The Work of Baptism

Text: Romans 6:1-11


I.         A frequent objection raised to baptism is that it is a work

            A.        “We are not saved by works.” we are told.

                        1.         Romans 4:4-5 - Faith justifies

                        2.         Ephesians 2:8-9 - Saved not as a result of works

            B.        Now certainly baptism is something done, hence it is a work.

                        1.         But what kind of work is it?

                                    a.         Is it a work of man striving to merit salvation?

                                    b.         Is it a work of God done by man in obedience to his faith in God?

                        2.         Too, we need to consider who is working

                                    a.         Is the person being immersed working salvation for himself?

                                    b.         Is it God who forgives and renews life through the blood of Jesus and the working of the Spirit?

II.        Baptism is a work of faith

            A.        Works of merit

                        1.         Works done to earn a result. The result is granted because the worker deserves his due.

                                    a.         Such work would bring pride in personal accomplishment - Romans 4:2-4

                                    b.         Such boasting is excluded from salvation - Romans 3:24-28

                                    c.         Not of yourselves - Ephesians 2:8-9

                        2.         There is no way we can earn salvation by our deeds

                                    a.         All the good that we do cannot outweigh the sin that we do - James 2:10

                                    b.         The curse of the law was the need to keep all the law - Galatians 3:10-11

                        3.         If salvation was based on merit, then we have each earned death - Romans 6:23

            B.        Works of faith                                                                        

                        1.         These are works done to receive a result. The result is granted even though the worker doesn’t feel he deserves it.

                                    a.         Their obedience does not merit the gift - Luke 17:10

                                    b.         Salvation then rests on God’s mercy and His grace.

                        2.         These same works can be called works of God

                                    a.         Faith is a work of God - John 6:28-29

                                                (1)       Consider our opening: “Faith is a work and we are not saved by works!” It just doesn’t work.

                                    b.         Repentance is commanded by God, and therefore, is a work of God - Acts 17:30

                                    c.         Confession is commanded by God, and therefore, allows such a one to receive salvation - Romans 10:8-10

                        3.         Though faith, repentance, and confession are commanded, they do not cause the doer to be owed salvation.

                        4.         They are works that God has ordained men to do in order to receive His salvation, but when everything is said and done, that salvation is still granted by God’s grace.

            C.        Baptism is a work of faith

                        1.         Baptism requires faith

                                    a.         Faith is absolutely necessary - Mark 16:16

                                    b.         See as a prerequisite - Acts 8:36-37

                        2.         Baptism, along with repentance, is an act of faith by which one receives (not earns) the forgiveness of sins - Acts 2:38

                        3.         Baptism is an act of faith by which one receives a new life - Romans 6:3-4

                        4.         Baptism is an act of faith that unites us with Christ - Galatians 3:27

                        5.         Paul emphasizes that baptism is not a work of merit - Titus 3:4-7

                                    a.         God does not save us by works of righteousness (works to earn salvation)

                                    b.         God saves us by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (an allusion to baptism).

                        6.         I am unaware of any passage that calls baptism a work of merit where the one being baptized is owed salvation. Like faith, repentance, and confession; baptism is an act of faith by which we receive salvation.

III.       God is at work in baptism

            A.        We are buried and raised with Christ “through faith in the working of God” - Colossians 2:12

            B.        It is God who does the work, not man - Colossians 2:13

                        1.         Men are dead in their sins

                        2.         But God makes a man alive, forgiving him of his sins

            C.        Thus, it is God who saves us, not we ourselves.

                        1.         God saves us through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Spirit - Titus 3:5

                        2.         Baptism washes away sins - Acts 22:16

                        3.         It grants forgiveness of sins - Acts 2:38

                        4.         Baptism saves, not in the physical action, but because God grants salvation through His Son - I Peter 3:21

            D.        Illustration: Consider baptism as a spiritual operation performed by the Great Physician

                        1.         When a person needs physical surgery, faith is required in the skills of the physician, else we would not agree to lie upon the operating table

                                    a.         But when the surgery is over, did I earn or merit my healing because I submitted to being placed on the operating table? NO!

                                    b.         Yet to be healed, it required both faith in the surgeon and a willingness to submit to the surgery.

                        2.         My faith in God and in the death of His Son prompts me to submit to the spiritual operation of baptism where God does His work of cleansing my soul by the blood of Jesus and the renewing of the Spirit - Colossians 2:11-12

IV.      Sadly, many people reject baptism because they see it as something you do

            A.        But the reality is that baptism is the most passive act of faith required of us by God.

            B.        Faith, repentance, and confession are all acts which require much from the worker

            C.        But baptism is something done to us.

            D.        It would make more sense to object to faith, or repentance, or confession as they require active effort than to object to the passive effort of baptism

            E.        Even Martin Luther, who came up with the phrase “salvation by faith only,” understood that salvation by grace through faith did not preclude baptism. In his Small Catechism, he wrote,

                        1.         In answer to the question, “What gifts or benefits does baptism bestow?”, Luther wrote, “It effects forgiveness of sins.”

                        2.         Concerning the sinner, “Through baptism he is bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from sins.”

                        3.         “To put it simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of baptism is to save.”

                        4.         In response to those who call this a kind of salvation by works, he said, “Yes, it is true that our works are of no use for salvation. Baptism, however, is not our work but God’s.”

            F.        If Luther can understand this simply concept, why can’t others? Why can’t you?

                        1.         Baptism is a work of God, and we are saved by faith in the working of God - Ephesians 2:10

                        2.         Acts 22:16