The Great Commission: Disciples; Baptism–Part 2
Matthew Lesson #204
June 24, 2018
“Father, we’re thankful we have this time to reflect upon Your Word, for it is Your Word that is a tool You use by the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, to grow us spiritually, to mature us. Father, it is Your Word that instructs us, that rebukes us, reproves us, corrects us, and gives us clear instruction on how we should think and how we should live.
“Father, we pray that we should not take this for granted, that we should not treat lightly the fact that we have such a provision before us of so much Bible teaching in this generation, and yet we fear that it is simply a sign of judgment on this generation for their lack of spiritual interest.
“Father, we pray for us that we may not succumb to the pressures of life, that we may learn to focus on the real priorities that count for eternity, and not be distracted by all of these details in life that keep coming up, just a sample of a failure in passing the test of prosperity. And so many today are doing that. They get distracted by the options but there’s only one thing that counts for eternity, and Father, like Martha, we want to focus upon that. Like Peter would say, ‘Where else should we go, Lord, for You have the words of life?’ And let us focus on that this morning as we continue our final studies in Matthew. In Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 28. We’re looking at these last three verses known as The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18–20, and working through what Jesus says here verse by verse. One of the things that I’ve pointed out in the past is that this concept of discipleship has become a buzzword, has become something that has been distorted a little bit in modern American evangelicalism. In fact, if you go to some segments of evangelicalism, especially over the last 60 or 70 years, the reason the church is a failure, according to some, is because we’ve failed to make disciples.
But what they mean by that is that we fail to do it a certain way. They focus on methodology, and it’s not a methodological term. It is a term that focuses on training, on equipping, on making students of the Word of God. And there’s going to be many people, Jesus experienced this in His ministry, that as He taught more and more deeply what the Word of God said, there were many disciples who left Him. They just they just weren’t committed. They just weren’t truly passionate about the Word of God. They wanted to be saved, but they didn’t necessarily want to live a spiritually focused God-centered life. And yet that’s the mission that Christ is emphasizing here when He says to make disciples. That’s the focal point.
One of the things I’ve observed in the last week, and some of you may have seen an article that came up on Fox News yesterday, about a pastor, I think he was from Georgia, who basically was telling Christians, “Quit coming to church! Go do something else.” And his whole point was 80 percent or more of Christians who were darkening the doors of the church on Sunday morning are not involved, they’re not studying the Word, they’re not reading the Word, they’re not involved in applying the Word in their own lives, they’re not learning, they’re not applying, they’re not giving, they’re not serving, they’re not committed. They just basically take up space. And he’s right. You’ve heard it from this pulpit, and you’ve heard from other pulpits.
If you think that you can counter what the world is doing in reprogramming you and brainwashing you according to its system, you think you can counter that in an hour on Sunday morning, and that’s the extent of your biblical focus during the week, then you’re fooling yourself. You’re in self-deception—that’s arrogance. You are trying to fool God, but He’s omniscient, so He’s not buying it. You are just trying to somehow placate your own guilt feelings because you can say, “Well, see I go to church every Sunday.”
But you’re not fooling anybody that’s significant. You’re not fooling me, you’re not fooling anybody else, and you might as well go play golf and have good time. Go do something that is going to be somewhat joyful for you in this life because you’re basically going to be a failure in the spiritual life when it comes to the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The focus of the church is not on the babies. It doesn’t mean you leave them behind. The focus of most churches today, if you listen to what’s been written about the purpose and function of the local church by many pop writers and influential pastors in the last 50 or 60 years, targets the people who are simply curious. They just want to get the seekers in.
Now some of them, granted, have an evangelistic interest and maybe some of these pastors have the gift of evangelism. But the Scripture emphasizes that we’re to make disciples, and that has to do with creating learners and those who are growing to maturity in the spiritual life.
The target is maturity, and I believe and have always believed in any system of education that if you raise the bar of expectation, that people will rise to it. The people who really want to learn, really want to grow, really want to advance in life, they will rise to the level expected of them.
But if you go to the lowest common denominator, then even those who have a desire for more will compromise and they’ll never rise above the level of elementary teaching that is being provided.
And that’s why we have such a weak, impotent, diluted church in America today because we don’t understand this concept very well. We don’t understand how to do it. Pastors don’t.
I remember, it’s been over 20 years, almost 30 years now, I heard a Dr. Earl Radmacher speaking at a pastors’ conference. At that time it wasn’t the Chafer Seminary Pastors’ Conference, it was just an ongoing pastors’ conference that George Meisinger continued to manage and promote, and they met at that time only every couple of years.
But we were meeting in Phoenix when Dr. Earl Radmacher was the speaker, the keynote speaker, and Dr. Earl Radmacher made in brilliant observation. He said the church is the largest nursery in the world. It is filled with spiritual babies. And the nursery workers, that is the pastors, don’t have a clue how to get them out of diapers.
That’s making disciples. It’s not a methodology, it’s a vision. It’s understanding what is necessary to teach people and as Ephesians 4:10–11 says, the purpose of the gift of evangelism and pastor-teacher in this dispensation is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
Pastors have to understand that you equip people by the Word of God. 2 Timothy, a passage that we quote all the time in 2 Timothy 3:16–17, that “Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for proof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Why? “That the man of God may be thoroughly furnished”—that was the old King James translation.
But it’s a form of the word that’s used there in Ephesians 4:10–11, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped. How are you equipped? We are equipped by studying the Word of God, because the Word of God is what God the Holy Spirit uses to transform us internally. And that’s really the focal point.
So when we come to looking at this passage, it’s critical for the health of the church, and something we all need to be reminded of week in and week out of what our priority as believers is supposed to be and what we are supposed to be engaged in.
When I was in Albuquerque yesterday and the day before, I had very little, but some time to just visit some with Charlie and Andy, and we were talking about and sharing ideas and observations about what’s going on across the country and across the world in terms of Christianity and especially the great challenges of communicating the gospel to the younger generation, commonly known as millennials.
One of the things that came out as we were at this conference, and sadly, it wasn’t well attended and that’s for a number of reasons, but that to me, as I looked at it, and it made me quite sad watching it because it was a look, a microcosm, of what’s going on in Christianity in America. Everybody there was over the age of 50. Most of them were over the age of 60 or even 70.
Forty years ago when I was in my 20s and there was a conference on marriage and family, what does the Bible say, I would’ve been there. Anybody whose been married less than 10 or 15 years, really needs to be learning some things about what the Bible says about marriage and family.
People who are in their 70s and 80s, they need to be reminded, but they’re not in that timeframe where they’re having babies or where they’re building families or even seeking someone at as a life partner in marriage.
So it was an older crowd, and we heard the same thing in conversations during the breaks and everything from one family after another is we’ve reared our children in the Scriptures, we took them to church and went to Bible class, they’re not actively negative to the Word, but they can’t figure out what their priorities are.
There are so many distractions in our lives that they can’t get past all the clutter to realize what they need to grab hold of, and as a result, they find it difficult even to show up in church once a week, much less get into the Word three or four times a week. That’s sad. It’s self-destructive, but that’s the reality. That’s what we saw. This is a rather large church. They run about 800 on Sunday morning, and they had about 30 show up for a weekend Bible conference.
I remember a time in this country when you had a church of that size, you would have at least one third, maybe half of the congregation show up for something like this on a Friday night and a Saturday morning.
We need to be in prayer for this nation. There is so much distraction, that people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, even older, but primarily that generation, that desperately needs to focus on the Word, can’t figure out how to get rid of the distractions in their life and that’s tragic.
But to be a disciple, to be what Jesus calls a disciple, a learner, a student of the Word, someone who is pursuing spiritual maturity, that’s one of the first things you have to figure out. It’s fundamental to time management. How do you spend your time? Get rid of the stuff that distracts you from the one thing that is going to account for eternity and focus on that.
I remember the first time anybody ever gave me encouragement in the area of time management. I was out of college. I had learned this and that about time management, but this was something that I really wanted to do well, and that was do well in my studies in seminary.
I went up to visit Randy Price. Randy had gone straight from University of Texas to Dallas [Seminary], and I had to work for a couple of years to save some money, and I went up there just to look at the campus and talk and find out what was required, things like that, and he said, “You know, Robby, the guys that get accepted,”—back then it was just men that went to Dallas—said, “the guys that get accepted here are all smart. Everyone of them has high IQs, they’ve done well academically, they are intellectually prepared, and every one of them could make straight As. The difference between those who do and those who don’t is their management of time. And you have to figure out why you’re here and what you need to not be doing while you’re here, so that you can excel in the purpose you’re here for.”
That applies to all of life. There are a lot of good and wonderful things in life that distract us, but that’s the problem. That’s what makes them wrong is that distracts us from the focus on God’s Word, and why we’re really here is to glorify Him.
So Jesus is focusing on that. That’s the mission for the church. That is the mission for every believer, but I think, especially for those who are gifted in the area of leadership.
So just a reminder, “Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’ ”
And because that authority is being given to Him. That authority is what backs the authority of the leaders of the church, the apostles in the New Testament, the temporary gift of apostle and prophet and the permanent gifts for the Church Age of evangelist and pastor-teacher.
His authority as the head of the church is what is delegated to those leaders. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations—we haven’t quite developed everything we need to out of that phrase yet—by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
So He mentions, as we studied already, the authority that’s been given to Him and delegated to the leaders in the church.
We looked at the phrase, “Go, therefore.” That is not an imperative, but a participle, and will be the focal point of just an innumerable number of sermons to try to get people to commit to the mission fields.
I’ve talked about that, that it is not an imperative. However, it does pick up something of an imperatival force from the main verb. Any participle of this type that precedes a command will attract to it grammatically a sense of that, but that’s not the focal point of this passage. It’s not a “go” passage, it is a “make disciples” passage,
We are to “make disciples of all nations.” Now I’ve talked about what it means to make a disciple, but last time didn’t get to this next phrase, which we will cover this morning.
Then the fourth thing is the concept of “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We will get that covered today, and then will come back next week and following to look at the second important phrase, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
Then Jesus’ last statement, “I’m with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So we looked at the context where these disciples have met Jesus in Galilee. They have gone to a mountain, we don’t know which one. There are numerous mountains there, so He designated a specific one. It could very well be one of two or three major hills just along the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, where several of them lived.
He tells them that they are to make disciples. That’s the imperative here.
The “go” is simply a participle of time—as you go, while you go, as you’re living your life you are to make disciples.
We looked at the term there. MATHETEUO is the verb. It is an aorist imperative, which means it’s a priority. It’s a second person plural, which means He’s addressing all of them. It’s not selective. And I believe that He is addressing the church—those who will come to Christ and be leaders in the church through them. That’s always a major interpretive issue, is Jesus just talking to the Twelve or is He talking to the Twelve as representatives of the church and the Church Age?
The verb is rather restricted in its use. It’s only used four times: three times in Matthew and one time in the Book of Acts, which is instructive.
It means to make people learners, to develop learners, to develop students of the Word. It’s not a synonym for being a believer. These are different. We will get into some of those distinctions later.
I pointed this out last time, that there are those within Reformed Theological circles, those who are in what is called lordship salvation, who have made the error of thinking that a disciple is a synonym for being a Christian, for being a believer. But being a believer is receiving a gift.
When we study the discipleship passages, there are commitments, there are demands, there are responsibilities that are emphasized in discipleship passages. You can be a believer without being a disciple, and in some cases, you can be or appear to be a disciple without being a believer. A classic example, of course, is Judas Iscariot, but there were others at that time.
The means that is developed as we saw, the application of this rather, by the apostles is clearly seen in Acts. It is not following the methodology Jesus used. Jesus called the Twelve to Himself. He’s not setting an eternal methodological paradigm here. This is not the pattern to have small groups. Despite Navigators and Campus Crusade for Christ and innumerable other organizations, Jesus isn’t teaching small-group dynamics.
He is doing something significant, unique, one-of-a-kind with those Twelve—basically the Eleven but they’re still referred to as the Twelve—they are the foundation of the church.
You get into Ephesians 2:20. The apostles and prophets—they’re the foundation of the church, so He is building them as the future leaders, the foundation stones for what will be accomplished in the church.
But when we watch what they do in Acts, what they’re doing is they’re teaching to any size group. Sometimes it’s small, sometimes it’s large, but the focal point is teaching. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. This is describing the early church. That’s their priority. That’s their passion. It’s the study of the Word. It is the study of what the Word teaches. It’s DIDACHE. That’s the emphasis.
We saw this again also in Acts 5:25, that this is what the apostles were prohibited from doing by the Sanhedrin. Of course, they didn’t obey that. They we’re teaching. That was their focal point, and that described everything from their evangelism, their announcement of who Jesus was, to instruction.
Now the object of the verb is “all nations.” We are to make disciples of all nations. This is the marching orders of the church. This indeed does include worldwide missions. The whole idea of taking the Word of God to all the nations. So the extent of the mandate is to all the world, to all the nations.
However, like many other passages of Scripture, this is controversial, and there are some who translate it a different way. It is the phrase PANTA TA ETHNE. PANTA is from PAS in the Greek, which means “all”. The phrase is important here because it informs us of the meaning more so than just looking at the individual words.
That’s one of the things that in Bible study and exegesis has come into effect in the last 20 or 30 years as a result of using computers. Back before computers, you would do word studies, and you’d take a concordance, and you’d open it up, and you would look at the word ETHNE, and you would see that sometimes it means Gentiles and other times it means nations.
But if you wanted to do a search on a phrase, you really had to know your Greek Testament. You would then have to turn to PAS, and the word “all” is used, who knows how many times, probably 300 or 400 times in the New Testament, but you’re looking for just those places where it’s used with ETHNE, and that takes a lot of time to work through all those things. Now with the computer, you can do these phrase searches, which helps you understand that a phrase means more or can be more than the sum of its parts.
So, there have been those who’ve said, “Well, He’s getting ready to give the marching orders for the church. The church is distinct from Israel. So, this should be translated “taking the gospel to all the Gentiles.” It’s foreshadowing to focus on the Gentiles.
But this had certain Replacement Theology overtones to it, and it doesn’t fit the usage that we find in Matthew.
When we look at Matthew, we see that eight times the word ETHNE refers to Gentiles instead of Jews in Matthew. It refers to the non-Jews, to the pagans as opposed to the Jews.
In contrast, the full phrase PANTA TA ETHNE, “all the ETHNE” is used four times in Matthew to refer to all the people, or all the tribes, all the nations, in contrast to a Jewish versus Gentile contrast.
What Jesus is saying here when He phrases it this way, is He’s bringing to the mind of His disciples the promise to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12:3.
One of the things that I have come to learn in studies of the Jewish background to the Gospels and studying the nature of Judaism and the training in the Scriptures that they received, even though it led to legalism, is that at that time there was probably a 99 percent literacy rate among the Jews. It might’ve been more.
When any young man was growing up as a child, he would be drilled in the Scripture. He would be expected to have memorized much of the Torah by the time he was six or seven years old. He could recite from Genesis through Deuteronomy from memory. By the time he was bar mitzvahed, he would have memorized all of the Old Testament in Hebrew. He knew it. So that often in the teaching of Jesus, He simply refers through a phrase or a word to a passage in Scripture and immediately the whole story, the whole episode, everything would come to His listeners’ minds.
There are times in history when the church has been like this. In Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1670s, no town in Massachusetts had a literacy rate of under 95%. The reason was that people knew that the most important thing a Christian can do is to be able to read and understand the Word of God, so everybody has to be literate.
Studies have suggested that among ancient Israel, they had the highest literacy rate of any people in the ancient world. So, when Jesus makes the statements where He is saying “take the gospel to all the nations,” what would come to mind in the disciples’ minds is Genesis 12:3. It’s part of the Abrahamic Covenant. God said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
What they are hearing in this Great Commission to them is that there is a shift taking place, that whereas Israel has been the primary vehicle for worldwide blessing in the past, because of discipline that is going to come on them, as our Lord announced in Matthew 24, that now there’s going to be a shift and the secondary means by which God is going to advance the Abrahamic blessing is going to be through the church in this Church Age. So we are to take the Word of God to all the nations.
Now this tells us even though this passage, “go therefore,” grammatically isn’t emphasizing that as a command, it is emphasized as a command in some of the parallel passages. In those same parallel passages that Jesus utters in the post-resurrection period also focus on taking the Word to all the nations.
In Luke 24:45–46 we have an explanation of what Jesus did after He has walked this way with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We’re told that after they arrived, He revealed who He was to them, and then it says, “He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sin—very Jewish for turning to God, Deuteronomy 30:1–2, and forgiveness of sin for the nation Israel. That turning to God and forgiveness of sins—should be preached—and the word there is from the verb KERUSSO, which means to proclaim or announce—should be announced in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.’”
Well, what that implies it’s going to start in Jerusalem, and then it’s going to go forward to all the nations. There is a purpose clause there that this is what they should be doing, so that implies that imperatival sense that they are sent.
In John 20:21 He uses that word talking to the disciples, “as the Father sent Me, I also send you.” So we are sent. We are to take the gospel to the whole world.
In Acts 1:8, it becomes very clear. He tells the disciples “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and then in Judea and Samaria, and then to the end of the earth.”
So, this is the Magna Carta of the mission movement, that we are to evangelize, but not simply evangelize, but to train and equip those who are saved, so that they can serve God.
Now how do we do that? That’s the command, to make disciples. And then we have these two phrases that are used in verse 19 and then in verse 20, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Then the next verse, “teaching them to do all that I have commanded you.”
Now why does He say this, “baptizing them and teaching them”? What is really going on here with this word “baptism”?
Why does Jesus state it this way. It is very important, and very few people understand this; and consequently, there’s a lot of misunderstanding this passage or they just ignore it.
How are we to understand baptism?
There are three questions here that I think are important.
First of all, why is He using the word “baptism”? Is God a Baptist? Well, someone says, “Yes, He is,” but why is He putting it that way? Why doesn’t He say something like “evangelizing the world” or “getting people saved”? What is going on here? Why is He using this phraseology here instead of something else?
Second, what baptism is meant here? What is He talking about? Is He talking about spiritual baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or is He talking about what is the normal interpretation, which is water baptism, baptism by immersion for someone who has trusted in Christ as Savior?
And then the third question we need to address is what is the meaning or significance of baptism?
We have to understand those three things. We can’t just assume that we know what this passage is talking about. So I think the best thing to do is to take the questions in reverse order.
What is the meaning or significance of baptism? Why is baptism emphasized in this passage and in other passages in the New Testament?
First of all, we have to understand what the word baptism means. It’s from the Greek word BAPTIZO, and it’s just been sort of transliterated over into English. It’s been just adopted from the Greek word.
Now why did they do that? Why didn’t they translate it? Why did they just transliterate it and bring it over?
The reason they did is because the basic meaning of the word in Greek was to dip, to plunge, or to immerse.
In the early church by the fourth or fifth century, there had become an identification of Christianity with the state. This began with the Edict of Toleration by Constantine around AD 311, and so that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and if you weren’t a Christian, then everything else was illegal.
Alongside of that developed the idea of baptism as a sign that you were a Christian. Well, if you waited until you were saved, when this concept of membership in the church is being merged with the concept of being a citizen of the state, then baptism becomes a legal political function, as well as a spiritual function. And so, if you weren’t baptized, then you weren’t being loyal to the state.
Throughout the Middle Ages being baptized as an infant was a sign that you were also going to be reared as a productive citizen of the state. So these two ideas merged together.
When we get to the period of the of the Protestant Reformation, there’s a group that develops known as Anabaptists, a word that means to be baptized a second time, because nearly everybody was baptized as an infant.
These guys came along and they said what the Bible teaches is believers’ baptism. It’s immersion, and it comes as a result of a profession of faith, when a person believes in Christ as Savior. That’s when they’re to be baptized.
But when you’re in an environment where baptism is a mark of entry into the state as a citizen of the state, to say that infant baptism, which has profound political overtones that infant baptism is wrong, you are making a statement that is viewed as a threat to the state. It’s a traitorous statement.
So, when you say that that no one should be baptized until they become a Christian, you’re making a political statement that is viewed as treason.
This is why those early Anabaptists were so persecuted by the state, is because they view that as a threat to the unity and the foundation of the Empire of the state.
The idea of baptism is that which occurs only after a person has trusted Christ as Savior, is basically recovered in that Anabaptist movement. In fact, some years ago, I came to understand this as a senior in Church History when I was in seminary, but I did my pastoral internship at a Baptist Church.
One time I asked the pastor, I said, “What makes a Baptist a Baptist?” And he said, “Well, evangelism, believe in Christ as …” I said, “None of that makes you a Baptist.” And I would ask other Baptists I knew, seminary professors and others. Nobody ever knew.
I asked an unsaved Jewish friend of mine what made a Baptist a Baptist, we were standing in one of the first Baptist churches in Mystic, Connecticut, and he said, “Well, two things make a Baptist a Baptist, 1) They believe in baptism by immersion, and 2) They believe in separation of church and state. Has nothing to do with the gospel.”
I was floored! Most Baptists don’t understand that. Baptist preachers don’t understand that, but here’s this unsaved Jew who understood. That was the key because they understood that this was a public profession of faith and it had nothing to do with one’s civic duty or civic responsibility.
Though the word literally means to dip or to plunge or to immerse, it has a symbolic significance, and that is of identification. That when somebody is baptized, they’re identified with something.
John the Baptist came along. You had water baptism with John the Baptist, and his message was “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Those who were baptized were being identified with John’s message in preparation for the coming kingdom.
Then Jesus came along and He wanted to be baptized by John, but it’s not John’s baptism because He doesn’t have anything to repent of because He is sinless. It is a distinct baptism. It is a baptism because He is being identified with the message of the kingdom because He is the King who is offering the same message, and that is that of the kingdom.
Now with believers’ baptism in the Church Age, there is a different identification, and it is the identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. The purpose for believers’ baptism, water baptism by immersion in the Church Age, is to teach through a symbol a very abstract doctrine known as positional truth. As soon as you use those words, a lot of people just glaze over. They have no idea what that means.
That according to Romans 6:3 and following means that we’re identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, so that the power of the sin nature is broken.
Nobody ever teaches that when they do a baptism. Nobody understands that in baptism. They just think that somehow this is what you do, maybe it has something to do with your salvation or it’s just a public witness, but they don’t understand that these Christian symbols that are in the ordinances of the Lord’s Table and baptism are designed to teach something, to help the person, the individual Christian, understand a spiritual truth that is foundational to their Christian life.
So believers’ baptism is designed to teach the abstract biblical teaching of our new position in Christ. We are in Him. We have a sin nature that is broken. We have a new identity. We have a new destiny, and we have a new mission in this life, all of which needs to be understood when you are baptized as a believer.
Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that His many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
We’re identified. That’s the picture of being taken and immersed in the water. Coming out of the water is a recognition of the resurrection. We now have new life. The water itself is a symbol of cleansing and the complete forgiveness of sin that we have in Christ. It is a proclamation of the gospel, but it is designed to teach the new identity of every believer in Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on to say in Romans 6:5, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, …”
Into the water is death, out of the water is resurrection.
Why is this significant? Romans 6:6, “because we know this—it’s a causal participle—because we know this, that our old man—that is everything that we were before we were saved—was crucified with Him, that the body of sin—that is the sin nature—might be done away with.”
That doesn’t mean that the sin nature is removed. It’s that the sin nature’s power is now broken. Before you’re saved, the only thing you could do is the wishes, the will, the lust, the desire of the sin nature. After you’re saved, you have options: to serve the Lord or to serve the sin nature. That’s what Romans 6 is all about, so that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Diagramming it, at the instant of faith we are placed into Christ, identified with Him and this is our new positional reality. We are a new creature in Christ.
That’s the third quick answer to the third question, what is the meaning and significance of baptism?
Second question is which baptism is meant?
There are eight baptisms in the New Testament. The first three are ritual. They involve water. You also have water in the baptism of Moses and the baptism of Noah, but the people that get wet, die.
The three ritual water baptisms are the baptism of Jesus, which I just explained is unique because it’s identifying Him with the message of the kingdom, and He is the coming King. The baptism of John the Baptist was a baptism to repentance, to prepare for the coming of the kingdom. And the third is the baptism of believers, Acts 2:38.
What’s interesting, Acts 2:38 is talking about the baptism that is accomplished on the Day of Pentecost.
This year we went to a new archaeological dig that’s south of the southern gates of the temple. You’ve heard me teach on this before and shown pictures of the mikvehs that were on there on the southern steps.
Mikveh was the ritual bath that any Jew going into the temple would go through. They would walk down one side of the stairs, immerse in the water and come out of the other side of the stairs, and now they are ritually prepared to enter into the temple compound.
We read in the Old Testament passages that when the City of David is developed and the temple is built, that they had to fill in the ophel. So that area has now been excavated. It’s between where David’s palace was at the southern steps of the temple. And what they have uncovered there is hundreds, close to 200 ritual baths. Before we only had 35. Now we have over 200 ritual baths.
So, when the disciples, when Peter preaches on the Day of Pentecost and he has 5,000 converts, he’s got a lot of places to do baptism right there on the spot with all these mikvehs.
There are five dry baptisms:
That is the baptism of Noah where those who are with Noah or identified with him and in the ark, and they survived the Flood.
The baptism of Moses. Those who pass through the sea and the cloud are identified with Moses. They don’t get wet, But the Egyptians who followed them, they get wet and they’re destroyed.
There’s the baptism of fire, judgment in the future.
There’s the also the baptism of the cup related to Jesus’ substitutionary death on the Cross.
Those are the dry baptisms, and then the fifth one is the baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit.
Now the question comes up which baptism is Jesus talking about? Is He talking about believers’ baptism? Some have said no He’s talking about the baptism by the Holy Spirit, because they want to not have to perform believers’ baptism in this dispensation.
This is part of what’s known as a Hyper-Dispensationalism. There’re been some others who’ve taught this.
But Jesus can’t be talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit here for three reasons.
First of all, baptism of the Holy Spirit has only been mentioned once when John the Baptist says “the One who is coming after me will baptize by the Spirit and by fire,” but there’s no explanation by John of what that means, only that this is some future thing that will happen. So, Jesus isn’t going to be using this until there’s some teaching on it, and that doesn’t happen until later.
The explanation and the understanding of baptism by the Holy Spirit isn’t developed until Paul comes along some 15 years later. So, Jesus would be telling them to do something that is meaningless to them.
Then third, if we understand the grammar and context here, the command is, “You all make disciples by baptizing.” You can’t separate the baptism action from the command to make disciples. The ones He’s telling to do this act are the disciples. The baptism by the Holy Spirit is performed by Jesus using the Holy Spirit. We’ve discussed that many, many times. So, this cannot be a reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It must be a reference to believers’ baptism.
Now finally, the first question: Why is baptism mentioned instead of evangelism or witnessing?
I will try to go through this quickly. How do we understand baptism?
There is a figure speech called a metonymy. You never learned it in school. A metonymy is a figure of speech where one noun is used instead of another noun in order to communicate something. So, it’s a word substitution.
We do this all the time. It’s a figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with the name of something else with which it is closely associated. That association for simplified reasons can be cause-and-effect. The cause is put for the effect or it can be effect put for the cause, which is what we have here.
We come across examples of this in everyday life. For example, I could state that the Crown of England pursued a policy of expulsion of the Jews from Edward I in 1290 until Cromwell in 1657.
The crown is just a metal object. The crown can’t do anything, but the crown is put for the authority of the government of England. That’s a metonymy, where you exchange one noun for another.
I have some other examples here. We might read the phrase we’ve heard, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The word “the pen” is used as a substitute for what the pen produces, what it writes. So that’s a figure of speech to emphasize something.
We can say “The Oval Office was busy at work on some policy.” The Oval Office can’t work. It’s just a place. But what happens in that place is something related to the president and the executive branch of government. So, it’s like using the crown instead of the British government, we use the Oval Office as a metonymy for the president and executive power.
You might tell somebody, “Let me give you a hand.” Well, you’re not talking about giving them a literal hand, you’re talking of putting a hand in place of the idea of helping them.
We do this all the time. English is filled with these kinds of metonymies.
Two prominent ones are metonymy, where you put the cause in place of the effect, or you put the result in place of the cause.
What we have here is, baptism is the result put for the cause, which is salvation.
So, when Jesus says this, that you are to make disciples by baptizing them, He’s putting the result instead of the cause. Why would He do that? Why is this seemingly convoluted using this kind of figure of speech? Because what He’s talking about here isn’t simply evangelism.
He could have said, “You make disciples by evangelizing,” but I evangelize all kinds of people that don’t believe! So, saying it that way, “make disciples by witnessing,” we witness to people all the time that don’t respond.
He’s not talking about those who don’t respond. He’s not talking about the process of bringing people to salvation. He puts baptism there because the normative expected process is that you’re going to witness to people. Those who believe will then be baptized, as is commanded, to give that exhibit of their identification with Christ in the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
So, by putting it this way, Jesus is talking about that whole initiation process that occurs at the beginning of our Christian life, when it is expected that we believe in Christ and then get baptized in proclamation of that spiritual death.
That’s the focal point here. That’s why He says you make disciples by baptizing. That wraps up the whole process of evangelism through regeneration and the birth of a new believer as proclaimed through baptism.
The next thing that happens is you have a new baby who needs to be nourished, and so it has to grow, and that’s what we will get into next week with the next participle, which means to teach. It’s done by teaching them to observe all things.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to be reminded of our mission, the purpose of why we are called to grow to spiritual maturity and to replicate ourselves through evangelism and through teaching, that this is primarily done through leadership and certain leadership gifts, but it is still a responsibility for every believer. It’s a foundation for missions, which starts outside of our front door. It is for every believer to be involved in.
“And Father, we pray that we might have a passion to be disciples, to grow to maturity, to witness to those who need to hear the gospel and to help encourage them to get in a position and a place where they can grow and mature as believers in Jesus Christ.
“Father, we pray for anyone who’s listening to this message, either now or later electronically, that if they’ve never trusted in Christ as Savior, they would understand that’s the issue, that’s the most important issue in life. It determines your eternal destiny. Scripture is very clear on what we must do to have eternal life, to have new life in Christ, and that is simply to believe that He died on the Cross for our sins, and that our sins are paid for, and we have forgiveness in Him, and that is by faith alone in Christ alone. We contribute nothing to it, we simply accept it, we believe it, we trust in Christ’s death on the Cross, and that alone for our salvation.
“And we pray that we might be strengthened and encouraged as a result of our study of Your Word this morning. In Christ’s name, amen.”