Tag Archives: baptism

Baptism and John the Baptist

I’ve been asked to speak this morning on baptism. I’ve attempted to seek the influence and inspiration of heaven on this topic in preparation of for these remarks. I would invite you each to offer a silent prayer in your hearts that the Holy Ghost might instruct us further while we are here together.

600 years before the time of Christ, Lehi and his family had left Jerusalem. The Lord had given Lehi a series of customized commands which by chapter 10 of 1 Nephi, he had successfully demonstrated his faithfulness in obedience to those commandments.  So consequently, the Lord begins to bless Lehi with visions and further understanding of essential doctrines. (This is a pattern that the Lord often employs: a test of obedience followed by an outpouring of greater light.)

One of those essential doctrines that was revealed to Lehi was a knowledge of the Savior’s mortal ministry, and key events there in.

Read 1 Nephi 10:7-10

In trying to understand the significance of the ordinance of baptism, let’s consider a little deeper the mission of John the Baptist, the only prophet in all of scripture and time to have an ordinance attached to his name.

Consider how the Savior Jesus Christ described John:

Read Matthew 11:7-11

John was the literal embodiment of the ordinance that he was called upon to perform, a living witness or symbol of baptism, its purpose being to prepare each of us enter into the Kingdom of God.

There is another principle or act that is frequently coupled with baptism,  and that is repentance. Sometimes repentance happens before our baptism, always among true disciples it happens afterwards as well, frequently and as often as needed to make progression in the kingdom of God.

God gives us both inward acts and outward ordinances to help us along the covenant path. There is a state of being that we hope that all who come to the waters of baptism would possess, it is this state of humility before God, and acknowledgement of his path, our own nothingness before him. This is what John the Baptist represented, this state of a humble, penitent, simple follower of Jesus Christ.  What John represented was the first steps of the Plan of Salvation.

(Matthew 11: 18 & 19)

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

But just so there was no confusion, Christ himself submitted to the baptism of John.

Matthew 3

Suffer it to be so now.

Considering as we have the life and mission of John the Baptist, can you imagine the surprise and amazement then, when Joseph Smith with his scribe Oliver Cowdery go into the woods to seek guidance and instruction about baptism, a messenger from Heaven who calls himself John and says that he is the same that was called John the Baptist in the New Testament.

Doctrine and Covenants 13

It is with this same authority from John who embodied the principles of baptism and repentance that you are baptized today.

Our Emphasis on the Reception of the Holy Ghost

See JST Matthew 3:38-40

At times it may seem that as Latter-day Saints we place too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit and receiving the Holy Ghost. And it may be that we put too much emphasis on making sure that we feel the Holy Ghost when in reality we should be preaching repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

But in all actuality the two are parts of a complete whole, and reception of the Holy Spirit is the choice gift afforded only to the covenant disciples of Jesus Christ. Consider how the law of Moses only afforded the people to get as close to God as a priest offered burnt sacrifices periodically for a remission of their sins. John the Baptist came preaching repentance and baptism by water for a remission of our sins. Jesus Christ came with power to baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost.

While in the former, there is the power to stop doing evil, Jesus Christ brought with him the power to do good, which is wrought through the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Understand then, Brent, that we need to stop doing evil in all its forms, so that we can do more good.

An introduction to membership in this Church can sometime feel like a process of being taken out of the water (upon being baptized) and being thrown straight into the frying pan. Perhaps, we don’t talk about it all that much because we don’t want to discourage people from entering into the Kingdom, but perhaps, we should be warning our good brother and sister converts that Jesus himself said a baptism of fire was surely to follow their baptism by water if they were serious about the covenants that they were to make with God. Perhaps we should be giving them a heads up that the protection and blessing that they hoped to receive by coming into the safety of God’s kingdom will not come without a price of purging more than we had expected.

So those of us that have walked through the fire, will we stand idly by as we watch these our infant brothers and sisters in the discipleship of Christ walking through the fire without a full understanding of why they are doing so. We know, because we’ve been there, that knowledge only comes after faith.

The truth is that serious discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ is a thorny, rocky, fiery path where our greatest weaknesses will be brought into full light. This reality isn’t just laid out for the new convert, but rather, any one of us who decides that now is the time to “get good with God” will discover that theirs is a difficult road ahead of them. It may from time to time become difficult to watch the natural man enjoying his slice of the pie, when we knowingly are walking away from the pretended picnic of ease that Satan has laid out in front of us in exchange for a much greater hope of qualifying for a seat at that great feast that has already been prepared for us at the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:9, Matthew 22:1-14)

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(Post to Facebook after today’s continued study on the topic)

Most of Christianity does a very good job at preaching and understanding faith in Jesus Christ. Some understand the need for and exercise repentance as taught by John the Baptist. But few comprehend that baptism by one who has authority, as did John, is essential for admission into the kingdom of God.
But then John the Baptist takes it even further and says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me… shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matt 3:11)

And it is curious how the Savior says “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Discipleship is then by design a process of purging and sanctification. When we find God, and then decided to solidify that relationship with God by covenant by those in authority to officiate in the ordinances of the Gospel of Christ, we then become His — entering into a process that will eventually allow us to become “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)

 

The mission of John the Baptist to preach only repentance, and of Alma’s directive to preach only faith in the Lord and repentance (Mosiah 18:20), has left me wondering why the exclusive emphasis on these doctrines. Prayerful consideration causes me to believe that without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and without repentance, there is no point in anything else we do in this Church or in the kingdom of God. If an individual cannot humble themselves and claim the rights of the salvation that are freely extended to all that will believe and repent of their sins, then there is no way to go further. This passage way must be traversed for discipleship to have meaning and significance. The power to leave behind one’s sins lies in the process of repentance and must be centered on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only the humble, submissive, and meek can pass through this gate.

Covenants are Tools

I’m studying the covenants associated with baptism. As I pray about the significance of covenants, it strikes me that covenants are tools given to us that clearly spell out the terms and bounds within which we are able to receive blessings and protection from God. They are instruments of safety fashioned by God to guide us safely through the confusing challenges of our days. Their power and strength are not able to be discerned by the proud and ungodly, but to those who have experienced their power know that covenants indeed are a shield, a safety net, and shelter from adversarial storms of our days.