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Rediscovering DAILY GRACESClassic Voices on the Transforming Power of the Sacraments
By Robert Elmer
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2006 Robert Elmer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE GOOD ANANIAS
By their very name, Baptists declare to the world that much of what they believe about salvation centers around the practice of baptism, although we see variation of thought between Southern Baptists, American Baptists, Independent Baptists, General Conference Baptists, and so on. The Reverend Charles Haddon (C. H.) Spurgeon was always a good Baptist. During his ministry he presented the gospel to thousands of people around the world. Of course he told them about being baptized, as Scripture commands. Here's a brief segment of one of his messages on Ananias. Not the Ananias who was struck down for lying about his offering, but Ananias the Syrian believer who obeyed God and placed his hands on Paul to restore the new apostle's sight.
Notice how totally faithful Ananias was. He said to Paul, "Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). But a lot of evangelists today tend to shy away from the "baptized" part. The main thing, they say, is to get a person saved, to get a person believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, period. Somehow "arise and be baptized" doesn't seem as important.
But as for me, I wouldn't dare mess with the clear message of Jesus. I have to deliver it as a packagedeal-nothing more, nothing less.
Even though people say, "Let's not talk about baptism; it's just a partisan doctrine," I ask, "Who said so?" If our Lord commanded it, who dares call it partisan or sectarian or anything like that? We're not called to preach 94 percent of the gospel, but 100 percent-no matter what's politically correct. Just as Ananias did. Doesn't it say in Mark 16:16 that "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved"? Why leave off some of the words?
I'm even wondering if God is holding back his blessing from some preachers and teachers because they haven't passed along the entire message of Jesus.
Just wait. I'm going to get a letter from a Christian brother saying, "Sorry, but I can't pass along your sermon notes this week since you're getting into a controversial subject like baptism."
Well, dear believer, if you can't distribute this message, I'm going to have to do without your kind help. Because I can't modify God's Word or twist the meaning to please the best person on the planet.
Just look at the text to see how important baptism is! now, we'd be making a big mistake if we took it to mean that baptism itself saves a person - what's called "baptismal regeneration." The physical washing of water has nothing to do with removing sin from our lives. Still, we're not allowed to put something in the background that Scripture places in the front row.
Ananias said to Paul, "Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away." These words fit well with the words of Jesus in Mark 16, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." In both of these texts, the Lord elevates baptism, giving it a special honor. We'd be making a big mistake to ignore something Jesus obviously believes is important.
So again, don't think for a minute that dunking yourself in water can actually wash away sin. But do remember that if the Lord closely links baptism-an outward testimony-with washing away sins, then this is a big deal to him.
Also remember the text from Romans where Paul assures us that "it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (10:10). Faith has to be followed by obedience; if it's not, that only proves the faith wasn't sincere (and from the heart) to begin with. So do what Jesus asks you to do.
But that's not my point, actually. My point is this: We always need to handle God's Word carefully. We need to be true to what he reveals to us-right down to the minute points, the commas and the periods.
There's a lot of talk these days about not being narrow, exclusive, or denominational. Being nondenominational or ecumenical is cool, and I understand the upside of that. The danger, though, is that we sacrifice bits and pieces of God's Word for the sake of some imaginary unity. For the sake of that unity we might feel pressured to give up a little bit of doctrine here, or a little there. Hey, it's not really important, right?
Wrong. I'm telling you right now: never, ever give up anything that your Lord commands. Sure, go ahead and give other believers the benefit of the doubt, imagine that they want to hold on to 100-percent truth, as well. But whether other Christians hold the line or not, you hold on! That's the best way to be nondenominational. Be faithful to what you hold true, hold true to Jesus, and give your brothers and sisters credit for doing the same.
If we do that, we can expect the Master's blessing.
From Charles Spurgeon, "The Good Ananias, a Lesson for Believers," a sermon delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Newington, England, 1885)
Excerpted from Rediscovering DAILY GRACES by Robert Elmer Copyright © 2006 by Robert Elmer. Excerpted by permission.
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