A Baptismal Message for Jamie Johnston
May 21, 2017 :: 2 Corinthians 5:17
In just a few moments, Jamie Johnston is going to go public with her faith in Jesus Christ.
Because that’s one of the things that baptism means and does.
Baptism is a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ, a statement to the world that the one being baptized believes in Jesus and has been saved from their sins by Jesus and what Jesus did for them on the Cross. And they are now publicly identifying themselves as a follower of Jesus.
It’s kind of like when an athlete signs onto a team. You know what I’m saying? They have one of those signing ceremonies? College athletes. Professional athletes.
They sit behind that desk and they sign on the dotted line. Everybody’s smiling.
And then maybe they get a team jersey and they hold it up for the camera.
It’s a press conference.
And that’s the moment when they publicly join the team.
The military does something like that, too. They take an oath.
There’s a ceremony. They raise their right hand.
And they join up. They, too, get an uniform.
Or like a wedding ceremony.
The bride and groom stand before witnesses and they exchange promises and, n our culture, they exchange rings.
They go public with their covenant with one another.
Everybody might have known already that they loved one another and were committed to one another, but this ceremony makes it official.
And water baptism, for the Christian, has a very similar effect.
Baptism is the God-ordained way of going public with your faith.
Baptism is the God-ordained way of identifying yourself with Jesus Christ.
And that’s what Jamie is doing this morning and our church family is pleased to be a part of.
Now, there are other good ways of going public with your faith.
You can walk an aisle at an evangelistic meeting.
You can post something on your social media account about your love for Jesus.
You can stick a bumper sticker on your car or take out a billboard!
But water baptism is not just a good way of going public with your faith, it’s God’s good way of going public with your faith.
Read the book of Acts. The pattern is clear. The gospel gets preached. People believe and get saved. And then they get baptized.
The gospel gets preached. People believe and get saved. And then they get baptized.
Over and over again.
Followers of Jesus Christ go public with their faith through water baptism.
Now, water baptism is just a picture. It is an outward symbol of an inner reality.
I often liken it to a wedding ring. This gold band on my finger does not make me married to Heather Joy. Our public ceremony didn’t make me married to Heather Joy.
My covenantal relationship with Heather Joy makes me married to her (Praise the Lord!), and this ring symbolizes our marriage to the watching world.
It says, “I am hers. And she is mine. We are on the same team. We are the team. Exclusively.”
Water baptism is a public symbol, as well.
It doesn’t DO anything by itself (it’s not magic), but it SAYS lots of things.
And I think that this little verse shows us at least two.
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Now, you can tell from the word “therefore” that this verse is part of a larger context, a larger argument. Paul is actually talking about ministry in this section. And this verse fits into that larger argument as an explanation of how Paul goes about his apostolic ministry.
But we don’t have time this morning to develop the larger argument. We’ve got a dunking to do here!
So we’ll save that for another day. Here we’re just going to look at this one sentence and see what it tells us about being a Christian (and therefore what Christian baptism signifies, what it says to the world).
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
#1. BAPTISM IS GOING PUBLIC ABOUT BEING “IN CHRIST.”
“In Christ” is the Apostle Paul’s favorite phrase to describe what it means to be a Christian. At least 80 times in Paul’s letters, Paul uses the phrase, “in Christ.”
“In Christ” is the Apostle Paul’s shorthand description of being identified with Christ. Our position in Christ, the benefits and blessings of being in Christ, the inclusion we have in Christ’s righteousness, Christ’s standing with the Father, Christ’s holiness, and so on.
“In Christ” is Paul’s way of signifying our UNION WITH CHRIST in His death and resurrection. Our vital, living union with Christ.
Remember Romans 6 when Paul says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Baptism signifies being “In Christ.”
Are you in Christ? Have you been joined to Jesus Christ by faith? Have you trusted in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and the gaining of eternal life?
Are you in vital union with Jesus Christ? Are you “in Christ?”
There is no more important question to have answered!
Jamie has answered that question. In a few moments, she will share the story she shared in her baptism interview. That she has come to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is now “in Christ.” And going public about it in baptism.
How about you? Are you “in Christ?”
There is no more important question to have answered!
You are either in Christ or OUTSIDE of Christ.
And that is the scariest place to be in the whole universe.
If you are in Christ, have you gone public with your faith through water baptism?
That’s what water baptism portrays, being in Christ.
Going down in the water symbolizes your union with Christ in His death and burial. Coming up out of the water symbolizes your union with Christ in His resurrection.
Baptism is a God-given picture that signifies to the world that you are in Christ.
And 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
#2. BAPTISM IS GOING PUBLIC ABOUT BEING “A NEW CREATION.”
In all real Christians, God has done a new work of creation!
And just as God created everything we see and feel and touch and smell in this creation, He has also done a work of New Creation–He has brought about a decisive change inside of the new Christian.
We often call that new work of creation: regeneration. Being “born again.” Being given new spiritual life, a new heart, a new life–fit for the world to come.
Water baptism symbolizes a “New Creation.”
“The old has gone, the new has come!”
Now, that almost sounds like a new Christian is not at all like they used to be. They are perfect, they never sin, they have arrived, the old has gone[!], the new has come[!]. If that’s true, then Jamie is not ready yet to be baptized because she is not perfect yet. And neither is her pastor!
But I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. Paul knows that Christians have not yet arrived. He says that very thing about himself in multiple places.
What Paul is saying is that something new has happened that is decisive for this person.
Being “in Christ” means that God has started something dramatic and unstoppable in this person’s heart and made them a New Creation. And the Old Slave-Driver of Sin and the Old Required Allegiance to the Prince of this World are out in their penalty and position and power in our lives. And the new master of righteousness and allegiance to the true Lord of the universe has begun.
That’s what Christian baptism signifies.
I like how the New Living Translation puts it. It paraphrases v.17 like this, “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!”
And that’s why people should get baptized sooner rather than later in their Christian life. Baptism is not for mature Christians. It’s for new Christians.
Christians that have become a New Creation.
Christian baptism is going public about being In Christ and being a New Creation.
And this is God’s work. V.18 begins, “All this is from God.”
God is the One who includes us IN CHRIST through our faith.
God is the One who creates a NEW CREATION in us that says good-bye to the old and in with the new.
And our response to God’s work is to live it out.
We are to believe that we are “In Christ” with all of the blessings and benefits and privileges that go along with that.
And we are to live as New Creations. We are to live new lives.
In the first few centuries of the Christian Church, baptismal candidates did this very dramatically.
Here’s what the book The Mark of the Jesus says about baptism in the early church:
When...the time for baptism...arrived, the candidate would be called upon to renounce the Devil and all his pomp. Facing westward, the direction in which the sun went down, he would exclaim, ‘I renounce thee, O Satan, and all they works!’Then he would deliberately spit three times in the direction of darkness, signifying a complete break with the power of evil and all their former claim on his life. Next, turning towards the sunrise, he would say, ‘And I embrace Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ!’ This would be followed by immersion... (The Mark of Jesus, pg. 33-34).The old has gone, the new has come!
That’s going public!
That’s what Jamie is about to do. She is spitting in Satan’s face and symbolizing through her baptism that she is in Christ a, new Creation.
Again, Jamie’s baptism does not make her a Christian.
I see lots of people wearing black and gold jerseys. That does not make them a Pittsburgh Steeler, right?
Just putting on the jersey doesn’t put you on the team.
But if you are on the team, you put on the jersey.
If you are married, you put on the ring.
If you are a Christian, you go public with Christianity and tell the world that you identify with Jesus.
“I am His and He is mine.
He has saved me through His death and resurrection.
And now I’m telling the world by getting baptized.”
There is a little word in the Greek of verse 17 that doesn’t get translated into the English of the NIV. I think it’s there in the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.
But the old King James has an English word for it and the English Standard Version has it, too.
It’s the word, “Behold.”
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, [LOOK!] the new has come!”
It’s right there to see.
Look what God has done.
* The title of this message reflects my great debt to Bobby Jamieson's book Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership which I found really helpful for thinking about the ordinance of baptism. While ultimately unpersuaded by his thesis in regards to baptism and membership (and sticking to an EFCA approach to this practice), I was significantly sharpened in my theology and practice of baptism. I highly recommend it and will use this language of "going public" from here on.