Today’s Reading: Luke 3
Today I want to take you to a water baptism class. I believe that water baptism displays the difference between the casual Christian and a serious follower of Jesus, because it is clear in the Bible that it is a next step after being born again. As Max Lucado says, “Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.”
Water Baptism does not mark an arrival but a beginning. Let me tell you four things that are important about water baptism:
1. It’s Scriptural
Water baptism was Jesus’ idea not the church’s. In Matthew 28:19-20, we read that Jesus connected water baptism to discipleship. Water baptism is done when a person is born again. You never read of an unbaptized believer anywhere in the Bible. Water baptism is done after second birth, not the first birth. There is not one single verse in the Bible that says you become a Christian when your body touches the water.
2. Historically, It’s Public
You are going public with your faith. When you get water baptized, you get advertised. It is a public declaration to show everyone whom you are following. You will see places in Scripture that say, “There was much water.”
They would do this outside in a lake or a river. Wherever it took place, it was for everyone to see what had happened to that person. The same is true for you. The city, your family, your coworkers, heaven, and hell now know you have taken the second step of discipleship with your walk with Jesus.
3. It’s Symbolic
When we get married, we say, “With this ring, I thee wed.” Though we make that statement, we know that putting the ring on the finger is not what makes us married. The same is true with water baptism. There is no magic water. It’s not the water that does anything; it is our step of obedience that is the big deal. To make it anything more than a symbol is dangerous, it’s like worshiping our wedding bands.
To cling to a symbol is what many try to do, though. And they miss what God is trying to show us. What is the symbol? It is a symbol of death, burial, and resurrection.
4. Practically, It’s a Next Obedience Step
Can we go to heaven dry and unbaptized? Of course we can. Anyone who says differently forgot a story about a thief on the cross who did not have the time or the tank to be baptized (see Luke 23:39-43).
You express love by obedience. Love is not just a feeling. Love is a controlling passion to do something for the one we love. The apostle John told us, “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you” (John 14:15, MSG).
What makes Luke 3 crazy is how different John the Baptist’s baptismal class is:
[John] began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7-9)
I don’t know if I would start my water baptism class with calling the people “snakes.” My class would start off with something like this, “I am so glad you are here.”
After John called them snakes, he told them that an axe was resting on the root of their hearts waiting to chop it down if they have not repented and fruit has not come from their lives.
It’s incredible what happens next: the people ask, “What shall we do?”
They got it!
I remember Leonard Ravenhill once telling me that when God is moving with repentance, we don’t have to tell people what to do, because they will ask us what to do before we tell them.
That’s what the people did with John the Baptist. What’s interesting is that in verses 11-14, we see he gave direction to three different groups of people:
The first group were the multitudes. He told this group to learn to be givers, to share their blessings (verse 11).
The second group were the tax collectors. He told them not to be like everyone else; to be different and to act like believers in their jobs. He wanted them to use their jobs as an arena for them to show off God’s power in their lives, that they should be different—no matter how others act (verses 12-13).
The third group were the Roman soldiers. He told them to stop abusing their authority, build relationships, and be content with their wages (verse 14).
Then something amazing happened: the people got baptized that day—the multitudes, the tax collectors, and the soldiers. Not only did they get baptized, verse 21 tells us that Jesus also got baptized.
They got baptized with Jesus! What a powerful lesson for you today: you never know what will happen when you do what God wants you to do.