door to life and happiness?
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:9-11). Both the sheepfold door and the good shepherd represent Jesus. The sheep represent those who believe in Him. A dedicated shepherd constantly cares for His sheep, even putting his own life on the line to protect them (verse 11). The thief represents the devil, who tries to lure God’s children away from safety.
2. How do we become one of Jesus’ sheep?
“My sheep hear My voice,” said Jesus, “and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27, 4). His children recognize His call and gladly follow His example and instruction, which they read in His word. Those who do this are His children indeed (Ezekiel 34:31; John 8:31).
3. Where does the Lord keep His sheep, and why?
“Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). A fold is a safe place for the sheep. Spiritually speaking, Jesus calls us away from the snares of sin to His house. “The house of God … is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:17). The church is the place where His people grow, develop, mentor one another, and learn how to reach out to others.
4. How does one become a part of the fold of Jesus?
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). When Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, they “went down into the water” (Acts 8:38). Through this sacred act of being immersed in the water, the believer becomes a member of the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).
5. But what does baptism mean?
Ananias appealed to Saul, “‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’” (Acts 22:16). Baptism is a public confession of being a sinner and of accepting Christ’s working in us to cleanse us from sin. “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). By His resurrection from the dead, Jesus exhibited the power of eternal life. So the complete immersion of the believer symbolizes death to “the old self” and the rising to a new life empowered by Jesus. This solemn act also points to the future resurrection (verses 5 and 8).
6. After we have been crucified and buried with Christ, what will be our mode of living?
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). Resurrected from the watery grave to a new life of faith, we ask Jesus to live His holy life through us, as the Father dwelt in Jesus and worked through Him. Our life styles will gradually become more caring, engendering our own healing and that of many around us. We become increasingly proactive in facilitating God’s work of saving those among whom we live.
7. Was Jesus an example for us to follow also in accepting the rite of baptism?
“Then Jesus came … to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered…, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:13-15). Jesus had no sin to wash away. But by accepting baptism, He fully identified Himself with us, His human family, and did not consider it a humiliation to take the steps we are required to take. By His baptism, the Saviour confirmed His commitment to rescue man. After that, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit and empowered to fulfill this singular mission (Matthew 3:16-17; Acts 10:38).
8. What gift does God give to those who earnestly commit themselves to Jesus in baptism?
“Repent, and … be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). We need help to live that new life, and Jesus provides this by sending us a personal Helper, the Holy Spirit.
9. What close, sacred relationship exists among God’s people?
“We were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
10. Why does God want us to be part of Christ’s body, the church?
Jesus, the head of the church, unites every member of the body together in love. He brings about growth and maturity as members work together, each one using his divinely entrusted gifts for the building up of the church (Ephesians 4:15-16, paraphrased). Belonging to the church is vital for our sanctification. We gain experience in working and getting along together, being vulnerable to each other, and supporting one another in spiritual growth and maturity. These cause us to bond. The church, then, becomes a very important social body and support group in both good and difficult times.
11. What precedes baptism and entrance into God’s church?
a) Careful instruction (Matthew 28:19-20).
b) The practice of personal faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16).
c) Repentance of sin (Acts 2:38).
d) A desire to die to sin and live for Christ (Romans 6:3-4).
12. Who are authorized to perform baptisms and attend to nourishing and protecting the flock?
“Jesus … spoke to [the disciples], saying, … ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you’” (Matthew 28:18-20). Before His ascension, Christ instructed His ordained disciples to baptize and teach the believers. Today, ordained ministers baptize and teach, but unordained men and women also teach. The Master calls upon all His followers to share His love and what He has taught them with others.
13. Should a person wait until he or she feels good enough to be baptized?
Baptism is “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21). Some delay their baptism because they are disappointed with their imperfections and think they aren’t “good enough.” But spiritual growth is gradual. At each step of growth, “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Because you have confessed your sins and given yourself to Him, you are already justified. Sanctification (the work that you and Jesus do together) is the product of your whole life.
Have you considered … WHETHER OUR LORD ESTABLISHED OTHER CHURCH ORDINANCES?
Yes, He did. There are three.
The Lord’s Supper. Jesus ate an evening farewell meal with His disciples immediately before He was arrested, condmned, and crucified. In so doing He discontinued the Jewish Passover feast and instituted the Lord’s Supper, which is now celebrated at regular intervals. It commemorates the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ and reminds believers of His great love. “When men and women can more fully comprehend the magnitude of the great sacrifice which was made by the Majesty of heaven in dying in man’s stead, then will the plan of salvation be magnified, and reflections of Calvary will awaken tender, sacred, and lively emotions in the Christian’s heart. Praises to God and the Lamb will be in their hearts and upon their lips. Pride and self-esteem cannot flourish in the hearts that keep fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary. This world will appear of but little value to those who appreciate the great price of man’s redemption, the precious blood of God’s dear Son. All the riches of the world are not of sufficient value to redeem one perishing soul. Who can measure the love Christ felt for a lost world as He hung upon the cross, suffering for the sins of guilty men? This love was immeasurable, infinite” (Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 43). This and the ordinance of the washing of the feet (addressed next) are conducted by an ordained minister or an ordained church elder.
Foot Washing is an ordinance of humility that precedes the Lord’s Supper and prepares one’s heart for it. It is a recurring renewal of our baptism and commitment to the body of Christ. This ordinance, in which brethren reciprocally wash each other’s feet and sisters do the same, reminds us to love, serve, and forgive one another, as Christ loves, serves, and forgives us. See John 13:1-17.
Marriage unites a man and a woman in intimate companionship for life, as Christ is forever united with His church. See Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-33, and Hebrews 13:4. It is Heaven’s arrangement for bringing children into the world and providing for their physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual development. The family is the ideal setting to accomplish what God wants from us–sanctification, the preparation of family members to join the heavenly family for eternity (Review Lesson 17).
The ordinance of marriage may be performed only by an ordained minister.
The ordinances of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, foot washing, and marriage help us to understand the work of Christ as He leads us to the ultimate goal in life, “Conquest!” through His blood (see Lesson 29).