Being a Contagious Christian

This is the second command at the Adult Stage or the Equip Level of disciple-making. Last week was on persecution and handling false accusations, and today it is how to be salt and light in the world; how to be a contagious Christian and a person of influence.

Read Matthew 5:13-16

We find our main command in Matthew 5:16 (LET your light shine), Mark 9:50 (HAVE salt in yourselves), Luke 11:35 (WATCH out). The book of Acts illustrates this principle (Acts 9:36, 26:18), and the letters, too (Philippians 2:15, Colossians 4:6, 1 Peter 2:12).

After the beatitudes, Jesus shifts from pronouncements of blessing to instructions about His “new law” (see Matthew 5:21 for example). He compares His followers to salt and light, elements commonly used as metaphors in Jesus’ day. His point in this section is to show that disciples who fail to live a kingdom lifestyle are like something tasteless or devoid of light—undesirable and of no value.

Salt was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel (see Leviticus 2:13). It is a preservative, a flavor enhancer, and a purifying agent. Jews called the law the salt of the earth. Jesus claimed that His disciples exerted this influence. Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5 speak of “a covenant of salt,” possibly describing the covenant God had established with Israel as one He would preserve forever.

Pure salt cannot lose its flavor or effectiveness, but the salt that is common in the Dead Sea area is contaminated with gypsum and other minerals and may have a flat taste or be ineffective as a preservative. Such mineral salts were useful for little more than keeping footpaths free of vegetation.

Having Lost its Savor:

The kindred noun (μωρός) means dull, sluggish;

  • applied to the mind, stupid or silly;
  • applied to the taste, insipid, flat.

The verb here used of salt, to become insipid, also means to play the fool. Our Lord refers here to the familiar fact of salt losing its pungency and becoming useless.

Dr. Thompson (“The Land and the Book”) cites the following case: “A merchant of Sidon, having farmed of the government the revenue from the importation of salt, brought over a great quantity from the marshes of Cyprus—enough, in fact, to supply the whole province for many years. This he had transferred to the mountains, to cheat the government out of some small percentage of duty. Sixty-five houses were rented and filled with salt. Such houses have merely earthen floors, and the salt next the ground was in a few years entirely spoiled. I saw large quantities of it literally thrown into the road to be trodden under foot of men and beasts. It was ‘good for nothing.’ ”

Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Matthew 5:13). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

As preservatives, disciples are to hinder the world’s corruption. The salt deposits along the Dead Sea contain not just sodium chloride but a variety of other minerals as well. This salt can become good for nothing when the rain washes out its saltiness over the years (see Colossians 2:20).

Christians in the World:

The word “world” in the New Testament is sometimes used as in the Old Testament to mean this earth, the good natural order that God created. Usually, however, it designates humanity as a whole, now fallen into sin and moral disorder, radically opposed to God. People in the world incur guilt and shame by their misuse of created things. Paul can even speak of creation itself yearning for deliverance from the evil occasioned by the fall of Adam and Eve (Rom. 8:20–23).

Christians are sent into the world of fallen humanity by their Lord (John 17:18) to witness to it about God’s Messiah and His kingdom (Matthew 24:14, Romans 10:18, Colossians 1:6, 23) and to serve its needs. But they are to do so without…

  1. Falling victim to its materialism (Matthew 6:19–24, 32)
  2. Its lack of concern about God and eternity (Luke 12:13–21)
  3. Its pursuit of pleasure and status above all else (1 John 2:15–17).

The outlook and mindset of human societies reflect more of the pride seen in Satan, who for now continues to influence them (John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19, Luke 4:5–7), than the humility seen in Christ. Christians are to empathize with people’s anxieties and needs in order to serve them and communicate God’s love for them effectively.

Christians are to consider themselves pilgrims in this fallen world, through which they momentarily pass as they travel home to God (1 Peter 2:11). The Bible sanctions neither monastic withdrawal from this world (John 17:15) nor worldliness (Titus 2:12). Jesus encourages His disciples to match the ingenuity of the unredeemed who use their resources to further their goals, but specifies that the disciples’ proper goals have to do, not with earthly security, but with heavenly glory (Luke 16:9).

Christians are to be different from those around them, observing God’s moral absolutes, practicing love, and not losing their dignity as bearers of God’s image (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:17–24, Colossians 3:5–11). Separation from fallen humanity’s values and lifestyles is a prerequisite for practicing Christlikeness in positive terms (Ephesians 4:25–5:17).

The Christian’s appointed task, therefore, is threefold:

  1. The church’s main mandate is evangelism (Matthew 28:19, 20, Luke 24:46–48), and every Christian must seek to further the conversion of unbelievers, not least by the example of one’s own changed life (1 Peter 2:12).
  2. The church is to love their neighbors and should constantly lead the Christian into deeds of mercy for all people, believers and unbelievers alike.
  3. Finally, Christians are called to fulfill the “cultural mandate” that God gave to mankind at creation (Genesis 1:28–30, Psalm 8:6–8). Humanity was created to manage God’s world, and this stewardship is part of the human vocation in Christ, with God’s honor and the good of others as its goal. The Protestant “work ethic” is essentially a religious discipline, the fulfillment of a divine “calling” to be stewards of God’s creation.

Knowing that God in providential kindness and forbearance continues, in the face of human sin, to preserve and enrich His erring world (Acts 14:16, 17), Christians are to involve themselves in all forms of lawful human activity. By acting in accord with Christian values they will become salt (a preservative agent) and light (an illumination that shows the way) in the human community (Matthew 5:13–16). As Christians thus fulfill their vocation, they will transform the cultures around them.

Whitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. (1995). The Reformation study Bible: Bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture: New King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Sulfa Drugs and Streetlights:

Following Christ goes far beyond private spirituality. It also involves a believer’s public life, particularly through work and participation in the community. Jesus used two metaphors to describe that dynamic: salt (Matthew 5:13) and light (Matthew 5:14–16).

In Jesus’ day, salt was used to preserve foods like fish from decay. In the same way, believers can help to preserve society from moral and spiritual decay. Of course, in our culture, salt has given way to chemical preservatives (many of which have come under attack in recent years for their alleged role in causing cancer). So Jesus might use a different metaphor were He speaking today.

Perhaps He would talk in terms of an infection-fighting drug, such as an antibiotic like penicillin, or the sulfa drugs developed in the 1940s that have proved so valuable in fighting meningitis and pneumonia. Christians can help to ward off spiritual infections and diseases in the larger society. One of the most powerful arenas for influence is the workplace, particularly jobs that affect values, laws, and public opinion. That’s why believers need to pursue careers in education, government, and journalism, among many others. They may not be able to transform the entire society, but they can use whatever influence they have to promote Christlike values and hinder evil.

Jesus also called His followers “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), an image that fits perfectly into modern society. The Lord’s first-century listeners would be astonished at the availability and importance of light in our culture. We use it not only to illuminate but also to communicate. Thus, Jesus wants us as His followers to shine, to be visible and attractive, not to bring attention to ourselves, but to bring people to God (Matthew 5:16). Again, our vocations are one of the primary means we have to reflect Christ to others.

Jesus’ teaching here challenges us as His followers to ask:

  1. How are we engaging our society?
  2. What spiritual infections are we fighting to overcome?
  3. What positive changes are we trying to promote?
  4. What impact for God are we having through our work?
  5. Have we lost our saltiness (Matthew 5:13)?
  6. Are we standing like burned-out streetlights, ineffective and waiting to be removed? Or are we shining brilliantly with the love and truth of Christ?

Word in life study Bible. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Mt 5:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Questions Regarding Christian Influence:

1. Since coming to Christ, do you have a greater influence on the world around you or does it have a greater influence on you?

2. Without what positive attitude would we become isolated from the world (Matthew 5:11-12)? Rejoicing and being glad. When persecution comes because we are Christians, and the world casts insults at us, without this positive attitude, we would huddle up and avoid the world for the sake of self-preservation and avoidance of persecution.

3. Do you spend more or less time with friends that you had before you followed Christ?

4. In what ways do you see yourself as a difference maker in your spheres of influence (work, neighborhood, extended family, marketplace)?

5. What is the first step in Christ’s simple strategy to make a difference in the world (Matthew 5:13, Colossians 4:16, Luke 4:22)?

6. What happens when your talk doesn’t match your walk (Matthew 5:13)? Your Christian witness is damaged. Tasteless salt is good for nothing but to be thrown out sand trampled underfoot, which happens to the believer who lives contrary to the claims of Christ. This is a false profession of faith. The person is claiming to be a follower of Christ yet has no lifestyle to back up that claim.

I’m not talking about verbal witnessing. The fact is that we are ALL witnesses if we profess to be followers and disciples of Jesus; the issue is whether we will be GOOD witnesses or BAD witnesses.

7. What did people do with contaminated salt in the first century Palestine (Matthew 5:13)? They would throw it away as unusable; it was no longer useful in the purpose for which it was created.

8. What is the second step in Christ’s strategy for making an impact on our world (Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:15)? We are the light of the world, setting an example of righteousness. Those without Christ are lost and dying is a world of darkness looking for hope. Imagine walking through your house with no power, no streetlamp, no night light, no moon light, no candles… in total darkness. Remember the joy as the power returns, the fear dissipates, the darkness flees, we are again part of a community in view of one another.

9. Jesus refers to what good works (Matthew 5:16, Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14)? These are OUR good works; yet these works are not for OUR benefit. They reveal a deeper relationship we have with the living God. God affects not only our theology, but our sociology. We live in a world that need

10. How do you feel when someone does something extraordinarily unselfish for you just because you matter a lot to God and them? Do you have an example to share?

11. Jesus came to not only seek and save, but also to do what (Matthew 20:28, Luke 19:10)?

12. What is the purpose of letting our light shine (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12)?

13. What is the lie we believe that hinders us from adopting the strategy of Jesus (Matthew 5:15)?

Relational Network Diagram“The pulpit, not the media, is to be the most powerful voice in our land.” Bill Gothard

How to Become a Contagious Christian: (Hybels and Mittelberg, 1994)

HP + CP + CC = MI
High Potency + Close Proximity + Clear Communication = Maximum Impact

1. Develop a Contagious Christian character: Difference makers are highly potent in Christian character.

Here is how The Messages translates Matthew 5:13… Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

The ATTRACTIVENESS of authenticity (honest, truthful, genuine) – Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and SINCERITY of heart (Acts 2:46). We must be authentic in identity, emotional life, confession, living by conviction (in class I will tell about my Marine friend trained to correctly make up his bunk).

The PULL of compassion

  • Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)
  • Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” (Mark 1:41)
  • But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
  • But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. (Matthew 12:7)
  • “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. (Matthew 12:20)

The STRENGTH of sacrifice… small investments make big dividends. Sacrifices move people, melting the heart, they stop in their tracks and ask, “Why would you go out of your way for me?”

  • And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
  • So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10)

2. Build Spiritually Strategic Relationships: Difference makers are in close proximity with lost people; there is no impact without contact.

Radical identification while maintaining a radical difference… (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 17:25, Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 3:19, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 6:12, James 1:27, 1 John 2:15-17).

  • “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. (John 17:6)
  • I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
  • As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:18)

Rubbing shoulders with irreligious people

  • The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19)
  • For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; (Hebrews 7:26)

“Unconventional approaches that strategically mix the spiritual “haves” and “have-nots” are not merely acceptable; they are essential to God’s redemptive efforts.” – Bill Hybels (Super Bowl parties, Valentine’s Day parties)

3. Do ministry outside the four walls of the church: difference makers have a healthy ministry image and presence in their community. Here is the life of Jesus…

  • Jesus was invited to come and do ministry (John 4:45-47).
  • The new spread quickly (Luke 4:14, Matthew 4:24, Mark 7:36-37, Luke 7:11, 16-18).
  • People came from all over to hear him (Luke 6:17-19, 8:4, Mark 6:31, Matthew 15:3).
  • People were “wowed” (Luke 5:27, Mark 2:12, 5:20, Matthew 9:33, 15:31, Mark 7:37).
  • People immediately recognized him (high profile, Mark 6:54-56).
  • This kind of influence was repeated in the early church (Acts 2:47).

A healthy ministry image affects three areas:

  1. The degree to which people will learn.
  2. The intensity level people will have in identifying with the cause of the group.
  3. The amount of effort people will expend in bringing others into the group.

All of this is called, “attractional” but let’s look at four characteristics of Jesus’ ministry that fueled his healthy ministry image:

  1. A clear mission (Mark 1:38, Luke 4:43, 19:10, Matthew 20:28). He did not waiver in his mission; he was focused and clear. He was about making disciples who would take the mission and carry it on from generation to generation.
  2. A message of hope (Luke 4:18, Matthew 4:17). Jesus offered words of life, the good news. He spoke it with authority and grace proclaiming the time is fulfilled and the kingdom is at hand (Mark 1:15).
  3. A lifestyle of grace and truth (John 1:14, Luke 4:22). His words were full of grace yet full of truth, a winning combination.
  4. An attitude of expectancy (Matthew 6:30, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20, also Matthew 18:10, 15:28). Jesus was always dependent on the Father and constantly expected supernatural workings of the Spirit. He also challenged people to have great faith.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Writing Your Testimony

Command six in this WIN or Infant stage is on evangelism (click here for the overview chart). Here is a list of what we have covered up to this point…

  1. Invitation – Come and See (John 1:35-51)
  2. Salvation – Repent and Believe (Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:17, Luke 4:14b-15)
  3. Fear is a Barrier to Faith (Luke 12:4-12)
  4. Greed is a Barrier to Faith (Luke 12:13-21)
  5. Baptism is that First Step of Obedience (Matthew 28:19-20)
  6. Evangelism Comes from the Joy of Our New Found Faith (John 4:3-42)

If you intend to be effective in evangelism, you need to be clear on your personal testimony. Your testimony is the story of how you began your spiritual journey with Jesus. This is good old fashioned way to open the door for a presentation of the gospel.

Preparation is helpful because you want to express yourself well enough so the other person can understand. Choose the right words, the flow of your story, knowing how to begin, and how to wrap it up. Throughout the early church, God’s people have stood up in rivers, baptisteries, pools, and even hot tubs sharing their testimony of how Christ saved them.

Let’s look at John 4:29-30, 39-42, John 9:10-11, 25 and Revelation 12:11

Testimony of the Samaritan Woman (John 4:29-30): This woman trusted Jesus to be the Messiah and invited the men of the city to “come and see” for themselves; to consider Jesus’ words and works. Many trusted Jesus because of her testimony.

Testimony of the Man Born Blind (John 9:10-11, 25): The man did not have all the answers (John 9:12, 15, 17, 25, 35-36) and neither will we have all the answers to a skeptic’s questions, but one thing is undeniable, your life has been changed. They can deny your doctrine and question your beliefs or theology, but they can’t take away from you what Jesus has done in your life.

Testimony is a Weapon to Overcome Satanic Attack (Revelation 12:11): Not only is your testimony a tool to sharing Jesus with others, but it is a powerful weapon for spiritual warfare. When Satan (the adversary) accuses you of some sin you have already confessed (1 John 1:9), puts you on a guilt trip (Revelation 12:10), and places doubts in your mind concerning your salvation, you can revisit your testimony to be reminded that Christ has forgiven all of your sins (Colossians 1:13, 1 John 2:12).

Let’s look at Acts 26:1-29

Read the passage and focus on what Paul’s life was like before meeting Christ, his salvation experience (how he came to Christ), and his transformed life after coming to Christ.

  1. Before – Personal failure (Acts 26:2-11, 9:1-2, 22:3-5, 19-20)
  2. How – The Damascus Road experience (Acts 26:12-18, 9:3-18, 22:6-11)
  3. After – the benefits or fruit of salvation (Acts 26:19-29, 9:19b-22, 22:12-16)

Paul’s testimony was so clear that when King Agrippa heard it, he said, “in a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).

Chronological Format: in the order it happened. You might use this if you came to Christ later in life and have some information to share prior to conversion.

Historical Overview / Flashback Format: you give an interesting and rapid overview of your life up to the present time. The overview takes the place of the “before” in your testimony. Then flash back to the spiritual dimension, going to the event bringing you faith in Christ. You might use this format if you came to Christ early in life and cannot remember much of your “sinful and lost life” prior to coming to Christ.

Let’s look at Galatians 1:13-14, 1 Timothy 1:13a, 15, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Paul’s Before Christ: Identify key words that describe Paul’s life and failures before coming to Christ.
Your Before Christ: Write it out! Look to God for help. Seek wisdom and insight on what to include. This requires authenticity. Name your past sins (without details, Ephesians 5:12) but don’t glory in your shame (Philippians 3:19). Don’t reminisce over pre-conversion achievements. Paul counted all that as loss in comparison with the knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:8). This part is not your hall of fame, but your hall of shame, your failures. Our past failures will keep us humble (1 Timothy 1:15).

Let’s look at Galatians 1:15 and 1 Timothy 1:13-14

Paul’s Moment of Salvation: Identify key words in these verses that describe Paul’s salvation.
Your Moment of Salvation: Describe the circumstance around your coming to Christ: where you were, what life was like, how God spoke to you, how did you become aware of your sin and guilt, what you actually did to trust Christ?

Let’s look at Galatians 1:15-24 and 1 Timothy 1:12

Paul’s After: Identify key words that describe the change in Paul since his conversion.
Your After: What are the changes in your life now that you have come to Christ? Freedom, how to cope with anger to tear up problem and not people, your desires, purpose, meaning in life, benefits of having eternal life?

Testimony Tips:

  1. Design it for a non-Christian who doesn’t know the religious clichés, jargon, and theological terminology.
  2. Design it to share one on one or in a small group, casual, not formal. It should sound conversational.
  3. Design it to be a door opener rather than a convincing tool. Use “I” and “ME” rather than “YOU.” Share, don’t preach. While it has happened to you, perhaps they will want to explore Jesus further.
  4. Design it to be winsome, not offensive. Let the message of the cross be the only offensive thing in your testimony (1 Corinthians 1:23).
  5. Design it without too much reminiscing.
  6. Design it in a general way so that more people can identify with your story. Don’t use specific churches and denominations. Avoid using dates and ages. If you were saved at a very early age, say something like, “when I was growing up…”
  7. Design it to include some humor or human interest. When a person laughs it reduces tension.
  8. Design it to speak about Christ, not the church. Emphasize more faith than feelings. Be simple and direct as you describe what you did or what you prayed or what you said.
  9. Design it to be human and honest as you talk. Don’t promise that all their problems will end if they become a Christian. That is not true. The problems don’t go away but now they have the Great Problem Solver in their life.
  10. Design it to be warm and genuine. A smile breaks down more barriers than a hammer of cold, hard facts. Let your enthusiasm flow freely. It is hard to convince someone of the joy in Christ when our faces are like a prison warden. Be positive and encouraging and courteous. No one is arm-wrestled into the kingdom. Insults and put-downs turn people off.

A Graphic on Your Story:

Patterns-07-YourStory

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

The Command of Baptism

We are now up to the fifth command in this initial infant stage, or Win Level. So far we have…

  1. Come and see – John 1:39
  2. Repent and Believe – Mark 1:14-15
  3. Fear as a barrier to faith / Do not Fear – Luke 12:5-7
  4. Greed as a barrier to faith / Covetousness – Luke 12:15

This lesson focuses on the topic of water baptism, which is the first step of obedience for a new believer. Jesus baptized new converts and instructs us to do the same.

Historical Background: The gospel of John is the only one to bear witness to Jesus’ early Judean ministry, which lasted about nine months. The synoptics don’t reveal this time period which took place between Matthew 4:11 and Matthew 4:12 (Mark 1:13-14, Luke 4:13-14). Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:13, about April) and stayed until about four months before the harvest (John 4:35). During this time he cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22), performed miracles (John 2:23, 3:2), and baptized disciples (John 3:23). We have very few details about what he actually said and did.

For a short time his ministry overlapped with John the Baptist; imagine the countryside with people and two great preachers, both preaching about repentance and the kingdom of God. They both had disciples, large crowds followed them, and both baptized. In John 3:22, the reference to Jesus baptizing may indicate that he oversaw baptisms done by his disciples (John 4:2).

During this time the influence of Jesus was rising and that of John was declining, just has John desired (John 3:30). John’s disciples may have seen this competition as a setback and the reason for the discussion in John 3:22-36.

Baptizing is commanded in the gospels: Matthew 28:19, and other references are throughout the gospels: Matthew 3:6, 11, 13-14, 16, 18:18, Mark 1:4-5, 8-9, 7:4, 16:16, Luke 3:7, 12, 16, 21, 7:29-30, 11:38, John 1:25-26, 28, 31, 33, 3:22-23, 26, 4:1-2, 10:40.

We find baptism in Acts 1:5, 2:38, 41, 8:12-13, 16, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 11:16, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16.

Baptism is even found in the letters: 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, 1 Peter 3:21.

Let’s look at John 3:22-24

1. Identify the two things Jesus was doing while he was in the Judean countryside (John 3:22). Spending time with the disciples and baptizing converts.

2. Why did Jesus chose to baptize in Aenon near Salim (John 3:23)? He baptized there because there was much water there. The Bible indicates that the amount of water needed was “much water.” John did a lot of baptizing in the Jordan, too (Mark 1:5), although the exact location is not known, but is likely in the region of Samaria. Aenon is transliterated Hebrew meaning “springs” which also indicates a lot of water was needed.

3. Which mode of baptism does John seem to support (John 3:23)? Immersion, very similar to what we find in Acts 8:38-39, where they “went down into” and “came up out of” the water. This clearly teaches immersion.

The Didache supports immersion, too. “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.” From the Didache, chapter 7, written about AD 100, one of the earliest known writings on baptism.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Romans 6:3-4

1. What does the word “baptism” mean? Charles Ryrie puts it this way:

Theologically, baptism may be defined as an act of association or identification with someone, some group, some message, or some event. Baptism into the Greek mystery religions associated the initiates with that religion. Jewish proselyte baptism associated the proselyte with Judaism. John the Baptist’s baptism associated His followers with His message of righteousness (he had no group for them to join). (Incidentally, John was apparently the first person ever to baptize other people—usually baptisms were self-administered.)

  • For James and John to be baptized with Christ’s baptism meant to be associated with His suffering (Mark 10:38–39).
  • To be baptized with the Spirit associates one with the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and with the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–10).
  • To be baptized into Moses involved identification with his leadership in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:2).
  • Baptized for the dead means to be identified with the Christian group and take the place of a believer who had died (1 Corinthians 15:29).
  • Christian baptism means identification with the message of the Gospel, the person of the Savior, and the group of believers.

Some of the baptisms listed do not involve water. Also observe how impoverished we would be without a proper understanding of the meaning and ramifications of baptism.

The word baptizo really means, “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge,” or, “to dip in or under water.” The definition of baptism will determine the mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, sprinkling). The Church of England practiced sprinkling before the Bible was translated into English in 1611. Rather than translate the word, they transliterated the word, so they would not contradict the doctrine of baptism, which held to sprinkling.

Patterns-06-Baptism2. According to John 4:2, Jesus did not personally baptize, but his disciples did the baptizing on his behalf. What would be a reason Jesus would not baptize people personally?

  • To put a difference between John’s baptism and his baptism: John baptized all himself, as a servant, which Christ was a master.
  • To apply more time to preaching, which was a more excellent way (1 Corinthians 1:17).
  • To put honor upon his disciples, empowering and employing to them to do this work, training them for future service.

If Jesus baptized people, people would tend to value themselves more than others, which Paul had to deal with in 1 Corinthians 1:13-14.

Jesus would reserve himself the honor of baptizing with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).

Let’s look at Acts 8:36-38 and Acts 10:47-48

1. What does Jesus command the discipler to make sure that a new converts are baptized (Matthew 28:19)? Baptism is the first step of obedience for a new believer. To go public with your faith is a sign of being genuine. Remember that the imperative verb here is “make disciples.” The three participles (go, baptize, teach) help the main verb.

We are to GO and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) and then baptize the convert. If they refuse to be baptized, we can doubt their conversion. If they are unwilling to take this first step of obedience, we can be sure that the rest of the commands of Jesus will be debated. We don’t just TEACH, we teach them to OBSERVE all that Jesus commanded.

2. How did the early church obey this Great Commission (Acts 1:5, 2:28, 41, 8:12-13, 16, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 11:16, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:3-5, 22:16)?

  • Peter commanded that new converts be baptized (Acts 10:43-44, 47-48).
  • Paul baptized as a part of the disciplemaking process (Acts 14:21, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:5, 1 Corinthians 1:14, 16).

3. Who is qualified to be baptized (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 35, 38, 10:44, 47, 16:14-15, 18:8)? Only believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are candidates for baptism (Acts 8:36-37, 10:44, 47, Romans 8:9, 16).

Let’s look at Acts 2:37-41

1. What should precede baptism (Acts 2:41, 8:12, 35, 38, 10:44, 47, 16:14-15, 18:8)? Candidates must place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

  • They gladly received the word (Acts 2:41)
  • They believed Philip as he preached (Acts 8:12)
  • Philip preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35, 38)
  • Peter preached and these men received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44, 47).
  • Lydia opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14-15)
  • Crispus believed on the Lord (Acts 18:8)

2. When should new believers be baptized (Acts 2:41, 8:36, 16:30-33, 22:12-16)?

  • That same day (Acts 2:41)
  • At once (Acts 8:36)
  • That same hour (Acts 16:30-33) and immediately
  • Three days after being saved (Acts 9:9, 18, 22:12-16)

3. Is baptism a sacrament or an ordinance? It is an ordinance coming from the word, ordain.
Jesus ordained only two ordinances for believers: Communion and Baptism. An ordinance needed two things: sign and significance.

Those who refer to baptism as a “rite or sacrament” believe that baptism is a means of salvation. The word would literal mean, a “way of obtaining grace” or obtaining salvation. The Bible is clear that righteous deeds do not save.

  • We are saved by grace through faith, not works (like baptism would be a work, Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • It is not by works of righteousness that we have done (Titus 3:5).
  • The thief on the cross was not baptized yet had a place in paradise (Luke 23:39).

4. What about Mark 16:16? A closer examination of this verse reveals that FAITH is the issue, not baptism. Notice it does NOT say that if you do not believe “and are not baptized” you will be condemned. The only thing that condemns a person is refusal to place their faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.

If you’re riding a bus to NYC, you simply sit down and reach your destination. What happens when you get on the same bus but don’t sit down? Will you still get to your destination? If you place your faith in Jesus and are not baptized, you will still get to your destination. If you choose not to get on the bus, you won’t reach your destination. If you choose not to trust Jesus for your salvation, you won’t get to heaven.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

To Be Successful or Faithful?

There has been a debate on whether we are called to be successful in our lives and ministries or simply faithful to what God has called us to do. For pastors, we often view success in terms of numbers; we are successful if the numbers increase.

I read a book by a guy named Kent Hughes called, “Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome.” Imagine a pastor of a small church in a transitional community who faithfully preaches week after week, cares for the congregation, invests in leaders, witnesses regularly, and serves the community; but the numerical growth is just not there. At the Convention he hears stories from other pastors with churches experiencing tremendous growth. The conclusion is often, “I’m not successful in what I am doing. Maybe I should be in a different vocation. God has not blessed with response to he must not be pleased with me.”

So, we beg the question, “Has God called us to be successful or faithful?” Sometimes we see both; but often we have to resign to the fact that even with the hardest work and best laid plans, God is the only one who can bring about growth (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).

Check out what God says to Ezekiel:

“He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The LORD God proclaims!” (Ezekiel 3:10-11)

Getting people to respond to your ministry is hard. If we are doing it in our own strength, it is sure to fail (John 15:5), but even when we rely upon God to make it happen, we must faithfully do our part and leave the results up to him. Let’s look at evangelism as an example.

Most Christians know that they should be sharing their faith with others, that it is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. But, most Christians feel very uneasy about doing it. Many Christians rarely share their faith with others.

  • Some don’t because they don’t want to look foolish in the eyes of their co-workers.
  • Others hold back because they don’t want to offend someone.
  • Many believers choose not to share their faith because their afraid they won’t do it right.
  • Others fear they’ll mess up the message or be unable to answer unexpected questions, so they don’t talk about it.

If you can relate to these statements or if you’re someone who keeps the lid on our faith because you’re afraid of what might happen if you talked about it, then you’ll be encouraged and challenged by Ezekiel 3:10-11. In this passage, the Lord told Ezekiel to take his word to heart and then to share it with the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where Ezekiel was himself an exile. God told him to speak, “whether they listen or not” (Ezekiel 3:11). In other words, Ezekiel’s calling was to be faithful, not successful.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with success, whether in life or in serving the Lord, but our chief calling as God’s people is to be faithful to him, to serve him with excellence, to obey him wholeheartedly. If God chooses to bless our efforts with success, that’s great, but many times we cannot guarantee success. We should always choose to be faithful and do what God tells us as well as we can.

How do you feel about sharing your faith with others? What about seeing the fruit of your labor (like success)? What do you find uncomfortable about this? What about setting goals and action plans to reach them? What encourages you to continue serving the Lord even when it does not appear to be successful? What would it mean for you to be faithful as a servant or witness for Christ?

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How Paul Shared His Faith

There is a debate about what people call success. In the church, we often look at success as bigger and better; the numbers will determine how successful we are. After reading a book called, Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome, I tend to see success as faithfulness in following God’s call on your life. Paul wanted to bear fruit in Jerusalem more than any place else on earth, but he found greater opposition and struggle than anywhere else on his journeys.

At first the commander thought Paul was a terrorist from Egypt (Acts 21:38), but he was actually an ambassador of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20). These people beat Paul with their fists (Acts 21:32) and all he wanted was to share his testimony (Acts 21:39). Acts 22 has a great model for sharing our faith in Christ.

Paul communicated simply and clearly: He spoke to the commander in Greek (Acts 21:37) and to the Jews he spoke Aramaic (Hebrew dialect, Acts 21:40, 22:2). Few of us are fluent in more than one language, but here Paul demonstrates his ability to communicate in at least two languages. As a Roman citizen, I can imagine he spoke Latin as well. As Christians, we often have our own language (church-speak) that people on the outside just don’t understand: salvation, regeneration, justification, born again, conversion, burden, atonement, walk the aisle, prayed the prayer, was baptized, body of Christ… you get it… but many people don’t.

Paul honestly described his former conduct (Acts 22:3-5): We lose our listeners when they sense an attitude of superiority in us. We must be careful not to magnify the former life with details, so generalizations are best. Let’s have people focus on the Savior rather than the behavior.

Paul related his experience of conversion (Acts 22:6-11): This is where we tell others how we actually came to know Christ. It need not be dramatic because the same blood rescues each of us. Like the Prodigal Son, who was involved in wild living (Luke 15:29-30), the faithful son needed salvation just as much.

Paul shared how he received his commission: He was clear about the purpose God had for him (Acts 22:12-21). Lots of people will not come to Christ believing their is too much to give up, but I submit to you that we need to tell people all that we have gained.

Once Paul mentioned he was appointed to reach the Gentiles, he lost his audience (Acts 22:22). Was he a failure because they rejected him? Was his testimony shared in vain? He did not plant a church, start a small group, or even leave behind any discipling relationships, but they heard his message (otherwise they would not have responded to violently). There is freedom in following Christ. We are to be faithful in our serving and testimony, but must always leave the results up to the Holy Spirit. We are not called to be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. The Spirit convicts of sin.

Application: If you are a child of God, you have a story worth telling. Are you exercising your witness? Have you practiced sharing your faith with a brother in Christ? It is only after you practice in private that sharing in public with a lost person becomes easier and more natural. Consider writing out your testimony using these steps:


My life before I met Christ:

 


How I came to know Christ:

 


The difference Christ has made in my life:

 


Planning, preparation, practice and presentation lead to the progress of the gospel. We are called to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) and be ready at all times to give an account of the hope we have inside us (1 Peter 3:15). How can the Men of Steel help you become more faithful, and even more successful?