THE FAITH, COMMITMENT, AND CONFESSION LEADING TO BAPTISM
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
21 AUGUST 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Many people seem to have the false belief that all that they have to do to be saved and baptized is to say the words of a prayer, take a dunk in the water, and then return to their former lifestyle.
With this in mind, let's take another look at our preparation verses for today's service: Ephesians 2:8-10
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
9. not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
As the first two verses tell us, we are saved by faith and not be any work we did or do.
The key to our understanding comes in verse 10, because once we are saved, we just seem to naturally want to do what ever God desires us to do.
Why is this?
Because with real faith, people are not shy about confessing and showing their faith, and their lifestyle shows that they have made a commitment to live as the Lord desires us to live.
The most obvious aspect of this changed lifestyle is the person's love, a love that extends to the whole of God's creation.
Hymn: 6 - Sing Praise To God Who Reigns Above
Anyone can sing.
And anyone can sing a hymn such as this in praise of God.
But no one can sing from their heart and soul without faith.
For the words that we sing are a reinforcement to our faith, as much as they are of our praise of God.
There are a lot of people who want to believe, and they even may speak all the right words.
But in their heart and mind there is something that hinders their faith.
Thus they put a limit upon their faith and, as a consequence, upon their commitment to God.
As an example, note what we are told in John 6:53-56.
53. Jesus therefore said to them,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
54. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55. "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
56. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
Jesus was speaking spiritually, but many of those who were listening heard it only literally.
To eat human flesh or to drink any blood is against God's Law.
These people struggled with the physical, but Jesus was offering them the spiritual food, of which He was the physical representation.
Thus, He goes on to say in John 6:57-59:
57. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.
58. "This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever."
59. These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.
We would think that the Jewish people, who knew God's word, would be the ones who would understand what Jesus was saying to them, but most of them didn't.
But surely His disciples would understand what He was saying, wouldn’t they? But even many of them struggled with His words, as we are told next in John 6:60-65:
60. Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?"
61. But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble?
62. "What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?
63. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
64. "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.
65. And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."
These disciples saw the miracles that Jesus did, and they heard His other words, but over these words they stumbled, even when He told them it was spiritual.
What they thought was their faith, was in fact, only their excitement of being in the presence of Jesus.
Jesus tries to show them the spiritual side of what He was expressing, but like most things spiritual, they cannot be understood in the physical world.
Do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3?
... "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [or born from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God."
If these followers of Jesus were in fact born again, they would have understood what He was talking about, for they would have seen the answer in heaven, the kingdom of God.
And since many of these followers were not born again and thus had no real faith, but were only followers of the activity, they didn't understand.
Note what we are told next in John 6:66-67:
66. As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.
67. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?"
In other words, Jesus is saying to them, "Why are you still here? Why haven't you also gone away? Do you also want to leave Me?"
Jesus wants a response, not only from the twelve, but also from us; such as, "Why are you here today?"
How are you going to respond to Jesus' question?
Why are you here?
Is your answer similar to Peter's?
Let's see, as we look at John 6:68-69:
68. Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.
69. "And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."
Peter is saying, "We have no other choice. There is no other alternative. You, Jesus, are the answer. You are our only hope."
Is that the way we feel and believe?
Is this where our faith is?
Do we have the commitment to stand firm, as did the faithful disciples?
If so, we must confess it as did Peter.
And these are the three things that lead us into baptism: faith, commitment, and confession.
In essence, we must surrender all.
Hymn: 366 - I Surrender All
But where does this faith begin?
In Romans 10:17 we are told,
17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of [or concerning] Christ.
If we want to hear the truth, we will hear it; but if we don't, we won't.
It's as simple as that.
Do you recall the Ethiopian official to whom the Lord sent Philip, because he was seeking to know the truth of the Scriptures?
Note what we are told in Acts 8:34-38.
34. And the eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?"
35. And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
36. And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
37. [And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. "]
(Note: According to a footnote in the New American Standard Bible, many manuscripts do not contain the above verse.)
38. And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.
This Ethiopian was seeking the truth.
He believed, but he wanted to grow in faith.
And when he heard the truth, he wanted to be baptized.
He wanted to fully commit himself to the Lord Jesus.
And with His mouth, he confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.
Why should you be baptized?
If you truly believe, you can!
This is a question for all of us, too, as a reminder.
Why was I baptized?
We all need to revisit and renew our own baptism with this question, every time we witness another's.
How strong is my faith?
Am I fully committed to the Lord Jesus?
Is my confession believable?
In Romans 6, Paul gives us a way of analyzing ourselves as candidates for baptism.
Let's take a look at the first eleven verses.
1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?
This is quite an interesting question that Paul poses to us.
It is God's grace that forgives us and covers our sins.
So, if we want more of God's grace, shouldn't we sin more, that we would receive more?
This is the way many people live, isn't it?
Do you think they're right?
Should we sin more, so that we may receive more of God's grace when we ask for forgiveness?
Let's hear how Paul answers his own question, beginning at verse 2.
(Pause after each sentence.)
2. May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
3. Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
4. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
In other words, we are no longer to sin, and we are no longer to live as those who are not saved.
In our newness of life, we are to walk in righteousness, and bring love and peace with us.
We are to walk in the glory and grace of God, showing the world around us, not how many times God will forgive a sinner, but how the grace of God has changed our lives.
We are to show them our holiness and love and compassion through the way we live.
We are to show the world the hope of salvation, and the peace to come.
We are to be seen as an image of Jesus Christ.
Let's continue with Romans 6:5-11.
5. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection,
6. knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;
7. for he who has died is freed from sin.
8. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9. knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Today has really been a day to examine ourselves, hasn't it?
None of us are fully living the life that Paul describes here, are we?
However, we are never to give up trying to be perfect, as Christ is perfect.
But in our growth, we must ask ourselves, “Has the word of God, today, strengthened my faith?”
Have I been encouraged to make a greater commitment?
Will I more easily confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life?
Will I try harder to really live as a Christian should?
If the answer to these questions is “Yes!” then we are on the road to maturity.
Remember, God didn't just make mighty oak trees; He also made acorns.
And each acorn has the potential of growing into a mighty oak.
It only needs a place to be planted, and water and warmth and sunlight.
When the seed of faith first entered us, we were as the acorn.
We are to keep focused upon the person God wants us to grow to be.
We must keep ourselves watered with the Word of God.
And if we also stand firmly rooted in the light of the Son (S-O-N), we will indeed grow into God's mighty oaks.
Hymn: 373 - Where He Leads Me
Your Comments are welcome
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