Four Points About Baptism

A mosaic depicting the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
A mosaic depicting the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

This sermon was given on August 6, 2023, during the outdoor morning service at the food shelf.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

—Matthew 28:16-20


 Why talk about baptism today? There are several reasons:

  1. Because we are having baptisms today I thought it only right to talk about baptism. 
  2. We don’t talk a lot about this topic. So on an occasion like this when we are celebrating, it only makes sense to do so. 
  3. There is a lot of confusion surrounding baptism. There are some who view baptism as some kind of magical act. That somehow just being baptized will change them. 

Last night, during the Old Home Days celebration in the park, the final song that was played was AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. I was in the office buttoning some things up late and could hear the music in my office. You can be on the highway to hell in the baptismal tank just as much as doing drugs on a rock-and-roll band. 

Baptism cannot save you, only faith in Jesus can do that. 

So then—why get baptized?

There are many different understandings of baptism. Christians differ on various parts of baptism like the mode or who should be the recipients of baptism. My aim this morning is not to get into all of that. I don’t want to get into the weeds on this, which is why I chose a passage like Matthew 28 to discuss this issue. 

This morning, we are going to look at the basics of baptism this morning. 

Point #1: The first thing for us to notice from Matthew 28 is that baptism is an act of obedience

What is going on here in Matthew 28? If you read the section right before this, you will see that Jesus has just risen from the dead and appeared to some of the disciples. 

Here in this final paragraph of this chapter, we have what has come to be called “The Great Commission.” These are the last words of Jesus before he ascends to go back to be with the Father.

A person’s last words are often very significant. How much more the Lord Jesus’ last words before ascending?

And what is on the Lord’s heart to share with his disciples at that moment? That they go and make disciples and that they be baptized

Later on, in the book of Acts, we see that the disciples took this to heart. I think of Peter, in his famous sermon in Acts 2:36 through 38. 

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

—Acts 2:36-38

The first act of obedience is to repent and be baptized. Baptism is a command. Therefore baptism is an act of obedience. Every believer in Jesus should be baptized.

Now, for our second point.

Point #2: Baptism is Trinitarian

What that means is that it is done in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

The big reason for this is that all three members of the Holy Trinity were involved in your salvation. If you were to go back and read the story of Jesus’ baptism, you will see all three members of the Trinity present there. Perhaps a reminder of sorts that baptism has to do with all three persons, not just Jesus. 

The Father did the choosing before anything was created (Eph. 1:3-4), 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

—Ephesians 1:3-4

The Son who gave his life for them on the cross (John 10:11, 15), 

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

—John 10:11, 15

And the Spirit of God who convicts of sin and draws to repentance (1 Pet. 1:2).

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

—1 Peter 1:2

As a gentle reminder to us that we are not baptized in the name of three gods but One God, three persons. Pastor Josh Buice points out that the Greek word for “name” (ónoma) in verse 19 is singular. Therefore, the three distinct co-equal and co-eternal persons of the Trinity are not three different deities, but three distinct persons who make up the one true God who saves sinners.

Now for point #3.

Point #3: Baptism is a sign

Notice here in Matthew 28 who it is that gives the command. It is Jesus. 

While baptism involves all the members of the Holy Trinity, it especially tells us something of Jesus. 

The catechism question we started with at the beginning of the service says:

It signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church.

The word “signify” means to be a sign of something. 

What is a sign?

It’s something that points to another thing. How silly it would be to stand in front of a billboard that had a big picture of a pizza on it, thinking that you were going to get fed. It’s a sign.

Likewise, baptism is a sign, it is not in itself doing anything, it points away from itself to something else. 

What is that something else?

Paul tells us in Romans 6, which was read earlier. 

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

—Romans 6:1-4

Point #4: Baptism is a seal

The catechism we read a few moments ago also said that baptism is a seal:

It signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church.

Scott Clark helpfully points out on his blog the meaning of a seal in the ancient world:

In the ancient world communication was difficult and slow. Even the most powerful kings had to rely on messengers who might not make it to the destination. Once there they had to prove that a communication was authentic. That is what a seal did. It was a bit of wax melted on to a document and marked with a signet ring thus showing that it was not a forgery. We still do this in various ways. Our currency has lines and marks designed to show that it authentic. Our driver’s licenses have the same things. Important documents (e.g., diplomas, marriage certificates, birth certificates) still have a mark impressed (embossed) into them to show that they are authentic. So it was in the ancient world with a wax seal.

Like a sign, a seal doesn’t make something real, it simply testifies to the truth of what someone else has already done. 

Baptism is a seal telling us that we have been cleansed from sin, buried with Christ, raised into a new life, and filled with His Spirit. 

Baptism does not do those things or create those things but it is a seal assuring us of the King’s word and promise. 

You might say that baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) are the gospel made visible. As enfleshed people they allow us to see and feel the gospel–the good news that Christ saves sinners. 


So, application for today. If you have not been baptized and have truly trusted in Christ, then you need to take that step.

If you have been baptized, come and witness once again today, the visible gospel at the poolside after the picnic. Witness the good news, celebrate the good news, rejoice with us, and be reminded of these precious truths again today. 

And that is also what the Lord’s Supper does, where we will turn now.

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