The Story of Baptism ~ Grace, Gospel, and Gift

On Sunday we looked at the story of Baptism. You’ll be able to download the sermon here. And what I realized as I prepared the sermon on Baptism is that it’s really about grace, gospel and gift.

We looked at Acts 8 and in the story we meet a eunuch. This is a man who has been socially excluded, hurt, suffered something that is humiliating, and has no opportunity for a family or descendants. And he is reading a passage about humiliation, cutting, and a loss of family (Isaiah 53:7-8). This is a passage that would resonate with a man who has been cut, humiliated, and will never have descendants. Right at that moment Philip asks if he understands what he has read and shares with him the Gospel of grace and Jesus Christ.

The Eunuch understandably wants to join this movement, to be included in a family, but he is scared and scarred. Because the eunuch has just been turned away from the Temple in Jerusalem (see Deut.23:1). He has just been excluded, thrown out, and rejected because of who he is. What is amazing about the story in Acts 8 is that Philip immediately baptizes him and welcomes without wasting any time. The gospel of grace doesn’t demand that the eunuch change before he comes to Jesus; the gospel of grace is that people change by coming to Jesus.

So from this story I pulled three main thoughts. That baptism is really a reminder and a marker of the story we are a part of. It also reminds us of grace, identity, and inclusion in God’s family.

First, baptism is a reminder of the wideness of God’s mercy. So we need to be careful if we limit the scope and activity of God’s grace. The religious institution of the day excluded this man whom the Kingdom of God welcomed. The truth is God’s gospel of grace is for everyone and anyone. Everyone is free to come to Jesus. Jesus died for the whole world and baptism is a reminder of the wideness of God’s grace.

Secondly, it reminds us of our identity. The eunuch is no longer a broken, excluded man with no descendants. He is a part of a spiritual family. He is pure, holy, and clean. Baptism doesn’t save us, make us holy or clean; Jesus Christ does that. Baptism doesn’t change us, but it does remind us of the change that has happened. And when we follow Jesus, we are new, we are no longer sinners, but holy, perfect, and clean because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Paul says, “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore for the old life is gone. A new life has begun (2 Cor. 5:17). So Baptism is a reminder of our identity in Christ. We are no longer the same anymore. The old life is gone and new life has begun. We don’t need to cling onto our old identity but embrace our identity in Christ.

Lastly, it reminds us we are part of a family. The eunuch joins a family of God, and tradition says that he brought the gospel to many people. So while he may not have any physical descendants, he has many spiritual descendants. He is a father to many. Baptism is a reminder that we are apart of a family and a people called by God. We are included in God’s family and that gives us reason to celebrate.

So from an odd story about chariots, eunuchs, and running disciples, we learn about God, gospel, and most of all grace.

The Story of Baptism and the Story of Grace

On Sunday I’ve chosen an odd topic, one that now that I’ve got into it, I find so beautiful, compelling, and life-changing. What’s odd about the topic is that it is Baptism.

I would say that most people don’t feel that a sermon on Baptism is beautiful. They either feel forced or guilt driven by it, if they haven’t been baptized, or feel it’s a waste of time or redundant, if they have been baptized. The problem with that is, when you read about the story of Baptism in Acts 8, it is anything but boring, redundant, guilt-driven, or forced. The story is all about grace, gospel, life, and beauty. The story is about how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we see the church. The story of baptism reminds us of our identity, the gospel of grace, and the people of God.

So I know it’s odd to preach on Baptism. I know that you might have heard sermons that seem to be trying to convict people to make a choice to be baptized. I know you might have heard sermons that didn’t speak to you because you’ve already been baptized. But I don’t believe Sunday is going to be at all like that, because as I’ve been preparing, God’s been changing me. He’s been using this odd topic to remind me of who I am in Christ, of how I should see my neighbors, and how I should value the church. So my prayer is that on Sunday he’ll keep doing what he’s started in my life, changing us through a story of grace and gift.

So on Sunday if you want to find out about the gospel, grace, and your identity in Jesus, we’re going to find out all about that through the spiritual practice of Baptism. But before we get there why not take a moment and read Acts 8. Simply read it a few times, and see what you notice and how God speaks to you through it. And come Sunday we’ll see how one man’s life was changed and how ours can be as well…