Have you ever listened to a great speaker’s speech or a preacher’s sermon and been captivated by his voice, vocabulary and the excellent delivery of his message, only to discover that, although you really enjoyed listening to him, you could not remember what the message was all about? It has happened to me. There are many who are great orators but bad messengers.
A messenger’s job is to deliver a message – not to impress his listeners! A good message should be short and to the point. For example: S.O.S. (Save our souls!)
John the Baptist was a great man of God who had a very short and simple message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2) He did not have a big church or an organization behind him – no publicity, no money, not even a meeting place – but “people went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan” (vs 5).
His message was simple but powerful. In fact, King Herod was so upset by John’s message that he had him beheaded (Matthew 14:10). John’s message had three points:
To repent is to feel sorry for having done wrong; to regret something done in the past. Jesus said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Luke 13:3)
Apostle Peter said: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19).
Apostle Paul wrote: “God commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30).
Repentance alone is not enough to save, however! If it was enough, Judas would have been saved, too (Matthew 27:3-4). Repentance must be followed by confession.
To confess is to acknowledge; to tell one’s sins in order to obtain forgiveness. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but, whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
One might ask: “I would like to confess my sins, but to whom should I confess?” The Bible has the answer. We read in Ezra 10:11, “Now make confession to the Lord, the God.” We’re not to confess to men, but to God!
Ezra was a chief priest and a teacher of the law of Moses but, just the same, he had to confess, too. Ezra 10:1 says that while Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites – men, women and children – gathered around him. They, too, wept bitterly.
The word “baptism” is misunderstood and even abused by millions who called themselves Christian. Baptism means different things to different people. To some, baptism is the only thing that stands between life and death, heaven and hell, Christianity and paganism. For others, baptism is a tradition that must be followed at any cost – even though they may not know the real meaning of baptism.
Even among Christian believers, there are variations, from believing that baptism saves and washes away sins, to ignoring it all together.
Baptism has a very important place in the New Testament. It is a command given by Jesus Christ our Lord. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
It is clear that every true believer must observe the command to be baptized. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
No, baptism does not save anyone; we are saved by faith, not by works, so no one can boast. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Baptism is a symbol or a picture acted out publicly. When a person becomes a true believer in Jesus, that person becomes a new creature. The change is so radical, so complete, that the Bible calls it being “born again”.
The old person with all the sins has died and a new one is born. That’s the symbolism of Baptism. “Or 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.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Baptism is for believers only. There is absolutely no baptism in the Bible other than the baptism of a true believer who repents from his or her sins. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized.” Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.
Baptism is the outward expression of the inward change. Baptism that is forced on someone cannot change that person, nor can it in anyway guarantee eternal life with God.
The word “baptize” in Greek “baptizo” means “to dip” or “immerse”. And that is exactly how John the Baptist baptized Jesus. “As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water.” (Matthew 3:16)
Baptism is not an option; it is a command according to the Word of God. When the crowds asked: “What should we do then?” John’s answer was: repent, confess, and be baptized.
More than two thousand years have passed, but the answer remains the same: repent from you sins, confess them to God, and be baptized as a believer and follower of Christ.
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian