He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (Matthew 10:40, NKJV)
Before Jesus sent His apostles “into all the world” to “preach the gospel to every creature,” He sent them on a limited commission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 10:5-6). Today’s verse is within the context of that limited assignment. Jesus encouraged them with a concise principle: Receiving the apostles is equivalent to receiving Him and the Father who sent Him. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus reinforced this principle to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). When we accept the apostles’ teaching, we are accepting Jesus and the Father. The antithesis is also true. When we reject the apostles, we are rejecting the Son and the Father: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Lk. 10:16). It is a flawed and futile exercise that exalts Jesus while minimizing and discounting His apostles. (They spoke His word!) Friend, you have not accepted Jesus when you reject what His apostles taught (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). After all, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15).
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16, NKJV)
This passage is not difficult to understand. Yet, it undergoes no end of abuse at the hands of those who refuse its teaching on how the gospel saves sinners. Christ’s commission to the apostles is forthright: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15). The gospel is for all, and the apostles made known its power to save “to all nations” (Rom. 1:16; 16:25-26; Col. 1:23). Responses to the gospel and their corresponding results are stated candidly in verse 16. The person who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved from sin, but the person who does not believe the gospel will be condemned in sin. Believing the gospel of Christ compels one to be baptized to be saved. Yet, controversy arises over whether water baptism is necessary for salvation. Jesus said it is. Why? Because “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and cannot justify the sinner (Jas. 2:17, 24). Water baptism is faith at work as one submissively obeys Christ’s command (Acts 2:37-38; 10:34-35). Obedient faith does not earn salvation (Lk. 17:10). When the believer obeys the gospel, God frees that person from sin’s bondage to become a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Belief and baptism are essential to be saved. Unbelief is condemned. Instead of arguing with Jesus, we plead with the lost to believe and be baptized to be saved.
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21–23, NKJV)
Following His resurrection, Jesus Christ commissioned His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). According to John’s account of this assignment, Jesus sent them into the world even as the Father had sent Him (Jno. 17:18; Heb. 3:1). The Father gave the Son the word of everlasting life to speak (Jno. 12:48-50). His apostles, who were sent into the world with the good news of God’s salvation, were guided by the Holy Spirit “into all truth” (Jno. 16:13). The word which the Holy Spirit revealed to them contained why, how, and when sins are forgiven and retained. The forgiveness and the retention of sins is not arbitrary, but available to all (Acts 10:34-35). A freewill decision to believe and obey must be made upon hearing the good news that Jesus is Christ. Those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins are forgiven (Acts 2:36-41; 3:19). Those who do not believe and obey the gospel call to be saved remain lost in their sins. The gospel saves the lost, yet, many will not believe it and obey it, therefore, their sins are retained. The decision to believe and obey the gospel to be forgiven continues to be the most important decision a person will ever make (Acts 2:21, 37-38, 40-41). Will your sins be forgiven, or retained?
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
While the one baptism unifies, the many contradictory teachings and practices of baptism found on the religious landscape divide believers. The Scriptures speak plainly about the what it is, who it is for, and what it accomplishes. The one baptism is the great commission baptism and is for the whole world (Matt. 28:19). The one baptism is water baptism, not Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 8:12-13, 16, 35-36; 10:47-48). The one baptism is immersion in water, not sprinkling or pouring (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). The one baptism is for those who believe the gospel, repent of their sins, and confess their faith in Christ, not for innocent babies without the capacity of faith (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38). The one baptism washes away our sins and saves us (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). The one baptism accomplishes this because the sinner is baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3). The one baptism brings a person into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:27). The one baptism is “into one body,” the church (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41, 47). The one baptism is not a work of man that earns salvation, it is a work of faith in God’s grace (Tit. 3:4-7; Col. 2:12). We can have the unity God arranged for Christians by accepting what the Bible says about the one baptism which Christ commands and blesses.