THE FUTURE OF THE FAMILY SERIES
JUST ADD WATER – HOW TO SHOW YOUR’RE IN GOD’S FAMILY
MAY 5, 1996
What do the following items have in common? Starbucks Coffee, a jet ski, a catfish, iced tea, wonton soup and a Christian. For these items to be complete, for these items to work the way they were designed to work you just add water. You just add water. The Bible says that the moment a person admits his sin, repents and turns to Jesus Christ for salvation that a public step must be taken. And this public step, the scriptures say, is completed when a person just adds water. In other words, when they are baptized. I am in a series on the family. We have been looking at different aspects of the family. We have looked at single parent families, the blended family, nuclear families, transitional families. Today I thought that we would slightly change gears and look at the implications of being a part of the most profound family in the universe, the family of God.
If you will look at your scripture sheet, you will see in Romans 8:15 an incredible verse. “And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of His family, and calling to Him, ‘Father, Father.'” Ephesians 1:5 says, “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us…” Why did God use this whole concept of adoption when referring to people who matter to Him? If you do any study of church history, you understand that Roman law stated that a father could disown a biological child but a father could not disown one who had been adopted. The Bible says that once you have been adopted into the family of God, once you have given the reins of your life to Jesus Christ, you are to go public with your faith and you are to just add water.
All you have to do is navigate the New Testament just a little bit and you run into baptism. When Jesus began His three year teaching ministry at thirty years of age, John the Baptist said, “Just add water.” When 3,000 people made a faith decision at Pentecost in the book of Acts, they asked in unison what they were to do. The Apostles said, “Just add water.” When Philip was sharing Jesus Christ with a very prominent Ethiopian official who then received Jesus Christ, Philip directed him to stop the chariot and go to the river and just add water. When Simon Peter discussed the claims of Jesus Christ with the first group of non-Jewish believers, the family of Cornelius, he said, “Hey, Cornie, you and your family need to just add water.” Time and time again, over and over again, after our faith decision, the Bible says, we should be baptized, identifying with the family of God.
I have an announcement to make. I am a Texas Rangers baseball fan. I am. I love the Rangers. I have season tickets five rows behind home plate, but I never cheer for them. I never clap my hands, I have no Texas Rangers baseball paraphernalia, no bats, hats, autographs or pictures. But I am a Texas Rangers fan. I am a true follower of the team. I love them. But you would never know it. You see my love for them is a private thing. Now if what I just told you was true, you would say, “Ed, are you nuts? If you loved the Texas Rangers, why don’t you go public with your love for them?” Yet, I meet people all the time who say, “I am a fan of God. I have season tickets five rows from the pulpit, Pastor. I am on God’s team. But my faith is a private thing. It is a personal thing. Baptism, going public, putting on a little robe and walking across the stage and being dunked. No, that’s not for me. My faith is a private thing.”
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 these words right before his ascension. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Jesus said to continually challenge new believers to prove their faith. He said no matter what socio-economic level, no matter what background, no matter how intimidating or how humbling it is to some, make sure every person who is physically able after their faith decision gets to just add water.
Baptism, in a sense, is a test of your faith. It is accountability. It is doing something public. Once you have gone public with your faith, it is hard to turn back. You have shown that you are marching now to the beat of a different drummer, you are following Jesus, you are focused on Him. Baptism indicates you are a part of the family of God. Have you just added water?
This church is six years old. We have baptized hundreds and hundreds of people from every background imaginable, Baptists, Catholics, Assembly of God, Pentacostals, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Jewish persons, Buddists, people who had no concept before they met the Christ of Christianity. The list goes on and on. It is an exciting part of the ministry of this church because it is a universal command of Christ. Yes, it is kind of strange to put on a robe and to be submerged. But somehow, God honors it.
So I want to sit down and talk to you about some commonly asked questions regarding baptism. We felt impressed to teach this week about baptism. There are many, many people in our four weekend services who need to be baptized. We don’t force baptism on anyone. I cannot make you, but I can teach you what the word of God says. The moment we started this church we asked what does the Bible say. We are a Bible-driven church. We don’t say what does the culture say, what does this denomination say. What does the Bible say about baptism? There is a lot of confusion, the waters are muddy regarding this subject.
People ask, “Ed, should you baptize babies or should you baptize people who are old enough to make their own faith decision? What does the Bible say about that? That is a fair question, isn’t it? Some churches baptize infants, some do not. Obviously, there are bright, intelligent people in both camps. However, there is not one reference in the Bible to an infant being baptized. Not one. The Bible says we are to baptize people who have made a personal choice to trust Jesus Christ. Let me show you the progression of events from the Bible. Look at Acts 2:41. “And those who believed Peter were baptized – about three thousand in all!” Acts 8:13. “Simon himself believed and was baptized…” I’ll stop right here.
As you know my wife and I have twins, Laurie and Landra. They are twenty-two months of age. They are learning to talk. They are not mature enough nor responsible enough to make a faith decision. They don’t understand the concept of sin, that they are separate from God, that God bridged the chasm by sending His own Son to die on the cross for their sins and rise again. They are not old enough to invite Jesus Christ to come into their lives. They are not mature enough. So why baptize them? They didn’t baptize infants in the Bible.
It says in Acts 18:8, “Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” If you have been baptized as an infant, like my wife, we are not saying, “Your baptism did not take.” That is great, we applaud that. But I challenge you to be rebaptized after your faith decision. Why? Because that is the way that baptism is practiced in the Bible. It is as simple as that. I have baptized many people in my life and most had been baptized as infants. Once we baptize them, I have never had one turn to me and say, “You know what, I wish I hadn’t followed God’s command to be baptized after my decision.” I have never met that person yet.
Here is the second most frequently asked question about baptism. “Ed, can baptism make you a Christian? Does it have the power to save you?” Biblically, the answer is a resounding no. Baptism does not make you a Christian. You can be baptized 10,000 times a day and still spend eternity away from the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet many people think that just because a religious leader sprinkled water on their heads when they were about two weeks old that they are going to heaven. That thought, though, does not hold Biblical water.
The third question is this. “Can I be a Christian without being baptized?” They try to get technical. “Can I be a follower of Christ without being baptized?” We are saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by baptism. Technically, yes, you can be a Christian without being baptized. A scriptural reference would be when Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins, one of the robbers next to Him said, “Jesus, I want to know You, I want to trust You.” Jesus did not tell him to jump down from the cross and be baptized and then he could go to heaven. Jesus said, “From this day forward, you will spend eternity with Me in paradise.” Yet, if you are physically able, the Bible says categorically and unequivocally to get baptized.
It has always puzzled me when someone asks me about this technicality. I want to say to them. You understand the concept that Jesus Christ paid the price on the cross, died an excruciating death, was buried and rose again, offers you the free gift of salvation, power, purpose, strength, forgiveness, a clear conscious and a home in heaven and yet you are going to shake your puny little fist in the face of Jesus over the first little obedience test? He lovingly commands you to get baptized and you say “No, no, no. I will take the gift of salvation but I am not going to show anyone that I am a follower of you. I will not get baptized.” You see, that math doesn’t work. If you have those thoughts, I challenge you to do a spiritual EKG on yourself. I have got to wonder if you truly know the Lord Jesus Christ personally. If you know Him and He tells you to do something, you are going to say, “I’ll go for it. I’ll be there.” How about you? Have you been baptized. Again, this is something I cannot make you do. It has got to be between you and God.
The fourth question goes like this. “OK, I should be baptized. How? How should I be baptized? Should I be showered, poured, spritzed, sprinkled, dunked?” When we have a question we always say, what does the Bible say. Now I will give you a quick Greek lesson. Every time the word baptize is used in the New Testament in the Greek, it is pronounced baptizo. Baptizo means to dunk, to immerse, to submerge. I am not talking about a Michael Jordan slam dunk, I am talking about immerse under water. Also there are two prepositions used with the word baptizo, one is pronounced eck, which means into, the other is pronounced ice, which means out of. There is no question about it. No Biblical scholar will debate you that every baptism in the Bible was by immersion. There is not one reference to being sprinkled, poured, or spritzed in the Bible. It is not there. We say that we want to be a Biblically functioning community and we want to baptize the way they baptized in the Bible.
Another reason we baptize by immersion is because that is the way Christ was baptized. The Bible says that He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Now I have had the privilege of baptizing believers in the Jordan River. We took about thirty people from our church last December to Israel and the water was dangerously cold. After I had been in the water about three minutes, from my waist down I was numb. But we recovered and it was a special, special spiritual moment. So Jesus, Himself, was baptized by immersion. Also immersion symbolizes His death, burial and resurrection. For example, if I was going to immerse and bury this stool, I would not put this stool on the ground, take a shovel and sprinkle some dirt on it. I would actually dig a hole and then bury the stool. When we are baptized, we are identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Why then do some churches sprinkle? Here is a quick church history lesson. For the first 1,200 years of Christian history, baptism by immersion was the universally accepted mode of baptism. A couple of hundred years after the founding of the church a distortion of two doctrines in the Bible occurred. The first distortion is called the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. It said that when a child was born, he or she should be immersed, because if they were not, they would spend an eternity away from the Lord Jesus Christ. So a lot of people began immersing infants and because some infants died due to being immersed, and because there was a shortage of water in certain parts of the world, the practice of sprinkling was initiated. Another distortion was the doctrine of original sin. This offshoot of Christianity called it the doctrine of original guilt. Again, this is not in the Bible. This offshoot of Christianity said that the moment a child is born, not only are they sinners, but God holds them accountable for their sin and if they die they will spend eternity away from Jesus. The Bible says, though, that if a child dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, the age of reason, they are going to heaven. And no one knows what that age is. We don’t know. That is why we trust our loving and transcendent and fair God regarding children.
Go back to my twins. They are not old enough to make this faith decision. You have got to be mature enough to make it and then get baptized.
The fifth most frequently asked question is “What happens at a baptism? Where do you go? Where are the changing rooms? What happens if my hair looks weird, or my mascara runs? What will I wear underneath the robe?” I want to answer these questions briefly. Before we do I want you to meet a couple in our church who were recently baptized, Kevin and LeeAnne Scally. Let’s welcome the Kevin and LeeAnne. I want to ask you guys about your spiritual pilgrimage. “Kevin, tell me how you met the Lord Jesus Christ and about your background.” “I was raised in a non-Christian home. I briefly attended a couple of different churches when I was young. Two years ago I was invited to the Fellowship by some very special friends. They would call us on Sunday morning, pick us up and bring us to church. About a year and a half ago I finally became a Christian and joined the church.” “Now, after, that you were baptized by one of our pastors, Preston Mitchell. You were baptized together, is that not right? Tell me what kind of thoughts went through your mind as you were baptized?” “I wanted to declare my faith and show others that I had decided to follow Jesus. The baptism, itself, was so special. We are part of a home team, a small group that meets for study and fellowship, and the members were all there supporting us.”
“Now, LeeAnne, tell us about your background.” “I was raised in a Catholic home. I was sprinkled as a baby. We attended church regularly when I was very young. My attendance was a little more sporadic during my teen years. I accepted Christ with Kevin at the Build The Vision Banquet about a year and a half ago.” “Do you recommend that those persons who have been sprinkled be rebaptized?” “Oh, definitely. It was just so meaningful. It was an opportunity for me to declare my faith and let everybody know. I especially felt good being baptized with Kevin as if we were making a statement about our marriage.”
“You know, Kevin and LeeAnne, baptism is one of the breakthroughs that many people need in their lives. I have talked to people often who say they don’t think their lives are coming together spiritually even though they are Christians. And if you look back you can see that sometimes they have not followed through with baptism.”
So I am going to ask Kevin to be a baptismal guinea pig. Have you ever seen the Volvo commercials with the crash dummies. Just joking! I will use him to show you what happens when we baptize. We have a baptism tub here, a jaccuzi for Jesus. The water is warm. I want to show you what we actually do because on May 18 and 19 we will have our four services outside and the whole service will be baptism and communion. Many need to be baptized and we felt led to do this as a staff.
We will have Kevin put on this white robe. We ask you to bring some shorts and a shirt or a bathing suit to wear underneath the robe. We have changing rooms. At the appropriate time in the service, I will assist you up the steps and into the tub. There is a place to sit down. This is important. One time I was baptizing in a church which had a monster, plexiglass baptistery area. The tile was rather slick and there was no seat. I baptized a lady and for some reason she was a little afraid of the water. Her feet kind of locked up. There was a 300-voice choir underneath the baptistery. She began thrashing in the water. A tidal wave hit the choir. I was submerged briefly myself. Anyway. There is no way that can happen at our church.
I have a cloth in my left hand and cover the persons mouth. They grab onto my other arm. Here is what I say when I baptize. “In imitation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His divine command, I baptize you, my brother, (or my sister, because we are a part of the family of God having been adopted by Him) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then I will lower you under the water while saying, “Buried with Christ unto death.” Pulling you out I will say, “Rise again unto newness of life.” Some of our body building friends might say that they weigh 265 pounds and there is no way such a skinny guy could baptize them. Yes, I can, because the water is a great equalizer.
What baptism represents is this. When you go under the water you are identifying with the death, burial and resurrection with Christ. You are also saying that your old life is over, your new life begins. The water symbolizes the cleansing of all of our sins, past, present and future. So you are preaching a sermon when you are baptized, not with words but in a symbolic sense. Those of us who are married wear wedding rings. If I took my ring off, am I still married? Yes. But the ring is an outward symbol of an inward commitment. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward commitment that is packed with spiritual meaning. I remember the day I was baptized years ago. I was seven years old. I still remember it vividly. God blesses it in a mighty way. Then we will stand you up and put a towel around your shoulders. After that you will be taken back to the changing room to dress. Thank you, Kevin and LeeAnne, for helping with this demonstration.
Baptism, just add water. I don’t want to leave you hanging though. I want to get you to commit, if you want to, before God. I want you to look in your bulletin and you will see a card called, Outdoor Baptismal Service. I want you to sign up today, if you would like. The reason I say I want you to is because it is such a blessing and you are being obedient to God’s word. There is no doubt or debate about it. Indicate in which of the four services you would like to be baptized. We take a picture of everyone who is baptized and give you a copy of that picture. We also give you a baptismal certificate. It is that important to us. I believe that many, many people need to follow through with this. If you are not there yet, that is cool. Don’t worry about it. Relax. But pray about it.
You know we have been talking about being a part of a family. Today, though, we are talking about being a member of God’s family. You see the future of the family is bright when we are adopted into God’s family, when we follow through with baptism. Then, because we are right spiritually, we can be right in our families here on earth. Today the key phrase is, just add water. You have the faith. Have you been baptized? That is an issue that you have to settle prayfully today.