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Is Water Baptism Required for You and Me?

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Is Water Baptism Required for You and Me?

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Is Water Baptism Required for You and Me?

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.75 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (1.06 GB)
MP3 Audio (33.12 MB)

Is water baptism a biblical requirement for you and me to inherit eternal life in God's family? What are some benefits of water baptism? When should young people raised in the Church of God seek baptism?


[Mr. Ray Clore]: I was talking to Dr. Britt about what I should be speaking on, and it's just maybe by chance that it happened to be today that I speak on this because this is, you know, the first day of the Roman calendar for 2022. But maybe it's not by chance, maybe it's, you know, God's... we always pray for God's inspiration and guidance. So I will go on that confidence and that understanding today because I do want to talk about the basic doctrine of water baptism. Is it necessary? Water baptism is one of the wonderful, basic teachings of our church and a foundational doctrine of Christianity. Today, I also wanted to talk more directly with young people who have grown up and are growing up in the church. This is your church. You are an integral part of the body of believers. Yes, your parents brought you when you were little. And as you grow, you will have more and more ability to make choices that will directly affect your life.

Baptism is a right choice that has great benefits, but it must be done at the right time for the right reasons with proper preparation. Baptism should not be sought just because you feel it's expected of you in your family or in your group of friends. Neither should baptism be put off too long, as the more one advances in life, the more possibility of making life-changing mistakes could be avoided with the help of God's Spirit living in you. For all of us, water baptism is an amazing moment in time. Yes, there is a moment in time when our sins are officially and formally forgiven and washed away. The joy that adults feel when they make the last mortgage payment on the house and it's fully theirs, or when you pay off your car loan, that sort of joy, which is so satisfying, just cannot be compared with the joy of knowing that all of our mistakes and sins have been forgiven, and we stand pure and clean before God.

There is joy in heaven over the repentance of one sinner. One person that I baptized told me that she thought afterwards she thought she saw angels dancing and skipping over the water. Now, I didn't see them, but maybe she did, and maybe they were there because there is joy in heaven. And it is a marvelous, marvelous occasion. And after baptism, whenever we fall short, as we do, we can again, have God's forgiveness upon repentance and faith because God's mercies are new every day. Water baptism is a wonderful ceremony. It is an outward sign of something God has miraculously done inwardly in our mind and spirit. The granting of repentance and faith are spiritual benefits whose worth cannot be measured.

So, today, let's talk about water baptism. Is baptism necessary for human beings now to inherit the eternal life in God's family? What are some benefits of water baptism? When should young people raised in the church seek baptism? Now, water baptism doesn't stand by itself as a teaching of the Bible or God's Church. It is part of a chain of events showing that the creator God is working directly in your life and you are responding to obey God's voice. A firm faith and belief in the existence of a loving creator God really is the first step in the path to eternal life that includes water baptism as a key required step.

I recently read a book entitled “Just Six Numbers,” and I'll just hold it up here, “Just Six Numbers” by the highly respected United Kingdom Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. It's a great book. He lays out precisely how this universe is organized. He shows that the values of natural laws such as electromagnetism, gravity, and so forth are exactly, exactly what is needed to produce and maintain the universe we see around us. But Rees admits he doesn't know how matter and energy came into existence. He doesn't know why the natural laws are the values they are and need to be for our universe to exist. He doesn't know what keeps the natural laws working at the values and energies they do. Yet, he's not prepared to believe in a wise, loving, intelligent creator God.

No, he believes in an infinity of universes called a multiverse. And I think this is the, sort of, general idea that most scientists who don't believe in God they have. And what's a multiverse? It's an infinity of parallel universes with slightly different values for natural laws. And we just got lucky that we got one that works. By definition, evidence for the multiverse is outside our capability to observe or know. Rees and many other famous scientists choose an evidence-free, made-up, unprovable explanation for the origin and continuation of our universe. He dismisses the huge body of evidence that there is an intelligent, loving, designer Creator who designed and maintains this universe by the word of His power.

So, if you are a young person in school or just anyone who's influenced by the myth of a Godless creation, this is where you need to start. The required foundation is to prove that a supreme, loving, intelligent creator God exists. Look at and accept the clear evidence because it's there. You do the work so that no one will be able to use clever arguments to persuade you otherwise. Also, please research the evidence for the truth of the Bible. There are many books that give proofs of the historical reliability of the Biblical texts and their faithful transmission to us from ancient times.

There's also a lot of proof that Jesus was a historical figure outside the pages of the Bible. There's ancient literature that talks about this. It's clear. And the Bible, as we know, is God's written record of His dealings with mankind, His plan to have a family of children on His level, and how to receive the gift of eternal life which we call salvation. So we should expect that the Word of God would be reliably transmitted to us from God down through the ages.

Now, we have seen and know that there are precise natural laws that govern our physical life. There are also spiritual laws that govern the relationship between man and God and relationships between human beings. Just as breaking natural laws can bring automatic and sometimes severe consequences, breaking spiritual laws also reaps automatic and sometimes severe consequences and heartache, mental anguish, sickness, loneliness and death. And sometimes, it's not even us that breaks these laws, it's other people that are breaking the laws, but we are affected by their transgression.

Breaking spiritual laws is what we call sin. The New Testament defines sin in several places. Today, I'll just mention two places. We see in 1 John 3:4 sin is defined as the transgression or breaking of God's laws, the Ten Commandments essentially. Also, in James 4:17 sin is defined as not doing the good that we know we should do. Now, that's a tough one because we all know we should do good, and we are lazy, we're distracted, we have other priorities. And, again, I know we all have certain things we need to do, but we need to think about what is the good that we should do, and we should do that.

When you come to know that you know that the creator God exists and that He loves you individually and wants you to be part of His family, and when you come to understand that God gives us spiritual laws and commands for our own good so we might live, be in good health, and be happy, then I believe you will want to do what God says to do. I believe you will want to be part of a positive spiritual family that lives forever in joy, accomplishment, great relationships, and peace.

Yeah, we know that even with the best of intentions we all make mistakes from time to time. We hurt ourselves and other people by what we say or do that offends, hurts or belittles them. When we realize we have broken God's laws and that the penalty for that is death for eternity, we realize we have to do something. What should we do? Let's all turn to Acts 2:36, Acts 2:36. This is Peter on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2:36, Peter said,

Acts 2:36-39 – “‘Therefore, let all the house or the family of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’ Now, when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” These were intelligent, responsible, and humble people, and they asked that question, “What shall we do?” “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are far off as many as the Lord our God will call.’” That promise was for me. It's for you. All you children, you are children of children of children of children going back many generations. And those who are far off, that includes all nations, nations such as China and Japan. The promise is for all mankind whom God will call who will repent and come to be part of His family. And we know that repentance means to turn around and go the other way, to stop doing one thing and start doing the opposite. It means to stop disobeying and receiving the hurt and the pain, and instead to start obeying God and being receiving the blessings and joy. Let's go to 2 Peter 3:9. Peter says,

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but He's longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Everyone, all in time, should come to repentance. He wants every human being to have that chance. He doesn't want to have anyone be overlooked and say, “Well, I don't need to pay attention to you.” No, He pays attention to everyone. He wants everyone to have that chance to come to repentance. And He's willing to do a miracle to bring you into His family. He cares for you that much.

Let's go to John 6:44. He's willing to do a miracle to bring you into His family. In John 6:44, a very famous verse, Jesus said,

John 6:44 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” No one can come to God unless the Father calls him. And I think so many of us, maybe in earlier days, we tried to argue with people, argue them into the church, maybe family members, maybe friends. You can't do it. You can't come up with clever arguments, you can't come up with a stack of evidence. It doesn't work unless God opens their mind. It is a miracle. The fact that you are here today, the fact that you hear me today, it is a miracle that you understand. It is a miracle showing God the Father's love and interest in you personally. It's a miracle.

Let's go to Acts 11:18. And as I said, God is interested in every human being who has ever lived. He wants to give every one of them a real chance to know God. Acts 11:18, this is where Peter was explaining how he had been called to go to Cornelius, the Italian's home, the Centurion, and that God had given them repentance and His spirit. And it was a marvelous thing. And the people in Jerusalem, verse 18,

Acts 11:18 – “When they heard these things, they became silent and they glorified God saying, ‘Then God has also granted, to the nations, repentance to life.’” Not just Jews, not just Israelites, to all mankind, to all nations repentance unto life.

We see in Philippians 2:13... I think I'll start probably in verse 12. Yes, Philippians 2:12,

Philippians 2:12-13 – “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Notice that. God gives us even the desire to change and do better, and He also gives us the power to accomplish the good. So He gives us the desire, He gives us the power, He's the one that calls us, opens our mind. It almost sounds like God and Jesus do it all for us, and our part is just negligible.

And some people say, “Well, Jesus did it all. Like, we don't have to do anything, you know.” But that's just not so. God gives you and me the fundamental and huge choice of life or death, blessings or cursings. He commands that we choose life, but He allows you and me to choose death if we insist on it. And sometimes it's not even an active insisting, we can neglect so great salvation. We can just let it slide. We think we'll get to it tomorrow or next year, or I'll repent in five years, or 10 years, or whatever. We can neglect so great salvation if we choose to. That is a huge choice.

It is a marvelous thing, again, thinking about the universe that Martin Rees described. Natural laws are inexorable unless God does a miracle. The Bible says that there is, you know, forgiveness with God. Therefore, He is to be feared because the universe doesn't forgive you on its own. If you break the law of gravity, you get crushed. You stick your finger into electrical outlet, you get fried. Because God can intervene, we should fear Him and respect Him and honor Him and be thankful to Him.

Now, our part is important, and God has built it into the universe. You have this structure of laws that are so inexorable, but down at the bottom in the quantum foam, as they say, is randomness, free choice. It's a really big thing. It shows the wisdom of God. Yes, He is there to help us along the way. He wants us. He wants us to be in His family so much. He wants to have children, children who can praise Him like we heard in the special music, who harmonize, who sing from the heart, joy and happiness. He wants that. He wants you to be that way and me to be that way.

So we have to choose. And if you choose life, which is the right choice, then you have to bring forth proof that you mean what you say because, as we all know, talk is cheap. But actions is what really hits the road. Let's go back to Matthew 3. Matthew 3, I think I'll start in verse 5. So this is talking about John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:5-8 – “Then Jerusalem and all of Judea and all of the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance.’” Bear forth fruits. In other words, bring forth actions showing that you are humble, that you really have repented. Verse 10, “’Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I, indeed, baptize you with water unto repentance. But He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals are not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” So what we see here, John the Baptist talked with people who thought they were good, but they did not do good. We call such people hypocrites. Jesus said, “Beware, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” It spreads, and we can see that even in our country today. It spreads.

John was empowered by God. John was empowered by God to decide if a person was ready to make the serious commitment to God necessary before being baptized. He explained there were actually three baptisms. One is complete immersion in water, analogous to being buried in water, and then rising up out of the water to new life. This is what we're discussing today. The second baptism is where God plunges you through the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, which is the Church. So God immerses you in the Spirit into the Church of God. And the third baptism is as fire where the wicked are burnt up. And we do not seek or want the baptism of fire. And in the end, the baptism of fire will be for those who are physical because those who are born of the spirit will not be subject to flames.

Now, what are the Biblical origins of baptism? John the Baptist, did he just make it up, come up with the idea of water baptism just prior to Christ appearing? Well, no. The concept actually was embedded in the Hebrew scriptures accounts of both Noah's flood and the Exodus. Though these two major scriptural events were types of water baptism, they would have been familiar to John the Baptist as, you know, Noah was covered, you know, above and around all sides by water. And the old ways were put away and destroyed, and his family came through. Same way with Egypt, coming out of Egypt through the Red Sea, the water was around and above and so forth. They left behind Egypt, which is a type of sin. They left it behind, and they started a new life.

So these events were types of water baptism. They would have been familiar to John the Baptist. And anciently, there were washings mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures, but they were self-performed. Many archaeological sites in Israel have places called mikvahs where worshippers could bathe before entering the tabernacle or worshipping God. As we progress through the Hebrew scriptures, we see a growing realization that washing meant more than just washing away physical uncleanness. It could also be symbolic of washing away sin and spiritual uncleanness.

So John the Baptist was born into a nation with the historic scriptural types of baptism. The practice of washings related to worship were then understanding that there could be a spiritual or symbolic aspect to washing more than just the physical removal of dirt. When John began his ministry, however, he asked people to do something not required before. He required them to repent of sins and, thus, be in a state of mind ready to hear the soon-coming Messiah before John would baptize them by immersing them in water. We're still here, I think, in Mathew 3 verse 1 and 2.

Matthew 3:1-2 – “In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea saying, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” So he was preaching that. And many came to hear John, and they were convicted of their sins, and they confessed in sincere repentance, these humble, sincere people John baptized. The fact that John baptized the repentant person was new and different from the established tradition of ancient Israel where the worshipper washed him or herself.

Let's go to Luke 3. So we see there is a quantum difference between what happened in ancient Israel and what John the Baptist was doing. In Luke 3:2, the latter part of that, verse 2, it says,

Luke 3:2 – “The Word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” Now, we just read right over that, but think about it. Jesus was already a human being on this earth. Who was sending the Word of God? God the Father was sending the Word of God. He was sending it either by an angel or by a vision. Some way, God the Father was in communication with John the Baptist in the wilderness.

Let's turn over to John 1:33. This is another verse that we tend to read over quickly because it's usually read in a different context. Well, let's look at it closely. So I'll start in verse 29, John 1:29.

John 1:29-33 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said after me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me. I did not know Him, but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.’ And John bore witness saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove that remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified this is the Son of God. He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘God the Father through an angel,” -through a vision, through some way communicated to John the Baptist- “You go and you baptize with water. You immerse with water. You do this.’”

The Father Himself gave us our current mode of baptism. John had a special mission to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. It was revealed to him what he had to do. John preached the Kingdom of God. He called people to repentance from sin. And his mission included deciding who was ready for baptism based on fruits of changed behavior and then actually baptizing the repentant person. John preached that being a biological Israelite was not enough for entering into the Kingdom of God.

You can write in your notes Matthew 3:7-10 and Luke 3:8-9. John's message implied that every Israelite in the flesh was just as much an outsider to the Kingdom of God as non-Israelites were outsiders to the kingdom of Israel. And then, all men and all women needed to repent of sin before being allowed to become part of that new covenant nation, which is spiritual Israel, which is the Church of God. So it was a revelation by God the Father why we baptize with water.

So is water baptism necessary for you and me to receive eternal life today? The short answer for you and me is yes. Yes. We must be baptized in order to receive eternal life. God the Father by revelation and Jesus by His example and His command in the New Testament, which we will see later, have shown that they want us to perform this ceremony. It is the expressed will of God. And just a reminder, the English word “baptism” is taken almost directly from the Greek word “baptiso,” which means to immerse. Different Greek words mean to pour or to sprinkle. Any religious group that does not completely immerse a believer in water is not following the Bible but their own manmade tradition.

Let's go to Mark 16:16. Now, this is Jesus explaining to the disciples what He wanted them to do near the end of His time on this earth. Mark 16:16 where He said,

Mark 16:16 –“Go to all the world. Preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who doesn't believe will be condemned.” Now, I don't have a degree in English grammar. But it seems to me that you have to believe and be baptized to be saved. It just seems that that's the way it sounds. You have to be a believer and to be baptized to be saved. In other words, given eternal spirit life. Let's go back to Mark 1:9.

Mark 1:9-11 – “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee. He was baptized by John in the Jordan River. And immediately coming up from the water,” -showing that He was in the water, so He was immersed in water. He was coming up from the water- “He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. And then a voice came from heaven and said, ‘You are My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.’” Jesus is our Leader and our Captain of our salvation. He was baptized as an example for us. He came up out of the water, another proof that He was immersed, and God the Father sent an angel to declare that He was well-pleased with Jesus right after He was baptized.

Jesus in another verse says, “No one has heard the voice of the Father at any time.” So this had to be a message that the Father sent by an angel so that people would hear it. And He said this right after Jesus was baptized. We know the Father had revealed to John the Baptist our current form of baptism. So, of course, the Father was pleased that Jesus obeyed and did this. Let's go back to John 3, and we'll start in verse 22. John 3:22,

John 3:22 – “After these things, Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea. And there He remained with them and baptized.” Now, John also was baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, because there was much water there. So you baptize in a place where there's much water because you're immersing them in water. If you only have to just sprinkle them or pour something on them, you could baptize pretty much anywhere because you don't need that much water. Let's turn over the page, turn the page to John 4:1.

John 4:1-3 – “Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciplines than John, though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples, He left Judea and departed to Galilee.” So what do we see here? We see that Jesus Himself did not do the physical act of immersing someone in water, but the disciples did it. Now, were the disciples converted at that time? They didn't have God's Spirit in them. Clearly, they had God's Spirit working with them. They were under the direct supervision of Jesus Christ. One could say that they weren't converted by having God's spirit in them because the day of Pentecost had not yet come. The disciples, they did it under His authority or by His authority.

So, for the last 2,000 years, including today, the elders of the Church of God baptized by the authority of Jesus. Now, if an elder is too old or weak to personally do the physical act of baptism, then a deacon or a younger man under the direct supervision of the elder can do the physical act of immersing a repentant believer in water. Let me give you an example of a deacon doing baptizing. Let's go to Acts 8. And this is the account of Phillip who was a deacon, and he went to Samaria to preach the gospel, and many people believed. And we see in Acts 8, I'll start in verse 12.

Acts 8:12-17 – “But when they believed Phillip as he preached the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. And then Simon himself,” -Simon the magician- “Believed and he was baptized. He continued with Phillip, was amazed seeing the miracles and signs which were done. Now, when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who when they had come down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had fallen upon none of them. They'd only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And then, they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

So a deacon preached and baptized people, but here we see the example that an ordained elder, in this case, the apostles, they were authorized to lay on hands for the receipt of the Holy Spirit after baptism. We can go back to Matthew 28, and we can see, again, Jesus' commission to the Church of God. Matthew 28:18,

Matthew 28:18-20 – “Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations, 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 have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”

So Jesus taught His disciples to go to all the nations, not just Jews or Israelites, and to baptize believers into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This shows the involvement of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit in the conversion of the believer. The Father calls, the Son paid the penalty for our sins, and the Father uses the Holy Spirit to beget a child of God, adding a bit of His Spirit to our human spirit, just like the Father used the Holy Spirit to impregnate Mary with Jesus. The Holy Spirit's not the father of Jesus. The Father's the father of Jesus. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is not our father. Our Father uses the Spirit of God, which is the power of God, and I think my next sermon will probably be on, you know, the trinity and explaining that in greater detail, but we don't have time for that today. But the Father uses the spirit and the power of God to engender us as His children. Now, if baptism was not necessary, why would Jesus have commanded His disciples to do this as one of His very last words on Earth before He went to heaven? It's important. Jesus commanded it. This is what we are to do.

Okay. Now, what are some benefits of water baptism? Let me just take a look at a few places. First Epistle of John 3:22 where it says,

1 John 3:22 – “Whatever we ask, we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” Now, it's not just a matter of keeping the commandments of God, but it's going beyond that, doing things which are pleasing in His sight. In this case, in fact, Jesus did command that we be baptized, immersed in water, as part of our pathway toward the kingdom of God.

And so if we do these things, and we're obeying God and trying to be pleasing to God, it's an added promise He will give us what we pray for. Again, understanding that as long as it's good for us, it's an added promise because we're trying to be pleasing to God. Isn't that true if you have a child, that child is obedient and polite, you know, and asks, you know, for some milk or something, you say, “Yes, of course?” If the child is not doing what you want and is always arguing and doing something different, you know, it's a little bit different. We all know it's a little bit different. But if you're obeying God and you're doing what's pleasing in His sight, He wants to give you what you ask for, again, as long as it's good for you.

Let's go to Romans 6. You can't talk about baptism without going to Romans 6, a very important chapter about baptism. Romans 6. I'll start in verse 3.

Romans 6:3-9 – “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus,” -Notice that. “As many of us as were baptized.” Paul is including himself. The Church of God is expected, all the Church was baptized into Jesus Christ. “We were baptized into this death. Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” Verse 7, “For He who has died has been freed from sin,” -freed from the penalty of sin, we should understand. Because sin is a transgression of the law, the law is there, the law is not done away with, but we're free from the penalty of sin, which is the second death. “Now, if we died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.” So, by water baptism, we escape the second death. That death no longer has dominion over us. What a wonderful, wonderful benefit. Also, in verse 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, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” That is also a wonderful benefit of water baptism. It allows us to move on to the next step of our journey towards eternal life by receiving God's Spirit through the laying on of the hands and the prayers of the elders. And the addition of God's Spirit to our human spirit gives us extra strength to identify and resist sin to not be a slave to sin anymore. What a huge, huge benefit, not being slaves to sin anymore.

Let's go to John 14:26, see another benefit of baptism. John 14:26,

John 14:26-27 – “Jesus said, ‘But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to you remembrance of all things that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.’” So you see one of the benefits is the addition of the Holy Spirit after water baptism. It helps us remember what Jesus taught us. It helps us to know the right, to choose the right, to do the right, even in the face of temptation, and to have peace of mind, have peace of mind that God gives us.

So when should a person raised in the church seek water baptism? Baptism is making a solemn commitment to obey God's voice, to follow wherever He leads, to marry Jesus Christ, and never, never go back to the way of sin and death. That all sounds great. We all agree. But making a commitment of that magnitude, however, requires a maturity that children just do not yet have. I was raised in the Baptist Church when I was young. And the Baptist ministers, they specialize in giving emotional sermons to move people. And so when I was age 12, the minister was giving a very emotional sermon, and I was moved. And, of course, at the end of a Baptist message, they invite you to come down, walk forward to the altar, and give your heart to the Lord, so I did. I was moved. I went down. I gave my heart to the Lord.

And I was, you know, baptized in their baptistery, you know, they had behind you, you know, the painting of the Jordan River. And everyone could see that, yes, indeed, you're indeed going underneath the water because they had a clear glass, so everyone could see that I really was under the water. So that was good. Okay? It was all good. A couple weeks later, he's giving another emotional sermon. I was moved again. So I walked forward again. A couple weeks later, he gave another emotional sermon. I walked forward again. Well, you know, after about the third time, the minister talked to my mother and said, “Well, this isn't really what we're looking for.” But, you know, I was sincere. I wanted to be close to Jesus, but I had no idea what sin was because they didn't teach me. Therefore, I couldn't repent to sin.

And then, when I started asking questions like, “Well, what happens to all those Chinese who never heard of the name of Jesus Christ?” You know, you remember Acts 4:12, “It's only by the name of Jesus that you can be saved?” I was saying, “Well, they never had a chance. They lived 2,000 years ago. They never heard the name of Jesus.” Well, I was told, “Well, they're burning in hell.” I said, “What? What? Wait a minute, you're trying to teach me that God is fair and just and merciful. And these people never had a chance and they're burning in hell.” “Well, that's just the wait it is.” “Whoa.” You know, asking questions like that, they decided they weren't very happy to have me in the Sunday school class either. So I had to find answers elsewhere.

I encourage you young people ask questions about the Bible, ask about what it means, how you can live a better life. And I can tell you that no person, your parents, or elders, or anyone has all the answers, but we will do our best to explain how we understand the Word of God and how we try to live by it every day. We know that young people continue growing through most of their teen years. My son grew an additional 4 inches after he graduated from high school. So he was my age, and that was fine when he graduated from high school. Sorry, height. He was my height. Thank you. He was my height. So I thought that's fine, you know. But then, he continued growing for another four years, 4 more inches, and now he towers over me. Well, that's fine too. But he kept growing.

It shouldn't be surprising that a younger person's brain and related abilities to make judgments and to make legal commitments are not yet fully formed until about age 20, 21, but obviously, there can be exceptions. People can mature a bit earlier than that. But our society and culture for centuries has used, by experience, age 21 as the average at which a person can make a legal commitment because by then, almost everyone's body and brain are fully grown. So also in the Church of God, we normally wait until a person is around age 19 or 20 before seriously counseling for baptism.

Now, I remember a situation of a young man, and he was 18, and he was asking me for counseling about baptism. And I said, “I think you need to see a bit more of the world. I don't think you have enough experience yet. I think you ought to see the world.” So he said, “Okay.” And then, he didn't ask about baptism again for many years. He went to university, people challenged him, and said, “You're foolish to believe in the Bible. The Bible's not true.” And I thought, “Oh, man, did I make a mistake? I mean, should I have baptized him at 18? What did I do?” I found out years later, I forget how many years, maybe five or six years, he was counseling with the local minister for baptism. He hadn't told me.

What he had done, he had done the hard work of proving to himself God exists, the Bible is the Word of God, it's been faithfully transmitted down to us. He did the hard work, so he had the foundation in himself. It wasn't just because his friends were in the church or his family was in the church. He did the hard work. And so he was baptized some years later. Baptism is a right choice to make, one that should be made at the right time for the right reasons. It needs to be preceded by thoughtful prayer and research so that you know what you are committing to, so that you count the cost, as we say. Are you ready to face an employer about keeping the Sabbath day holy? Are you ready to be faithful and paying the tithe to God? Are you ready to not go out with friends on a Friday night to bars and do all the things that young people say they like to do?

When I was in high school, I did ask an elder about doing a particular activity. He just told me, “Remember Lot's wife.” It was my decision to do or not do, but I understood what he was saying. And thankfully, I chose the way of God. This is my 50th year as a baptized member of God's church. I've been truly blessed in my life to have been called and baptized as a young man. Let me underscore that God wants you, every one of us, to live life joyfully, to live an abundant, happy, and healthy life. His commands are not burdensome. They do protect us and guide our activities so we can avoid a lot of pain and suffering.

And parents, let's find a way to say yes to right and good activities for our young people. Find a way within God's law where our children can express musical talent, sports talent, intellectual talent. Let's find ways to make the Sabbath a real delight for our children. Let's do our part to show that living God's way of life is a way of joy and prosperity and success so when our children, our young people, they reach that level of maturity and independence necessary to make the life-long commitment to God and baptism, it will be natural and right to make that step.