11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:11–12, NKJV)
John explained the Messiah’s work as he prepared the way before Him (Matthew 3:3). In a scathing condemnation of the self-righteous hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, John warned them that Christ would execute judgment against sinners. They needed true repentance to flee the approaching wrath, not reliance on their physical heritage (Matthew 3:7-10). The Christ would bring a baptism of fire upon sinners. This fire burns the “trees” that bear evil fruit (Matthew 3:10). It is the “unquenchable fire” of Matthew 3:12, that overwhelms the wicked. Jesus promised, and baptized His apostles with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8. 2:1-4). He has promised an overwhelming, eternal destruction upon the wicked (Mark 9:43-48). Judgment Day is real, and eternity is forever. Therefore, “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 9:27). You do not want to experience the Lord’s baptism of fire!
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3–5, NKJV)
The new birth is a spiritual birth, not a physical one: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which his born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). There is one new birth, with two parts (water and the Spirit). To be “born again” one must be “born of water and the Spirit.” What is the “water” of the new birth? It is not the water of physical birth, but the water of spiritual birth. It is the “washing of water” that happens when sin is washed away by the blood of Christ. It is the cleansing that occurs in water baptism (read Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3; Acts 8:35-39). The Bible says, “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21, KJV). What is “the Spirit” of the new birth? It is the Spirit of God, whose seed (the word of the kingdom) is planted into the heart of the sinner (Matt. 13:19, 23; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 1:22-23). The Spirit of God acts upon the heart by His word, producing faith, convicting the sinner, and persuading him to obey Jesus to be saved (Acts 2:37-38, 39-41). The new birth is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Have you been born of water and the Spirit? Only then can you enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then 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. (Acts 2:37–38, NKJV)
In answer to the question posed by the murderers of Jesus (Acts 2:36), Peter did not tell them to “just accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and you will be saved.” (They evidently already believed Jesus to be “both Lord and Christ,” because they are convicted of their sin against Him. You cannot be convicted about something you do not believe.) Peter did not tell them to “pray the sinner’s prayer” to be saved. (Yet, that is what many tell sinners to do about their sins.) Peter did not tell them, “There is nothing you can do to save yourselves. God has done everything.” (But, many tell sinners they are completely passive in their salvation.) Peter did tell them to repent. These believers were not yet saved; they needed to repent, or they would not be saved. Peter also told them to be baptized “for the remission of sins.” Just as one must believe and repent to be saved, one must also be baptized to be saved. Instead of accepting doctrines that deny and oppose this simple passage about how to be saved, why not believe it, obey it, and be saved? When you believe, repent and are baptized, God will remove your sins, just like He did theirs.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
This is God’s platform of unity for the church of Christ. There is one body, or church, not many churches (denominations) that establish division among believers. There is one Spirit, who leads us and unites us by the gospel truth He revealed, inspired and confirmed. There is one hope reserved in heaven for Christians; not the hope of an idyllic earth for all of humanity (1 Peter 1:3-5). Unity is arranged under the authority of one Lord; Jesus Christ (Acts 2:34-36). Unity is preserved when we do all things by His authority (Colossians 3:17). We do not write or accept creeds to elucidate unity – the faith that was once for all delivered is our sufficient guide (Jude 3). The Great Commission baptism of repentant believers for the remission of sins is the only baptism God recognizes (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38). All other baptisms introduce error and cause division. We have one Father who is in heaven; not many clerical “fathers” on earth (Matthew 23:9). God, our heavenly Father, is sovereign over all things. He pervades and sustains all things. He dwells among His people (Ephesians 2:22). Let us unite on truth. This is the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21).
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:35–36, NKJV)
This passage is particularly instructive about what it means to preach Jesus. Preaching Jesus identifies Him as the suffering Servant of God who sacrificed His life (Acts 8:32-34; Isa. 53:7-8). It includes teaching about sin and salvation from it. The Ethiopian was lost, and wanted to be saved. The water would facilitate his salvation. When he asked Philip about baptism, he had not yet announced his personal faith in Jesus, since Philip stated that as the condition upon which he could be baptized (v. 37). To preach Jesus means preaching baptism, since the Ethiopian immediately asked about it when he saw water. How else did he know about baptism, expect that Philip spoke of it when he “preached Jesus” to him? Surely, he told the man what Jesus preached about baptism: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). The Ethiopian confessed his personal faith, stopped the chariot, and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:37-38). The man joyfully went on his way, because he was saved when he believed and was baptized. Christ continues to save sinners the same way, today. What hinders you from being baptized to be saved?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
Conversion takes place when one is “in Christ.” In Christ, the sinner is now forgiven, a new creature (born again) – God’s creation of new life out of the old, dead person of sin (Col. 2:12-13). Tragically, many have not been fully taught how to be “in Christ” in order to be His “new creation.” The Scriptures explain that we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). It is telling that we do not read of “believing into Christ” or “repenting into Christ” or “confessing faith in to Christ.” Belief, repentance and confession of faith are essential in order to be saved, yet it is uniquely baptism that places one “in Christ.” In Christ we have a relationship with Him, not outside of Him. Yet, faith alone does not put one “in Christ” like baptism does. Hence, faith alone (without baptism) does not produce “a new creation” who is “in Christ.”
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)
The sinner is brought to the blood of Christ when he or she is baptized “into His death” (Rom. 6:3). Then, the sinner is raised from the death of sin by the power of God to “walk in newness of life” (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4). In baptism, the sinner is united with Christ in the likeness of His death and raised from spiritual death in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Therefore, Paul tells us in today’s verse to desire and reach after heavenly things. Christ is in heaven; where else should we seek to be, but in fellowship with Him? Christ is reigning at the right hand of God; where else should we seek to be, but living under His ruling authority? God has raised us from spiritual death and “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). We have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Your spiritual resurrection gives your life a new direction. Make upward living your daily passion.