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Archive for the ‘Baptism’ Category

Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Church Membership.

God has established a proper order for our lives in His Word. He, in His grace, provides a structure wherein we can function for His glory.

Salvation. The first and most important thing is that we are saved. We can be involved in church and participating in all kinds of things, but if we are not saved they are all irrelevant. To be saved involves repentance and faith. We need first to realise that we are wrong before God and are going the wrong way; we are on a way that leads to death and destruction as a result of our sin. When we fully appreciate that this is our state we turn back to God. This is repentance. And when we do turn back to God we see how our Lord Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins and is now risen from the dead. Through believing in Him and in Him alone we have eternal life.

Baptism. Upon being saved the Lord calls us to be baptised. He calls us to confess our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by being immersed in water and raised out of the water. This is baptism. The principle is established in Acts 2:41a. Those who accepted his message were baptised. Similarly when the message was received by the Gentiles we see the pattern followed. So we read in Acts 9:46b-48a: Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptised with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. The receiving of the Holy Spirit proved that they were saved and so they needed to be baptised. Baptism is the outward act that indicates to all, that we have been saved. It does not make our salvation, but it confirms our salvation. The act of baptism is associated with our commencing the life of grace in Christ. Every Christian should be continually remembering their baptism and how they confessed that they were finished with living for self, sin and this world and were committed to living for the new creation.

The Lord’s Supper. God also gives us an ongoing ceremony to remind us of our salvation; this is the Lord’s Supper. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only ceremonial acts that are given to the Christian church. The Lord’s Supper confirms our ongoing life of grace in Christ. It is our weekly declaration that we are in Christ and not living for ourselves. You will gather from this that there is something wrong if someone is taking the Lord’s Supper and is is not baptised. The order is that baptism is to be at the start of the Christian life and the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated throughout the Christian life. To be involved in the ongoing rite without submitting to the initial rite is contradictory.

So what happens when we take the Lord’s Supper? At this feast we are called to examine ourselves, confess our sins and acknowledge Christ together. It is to be done in a church setting; it is not a private individual or family thing. In the church setting all those participating in taking the bread and drinking the cup together acknowledge Christ together.

Church Membership. By taking the Lord’s Supper together with other believers we acknowledge our togetherness with them. Paul expresses it to the Corinthians like this: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf (1 Cor. 10:16-17). When participating in the Lord’s Supper you declare that you are committed to these people who you are sharing the loaf with; you are one with them. So many people seems to think that celebrating communion is just an individual act, but surely this is only part of what is taking place. There is a significant collective element to it.

But our collective participation in the Lord’s Supper is contradictory if we are not a member of the church. When you become a member of a church you are committing yourself into the life of that church; you are formally associating yourself with that community of believers. So if you are not a member and are taking the Lord’s Supper your are giving a contradictory message. You are saying you are joined with that body of believers by taking the Lord’s Supper, but you will not commit formally in membership. Something is wrong here.

I conclude by putting before you what happened when the church in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost was originally formed. After the preaching of the Word by Peter we read this summary of what happened in Acts 2:41-42: Those who accepted his message (salvation) were baptised (baptism), and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves (church membership) to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper) and to prayer. Salvation, then baptism, then church membership, then the Lord’s Supper; that’s the Lord’s order.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of October 2016)

Baptism.

When we become Christians we start our spiritual life. The next step is to be baptised. Let us then look at the subject of baptism by asking a series of questions and seeking to answer them from the Bible.

Who Should Be Baptised?

Before He returned to heaven the LORD Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples saying “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). In doing this he established that all disciples (Christians) should be baptised. This order was immediately followed by the disciples and on the day of Pentecost when those who accepted his message were baptised (Acts 2:41a).

How Should Someone Be Baptised?

The word used in the New Testament which is translated baptism has its root meaning in the process whereby cloth was dipped in a liquid to make sure that it was fully dyed. Thus baptism means that someone is fully immersed in water. Accordingly, in the New Testament we see that when the Ethiopian Eunuch believed the message about Jesus preached to him by Philip both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptised him. (Acts 8:38a).

Also we note John was baptising in John 3:23b where “there was plenty of water”.

Does Baptism Make Me A Christian?

No it does not. To become a Christian you must “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).

What Does Baptism Signify?

In Romans 6:1-6 Paul uses the imagery conveyed by the act of baptism to show the change that takes place in a person’s life when they became a Christian. This person no longer wants to live for sin, but to live for righteousness. So just as the LORD Jesus finished with sin by dying on the cross so we show our desire to be finished with sin by “being buried with him through baptism into death” (v4a). Then we show our commitment to living in a new life (v4c) when we are raised out of the water; “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father” (v4b). When we are baptised we are publicly telling everyone that we are finished with living for ourselves and now want to live for God.

If I Was Christened Or Baptised Before I Became A Christian Do I Still Need To Be Baptised?

The aforementioned Scriptures all appear to set the order of first becoming a Christian and then being baptised. Accordingly, it would seem right to stick to this order. Therefore, it is inferred that, upon becoming a true believer in the LORD Jesus we should be baptised regardless of what has happened in the past.

How Long After Becoming A Christian Should I Be Baptised?

Having heard the message concerning Jesus, the Ethiopian eunuch says to Philip “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?” (Acts 8:36b). Philip then tests to confirm that the eunuch now truly believes (v37) and, upon his confession of faith baptises him (v38). Similarly the preaching of Peter on the Day of Pentecost indicates that baptism follows on from conversion. Peter’s words were “Repent, and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38a). When we become Christians then we should immediately move on to considering being baptised.

Where Should I Be Baptised?

In baptism we give a public display concerning what has happened privately in our hearts. We are telling everybody that we now belong to the LORD Jesus. Baptism should therefore take place in public.

It should also be associated with a local church. This is because they are the people who by meeting together publicly confess that they belong to Jesus who is their LORD. In baptism we do not signify that we are lone rangers, but rather that we are now part of a great group of people, called the church who follow the LORD Jesus. This is seen 1 Cor. 10:1-2 where the nation of Israel were all together in committing themselves to the leadership of Moses. This is seen as being baptised into Moses. So whether we are baptised in a baptistry, a river or the sea it should be done in connection to a local church.

What Should I Do After I Have Been Baptised?

You should continue to witness for Him. It is interesting that baptism signified the commencement of the public service of the LORD Jesus (see Mark 1:9-15).

Similarly with Saul (Paul) after he was baptised, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20). For ourselves one crucial aspect of continuing this witness is to be a member of a local church.

 

Baptism and Church Membership (Contd).

Further to my post of yesterday I write about a case we had sometime ago. In this case we baptised a lady on confession of faith. She gave a genuine testimony to the Lord’s converting grace.

Subsequently she approached us about membership. When she did so we became aware that there was a situation in her life which was dishonouring to God. Accordingly, we refused to move ahead with her application for membership. Quite simply she was not living in the light of her baptism. She was living illegally in the country and refusing to go back to her home country. There was no bona fide reason why she could not return home; there were no religious or economic threats to her. Yet she persisted in refusing to put this situation right.

I still feel it was right to have undertaken the baptism, although subsequent events have indicated that she will not move on in fulfilling the implications of her baptism.

Baptism and Church Membership.

What is the relationship between baptism and church membership? If somebody is baptised do they automatically become a church member? Let me be clear, first of all here, what I am referring to. By baptism I am referring to the act whereby somebody confesses true faith in Christ Jesus through being immersed in water. By church membership I am referring to the commitment that is made to a local group of Christians who have committed together to be for Jesus Christ their Lord.

It is my contention that the two issues of baptism and church membership should be considered separately. The issue of baptism is specifically linked to our salvation. Whilst church membership is the act whereby we commit to working out our salvation with other believers.

Considering Baptism.          The Lord Jesus called us, as inheritors of the original call to his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matt 28:19). When somebody is converted they need to be baptised. Moreover, the instruction that Paul gives in Acts 2 when he preached the first sermon in the age of the Spirit was ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the outward act signifying the once for all forgiveness of sins which takes place at conversion. In it we are declaring we are forgiven.

Further when Paul articulates the meaning of baptism in Romans 6:1-10 he is setting forth how baptism shows forth the great change that took place at conversion. At conversion We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Rom 6:4). Baptism tells how at conversion we were brought into a new life. We are finished with our sins and now we are joined to Christ. And as members of Christ we are to live new lives to the glory of our God.

Someone may well say at this point what about 1 Corinthians 12:13? There we read: we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Paul here is not referring to water baptism, but to the baptism in the Spirit which takes place at conversion. When we are baptised into one body, the reference is to how we are baptised into the universal body of Christ which is made up of all true believers in this age. It is not baptism into the local church.

Considereing Church Membership          Church membership is required of all believers, but should be considered separately to baptism. In church membership we are considering the responsibility each believer has to live out our Christian lives as a part of a local manifestation of the body of Christ. Accordingly, in church membership due attention must be given to establishing fellowship between the church and the believer. The believer and the church then covenant together to be for Christ in this generation.

This is embryonically seen in Acts 2 where we read that the first believers in Jerusalem They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). Here is the commitment to be together in the activities of the church.

One of the key things that happens when a believer commits themselves to church membership is that they place themselves under the spiritual care of a certain church eldership. So Hebrews 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. It seems orderly practice for a believer to fully consider which leadership he/she is committing to. It is not just a by-product of baptism, it is a special commitment consequent upon baptism.

This leads to me to want to emphasise that every believer should be baptised and every baptised believer should be a church member. Inherent in baptism is the declaration that you are now Christ’s and you will live for Him. To make that declaration and then refuse to commit to a church is a contradiction.  Conversion demands that the one converted be baptised and then that baptism demands that a church is joined as a member of that local body.

So church membership flows from baptism and in that sense is very much connected with it. But the two should be considered separately.

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