The Washing Away Of Sins
THE WASHING AWAY OF SINS
Sermon By Terry Siverd / July 18, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
This morning I want to take a break from our current sermon series on eschatology. There are other subjects that are keenly important and this morning we want to preach about baptism. Here is another Biblical topic that has been twisted and distorted by ones who misread and mishandle the word of God. Many have mistakenly labeled baptism as a man-made work claiming that it undermines salvation by grace. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth - - it is not a man-made work.
Baptism is ordained by God, provided by our Father of Mercies as a pathway to salvation.
I have found that it helps greatly if we clarify from the outset that baptism is not just an immersion in water. Biblical baptism is an immersion INTO CHRIST! Making this empasis can make a huge difference in defusing the debate as we teach others about baptism. Baptism is an expression of the obedience of faith. Eph.2:8 states clearly that salvation comes to us by grace through faith. Faith is not static. Genuine faith translates into ACTION. In Paul's epistle to the church at Rome he coins a phrase, “the obedience of faith” (Rom.1:5 & 16:19). One scholar translates this phrase - - “the obedience which is faith”. cf. Bultmann. This dovetails with James' admonition, faith without works is useless (Js.2:20).
Regarding man's response to the grace of God, the road to salvation begins by HEARING. Rom.10:17 / faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. BELIEVING is also essential. Heb.11:6 / without faith it is impossible to please (God), for he who comes to God must believe... Likewise, REPENTANCE is a prerequisite - - Lk.13:3 / unless you repent, you shall all perish. The same can be said for CONFESSION. Rom.10:10 / with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation. Very few would argue that the above elements are not involved in the procurement of one's salvation. However, when it comes the subject of baptism, many resist the role of baptism in obtaining the forgiveness of sins. Some do more that resist - - they adamantly oppose any interpretation to connects baptism with redemption.
Yet the Scriptures are unmistakably clear on this important matter.
Jesus instructed His disciples to go preach the gospel making...baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19). Mark's account is even more precise - - He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved (Mk.16:16). Those who heard Peter's sermon on Pentecost asked, “What shall we do?”. Peter told them, repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38). When Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian treasurer he obviously emphasized the need for baptism. When they came to some water, the eunuch asked, “What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Subsequently, he confessed his faith and was baptized (Acts 8:37-38).
This morning I want us to revisit the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
Open your Bible to Acts chapter nine. Some of you know this story inside and out. If we are sharing the gospel with others we'll need to know it well. In his early days, Saul of Tarsus was about as anti-Christian as anyone could be. The closing verses of Acts 7 with the opening verses of Acts 8 (Acts 7:54 thru Acts 8:3) give us a profile of Saul of Tarsus. He was a ringleader of those who stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58 with 8:1a). He spearheaded intense persecutions against the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1b). He ravaged the Christians, entering house after house; dragging off men and women to imprison them (Acts 8:3). The first two verses in Acts 9 also adds to this profile: breathing threats and murder against the (Damascus) disciples … (that) he might bring them bound to to Jerusalem. Saul's anti-Christian animosity stretched well beyond Judea - - reaching 130 miles NE of Jerusalem into Damascus.
It was while Saul was traveling on the road that leads to Damascus that he had an epiphany in the form of a theophany. Saul of Tarsus was unexpectedly awakened by a personal encounter with Jesus who spoke to him from the heavenly realm. The voice of Christ said to Saul, “Why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:3-6). Saul was shaken to his core. After this revelation, he could see nothing and was lead by the hand into Damascus. His loss of sight continued for three days, during which time he was fasting - - he neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:8-9). By means of a vision, God directed one of Jesus' disciples named Ananias to go to Saul of Tarsus. Acts 9:11 notes that Saul of Tarsus was praying. Initially, Ananias was a reluctant ambassador (Acts 9:13), but at God's insistence he went to Saul ( Acts 9:15-17). As recorded in Acts 9, the story of Saul's conversion concludes with a brief, matter-of-fact summary (Acts 9:18-19) - - Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. In his defense before the Jews, Saul of Tarsus recounts his conversion experience with added details (Acts 22:13-16) - - Saul testifies that Ananias said to him, “receive your sight” and when he looked up at him Ananias told him: 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. And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
I want to conclude with just one more observation. FASTING is often connected with repentance. It is a good thing to fast. Paul had done so for three days. PRAYING is also vital. Paul had been praying (perhaps non-stop) for three days. However, when Ananias arrived Saul of Tarsus still had a sin problem. Saul's sin problem could not be eradicated by either fasting or prayer or a combination of the two. Listen again to Ananias' instruction: Arise, and BE BAPTIZED, AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on His name. There are people (fellow believers) who argue that baptism has nothing to do with the washing away of sins. I keep asking myself, have they never read the story of Saul's conversion?
Here is why baptism is so critical, so necessary, so essential.
In Rom.13:14, Paul tells his readers to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. In Gal.3:27, Paul states, all of you who were baptized into Christ, has clothed yourself with Christ. In Rom.6:3, Paul speaks of being baptized into Christ's death. In Rom.6:6, he writes: our old self was crucified with (Christ), that our body of in might be done away with... Listen to Paul's words recorded in 2Cor.5:21 - - God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM.
The only way one can ever be right with God is to STAND IN CHRIST. Baptism is the specific act that makes this possible!
One last citation (Gal.2:20) - - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.