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Faith Bible Church, NY
October 15, 1995
How To Make Disciples, pt 3
This morning we are going to continue in our series on trying to make the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 as practical as possible. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. “
We can fulfill this command because Jesus has all authority. He has the right to command us what to do and expect us to obey Him, and He has the power to work through us to accomplish His goals. The command is not dependent upon our ability, but our availability to Him.
The command itself is to “make disciples.” It is carried out by the three participles: Going, baptizing and teaching them. For the last two weeks we have concentrated on the first aspect of making disciples, which is evangelism. Evangelism is not saving someone, because neither you nor I can do that. Salvation is the work of God. Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is introducing people to Jesus Christ by telling them who He is, what He has done, and what He can do for them. Man, justly condemned from God because of his sin can be forgiven. Man, alienated from God by his sin can be reconciled and brought into a intimate relationship with God. Man, dead in his trespasses and sin can be made alive again. All of this is through the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelism in its most simple form is simply telling others about your own relationship with the Lord Jesus.
We must be both bold and sensitive in doing this. Bold to take advantage of opportunities and tell the truth about Jesus, sensitive to do it with true love and not try to force people to believe what we believe. As I pointed out last week, Jesus did not try to coerce, intimidate or force people into decisions. He gave them room to say no and He often made it hard to say yes. We are not out for spiritual scalps to hang on our belt, we are out to serve our Lord by telling others about Him.
We must learn how to catch the interest of people and invite them to learn more about the Lord. This can be done in many ways. Christians should stand out as being different because they have Christ living in them. While living in righteousness will provoke some to hate us, it will intrigue others. They will want to know why we are calm in the midst of disturbing situations, why we are confident when others are so unsettled, why we can love even those that hate us. Some will be attracted to the Lord because they seen Christ living in us.
We also catch the interest of others by turning conversations to the Lord. This is not hard to do if Jesus is at the center of our life, because we naturally talk about those things that are important to us. We must also work at using a person’s natural interests in attracting them to want to know more about Jesus. We ask people open ended questions about what they think, feel and believe and then talk about the Lord’s perspective on those same issues. Some will be interested to know more about the Lord, others will turn away, just as they did with Jesus.
That is evangelism. It is not saving people. It is telling people about Jesus and inviting them to come and learn more. It is not marketing the gospel or selling Jesus which would lead to false professions of faith it is entreating them to be reconciled to God by explaining who Jesus is, what He did, what He is offering and the consequences of both following Him and rejecting Him. I like J.I. Packer’s definition of evangelism, “Evangelism is the faithful explanation and application of the gospel message of Jesus Christ to sinful men in order that through the power of the Holy Spirit they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.” They may come to trust Him, not will come to trust Him.
Some will come to trust Jesus as savior and Lord, others will not. Some will show an initial interest only to later reject Him as they learn more about Christ. That was true in Jesus’ day and it is still true now. Some will reject Christ because like the rich young ruler we mentioned last week, they love the things of this world more than God. Some will reject Jesus like those in John 6 because they want a savior that will fit the working of their minds. They will reject Him because He teaches things they do not understand, or they do not want to believe His claim to be God in human flesh, of salvation being by grace through faith and not of works, of the historical and scientific accuracy of the scriptures, or His claim to be Lord and have a right to command and expect them to walk in obedient righteousness.
In the parable of the sower we find that when evangelism takes place some of the seed is quickly snatched away by the devil. They reject Christ outright. Others are attracted initially, but they are shallow rooted. When they run into those who oppose Christ they deny Jesus to avoid persecution. They do not want to identify with Christ unless it means an easy life. Still others are initially attracted to Christ, but they are soon choked out by the weeds. They have an initial faith in Christ in that they believe something about Him, but the things of this world are more important to them, so they reject Him. Evangelism brings some people to an initial interest in Christ, but after a short time they are no longer willing to learn of Him and follow Him.
For some though, evangelism does not just bring them into some knowledge about Christ, it brings them into a relationship with the Lord Jesus. Salvation occurs and they want to be identified with Him regardless of the consequences. This brings us to the second aspect of making a disciple mentioned in the Great Commission: baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As I mentioned when we went over this passage at the conclusion of our study in the book of Matthew, the word, “name,” here is singular. We are baptized into one name, not three. This verse backs up the doctrine of the trinity, that God is Triune. One God self-revealed in three persons, being all coequal, all coeternal.
But why baptism? Why would this be included as part of disciple making and what significance does it have? What does baptism have to do with following Jesus?
Christian baptism is an adaptation of the Jewish rite of baptism which traces back to the Levitical precedent of ceremonial washing. In fact the word “baptize” which means “to dip,”or “to immerse,” was also used to refer to washing, as in immersing dishes in water to clean them or dipping in a pool to clean yourself. The baptism of John was a baptism of repentance. It symbolized the cleansing away of sin after they had confessed their sins (Matt. 3:6). The baptism itself did not take away sins, but it symbolized the righteousness and cleansing given to the individual as they confessed their sins and placed their trust in God alone. 1 John 1:9 tells us that cleansing from sin is r elated to our confession of them, not in the keeping of any ritual.
Christian baptism retains some of the symbolism of John’s baptism but it also is different. John’s baptism was in preparation of the coming Messiah. Christian baptism looks back upon the finished work of Christ. This distinction is seen when the apostle Paul ran into some disciples of John in Acts 19, he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they [said] to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. John’s baptism prepared for them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
There is also still a similarity for Christian baptism is still a baptism of repentance for the gospel message of Christ is a message of repentance and reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Luke concludes his gospel account in 24:46 with Jesus saying this, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
This is why Peter responded after his first sermon in Acts 2 to those crying out to him, “Brethren, what shall we do?”, saying, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”. Christian baptism is the same as John’s baptism in this respect. The baptism itself does nothing for you except get you wet, but it symbolizes the washing that takes place when a person repents from their sins. Paul described the washing away of sin this way in Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.” A washing of regeneration performed by the Holy Spirit is being saved by God’s mercy, justified by His grace. Baptism is only a symbol of that grace being given, not a means by which to obtain that grace.
Christian baptism is similar to that of John in that they are both baptisms that occur as a response of the repentant heart. They differ in that John’s baptism looked forward to the Messiah coming while Christian baptism looks back on what Jesus has done on the cross. The apostle Paul expands even more on this difference and the significance of Christian baptism in Romans 6. We find that Christian baptism is a full identification with Jesus Christ.
Paul brings in the topic of baptism as reason and proof that Christians should not continue in sin. Verse 1, What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? How is it that you have died to sin?
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Baptism symbolized the death of your old self (Gal. 2:20 – you have been crucified with Christ), but the identification of the symbolism continues.
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. Baptism also symbolizes being raised to a new life in Christ. Paul continues his argument in verse 5.
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.
Baptism is a symbol of what occurs spiritually within you at salvation. You are identified with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. You die to sin and are raised to new life in Christ. That is why Christian baptism is to be by immersion. Not only does the word baptize mean to immerse, to submerge completely in water, but the symbolism of death, burial, and resurrection can only be seen in immersion. When some of you may have been sprinkled as a baby or child, all you got was wet for that is not baptism. Christian baptism only occurred by immersion until the middle ages. The Roman Catholic church did not recognize other forms of baptism until 1311, and even the great Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said, “In immersion the setting forth of the burial of Christ is more plainly expressed, in which this manner of baptizing is more commendable.”
Baptism, in short, is an outward sign of identification of a person with Jesus Christ. They have learned enough about Jesus to want to be a true disciple of His and be identified with Him. Baptism does not make the person a disciple, it only identifies him as such. I like professor Henry Holloman’s description of this that is in the sheet on baptism I hand out to baptismal candidates. He said, “Christian baptism is like a soldier who puts on his uniform, not to become a soldier, but because he is a soldier and wants to publicly identify himself as a soldier. In Christian Baptism the believer publicly identifies himself with Christ and His people.”
Such an identification with Christ may seem like a “so what” to many of you, but I can assure you that it was not during the time of the early church and it is not today even in certain segments of our own society. Remember that persecution against the church came very quickly. The Jewish leaders thought they had taken care of their problems, so they had Jesus crucified, and for the few days Jesus was in the grave it appeared that way, but once Jesus rose from the dead their problems returned, and when the Holy Spirit was given to the church after Jesus had ascended into heaven, their problems multiplied rapidly. Three thousand were saved and baptized after Peter’s first sermon and five thousand more after his second. In addition the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). These Jewish religious leaders that had crucified Jesus now had 10,000 or more committed and empowered Christians spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They quickly began a persecution against them to quiet them. Peter and John are arrested Acts 4. In Acts 5 they are arrested again and flogged. In Acts 7 Stephen is stoned to death by them. In Acts 8 the persecution becomes so strong that the Christians start to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (8:1). A house to house search was being made for Christians and when they were found they were dragging off both the men and women and putting them into prison (8:3). Baptism now carried a great risk of bringing persecution.
Tell me, if that was the situation here, wouldn’t you think twice about being baptized in the name of Christ? This is the situation in many parts of the world, especially in the Islamic, Hindu, and communist nations. False religions do not have much tolerance for the true God or His followers. The Gulf War opened up Saudi Arabia slightly while the Americans were there, but as soon as they were gone, intense persecu tion was again directed at Christians. Those from other countries are not allowed to legally meet for worship and those who turn from Islam to Christ are subject to the death penalty. This kind of persecution does not get much press here, though once in awhile a story gets out, but in other nations it occurs all the time. It has been estimated that there have been more Christian martyrs at the hands of communists and false religions during this century than at any previous time. Some have said more than the combined total of all previous centuries.
Christians are not persecuted to this degree here but there is persecution that goes on. A Jewish lady I knew in California was disowned by her parents after she became a Christian and was baptized. They actually held a mock funeral for her and when she would try to call her parents they would tell her that they no longer had a daughter because she had died. Some of you who come from backgrounds where infant baptism is practiced remember the kind of turmoil that occurred when you even talked with your relatives about being baptized after you came to a personal, saving knowledge of Christ. Some of you may be going through that now. They see believers’ baptism by immersion as a rejection of their religion and you have now stepped over the line and become a fanatic and part of some cult group. Some people will put off being baptized for years, even decades because of this kind of pressure. Yet it is for this very reason that baptism is part of making a disciple.
Baptism is a personal identification with Christ. It is telling the world that you believe what Jesus has said about Himself and that you have responded to His invitation to be reconciled to God the Father through the forgiveness of sin that comes through Him. You are telling the world that Jesus is your Lord and savior and that you want to follow Him as His disciple. There must come a point in the life of those who are evangelized where they have to either make their identification with Christ known or they will have to turn their backs on Him, and trying to sit on the fence is turning your back on Him. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with Me is against Me…”.
If you believe that Jesus is who He says He is, (God in human flesh), that He did what He says He did , (lived a sinless life and then willingly gave up His life in our place as the payment for our sin, then was resurrected from the grave and is now ascended to Heaven), and that what He did is sufficient alone to atone for your sins and reconcile you to God, then you need to step out in faith and come and follow Him. Having repented and confessed your sins to Him He forgives you and asks you to now be obedient to Him. To not want to obey Jesus only shows that there has been no repentance, no regeneration, no salvation. A step of obedience is to identify publicly with Him in baptism.
If you have not been baptized by immersion since you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, you need to be. It is as simple as that.
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