Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 11, 1956
NUMBER 23, PAGE 8-9b

The Place Of Baptism In God's Plan

W. H. Book

(Editor's note: W. H. Book belonged to that previous generation of Christian Church preachers who emphasized the first principles of the gospel. Few Christian Churches are left which would endorse his strong teachings on the fundamentals of the gospel . . . . This sermon extract is taken from "Watchword Of The Restoration Vindicated.")

Jesus Christ has instituted two ordinances — not church ordinances, but ordinances of the Christ — one on the outside and the other on the inside of his church and kingdom.

These two ordinances eloquently, logically and scripturally preach the gospel in all its fulness.

The first is baptism. The Anglicized word "baptize" comes from a Greek word which means to immerse, submerge, and which symbolizes the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the great facts of the gospel. It is not my purpose to preach a sermon on the action of baptism, for the religious world recognizes that the scholarship is agreed on the meaning of the word. And Christian baptism, which is an immersion and an emergence of the candidate, is the catholic (universal) baptism. The meaning of the word "baptizo," from which we get our Anglicized word "baptize," is to be fixed, not by the rule of interpretation but by the rule of definition.

The other ordinance, which is within the church, also sets forth the great facts of the gospel, and every time the table is spread and the emblems placed thereon, the church proclaims to the world the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

In every age of the world, for some reason, God has made water a dividing-line. Why He has done this we do not know; but it is a fact, nevertheless. When Noah and those who were with him in the ark were saved from the flood, they were saved through water. The line that separated the people of the antediluvian world from the new world was water.

When Israel was redeemed from Egyptian bondage, it was necessary for them to be baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Cor. 10); and thus we see that water again becomes the dividing-line; this time with Egypt on one side and the wilderness on the other; and not until they had crossed the Red Sea were they safe from their enemy. (Ex. 14:30.)

In the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus we have the remedy for leprosy — the blood of the bird and running water; and in Numbers nineteen we have an account of the "water of purification," which is composed of the ashes of a red heifer, in which is blood, mixed with running water. In Ezekiel 36:25 there is an allusion to this "clean" water; and so we find that the proposition still holds good that water holds an important place in God's plan of redemption; it is the dividing-line.

When Jesus hung, bleeding and dying, on the cross, a man thrust a spear into his side, and the inspired writer tells us that from this wound there came forth blood and water.

Christ's Law

What is generally known as the "commission" of our Lord contains the constitutional law of the kingdom. He had promised his disciples in Caesarea Philippi that he would give them the keys of his kingdom. The authority possessed by the Father was soon to be delegated to him, after which he would delegate it to his apostles.

Matthew records: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Mark says: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Luke tells us: "Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

We find that God has united preaching, believing, repentance and baptism with remission of sins.

When the cultured Jewish teacher came to Christ to find out things concerning his kingdom, he was told that in order to become a member of it, he must be born of water and the Spirit.

When the apostles preached the gospel and used the keys of the kingdom, they had the endorsement of Jesus Christ, for he said unto them; "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: whosoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven them; whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained."

These apostles did not receive the keys of the kingdom until after Christ's resurrection, and they were not permitted to use them until after his ascension. They must not make a mistake. They were not permitted to preach until after they had been endued with power from on high. They were to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and he was to take the words of Christ and give them unto them, and they were to speak Christ's words to a lost world. In the last days God had promised to speak to the people through His Son; and Peter, James, and John were exhorted to "hear ye him"! Jesus had said that "not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven." He furthermore said through James that the wise would be "doers of the word and not hearers only." Christ taught that those who love him will keep his commandments.

When we turn to the Acts of the Apostles and follow these men in their ministry, we find that they speak the truth as they were commanded by Jesus Christ.

We have eight distinct accounts of conversion recorded, and in every one the Holy Spirit thought so much of baptism that he inspired the preacher to preach it. On the day of Pentecost, they were commanded to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. It was only when they had obeyed that command that they were "added." The evangelist preached to the Samaritans; and they were baptized, both men and women. Philip preached to the Ethiopian officer, and he, having believed, went down into the water with the preacher, and was baptized. When he came up out of the water, he went on his way rejoicing. When Ananias came to Saul of Tarsus, he found a believing, penitent, praying sinner, who had confessed his Lord. This penitent believer was commanded to "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

Water has no power to cleanse from sin; nothing but the blood of Jesus Christ can do this; and pardon does not take place in the baptistry but in the mind of God. But it seems that God has, for some reason, and in some way, connected water with the blood, and obedience with pardon, so that to come in contact with the blood we must go through the water.

Cornelius, a devout man, a man of fine reputation, one who feared God with all his house, generous with his gifts, and who prayed often, and who, having heard the gospel, believed and repented and was baptized, was not able by his good works and like to obtain forgiveness. He had to "be baptized in the name of the Lord" before his guilt could be removed.

The Philippian jailer and his household believed and were baptized the same hour of the night. Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized. The Ephesians (Acts 19) were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord. In studying all these records of conversion, we find that faith is not always mentioned; repentance is not always mentioned; confession and prayer are not always mentioned; but for some good reason the Holy Spirit has recorded baptism in every case!