37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,” Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4
Baptism, like Communion, is a gift from God meant to help believers in Christ. For example, Baptism and Communion were used in scripture, and in teaching throughout the history of the Christian church, to correct and stand against false teachings. The symbolism involved in Baptism and Communion is nothing short of world changing; if these two symbols are correctly interpreted. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. It could also be said that an aptly chosen symbol is worth one hundred thousand words or more. Because of the inherent potency of these two sacraments or symbols, the devil has focused much of his deceptive powers, confusion, and intimidation, to keep people in the dark regarding their true meaning.
Biblical Baptism involves the immersion of the new believer in water. The convert is then raised up after immersion.
The apostle Paul in the book of Romans used the symbolism of Baptism to correct a major misconception regarding salvation.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin, live any longer in it?
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through Baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:1-4 (Also, read Galatians 2:16-21; verses 17 and 18 lead to the same Scriptural solution as Romans 6:2 and beyond.)
To this day, this misconception that Paul addressed is hugely prevalent in Western Christianity. Some have the misconception that because there is forgiveness in Christ, that it doesn’t really matter what they do.Many, modern day Protestants equate the forgiveness we have in Christ as the complete Salvation package; even when Paul and the apostles clearly taught in Romans 6 and elsewhere; and Baptism clearly teaches; and the Bread of Communion clearly teaches, that genuinely saved people have committed to, and believe that they have been crucified with Christ as well as forgiven in Christ at the cross. They believe and want this so that they can walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4), i.e., follow Christ. This basic Baptismal theme fills the New Testament (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, Galatians 2:19-20, Colossians 3:3, Colossians 2:11-12, Romans 6:6,11,18,22, Romans 7:4, Hebrews 10:10, Philippians 3:3-15, etc.).
This Baptismal theme is right in line with what Jesus taught when He told His disciples to take up their crosses, deny themselves daily, and follow Him. This important message is found in Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23, and Matthew 16:24-26. The symbolism of Baptism shows that through the grace of the cross and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, believers can walk in this life style that Jesus requires [We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, 2 Timothy 2:19-21,Romans 6:1-11, 1 Peter 2:24-25, Bread of Communion, Baptism, and many, many more scriptures.)].In Acts 2 mentioned above, the early converts were quickly guided into this Baptismal theme.
Baptism is for brand new believers. Dying with Jesus so that they can be raised up by faith in the working of God is the message of Baptism.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12 (Circumcision is the Old Testament type that corresponds to at least the “crucified with Christ” part of Baptism.)
After the above verses Paul also teaches on forgiveness of sins in Colossians 2:13. These two truths, forgiven in Christ and crucified with Christ, are perfectly complementary; and are emphasized equally in the New Testament. Both truths of the cross are received by grace through faith. Both truths of the cross were accomplished by Christ’s one sacrifice. Why should one be part of the gospel and the other be left out?The truths that Baptism symbolizes are part of the gospel.
In addition to symbolizing the above mentioned truths, Baptism also influences and guides one’s heart into a more perfect repentance. Being “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3) means dying not only to our evil ways, but it means dying even to our self-effort, self-reliance, and our best attempts to please God and man.
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. Romans 7:4
This truth of dying to the law that we might be married to Him who was raised from the dead shows just how much teaching and truth Baptism symbolizes. Ideally, the convert is choosing and believing to die to all that pertains to self, evil living, and even self-effort to please God and people. What perfect repentance! Ideally, the convert is taking the “me” out completely by faith through the cross. Then, in the same symbolic act, the convert is choosing and believing to be married (united) to the resurrected Christ so that he can bear fruit to God. The resurrected and exalted Christ supplies us with His Spirit so that we can bear fruit to God; i.e., fruit of the Spirit, fruit of righteousness, gifts of the Spirit, etc.
Also, Jesus did make very clear promises as to the rewards for submitting to this co-crucifixion. Mark 10:29-31 is mind boggling. Luke 9:24 also shows us our reward.
29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,
30 “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions-and in the age to come, eternal life.
31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31
24 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Luke 9:24
Baptism is indeed part of the best “sinner’s prayer.” Forgiveness is preached simultaneously as seen in Acts 2:38 and throughout the Bible. Baptism leads one into a more perfect repentance. Baptism vividly symbolizes the “other,” vital truth of the cross. This is why Baptism should be encouraged as quickly as possible to a willing convert. In Acts 2: 37-38, because Peter so quickly lead them into it, Baptism Appears to have been part of their “sinner’s prayer.” Look at the results, the commitment, and the faith that they had.
Accepting Jesus as one’s Lord is seen in the message of Baptism. By being willing to die to one’s self and to be raised up as a new creation and into a new life of following Christ, the convert is making Jesus their Lord. Thus, lordship is implied and seen in Baptism.
Some might object that all of this “dying to self” talk pertains to sanctification which should be brought up later, after “salvation.” Some teach that the convert should just change their mind about who Jesus is, and then believe for forgiveness for their sins through Christ’s death on the cross. Many in modern day Protestantism never, ever bring up teachings about being crucified with Christ, dead to sin, and dying to self. With them, it is only and always about forgiveness of sins. Crucified with Christ teaching is considered harsh, unpleasant, “works,” and furthermore, would send people packing to another church. People generally don’t go to seminars to learn how to be crucified with Christ. When people proclaim who they are and what they have in Christ, “crucified with Christ” is not generally one of their favorite promises. This kind of teaching is often met with “pregnant, uncomfortable silences” from the audience.
The results from the above mentioned, incomplete presentation of the cross and the gospel, is that we have oceans of church people who are hardly different from the world around them. Our western church strongly resembles the church of Laodicea (Revelations 3:14-22), which Jesus was not pleased with; to put things mildly.
Let me give an example that might help in this discussion. I have been involved in the sales of used manufactured homes for a number of years. We have learned with our sales presentations, to not soft sell these kinds of homes. We give the good, the bad, and the ugly about a home right up front. We give all known issues with the park and with financing right up front. We are respectful, but brutally honest on the phone with a client before we ever invest time and gas money showing a home. “Soft selling” in this context would be glossing over or ignoring unappealing features of a house in the sales presentation.
We have adopted this approach for a number of reasons. Firstly, we don’t want to waste time (ours or theirs) with a prospect who, if they knew the facts, would never buy the home in question. Secondly, we don’t want to wear ourselves out trying to convince people to do things that they just don’t want to do.This occurs after they find out all of the facts. And thirdly, we don’t want to listen to people whine and complain about the lousy house we sold them, if they do end up buying a home. Life is much, much better by just laying it all on the line right up front. It’s as if we’re saying, “Friend, here is how it really is; don’t come down this road unless you are prepared for this reality in your life.” I can assure you that people love, absolutely love, this up front approach.
The preaching of the Gospel is similar to the above example in many ways. Our soft selling of the Gospel and the cross has catastrophic consequences for the church of Christ. Our churches are clogged with people who have no intention of truly repenting. A genuine Christian is practically like a stranger in a strange land in many of these churches. As for the great and fundamental Baptismal theme of dying with Jesus so that He can raise me up as a new creation and for His purposes; well, is that even a thought in the average, western church person’s mind?
The soft selling of the Gospel is not helping anyone. Glossing over the important claims of the cross is not love. Baptism lays out God’s basic plan for the believer, up front and out in the open. The preaching of the forgiveness of the cross without the “crucified with Christ” truth of the cross (as seen in Baptism) is an incomplete, and therefore, false gospel. Such preaching is indeed the great OMISSION.
Acts chapter 2 shows us that a nucleus of committed believers is far more fruitful in the long run. Soft selling the cross, which would include ignoring the “crucified with Christ” aspect of it, might bring some quick numbers for a time. But, this is fool’s gold. It is like a spiritual, get rich quick scheme that will disappoint, and even be disastrous in the end. Solid, real commitments, real repentance, real deliverance from sin, and real faith in God’s power to resurrect a believer into a new creation, are what Baptism is designed to promote. Let’s use this God given tool to build the true church. Quality trumps numbers any time in the Kingdom of God. Quality eventually leads to numbers! Consider the church in the book of Acts chapter 2, the history of the Korean church, and the history of the Chinese church.
Let’s take some time and be absolutely clear about this “crucified with Christ” truth of the cross that Baptism symbolizes. One of the reasons that it is not preached much is because it is not understood much; even by theologians, pastors and teachers. Some might object that the new believer is not going to be made perfect immediately. They would argue that over time, the new believer will eventually make progress.
It is true that the new believer is not going to start living perfectly, immediately upon believing in Jesus. But, there is a part of him that can be close to perfect, and substantially cleaned up, almost immediately. The new believer can turn to God with a good and sincere heart. You see, the heart is the part of a person where he or she purposes or determines what he will commit to. That determination or commitment can be wholehearted and without reservation. Among other things, Baptism will help guide the human heart exactly in the right direction; a more perfect repentance. The genius of Baptism is that it directs the heart not only into turning from clear cut sin, but it even directs the heart into turning from self-effort, self-reliance and religious rituals into a condition of trusting in God’s power and leading.
Also, in addition to guiding one into Biblical repentance, Baptism symbolizes that the “I,” the “me,” or the “you” has died and is buried with Jesus by grace. This corresponds with the following spiritual truth of the cross taught throughout the New Testament.
19 “For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (Verse 19 corresponds to Romans 7:4, while verse 20 corresponds to Romans 6:6.Also Galatians 2:16 corresponds to Romans 3:19-31)
With the “I” considered out of the way by faith in Christ, the believer spends his life believing for the nature of God to manifest through him by the Spirit of Christ. He believes for the wisdom of God to flow through him and not his own ideas. He believes for God’s love to flow through him and not his own imitation of God’s love. He believes for the Spirit to lead him, and he does not do his own thing. He believes for the fruit of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1), the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1), and the very nature of God to manifest through him as seen in Isaiah 11:2-5, as an example. There are many New Testament prayers and examples that relate to the attributes of the Spirit mentioned in Isaiah 11:2-5; such as the prayers in Ephesians 1: 16-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21.
If we are filled with ourselves, we can’t be filled with Him. If we are all stuck up on ourselves, we can’t be used by the Lord. If we are all self-conscious and consumed with thoughts about how we look, or how good we are, or who recently offended us, or what we want and desire; we can’t be believing for God to use us and move in us.
Only through the cross of Christ can we be genuinely unstuck on ourselves. We have been crucified with Christ by grace through faith. This is the vital truth of the cross that Baptism symbolizes. This truth of the cross is also symbolized by the bread of Communion. A person cannot get unstuck on themselves by self-effort. They will end up in the Romans 7 conundrum. They will end up exchanging a pride problem for a lust problem; or they will possibly exchange a theft problem for a problem of coveting. In short, the “I” or the “me” needs to be taken out and replaced with faith in the Spirit of Christ in us. The “I” power is taken out at the cross, so that the believer is now relying on prayer power. The believer spends his new life actively believing and praying for God to move in and through him. He is now actively obeying God with prayer support and Spirit power (Philippians 1:19-20, etc.). Galatians 2:20 quoted above says “it is no longer I who live,” but “I live by faith in the Son of God.”
There is a gigantic truth to be seen in the above teaching. All of the bad habits, sin habits, or bondages that people are mired in, are rooted in one source. That source is the “I” or the “me” who wants to go his own, independent way (Isaiah 53:6, 1 Peter 2:25). The “I” wants to be like God and decide for himself what is right and wrong (Genesis 3: 5).This “I” does not want to subject himself to God and His ways. God has a plan and way for us to live and get our needs met. The “I” has other ideas, influenced by the devil, of how he will do things and get his needs met. Once a person starts dabbling in a certain sin, that sin can become a habit or a bondage.
The one solution to getting free from any of the various bondages or sinful habits, is the cross of Christ. The “I” who is at the root of all bondages was taken out at the cross. The “I” was crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Romans 6:6, etc.). Baptism depicts this spiritual reality.
The “I” is like the trunk of the tree, and the bondages or sin habits are like the branches that draw their strength and nourishment from the trunk. With the trunk taken out, the branches will wither and die for lack of support.
With a strong commitment to believing and reckoning the “I” crucified with Christ on a daily basis; and by being consumed with the new, resurrection life; the believer will truly see bondages wither away and die for lack of support.
Self-centeredness, self-esteem, and self-reliance actually strengthen bondages or sin habits. Self-reliance and self-esteem are part of what it means to be under the law.1 Corinthians 15:56 implies that being under the law strengthens sin in a person’s life. Being dead to “me” by faith, removes the strength and heart of sin in one’s life. Thus, being crucified with Christ by faith, is the heart of all deliverance from sin. Baptism (and the Bread of Communion), as we have seen, symbolizes this deliverance won at the cross.
This truth of deliverance from sin works hand in hand with the forgiveness (cup of Communion) we also have because of the cross. Also, with these two truths in place in a believer’s heart, deliverance from demons is much easier to experience (Colossians 2:11-15, especially 15).
As good as the above teaching looks on paper, how does a believer actually receive or walk in this truth of the cross? In a practical way, how exactly do you take the “me” out of your life? The Bible teaches that it already has been done for you. “…our old self was crucified with Him…”(Romans 6:6).”I have been crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20). There are many scriptures that make this very point.
One might say, “Well, what do I have to do, to make this happen in my life?” The answer is that you don’t do anything because it has already been done for you. You already ARE crucified with Christ which means that you already ARE a free person, because of your faith in Christ crucified. It’s by grace through faith.It’s already been done for you. But, very importantly, you need to WANT this to be true for you in any given situation; and you need to BELIEVE that it is true in any given situation; because of Christ crucified and no other reason. This might be painful with certain sins that you might still want to enjoy. You might not want to be dead to a certain sin. You might need the Holy Spirit to give you “want to” in that particular area.
You know how sin can be. You enjoy 30 minutes of pleasure and then spend 30 years paying for it; and you spend 30 years beating yourself over the head for being so stupid. Just imagine how it was for Adam and Eve!
Therefore, by grace through faith, you ARE crucified with Christ, and therefore you ARE dead to sin. It’s what you are. In addition to this truth, because of Christ’s death, you are forgiven; you are redeemed; you are healed; you are accepted; and you are dead to sin; you are saved. Virtually all truths or benefits of Christ’s death are identity issues. They are statements of your state of being (condition) in Christ. Romans 6:11 charges the believer to consider themselves to BE dead to sin. Acts 2:47 refers to the church as those BEING saved.In Acts 2:40 Peter exhorted his listeners to “be saved from this perverse generation.”
Please do not add the word “positional” to these truths or benefits of Christ’s death. The word “positional,” which is widely used in Protestantism, robs and guts these truths of their power and authority.” Positionally dead to sin” is a phrase that might make this truth of the cross a goal that someone needs to attain to; which puts them back under the law. As a goal, it can mean that it is something we will get to “later,” and “later” never comes.” Positionally dead to sin” might mean to some, that this is reserved in heaven for you, or is in the mind of God; but not necessarily true for you down here on planet earth. Whatever the word “positional” means to people, it certainly is never, ever found in the Bible; which should be a major clue to a sincere believer that something is amiss.
BAPTISM AND COMMUNION: HOW ARE THEY RELATED?
The Bread of Communion and Baptism are very similar in meaning. The following scriptures are a few of the many that define the meaning of the Bread of Communion.
24 who Himself bore our sins in His own BODY on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the BODY of Christ, that you may be married to another- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. Romans 7:4
Also, in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul basically admonishes the believers to purge out the leaven of sin so that they can be a new, unleavened lump of righteousness. This theme found in the Feast of Unleavened Bread fits right in with the above-mentioned scriptures for the body of Christ. And again, the theme of deliverance OUT OF Egypt is the central theme of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Being delivered out of Egypt so the children of Israel could follow their God, fits right in with the meanings of all of the above mentioned scriptures involving the body of Christ. With many proofs, we can see that the meaning of the Bread of Communion (Body of Christ) includes the basic meaning of Baptism. As we have seen previously, Baptism relates to dying to self and sin, and being raised up as a new creation by God’s power (Romans 6:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 beautifully shows this theme).
The meaning of the Bread of Communion starts with this basic Baptismal theme, and then goes beyond this meaning by showing how it, the bread, symbolizes the entire church of Jesus Christ walking in these Baptismal truths. In 1 Corinthians 10:17, Paul writes, “we, though many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Each member, though each has different gifting’s, is part of the one Body. Each member does his God given thing for the benefit of the Body, not his own thing for himself. Each member was set free at the cross so that he can be a right functioning member of the Body of Christ. Each member was set free from being a “ME” monster so that he can function effectively with the rest of the Body of Christ. Each member seeks the glory of God and not his own glory. Each member seeks the good of the Body and not just his own desires.
Without the Baptismal theme (and the theme of the Bread) of dying to self and sin, and living for God; we would all be living for self and sin; we would never find our God given purposes and roles in the Body of Christ; we would be fighting with each other; and the Body of Christ would not be acting as one, but would be split up and in confusion. Thus, without the truths of Baptism in place in the believers’ hearts, there would not be a Body of Christ on the earth.
The meaning of the Bread of Communion also expands upon the basic Baptismal theme by showing its place in the Kingdom of God. By being delivered from sin into righteousness (Baptism and the Bread), the believer is playing an important role in the Kingdom of God. By walking in righteousness by the Holy Spirit, the believer is fulfilling a key part in the kingdom of God. Romans 14:17 states that the kingdom of God is in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The Bread symbolizes the righteousness by the Holy Spirit that the kingdom of God requires and consists of.
The bread which stands for righteousness and the cup which stands for life and blessing, demonstrate the dynamics of the Kingdom of God. Righteousness leads to life. The bread is had first, then the cup. All of the kingdom promises require some act(s) of righteousness (bread) in order to see the life and blessings (cup), which are the fulfillment of the promises. A lifestyle of righteousness is a life filled with kingdom life and blessings; but not without persecution(2 Timothy 3:12) by man and demons.
Thus, without the righteousness (right living) that the bread and baptism imply and symbolize, the conditions of the promises would not be met; and therefore, there would be no fulfillment to the promises. Kingdom promises principles and realities would not be seen on the earth. God’s kingdom would not come on the earth (Matthew 6:10).
Another relationship between Baptism and Communion lies in how the cross is depicted.
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death, till He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26
The bread stands for deliverance from sin (1 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 10:10, Romans 7:4, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Deuteronomy 16:3 [out of Egypt], Exodus 13:3 [out of Egypt], etc.), while the cup stands for deliverance from death (forgiveness and redemption).
In Baptism, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3). This means deliverance from sin. Forgiveness is also preached to the new believer as seen in Acts 2:38. Thus, deliverance from sin and forgiveness for sin won at the cross, are both associated with or seen in Communion and Baptism.
Thus we see that Communion, especially the Bread, reinforces and expands upon the Baptismal theme. Unfortunately, the Baptismal theme of dying with Jesus and rising with Jesus by grace through faith is mostly missing in much of modern-day Protestantism. Modern-day Protestantism is all about forgiveness and forgiveness alone. The very backbone of the Gospel that Baptism and the Bread of Communion symbolize is mostly omitted. The repentance that Baptism is designed to lead the new convert into, is many times largely missing. The deliverance from sin won at the cross is almost completely missing. As one can see, it’s not only that what is being said that is sometimes wrong; but what is not being said, and what is being almost completely omitted; this is the great error.
I truly believe that accurate teaching about Baptism and the Bread of Communion can quickly help restore the complete Gospel to the western church. The power of these two symbols, when they are correctly interpreted, is absolutely world-changing. If we put a strong focus on the true meanings of Baptism, and the Bread and Cup of Communion; our world would be mightily shaken within weeks and months. Please reference Acts chapter 2.
Matthew 11:15 states that he and she who have ears to hear, let them hear. Isaiah 66:3b states, “…But on this one I will look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” May God put His stamp of approval upon the preaching of the complete Cross and Gospel. May He confirm His Gospel with signs and wonders following.