The Forgotten Gospel
We are living in unprecedented times—at least in our lifetime.
There have been highly infectious pandemics before, but none of us has ever experienced one.
And especially to the extent where we are forced (and able) to broadcast our worship far and wide.
So this morning, I’d like to talk about something that many people forget about the gospel—The Forgotten Gospel.
When the gospel is presented in many circles, there is one crucial step that is often omitted—baptism.
You might say: “Oh, I’ve been baptized, so I’m okay.”
Maybe so, but just to be sure, will you humor me for a moment?
Will you take out a piece of paper and write down how you were baptized (sprinkling/pouring or immersion) and how old you were when you were baptized?
Will you tell me whether you were saved before or after baptism?
Then will you write down why you were baptized?
It will become clear toward the end why I’ve asked you to do this.
Why was this step omitted from the message of the gospel?
Well, I can’t say really.
I can make some guesses, but all I know is what the Bible says.
So let’s dig in to what it says about the proper …
John the Baptist, who was baptizing in water, foretold of Jesus baptizing people in the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).
Some people believe that’s the way we are baptized today—many say in the Holy Spirit, and some even say in fire.
Just keep reading to find out what fire is about (Luke 3:17) – punishment!
They’ll even take the passages that clearly state the purpose of baptism, and say that must be referring to a spiritual baptism.
At the same time, Eph. 4:5 says there is “one baptism” – yet many of those denominations still baptize in water!
Amid all of this confusion, let us seek some clarity by looking for a practical application in Scriptures, particularly in Acts.
The NT practice of baptism is often accompanied later by miraculous gifts.
We see this in Acts 2 with the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, the Samaritans in Acts 8, and the Ephesians in Acts 19.
Only once did these gifts precede water baptism—and we note that it needed to happen for the Jewish Christians to accept Gentiles as followers of Christ in Acts 10 & 11.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by miraculous spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues.
So, since no one really performs miracles today (if so, why is COVID-19 still a thing?), do we find a non-miraculous baptism where a medium is specifically mentioned?
Yes, there is one case in which no miraculous gifts are mentioned as being given to the convert, yet he was baptized in a specifically mentioned medium.
Was his baptism spiritual or in water? Let’s look (Acts 8:35-36).
We see that preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism AND that it is in water.
The eunuch assumed it was water and Philip did not correct, but did indeed baptize him.
Proper medium: water.
The question about the proper mode is foreign to the NT.
It is an innovation that crept up in the early centuries of the church.
In the 2nd century document, the Didache, it is the first to make certain accommodations (Ch. 7).
“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” [that’s good, Matt. 28:19]
“in living water” [or running water—but why? The mikvehs (ceremonial cleansing baths) the Apostles likely used to baptize 3000 people in Acts 2 was standing water].
“But if you have no living water, baptize into other water” [the first accommodation, but to a tradition foreign to the NT];
“and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm” [the second accommodation, but again, why would the temperature matter?].
“But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head” [the third accommodation, but it is not called baptism—it shows that baptism was traditionally understood to be by immersion]
“into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit” [where do they get God’s authority to pour water on someone?].
“But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before” [one more man-made requirement that is foreign to Scriptures—did the Ethiopian eunuch or the Philippian jailer fast days before they were baptized? No.].”
It is no surprise that once they made the pouring accommodation, then sprinkling would creep in, too.
But see, that was an accommodation, not meant to be the norm by the writers of the Didache.
So what “mode” do we see in the Scriptures?
First, the very definition of the word baptism—baptism is merely a transliteration of the Greek word βαπτίσμα/βαπτίζω, not a translation.
The translation gives a sense of an overwhelming, an immersion.
Then we should note again the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.
You see, the accommodations in the Didache and later give an indication that there were people considering less than ideal circumstances.
But the eunuch had a situation that was less than ideal, and the Holy-Spirit-inspired Philip made no accommodations for him.
We note that Philip and the eunuch were in the desert (Acts 8:26) – water is lacking the desert.
They likely had water on them for their journey back to Ethiopia—so why not use that to pour or sprinkle water on them? Because that’s not baptism! (Acts 8:36-38).
Instead the eunuch said, “Here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?” And they both went down into the water—not necessary unless the eunuch was immersed.
Proper mode: immersion.
Who needs to be baptized? Babies or adults? Sinners or saved?
Some will rightly point out that whole households were saved.
We see Cornelius’, Lydia’s, the Philippian jailer’s, and Stephanas’.
So some conclude there must have been infants there, so they were baptized, too.
But this is an assumption—don’t you know households without little children? Of course, so why assume they all must have had them?
On the flip side, we can’t use this to prove there weren’t any—that becomes an argument from silence (which can work sometimes, but not all the time).
What passage can we look at to tell us the proper candidate? (1 Pet. 3:21).
Baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.”
How can that be true of little children? My daughter knows nothing of a conscience right now, so how can she doing anything remotely resembling an answering of a good conscience?
Only when one can do this is one eligible for baptism.
This is how one gets right with God!
Do sinners need to be baptized or the saved?
This goes into the proper reason for baptism.
If we can understand the reason, we’ll know who should be baptized.
Proper Candidate: Adult.
Why do people get baptized in water today?
There are lots of different reasons people give.
But we need to look at what the Bible says.
What does the Bible say on the proper reason?
I quoted that passage already, but it bears repeating—“there is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism” (1 Pet. 3:21) – baptism saves us, but only “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Peter states the purpose in Acts 2:38 – “for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Paul was told, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
The phrase “wash away your sins” is a command, which means he can obey it.
There is something he must do to wash away his sins—be baptized.
We know there’s nothing special in the water—it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, running or standing, as long as there’s enough to immerse the individual.
What’s special is our obedience to the gospel.
How does one obey the gospel?
The central tenet of the gospel can be found in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 – Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. How do we obey that? (Rom. 6:3-6).
When we are baptized, we are buried with Him through baptism into His death.
Baptism is symbolic, not of our salvation, but of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.
When we repent of our sins, we have died to self, our old, sinful man has been crucified with Christ.
Then we get baptized, and we bury that old, sinful man of ours.
Then we are raised to walk in newness of life when we rise up out of the waters of baptism, we are now a new man in Christ Jesus, no longer a slave to sin.
Our baptism parallels the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Only then have our sins been washed away, only then have we truly called on the name of the Lord, only then will we have forgiveness of sins.
Proper Reason: to be saved.
Do I need to be baptized again?
If you have already been baptized, I asked you at the beginning to write some things down on a piece of paper at the beginning of this sermon.
You were to write down how you were baptized and how old you were when you were baptized. Also whether you were saved before or after baptism and why you were baptized.
Were you baptized in the proper medium (water) and mode (immersion)?
Were you the proper candidate, or were you too young to know what you were doing?
Were you baptized for the right reason, for the forgiveness of your sins?
If you believed you were saved before you were baptized, how could you be baptized to have your sins washed away?
There is an example of a group of people who were baptized again (Acts 19:1-5).
Paul comes across some disciples who, come to find out were baptized into John’s baptism.
John’s baptism was now obsolete since Christ died, and they needed to be baptized into Christ.
Their sins needed to be washed away because they weren’t baptized the way Jesus wanted them to be baptized.
So if we have been baptized, but not for the remission of sins, we need to be baptized again to have our sins washed away.
What’s the right time? When should I be baptized?
Many churches will schedule a baptismal service.
Some do it once or twice a year when they get enough people who want to be baptized.
But if you must be baptized to have your sins forgiven, why would you put that off?
The Didache said to wait a few days to fast, but the NT said they were baptized immediately.
For example, the Philippian jailer “took them [Paul and Silas] the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33).
They didn’t wait; they recognized the proper time.
Proper Time: now.
If you need to be baptized for the remission of your sins, the proper time is now or as soon as humanly possible.
We are experiencing all sorts of issues due to the pandemic, but we will make this happen if you need to be baptized.
In a little while, we will be singing, and there will be instructions on your screen as to what to do if you need to be baptized.
You can send this page a message, comment here, or text me or Sam.
If you are far away, we will do our due diligence to find someone who can baptize you.
Of course, we’ll make sure you’re ready, but if you are, we will make this happen.
Here we have the forgotten gospel.
So many have forgotten what baptism is truly all about or how to baptize properly.
It’s so important, and yet so few people teach it.
One more thing baptism does is it adds you to the church.
We see the people being baptized in Acts 2 were “added to the church daily” (Acts 2:47).
We are in fact baptized “into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).
Once you are baptized for the remission of your sins, you have been added to His church, to the body of believers that belong to Christ.
You have been added to the church of Christ!
You don’t join us, the Lord adds you to it.
I encourage you, do this before it is too late.
With COVID-19, the future becomes ever more uncertain.
But the truth is, it never was certain.
James asks and answers the question: “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Don’t wait, obey the gospel today!
And if you have obeyed the gospel and need to make things right with the Lord, please, do that now as well.