New Creation 新しく造られた者

Today, we’re having a Baptism Service, and I wanted to start off by sharing with you a verse:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone; behold, the new has come! –2 Corinthians 5:17
だれでもキリストにあるならば、その人は新しく造られた者である。古いものは過ぎ去った、見よ、すべてが新しくなったのである。 コリントの信徒への手紙二5:17

This Bible verse doesn’t directly speak of baptism, and yet it’s a verse that always comes to my mind when I think about baptism. If baptism gives us the visual depiction of what takes place when we believe in Jesus Christ, then this verse gives us the verbal description. And that’s why I love this verse. Every time I come across it, I am reminded of God’s gift of new life to me and to all Christians.

The secular definition of “baptism” according to an Internet dictionary is:

(Baptism is) the religious rite of sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or of immersion in water, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church.

I don’t like this definition, because it reflects a shallow and limited understanding of what baptism is.

I think the Church does a better job of giving a fuller, deeper, better definition of baptism. Dr. Ray Pritchard of Jesus.org wrote this about baptism:

Baptism speaks primarily of a personal, public identification with Jesus Christ…It is (a believer’s) personal identification with the greatest act of human history—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism doesn’t save you, but baptism is your personal, public testimony to, and the inward assurance of, your passage from the old life to the new life.

Please remember this important bit of spiritual truth. You don’t get baptized in order to become saved. You get baptized to declare that you have been saved. Please remember that you have been saved by God’s grace through your faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9).

So, why is baptism—this personal declaration of one’s faith to the public—important? Why do we practice it as the Christian Church? Why do we encourage new believers to get baptized? Why do we teach on the subject? Because it is Biblical.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus had these parting instructions for us, the Church. We are to go and 1) make disciples; 2) baptize them; and 3) teach them.
1)弟子を作る 2) バプテスマを授ける 3) 教える
And in the book of Acts, where we read about the birth and rise of the Church, there are numerous accounts of people being saved and baptized. One example:

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls … 47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. –Acts 2:41,47

When we, as Christians, are saved, we should also be baptized.

Now, let’s talk about the merits of baptism. As we learned earlier, baptism is a declaration of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. This declaration is personal. Baptism helps solidify one’s commitment to God, similar to how wedding vows help solidify a couple’s commitment to marriage.

I think this brings up a good point about what our faith is. Our faith is a choice—we choose to believe in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Faith is not something we are forced into, nor is it a feeling that comes and goes based on our emotions. Our choice to have faith takes commitment, and such a declaration of faith through baptism helps the believer to take their personal commitment seriously.

This declaration is also public. It is public, because it helps solidify a believer’s commitment to the local body—the church and the church family. The baptism takes place in the presence of witnesses—fellow believers of the faith, much like witnesses are present at a wedding ceremony. Guests are invited not only to celebrate with us, but also to pray for us, encourage us, and help us grow in our commitment.

There’s something about making a commitment in front of people, especially people who are close to you and care about your spiritual growth. I think it speaks of our need for one another in our Christian walk.

Furthermore, in the words of Roger Olson of Christianity Today:

The Bible teaches that baptism is integral to the believer’s life of faith. Baptism is a gift of God, and the Holy Spirit is the giver. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives the Christian the courage and commitment involved in baptism. Not only that, baptism testifies to the Spirit’s washing our sin away. Without the Holy Spirit, baptism would be just a work and therefore void of significance.

Today, we, as a church, will be witnessing the baptism of Philip. This baptism is not just a ceremony. It’s not just physically going through the motions of some ritual. It is a significant act of declaration of faith, a work of the Holy Spirit to give courage and commitment to Philip.

And, as the Word of God says, “Behold!” Look! Tah-daaah! Be amazed! “Behold!” It is indeed a beautiful thing to behold, the miracle of God, the birth of new creation, where “the old has gone, and the new has come!”