1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, 3 “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:1–3, NKJV)
Religious traditions (formed, validated, and passed down by humans) are not equivalent to God’s will. Many religious traditions fashioned and perpetuated by people contradict and violate the word of God. For example, Jesus not only rebuked the Jewish binding of traditions that were foreign to the Law of Moses, but He also exposed the tradition of Corban that excused violating God’s word (Matt. 15:1-3, 4-6; Mark 7:9-13). He called this conduct hypocrisy (Matt. 15:7). While claiming allegiance to God, they nullified God’s commands by demanding conformity to the tradition of the elders. A notable comparison to this is water baptism by sprinkling instead of immersion. Baptize (baptizo) means “to immerge, submerge” (Thayer, 94). Bible baptism requires much water, going down into and coming up out of the water (Matt. 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39). Baptism is a burial (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4-5). Sprinkling water as baptism began as an accommodation to the scarcity of water and, later, for clinical (deathbed) baptism in the third century for the bedfast. In some cases, the Roman papacy approved it in the eighth century until it was declared equal with immersion in AD 1311 by the Council of Ravenna (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, II:247-252). We must reject human religious traditions if they (1) Bind what God has not bound upon us or (2) Approve actions that violate the revealed word of God (Gal. 1:6-10; 2 John 9).
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1, NKJV).
Sinners are “buried with Christ in baptism into death” when they are baptized into Christ and His death (Rom. 6:3-4). Thus “buried with Him in baptism,” they are “raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Now saved in Christ, they are raised to walk in “newness of life,” having been “made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:13). Because we have been “raised with Christ,” the apostle teaches Christians how to live our new life with Christ in Colossians 3. (1) Seek things above (Col. 3:1). Our goals are spiritual and eternal, not fleshly and temporal (2 Cor. 4:16-18). (2) Set your mind on things above, not on the earth (Col. 3:2). Our commitment is now to lay up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20). “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). (3) Sustain a faithful life with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Walk with God in the light by practicing His truth and be blessed by His fellowship (1 John 1:5-9). (4) Live in the hope of the eternal reward Christ will bring (Col. 3:4). To be received into His presence and to be like Him will be your crowning joy of righteousness (1 John 3:2-3; 2 Tim. 4:8). Living in Christ requires us to put sin to death (Col. 3:5-11), to put on a new heart (Col. 3:12-15), to let Christ’s word dwell in us with praise and grace (Col. 3:16), and to do everything in His name (by His authority) with thanksgiving (Col. 3:17). Our salvation in Christ changes everything about how we live (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-24).
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3–4, NKJV).
This passage explains the subject, action, purposes, and results of baptism. It speaks of the Great Commission baptism (water baptism), the “one baptism” commanded of us all (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 4:5). The subject of baptism is the sinner, the person who is not “in Christ” (v. 3), without the benefit of His death (v. 3), and dead in sin (v. 4). Christ’s baptism is for the lost, not the saved. The action of baptism is immersion, a burial in water (v. 4; Col. 2:12; Acts 8:38). Three purposes and results of baptism are briefly enumerated here. (1) The sinner is “baptized into Christ” (v. 3). Until one is in Christ, he has not “put on Christ” and is not a “new creation” (Gal. 3:27; 2 Cor. 5:17). He is lost. (2) The sinner is “baptized into His death” (v. 3). Water baptism is how sinners reach the saving blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7; Acts 22:16). (3) The sinner is “buried with Him through baptism into death” (v. 4). Sin is put to death when the sinner is baptized. God’s power raises the sinner to newness of life (Col. 2:12; 2 Cor. 5:17). Before baptism, the sinner remains dead in sin. In baptism, there is a new birth, a resurrection from sin’s death to newness of life in Christ (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). Christ commanded water baptism (Mark 16:16). So did His apostles (Acts 2:38; 10:47-48). Christ saves sinners who obey Him by being baptized into Him (Acts 8:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; Heb. 5:9). By the gospel, God is calling sinners to be saved in Christ. “And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:21–24, NKJV).
This clear statement of sin was said to a Christian, Simon, who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12-13). This passage helps expose and defeat two false doctrines. The first error is denying the necessity of water baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16). Some say Simon was never really saved in an attempt to deny this. But, Acts 8:12-13 says he believed, was baptized, and continued following Philip’s teachings like others in Samaria. If Simon was not saved when he believed and was baptized, neither were the Samaritans. And if they were lost, then the apostles gave the Holy Spirit to those who had not “received the word of God,” which they had (Acts 8:14-17). Yes, Simon was a Christian. It is postulated by those who reject baptism’s necessity for salvation that Christians would have to be baptized when they sin repeatedly. This text denies that. Peter told Simon the Christian to repent, not to be baptized again. The second error exposed is the impossibility of apostasy (a Christian cannot fall away and be lost). But Simon was poisoned and enslaved by sin, needing forgiveness. Simon was lost unless he repented. His plea for Peter’s prayer indicates his repentance and confession of sins (v. 24; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Sinners must believe and be baptized to be saved. Christians are forgiven by repentance and prayer. Otherwise, the sinner and saint remain lost in sin.
His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5, NKJV).
Mary’s simple statement to the wedding feast servants is worthy of our contemplation and imitation. Our lives change when we do whatever Jesus says. We must hear and do what Jesus says to be wise and blessed: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). Consider some things Jesus said, and do them. (1) We must receive the words of His apostles. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20). That means we must believe and do what His apostles taught (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 14:37). (2) The lost must believe and be baptized to be saved. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Instead of refusing baptism is essential for salvation, do what Jesus said, and you will be saved. He said we must be born again of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5-7). (3) Christians must worship in spirit and truth. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We must offer God the worship He approves in His word. (4) Christians eat the Lord’s Supper in memory of Christ’s death. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). The Lord’s Supper is not an unbloody sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is a memorial of His death by which our sins are forgiven (Eph. 1:7). Remember that having ears to hear Jesus will do what He says (Luke 8:8, 18).
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV).
Jesus makes it very clear that our forgiveness is conditional. The little word “if” carries much weight. It directs attention to personal responsibility to do something to be forgiven by God. Namely, if we forgive others, our Father will forgive us. If not, then God will not forgive us. Jesus did not say to only forgive your brethren, but “men” (anthropos, person, human being). The gospel teaches Christians to put on hearts of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). Christ’s sermon to this point has repeatedly called on kingdom citizens to have a heart that is ready to forgive (Matt. 5:7, 9, 23-24, 39-42, 44). To withhold forgiveness brings punishment from God, not blessing (remember the unforgiving servant, Matt. 18:27-35). If we do not forgive from the heart, we will be punished, too (Matt. 18:35). Now, since forgiveness is conditional, why is there such objection when the gospel tells us of other conditions we must meet to be forgiven by God? The gospel says faith and confession of faith in Jesus, repentance, and baptism are conditions sinners must meet to be forgiven by God (John 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38). So, it is false and futile to say salvation (forgiveness, remission of sins) is unconditional. Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves, do I have faith to submit to God’s conditions to be forgiven of my sins?
3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:3–5, NKJV).
Paul asked these disciples of John a simple, probing, and informative question: “Into what then were you baptized?” Their answer (“into John’s baptism”) gave Paul the opening to explain the prerequisite and outcome of John’s baptism and help them become Christ’s disciples. First, repentance was necessary to receive John’s baptism, without which his baptism “for the remission of sins” was useless (Luke 3:3, 7-8; Matt. 3:5-8). Second, John’s preaching and baptism prepared people to believe on the Messiah (whom Paul tells them is Christ Jesus, Acts 19:4; Luke 3:3-6). John’s baptism served its purpose and ran its course. Convinced that Jesus is the Christ (in whom John prepared them to put their faith), John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus by being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (by His authority, Acts 19:5). They were not disciples of Jesus before and until they were baptized in His name. Christ’s baptism remains how believers become disciples of Jesus. Faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, prepares the sinner to repent and be baptized in His name to be saved and become His disciple (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 10:48; Gal. 3:26-27).
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:30–34, NKJV).
What does it mean to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation? Before one can do so, he or she must hear the word of the Lord since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to the jailer and his house (v. 32). Believing on Jesus Christ for salvation mean more than agreeing and confessing He is “the Christ, the Son of God,” since demons did as much (Luke 4:41; James 2:19). The jailer’s conversion shows us when sinners believe and are saved in Christ. This sinner was convicted of the truth when he heard God’s word. He repented of his transgressions (indicated by washing their wounds) and was immediately baptized (v. 33). Then there was great rejoicing because he (and his family) had “believed in God.” Some try using this passage to deny water baptism is essential for salvation. If that is true, why were they baptized immediately? Why was the rejoicing after baptism and not before it (v. 34)? Saving faith is not like the faith of demons. It trusts Christ and obeys from the heart His commands to repent and be baptized (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). That kind of faith saves the soul (Matt. 7:21).
29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. (Luke 7:29–30, NKJV)
Scripture says, “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4). Sinners justified God when John baptized them. Their submission to baptism showed God to be just (righteous) in demanding their repentance and baptism to remove their sins. By contrast, the Pharisees and lawyers “rejected the will of God for themselves” and were not baptized by John. Like those unbelievers, refusing to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus is a rejection of the will of God (Acts 10:48; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). John’s baptism required repentance as its prerequisite and prepared the people to believe in Christ Jesus who came after John (Jno. 3:22-36; Acts 19:4). God linked John’s baptism to remission of sins (Mk. 1:4). God also links Christ’s baptism to our remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Refusing baptism for the remission of sins is rejecting the will of God. Have you “justified God” by being baptized into Christ to be saved? Or, do you consider God unjust by commanding repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4, NKJV)
Acts 8 is a chapter about preaching the gospel. Those who preached in this chapter were the persecuted, scattered saints (8:4), Philip the evangelist (8:5, 35, 40), and the apostles Peter and John (8:25). The message they preached was “the word” (8:4), “Christ” (8:5), things concerning the kingdom, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (8:12), “the word of the Lord” (8:25), “the gospel” (8:25), and “Jesus” (8:35). The result of their preaching was the conversion and salvation of souls. People believed and were baptized, and by doing so, they “received the word of God” (8:12-14). A sinning Christian learned from hearing the apostle’s teaching that he needed to repent and pray for God’s forgiveness (8:18-24). A lost Ethiopian came to believe in Jesus Christ and was baptized, resulting in great joy (8:35-39). One cannot read Acts 8 without being impressed with gospel preaching’s central role in saving sinners. The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian eunuch were brought to faith, obedience, and salvation from sins through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sinners cannot hear the word of God, believe it, call on the name of the Lord, and be saved without gospel preaching (Rom. 10:13-17). Why and what are you preaching, preacher? What kind of preaching do you want, Christian? Gospel preaching is not entertainment. It is not a psychology session. It is not the pleasing pabulum of positive platitudes. It is not a sharing session of opinions. It is the proclamation of the gospel, God’s power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). We need more gospel preaching, not less.