Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Improving Our Baptism

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Question: Why is baptism mentioned, rather than faith or other things more internal and necessary to salvation?
1. Faith is implied (Mark 16:16)
2. Baptism is the visible rite of receiving converts to Christ.

Question 2: Why in the name of Jesus Christ only? The Father and Spirit aren’t mentioned as per the formula of Matthew 28:19.
Answer: The form of baptism is not here under discussion, but rather its use and end.

What use and benefit does baptism have with respect to obtaining remission of sins by Jesus Christ?

I. God has always dealt with His creatures covenantally.

II. Because the first covenant was broken (the Covenant of Works) on our part, it pleased God to enter into a second covenant (the Covenant of Grace). In this covenant He would demonstrate His redeeming grace to fallen man. This was done in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).

III. In the Covenant of Grace, the privileges and duties are suited to the state in which man was in when God invited him into covenant with Him. We are in need of repentance and remission of sins. This is exactly what is proclaimed in the preaching of the Gospel.

IV. We are invited to our duties by our interests. Accepting the benefits of the covenant is part of the condition.

V. The two privileges of the covenant are pardon and life.

VI. Our covenant duties either concern our entrance into the Christian life or our progress in it. Covenants are made (Psalm 50:5) and kept (Psalm 25:10; 103:18)
     A. Entering the covenant requires repentance and faith (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21;
         1 Peter 3:18)
                 1. Renounce the world, the flesh and the devil (Eph. 2:2, 3)
                 2. Devoting and giving ourselves to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 8:3; 
                     Rom. 6:13; Psalm 100:3; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; Jer. 24:8; Isa. 26:13)
     B. Regarding our progress, we need to always come to God by Christ. This requires
          three things:
                 1. We must forsake and renounce the enemies of God and of our souls.
                 2. We must love, please and serve God all of our days.
                 3. We must always live in the hope of Christ’s return (Titus 2:13; Jude 21).

VII. This covenant has visible ordinances, called sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), which relate to the whole tenor of the covenant. Sacraments are a sign and seal on God’s part and a badge and bond on our part.
     A. On God’s part they are signs and seals (Rom. 4:11). The sacraments are a sign to signify
          and a seal to confirm, to represent the grace and assure the grant of pardon and life.
     B. On our part they are a badge and bond: a badge of profession and a bond to engage
          us to the duties the badge calls us to.

VIII. These visible confirming sacraments give us great advantages over the word and bare proposal of the covenant.
     A. They are an expression of God’s earnest sincere intentions regarding our salvation. Not
          only has He promised, but He has condescended to our weakness and confirmed His
          own immutable promise by signs and seals which place Him under obligation, 
          unnecessary as that is considering His character, to fulfil His covenant promises.
     B. The sacraments have this advantage over the word: they are a closer application. The
          word is spoken openly, without distinction, to all; the sacraments to each one in particular.
     C. By these sealing signs we are invested into a right to the things promised.
     D. The great mysteries of godliness are laid before our eyes in visible rites; hence they have 
          greater force to excite the mind to serious consideration.

Use: Let us not be slack in the use and improvement of our baptism. It implies a solemn covenant with God that we may obtain remission of sins and eternal life. Therefore, consider:

1. Baptism is a perpetual bond upon us, obliging us to repentance and holy life.
2. The improvement of baptism is the best preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Christ first washed the apostles before He instituted the Sacrament of His body and blood.
3. If we don’t improve our baptism, it will be a witness against us.

How do we improve it?

1 Personally and solemnly own the covenant made with God at our baptism, whether in adulthood or infancy.

2. Renew often the sense of your obligation to God (Acts 227:23; Phil. 1:21; 2 Pet. 1:9).

3. Use frequent self-reflection, that you may come to know whether you are indeed washed from the guilt and filth of sin (1 Cor. 6:11).

4. Use it as a great help in temptation. Remember that you are no debtor to the flesh (Rom. 6:1, 2). It is also a comfort and help in persecution. The African martyr Majoricus as he faced martyrdom, was comforted and encouraged to constancy by his mother, Dionysia, with these words: Memento, fili, te baptizatum esse in nomie Patri, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti – Remember, my son, that you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and be constant.

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