Saturday, June 28, 2014

140629 Choices

2 Peter 1:3-8 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every day we make hundreds of choices. We choose to get up in the morning, or not. We choose to begin our day in a variety of ways. We choose to eat breakfast, or not. We choose to read the Bible and pray, or not. Within each one of these choices there are many other choices we might make. Many of our choices have spiritual consequences for good or for evil. How are you making out with your choices?
Peter tells us that we have a responsibility to make right choices. We are to make every effort to add goodness to our faith. We have the responsibility of adding knowledge to our goodness. And as we grow in knowledge we learn how to practice self-control and stability in our day-to-day life. Stability, or steadfastness, is a choice to be made on a daily basis. As we become more and more stable in our day-to-day life we will grow in godliness. Remember, godliness is “God likeness”. And the more we become like God in our day-to-day living the more we will be able to love one another and accept love from others. As we do these things, making right choices, we will become more and more effective and fruitful in our service to the Lord. We need to remind ourselves that…
Rebellion against God is a choice. Rebellion was a choice made by our first parents, Adam and Eve! The Bible records it in Genesis 3:1-7. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
When Satan comes into our lives to tempt us he doesn’t get directly to the point. He didn’t say to Eve, “I want you to eat the fruit that God told you that you should not eat.” Instead, he asked a question. He then allowed Eve to explain the situation. Then he told the lie he has been repeating ever since. Simply put, he said that God had lied to Adam and Eve. Eve’s first wrong choice was to listen to Satan. Her second wrong choice was to enter into discussion with the devil. Her third wrong choice (there probably were more) was to examine the fruit. Then, her greatest wrong choice was to eat the fruit. Then, the man, Adam, (who had been there all the time) accepted the fruit from her and he ate.
Their choice, made that day in the Garden of Eden, brought sin into the world and consequently death through sin. The result of that choice was that death spread to all men because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The first immediate consequence of Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion was that they felt shame. They had never felt shame before! And immediately they began to make a covering for their bodies out of fig leaves. Of course, man’s effort to “fix” the sin problem will never work. God demonstrated that fact for them very clearly that day.
Adam and Eve had spent an untold amount of time in fellowship with all the other living creatures on earth. They had no fear of any of the animals in fact they felt respect and perhaps even love for the animals around them. Because of their sin some of those animals had to die. The Bible says that God made garments of skins. Now, God did not cause those skins to appear as if by magic. Instead, he had to take the life of innocent animals. This was a visual demonstration of the cost of sin. From that point forward when a person became aware of their sin they would take an animal lay their hands on his head symbolizing the transfer of their guilt to the animal and then take its life and burn it up on an altar.
That substitutionary sacrifice symbolizes Christ’s death on the cross! He paid a debt he did not owe because mankind owed a debt we could not pay. The debt owed was their life just as it is ours. Because, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. Praise God he sent his son to bear our guilt on the cross. Just as rebellion is a choice…
Repentance is a choice. Listen while I read Colossians 3:5-10. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Repentance begins with a confession of our great need and a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The Bible also says that if we will confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead we will be saved. Our need for repentance doesn’t end with salvation. As much as some people would like it to be true, we do not stop sinning when we are saved. I suppose it is possible to go for a period of time without committing a known sin but it is not likely that it will be very long before we do, say, or think something that is wrong. Jesus was very clear on that subject. He said that to be angry with someone is to be subject to judgment. Within the context that Jesus said this anger equals murder. In the same manner, lust equals adultery.
James warns us that a person who doesn’t control their tongue deceives themselves and their religion is worthless.
One of the temptations we face is to believe that since we have thought something that is wrong we may as well ahead and do it. Nothing could be further from the truth! To have an evil thought against another, or to imagine sexual sin involves our relationship with God. To actually commit the wrongdoing involves other people and adds to our guilt. Please, stop the wrongdoing while it is still in your mind and your life will be easier.
These examples show us that after salvation we often have to repent. I remember a pastor who told about his four-year-old son and his “blankey”. They had tried every way they could imagine to get him to give up his blanket. They had even made it smaller and smaller but he hung on to it. Finally the pastor’s wife said to her husband, “I want you to take care of it.” So, he took his son aside and decided to reason with him. Well, you know that didn’t work! Finally he said, “When will you give up this blanket?” It was a short time before the boy’s birthday and he replied to his father, “I think I will when I’m five.” The pastor said he thought nothing else about it until the morning of his son’s fifth birthday. He said that while he and his wife were still in bed they heard the door to his son’s bedroom open and the pitter patter of tiny feet going down the hall. They heard the back door open and the clatter of the garbage can lid. His son had “repented” of his “blankey”.
On a day-to-day basis, we need to take the same attitude about the things in our lives that we need to repent of.
Rebellion is a choice and repentance is a choice leading to…
Spiritual growth as a choice. Let’s listen to what Peter wrote for us in 2 Peter 3:18a.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And in 1 Peter 2:1-3. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Anytime the Bible instructs us to do something or think something we can be confident that God will enable us to do it. There has never been a choice that a Christian needs to make that God doesn’t enable that choice! Not only are we to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we also are able to put away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
We are required by God to grow up into salvation. That doesn’t mean that we can be gradually saved it means that having been saved we are born anew. And since we are born spiritual infants we need to mature. Having been born of the flesh we begin the process of “growing up” physically. In the same manner having been born spiritually we are to “grow up” spiritually.
Rebellion is a choice; repentance is a choice; spiritual growth is a choice and…
Obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice. I have often heard people talk about salvation as being “easy”. And also the same people might talk about living the Christian life as being “easy” because we are enabled by God to do anything he calls us to do. Let me read an example from Daniel 3:16-18. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The King had been tricked into creating an idol that he required everyone to worship. The penalty for not worshiping his idol was not just death but included being thrown into a burning furnace. This was done because his advisers hated the Jews who were in his service and knew that they would not worship his gods. By challenging their faith the enemies of the Jews would either cause them to lose their life or their faith. Well, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, could not have been clearer in their choice! They knew that God was able to deliver them, if he so chose. If God did not choose to deliver them they wanted it to be very clear that they would not bow down to the golden image! You probably already know the story. These three men were thrown into the furnace that was so hot that it killed the men who threw them in. Afterward, the King came to the opening of the furnace and saw inside it four men — not three and, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire without even the smell of smoke on them.
Today, all across the world Christians are finding that it is hard to live the Christian life. Particularly in the Muslim countries a conversion to Christianity is usually a death sentence. It was said during the first centuries of the church that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. That being true, we should expect there to be real spiritual growth in the countries where there is oppression.
The church in China is a good example of what might happen in the next generation. After the Communists took over the country the pressure on the Christian church increased from the 1940s into the 1960s. Then the Cultural Revolution came and Christians were killed all across the country. It is reported that there were about 5 million Christians when the Communists took over. It is also reported that when the bamboo curtain came down and we could see what Chinese society was like there were at least 50 million Christians! One of the greatest concerns today is for leadership in the hundreds of thousands of churches that are springing up across China. Pray for them please!
Rebellion is a choice; repentance is a choice; spiritual growth is a choice and obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice. Having obeyed God we discover that…
Godly living is a choice. Everything God calls on us to do God enables us to do. Listen while read Romans 6:1-4. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.
It seems that a lot of Christians think that since they have security in Christ Jesus they can live any way they want to. There is no doubt that we are saved by grace through faith. There is no doubt that our salvation is not dependent on our works. We are not saved by doing good and we’re not saved by being good. We are saved by God’s choice of grace. In writing this letter to the Romans Paul rejected an idea that seemed to be becoming popular in the Christian church at that time. Since grace is granted by God for salvation and that it covers all our sin then we might increase grace by increasing sin! Paul was amazed by this idea. There appears to have been people who were teaching that grace would increase as sin increased. Paul wanted them to understand that since we had become Christians we had died to sin and sin had died to us. It is very foolish to continue in sin in the hopes that grace might increase. Baptism itself is the picture of our death to the old way of living, being buried with Christ and rising up to walk a new kind of life.
If anyone is in Christ Jesus they have become a new creature. The old has passed away the new has come! We have an obligation to live with a new attitude and outlook on life. We are no longer to be conformed to this world instead we are to be transformed by the renewal of our mind. It is sad to see today how the church is conformed to the world rather than transformed. What the world needs now is a clear picture of what a Christian is like. The song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” I would agree with that if it means God’s kind of love. And that is “tough love”. Indeed, the love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. We need to communicate God’s love to everyone in our world by godly living.
Rebellion is a choice; repentance is a choice; spiritual growth is a choice and obeying God in difficult circumstances is a choice; godly living is a choice and…
Loving others is a choice. Remember, if God calls on us to do something he always enables us to do it. Let’s look at John 13:34-35. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
­ We tend to think that love is just a feeling that comes upon us without any control on our part. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, love is not a feeling it is a willful act. Jesus has gathered his disciples for a long teaching session. John records this more completely than the other Gospels. Here, he tells his disciples, and us, that Christian believers are to love one another. That certainly does not begin as a feeling. It is something that must be lived out in our day-to-day experience.
It would seem to be pretty easy to love all the good people in the church. The truth is not all of us are always “good”! Christians make mistakes, say things without thought and otherwise are not always good citizens. Throughout Paul’s letters especially we see examples of his instructing the people to love each other by the way they act.
Christian love is more than being nice. Jesus says that we are to love one another in the same way that he loved us. He loved us by coming to earth, living among us, taking our sins into his own body, then dying on the cross. Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for another. That is the kind of love we are called upon to life out!
Then Jesus said that all men would know that we are his disciples because we have that kind of love for each other. There is little wonder that the world increasingly doubts the sincerity of Christianity. If the only evidence that they have is that we love each other is not very convincing. We may not agree with each other on things like baptism and the translation of the Bible we use but we can treat each other with respect. We can do things that show the world that we are not in competition with each other. Please remember, when God commands us to do something he always enables us to do it. The choices we make every day clearly show others what’s important in our lives. It’s nice when we get recognition from others but the person we most want to see our love is God himself! Don’t let other people determine how you will live your life or, how you will feel.
I hope that in the past you have recognized the need to surrender your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is the most important choice you will ever make! The fact that God knows what choice we will make does not take away from us the responsibility to make a choice. In fact, not making a choice is a choice and one we are personally responsible for. To not choose Christ, to not repent, to not grow spiritually, to not obey God, to not live in a godly manner, to not deal with our anger issues or to not love others all are choices that are made every day to our harm. My prayer for you is that you will make good choices and grow up in the Lord. Do you need to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you need to obey him in baptism? Do you need to share a testimony of God’s goodness in your life? Now is the time. Today is the day. Do it!

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

140622 Into All the Earth

 Acts 8:26-38 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33   In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Jesus’ last command to his disciples was to go to all the world with the gospel. I usually think of the beginning of “going to all the world” as the first missionary journey by Paul and Barnabas. However, it really began on the day of Pentecost when visitors from all over the Roman world first heard the gospel and later took it home with them. The next step was taken by Philip when he took the gospel to Samaria. Now, we see Philip being placed in a strategic position to make contact, at just the right time, with an official of the Ethiopian government. The Spirit of God began right away to move in the church to get the gospel out of the confines of Jerusalem.
Under normal circumstances it would have been many years before a missionary went to Ethiopia with the gospel. Here we have an Ethiopian government official whose heart is open to know the Lord. When God moves in a person’s life to bring them to salvation he will bring them into contact with someone who can tell them about Jesus. He doesn’t send an angel instead he sends one of his people. There’s a lot of things going on in this story. Let’s begin with Philip’s…
Unquestioning obedience. Philip may have been present when Jesus ascended into heaven. He may have heard the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew. It is not impossible that he was with the group when Jesus gave them the words recorded in Acts 1:8. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
If Philip did not hear the words when they were first spoken he surely had heard them in the discussions the disciples had about Jesus. The point that I want to make is this, Philip understood that the gospel was to go to the end of the earth. I do not believe that God sends angels to bring people to Jesus but I do believe that he sends angels for many reasons. In this case he sent an angel to give specific directions to Philip. There are at least two reasons why Philip needed directions. Number one, the place he was instructed to go to was desert. Second, he was busy obeying the Lord! He had taken the gospel to Samaria and that was a place where the average Jew wouldn’t go and when he told them about Jesus they listened. He had a very successful ministry there.
When everything is going great we don’t normally become restless and want to move on. It may be that Philip had had some sense of need to move on but he was successfully preaching the gospel among a people who were listening to him. In order to make things specifically clear an angel was sent to be his GPS. I am not sure Philip would have decided on his own, or even when impressed in his mind, to go to the south into the desert. So far as Philip knew, no one was there! He did not realize that this was…
A strategic location. That spot in the desert was a lot like Jesus’ encounter at the well of Sychar. It was the right place at the right time even though no one, humanly thinking, would think so. Listen while I read John 4:5-10. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Jesus was in the right spot to meet with a needy woman. There is an old song, part of it goes like this:
There was a thirsty woman, Who was drawing from a well;
Her life was ruined and wasted, Her soul it was bound for Hell.
But then she met the Master, Who told of her great sin;
He said if you'll drink this water, You will never thirst again.
Yes, there is a river that flows from God above,
There is a fountain that’s filled with His great love;
Come to the water, there is a vast supply;
There is a river that never shall run dry.
Yes, Jesus was in the right place for an outcast woman to come to faith! In the same manner Philip was placed, by the instructions of an angel, at just the right spot to intercept a man whose heart was ready. Philip was not just at the right spot he was there for…
A timely contact. Philip arrived beside the road just as the government official was reading Isaiah 53:7-8. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
I think Philip began to understand what he was there for when he saw a chariot coming down the road. The Spirit of God took over where the angel left off. As Philip saw the chariot approaching the Spirit said, “Go over and join this chariot.” Philip had to run to catch up because he had to be there at the right time! Hearing the man reading from the scroll of Isaiah Philip knew why he was, where he was, when he was! Philip asked the obvious question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The government official said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” The Lord had opened the door for Philip to do what he was there for. It was time now for Philip to be about…
Telling the good news. On the day of Pentecost, while Peter was preaching, many of the people began to ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Listen while I read the answer from Acts 2:38-41. 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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
We are not told exactly what Philip said to the Ethiopian. We’re left with some room for the imagination by the words, “he told him the good news about Jesus.” On the day of Pentecost Peter had said that they should “Repent and be baptised ”. You see, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The consequence of our sin is very serious because the wages of sin is death! Realizing that we have sinned and are condemned to eternal separation from God we need to repent. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology textbook gives this as the definition of repentance: “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”
We are not told the exact words used by Peter but we do know that on the day of Pentecost many in the crowd became convicted of their sin, many of them chose to repent. Because of the forgiveness of their sins they were instructed to be baptized and on that day about three thousand were obedient and were baptized.
Peter was preaching to the thousands on Pentecost. Philip was teaching one man on the road to Gaza. In both cases, the Spirit of God rewarded the preachers with a wonderful harvest. As Philip was telling the good news, he obviously had told the true meaning of baptism, the Ethiopian man said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” You will find in the KJV that there is a verse added to the text that includes a statement of faith by the government official. It goes like this, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.” It is believed by many Bible scholars that these words were inserted by a person who was making a copy of the Bible. It was simply a matter of clarifying what needed to be believed in order to be baptized. Those extra few words conformed the text to the practice of the church in the first century.
Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water together and Philip baptized him because of his…
Obedient belief. Philip would have known about the words found in Matthew 28:18-20. Let me read them. 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.”
This passage is called, The Great Commission. It summarizes the process that men and women have been going through for the past two thousand years.
Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the one mediator between man and God. He himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Since Jesus has all authority he says that we can go because of that and make disciples of all nations. Then he outlines the process by which we do this. First, we are to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then, we are to teach them to observe all that he had taught his disciples. Then Jesus promises to always be with us to the very end of the age.
Today many people are taught a great deal before they are baptized rather than afterward. In fact, many of the missionary agencies make it a policy not to baptize a person who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior for several months. This is done to give them an opportunity to prove that they are genuinely Christian. That is a little bit like the practice of marriage in the 21st century. First you live together until you know that you can make it and then you are married, or not.
Second, the majority of denominations teach that infant christening is baptizing. Sprinkling water on a baby does not make them a Christian and it is certainly not baptizing.
If christening produced Christians the Mafia would not exist! I think I’m safe in saying that the vast majority of the Mafia grew up in Roman Catholic homes and were christened as infants. The infant had no choice in the matter and, most of the time, protested pretty loudly.
Sometimes, people who grew up in churches that practiced infant christening come to me to ask me to “baptize” their baby. I don’t want rebuke them so I try to gently explain that our church doesn’t practice christening. And then I refer them to the other churches in town that do. I explain the biblical basis for baptism and tell them that if they have committed their life to Christ then we would be glad to “dedicate” their family to bring up the child in the knowledge of the Lord. Usually they politely thank me and go on their way.
I have said that infant christening is not baptism. Let me explain, in Romans chapter six Paul explains that all of us who’ve been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. He then explains that we were buried with him by baptism into death. And we are raised up again to walk in newness of life. Baptism symbolizes spiritual burial and resurrection. Sprinkling water on the baby certainly doesn’t symbolize spiritual burial and resurrection.
The practice of baptism in the New Testament was carried out in one way: the person being baptized was immersed or put completely under the water and then brought back up again. The Greek word for baptize means to plunge, dip, or immerse something in the water. In the Gospels we are told that people were baptized by John “in the River Jordan” in, and not beside, or by, or near the river. When Jesus was baptized “he came up out of the water”. It does not say that he came away from the river. The words “he came up out of the water” strongly implies that he had been immersed in it.
Baptism pictures, or symbolizes, our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Aside from Romans six we have Paul’s letter to the Colossians where he says “You were 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”. There is a clear emphasis in both these passages on dying and rising up with Christ.
A person is saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by any works of righteousness that we have done. Therefore, baptism does not save us. It symbolizes our salvation. On the day of Pentecost three thousand people pictured their death, burial, and resurrection with Christ by going down into the water, being buried with him, and raised up to walk a new life. On the road to Gaza Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water where the Ethiopian was buried with Christ and raised up to walk a new life.
I often compare baptism with a wedding. The marriage ceremony is a very important event! But it doesn’t cause a person to love another person. Sometimes I think that that is what some people expected and it didn’t work. The marriage ceremony publicly proclaims to the world, “We love one another and commit our lives to each other.” This is done publicly for all the world to see.
In the same way, the ceremony of baptism doesn’t cause a person to be a Christian. What it does do is publicly proclaim to all the world, “I am a Christian.” It’s a present symbol of a past experience. If love is not present the marriage ceremony means nothing! If faith is not present the ceremony of baptism means nothing! Therefore, biblical baptism involves a person who has made a confession of their faith in Christ Jesus and has begun to live it out in the world. The picture is only perfect when a person -- man, woman, or child, has come to believe in Jesus and wants the world to know about it.
If faith is not present the only thing that happens in baptism is the person gets wet all over! On the other hand, if that person has come to believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and He is now their Lord and Savior then baptism symbolizes that fact.
Philip was a man who was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. He had been chosen by the congregation of believers to help solve the problem of caring for the needy. He was probably one of the men who took care of Stephen’s body after he was martyred. Philip was one of those who scattered upon the persecution of the church after Stephen’s death. He didn’t just run away he listened to the Spirit of God and went without question. God made sure he was in the right place at the right time to give the gospel to a hungry heart. There is no question in my mind that this was the beginning of the Ethiopian church. This beginning rested on an obedient messenger, a clear message and a receptive heart. This witness resulted in believer’s baptism and a new missionary.
Have you been obedient to the Lord in baptism? Have you received the Lord Jesus? Baptism is part of confessing him before men in the same way that the wedding ceremony is a public confession of love for one another.

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.