MAIN TEXT: ACTS 2:37-41
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
There are two ordinances in the Christian Church: Communion and Water Baptism. An ordinance is a “prescribed practice.” It is something that has been prescribed and ordered by Jesus Christ and practiced by the Church. An ordinance is something that the Church practices because Jesus Christ has told her to do so. The New Testament makes it very clear that the early Church practiced and observed two ordinances (Acts 2:41-42).
In our text, we read the result of the first day of the Christian Church. Thousands believed the testimony about Jesus and were baptized. This was exactly what Jesus’ final instructions were to His followers (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus instructed His followers to go and make disciples and baptize them in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Baptism was to be the first step in the spiritual journey of following Jesus, and baptism became the practice and pattern of the early church. In our text, when 3,000 people came to faith in Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, all 3,000 were baptized that day.
When an Ethiopian official had the gospel explained to him by Phillip, they came to some water and the Ethiopian asked to be baptized right there (Acts 8:36). There are nine conversion stories recorded for us in the book of Acts. Every single one of them begins with the person putting their faith in the substitute payment that Jesus Christ made on the cross for them and receiving Him into their lives. As well, every story ends with a visible expression of baptism by that person.
Jesus Himself was baptized. Baptism is so important to Jesus that the very first thing He did when He began His public ministry was to be baptized. We might understand that new followers of Jesus need to be baptized, but here is a tough question: Why was Jesus baptized?
Even John the Baptist was puzzled by that question. In Matthew 3:13-14, John says that he is the one who needs to be baptized by Jesus. Basically, he was saying, I’m the sinner here, you’re not a sinner. Let’s read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13-17).
Jesus was baptized to mark a turning point in His life
When Jesus was baptized it marked a change in His life. He was putting the carpenter tools back in the toolbox. From that point on, His cousin John the Baptist, didn’t introduce Jesus as the carpenter from Nazareth, but as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It was a turning point in Jesus’ life and ministry.
Unlike Jesus, however, we are sinners. Jesus said in Luke 5:32, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Repenting (changing your mind about God) and putting your faith in Jesus marks a turning point in our life (Acts 3:19). At salvation everything changes (2 Corinthians 5:17). At our baptism, we’re announcing and marking the greatest turning point of our lives. We are stating that we receive the love of Christ, repent from our sin, and believe the gospel and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are going to live lives worthy of the calling (Ephesians 4:1).
Jesus’ baptism was a sign of submission to God’s will
When Jesus was baptized, it was a sign of submission and conformity to God’s will. Jesus traveled 60 miles form Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. God was pleased with His submission. His commitment was so deep that He stayed obedient to the point of His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).
Receiving the love and grace of Jesus involves a relinquishing of our will and ways. We surrender our lives to His Lordship. We submit to God our very lives as worship (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus is our perfect example of submission.
Jesus was baptized as a demonstration of humility
John the Baptist was shocked that Jesus asked to be baptized. John said that he wasn’t even worthy to carry His sandals (Matthew 3:11). However, Jesus was willing to be baptized to demonstrate that He humbly came to serve and humbly came to lead by example. Jesus could have
- abstained because He was the Son of God.
- been concerned that people would think that He was a sinner even though He hadn’t sinned.
Instead, Jesus waded into the river; and John the Baptist, a mere human being, lowered God the Son, the second person of the trinity, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, under the water and lifted Him back out. Throughout His ministry, He perfectly demonstrated humility, and modeled a life of servanthood. Often times one of the biggest obstacles some people have to being baptized is pride (1 Peter 5:5).
Baptism is a demonstration of humility. People from all walks of life are baptized – all acknowledging their need for Jesus as their savior. If, because of your pride, you say that you could never be baptized, remember that Jesus humbled Himself before God and walked miles to the Jordan River. He invites others just to follow Him.
Jesus was baptized as a picture of His ultimate mission
What was His ultimate mission? It was to die on the cross as a sinless substitute for us, to be buried in a tomb, and then to rise from the dead eternally. Baptism symbolizes that when a person goes down into the water like a dead person being buried and then rising back up to new life (Romans 6:3-4). Every baptism is a reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection – the ultimate mission of Jesus.
Follow the Lord in Water Baptism!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Acts 2:37-41
How would you describe yourself to someone?
What aspects of your identity are the most prominent in your life?
Look back at Acts 2. What was the significance of being baptized to those who had gathered and repented?
How does water baptism connect us with the heart of the Gospel?