Course 1: My Walk with God – Lesson 3

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This is the written transcript for Lesson 3 in this series of study entitled “My Walk with God” —  (it is likely that transcripts will vary somewhat from the actual video recordings).

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Life Changing Love

In the Bible, the Apostle John says: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the price that was paid for our sins” (I John 4:10).John then goes on to say, “We love because He first loved us!” (Verse 19).  As the Apostle Paul says, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  Why do we choose to surrender to the will of God and give our hearts and lives to Jesus?  Because of His great love for us!

One night, a man named Nicodemus, who was a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus and said to Him: “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”  Jesus responded and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a person be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which has been born of the flesh is flesh, and that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.”

(John 3:1-8, NASB)

To enter into a life-giving relationship with God, to become a disciple of Christ, an authentic Christian, requires a radical change in our heart and life… a change so radical, in fact, that Jesus says we must be “born again.”  But it’s not a literal, physical rebirth, rather, He says, we must be “born of the Spirit.” It is a spiritual new birth that takes place within our hearts, our minds, our intellect, our spirit; which will then, of course, cause a radical change to our whole way of life.

When we are “born again,” we surrender our hearts and lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and we give up everything that is not in accordance with God’s will for our lives.  We give up our old moral values, our old social/political beliefs, even our old religious doctrines and traditions that cannot be substantiated by the Word of God… and everything becomes new.  Our priorities change!  Our goals and ambitions in life change!  Our whole life-style changes as we begin to allow the Holy Spirit of God to work within us, to grow us, and to conform us to the image of Christ – we begin to become more and more like Jesus.  But how and when does that all begin?

The Great Commission

At the very end of His ministry here upon the earth, after His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, Jesus gave His people His final commandments.  We call these last statements of Jesus the “Great Commission,” because it was His way of “commissioning” them or assigning them to a mission.  Here is what He said that He wanted His people to do:

“Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “So it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that REPENTANCE FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

(Luke 24:44-47, NASB)

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has BELIEVED AND HAS BEEN BAPTIZED shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”

(Mark 16:15-16, NASB)

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, BAPTIZING THEM in the name of the Father and the Spon and the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM to observe all that I commanded you; lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20, NASB)

Belief

So, these final commands of Jesus describe how His disciples are to go out and share the message of God’s love with everyone else.  And Jesus all tells them what people need to do in order to be “born again,” and enter into a life-giving relationship with God.  Jesus says that it begins with “believing,” the Gospel message.  The Apostle John says, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us” (I John 4: 16).  People have to decide what they are going to believe about Jesus.  Was He really the only begotten Son of the only true and living God?  Does God really love me so much that he would send His Son to live a righteous life for me and then die a cruel, sacrificial death on the cross for me in order to pay the price for my sins; so that I don’t have to pay that terrible price myself and be eternally condemned?  For those who choose not to believe the love which God has for us, well, there is really nothing more that can be said. 

Repentance and Baptism

But for those who do believe, God’s love is going to transform their heart and life.  They are going to respond to the message of God’s love by acting upon that belief and experiencing the new birth. And Jesus says that that experience will involve two things: Repentance and baptism!  Remember, Jesus said in the Book of John that “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved” and in the Book of Luke that He wanted “repentance for the forgiveness of sins proclaimed in His name to all the nations.”  Repentance is when we surrender of our hearts to the will of God, which results in that radical change of life; and baptism is a ceremonial burial in water by which we demonstrate our belief and faith in the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

So, let’s just take a few moments to consider some historical examples from the Bible that show us how the people back in Bible days responded to the message of God’s love and experienced the “new birth” in Christ.

THE PEOPLE ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”  Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized 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 your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”  So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

(Acts 2:36-41, NASB)

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THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.  As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”  And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.

(Acts 8:35-39, NASB)

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THE HOUSEHOLD OF CORNELIUS

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.  All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

(Acts 10:44-48, NASB)

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THE HOUSEHOLD OF LYDIA

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.”  And she prevailed upon us.

(Acts 16:14-15, NASB)

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THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER AND HIS HOUSEHOLD

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.  When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”  And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

(Acts 16:25-33, NASB)

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THE DISCIPLES AT EPHESUS

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

(Acts 19:1-5, NASB)

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THE CONVERSION OF SAUL OF TARSUS – (The Apostle Paul)

“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him.  And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth.  For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.  Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’”

(Acts 22:12-16)

These beautiful, historical accounts of people coming to Christ, being “born again,” and entering into a life-giving relationship with Him demonstrate how God’s people back in Bible days carried out Jesus’ Great Commission.   They obeyed Jesus’ commands by sharing the Good News about His sacrificial life & death on the cross with others, so that people could and would believe the love that God has for them.  They taught people to repent of their old ways of life and to surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus.  And, in every single case, they helped people be immediately baptized into Christ.  In fact, did you know that there is not a single historical account in the New Testament of any one ever coming to Christ and being “born again,” without belief, repentance, and baptism being specifically mentioned or actively demonstrated in each Bible passage of scripture.

The necessity of not only believing in Jesus, but of also responding to His love through repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of our sins contributes to the sense of urgency that we see in the Gospel message.  As each passage of scriptures that we’ve looked at indicates, just as soon as people truly believed the message of God’s love and were ready to surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus, they were immediately baptized.  There was no wait list, no scheduling, no being put on a “calendar of upcoming events.”  It was always immediate; even if that meant doing it in the middle of the night.  The reason for this can be seen in other Bible passages of scripture that help us to understand the meaning and purpose of baptism.  For example, in the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

(Romans 6:3-4, NASB)

When we are “baptized into Christ,” we are “baptized into His death.”  We are “buried with Him through baptism into death.”  Jesus shed His blood for us in His death.  Jesus paid the price for our sins with His death.  And, according to this scripture, when we are baptized, we are put into Christ and into His death.  Baptism marks that moment in time when His death becomes our death.  It is the expression of faith whereby we reach out and claim the death of Jesus as our personal sacrifice for sins.

Do you see the beautiful imagery going on here?

As this chart shows, baptism, according to the Bible, is a depiction, a portrayal, a reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  Just as Jesus died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, and then resurrected on the third day… so also, we die to ourselves, we are buried with Him into His death (not in a literal grave, but in water), and then we are raised back up out of the water to walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4, NASB).

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So, physically, our immersion into a body of water—baptism—symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; while, spiritually, we are expressing our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  The Apostle Paul states that it is at this moment that we are “united with Him” (Romans 6:5, NASB).

Well, the Bible goes on to tell us that:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

(Ephesians 4:4-6, NASB)

This passage of scripture clearly states that there is only ONE baptism.  There are not two baptisms, as some churches teach.  They say, “Oh, well, there is a water baptism, but there is also a Holy Spirit baptism.”  But, when they say things like that, they are ignoring this passage of scripture which makes it clear that there is only one baptism.  They are like those Disciples at Ephesus that we read about earlier in Acts Chapter 19 in that they are misinformed about the meaning and purpose of baptism in the new birth experience.  They need to know that the “one baptism” involves both “water and the Spirit.”  Remember the example that we read earlier from the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, where the Apostle Peter told the people on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Here is another passage of scripture that helps us understand the water baptism / Holy Spirit connection:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 12:12-13, NASB)

Baptism is the moment we are put into Christ’s death and our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ,  At that moment, we enter into a life-giving relationship with God and the Holy Spirit is free to “indwell” us; that is, He comes to live right inside us; and our bodies become, as the Apostle Paul later says, a “temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (I Corinthians 6:19).  That’s what Paul means when he says, “we are all made to drink of one Spirit.” Remember when Jesus spoke of our new birth, or being born again, He said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5, NASB).

When we read our Bibles and really look at what Jesus commanded concerning baptism, and the importance that God places on our baptism as an expression of saving faith, it’s pretty easy to see that when Jesus speaks of being “born of water and the Spirit,” He is actually talking about the very same thing that Paul taught when he said, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

Here’s another passage of scripture that connects the work of the Spirit with baptism.  The Bible says:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…

(Titus 3:4-5, NASB)

The new birth takes place at our baptism.  To be “born of water and the Spirit” is the same as saying, “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”  And this is the “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” So, we can see from scripture that there really is only one baptism.  It is a burial in water, to be put into Christ and into His death wherein we receive both the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit Who comes to dwell in us and strengthen us and grow us into the likeness of Christ – so that we can learn to love like He does.

There are several other passages of scripture that we could look at that help to explain the meaning, the purpose, and the significance of Bible baptism but, I want to look at just one more.  It’s a passage written by the Apostle Peter, who said:

…the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.  Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(1 Peter 3:20-21, NASB)

For Noah and his family, the flood marked the end of their old way of life and the beginning of a whole new way of life – and that is probably an understatement; can you just imagine what it would have been like to be the last remaining family on earth after everyone else had been killed in the flood?  Wow – talk about a “new beginning!”  But, you see, the world had become so corrupt that, if God didn’t step in and literally wipe out most of humanity, with the one exception of Noah and his family, there would have been no goodness, no righteousness, no justice, no faith in God, no authentic love left anywhere on earth.  Noah and his family where literally “saved” through the flood, both physically and spiritually.

The Apostle Peter says here in this passage that, in the same way, “Baptism now saves you!”  Your baptism is like the flood was to Noah in that, your old life is washed away and your new life in Christ begins at baptism.  It really is a new birth – spiritually speaking. However, Peter is quick to add that it is “not the removal of dirt from the flesh.”  In other words, it is not a physical cleansing, there is nothing efficacious about the water itself.  The water itself is not holy and it is not the water that cleanse you of your sins.  The simple act of getting baptized in and of itself does not save anyone; it would be foolish to expect souls to be saved just by momentarily dipping people in water.  But what we learn from this Bible verse is that true Bible baptism is a spiritual expression of our faith.  Peter says here that it is an “appeal unto God for a good conscience.” Baptism is the demonstration of our faith in what Jesus has done for us.  When we are baptized in Christ and into His death, as the Bible teaches, we are reaching out to claim that sacrifice of Christ and appealing to God for forgiveness of sin and for freedom from guilt.

Now, the writer of the Book of Hebrews says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14, NASB).  According to this scripture, it is the blood of Christ that cleanses our conscience; but that doesn’t begin until we “appeal unto God for a good conscience” by demonstrating our faith in the sacrifice of Christ through the act of baptism.

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References:

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,  1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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