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Baptism in the Christian System
By J. M. Frost, in Convention Teacher

      The whole Christian world will come in this lesson to the baptism of Jesus; will stand again at the Jordan, and witness afresh his immersion in the swiftly-flowing stream of that sacred river. It is an excellent opportunity, and brings imperative obligation, to study the great ordinance anew, both as to its beautiful significance, and its exalted and even commanding place in the Christian system.
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His immersion in the Jordan was at once an act of humiliation, and yet one of the most august and significant scenes in the life of our Lord. He walked sixty miles or more from his home home at Nazareth, to be baptized of Jolm as a man sent of God to baptize. It was the gateway to his public ministry, and at the saine time foreshadowed his death on the cross and Ms resurrection from the grave. He had the approval of his Father, and the glory of heaven was upon his pathway - upon his pathway then into the Jordan and through the Jordan, as afterward upon his pathway into the garden and through the garden. It put the Stamp of his example upon the great ordinance and gave it dignity and glory forever among those who love him. "The dignity of this act is worth the audience of kings and princes," and no doubt the angels looked on with wondering gaze, as the heavens opened on this new scene among men.

      The mighty task of its interpretation falls in this lesson to the lot of Sunday school teachers; and with them rest the privilege and responsibility of saying what it means. Here they will speak for God, and for the sublime act of his Son as he made this new and startling advance in his purpose to fulfill all righteousness. In our interpretation there is always danger lest we fall below the mighty ideal presented in the

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baptism of Jesus, and the momentous act has found scant treatment from many who have undertaken to write the story of his life. We are confronted here with a solemn and pressing duty, and should meet it as those who speak for him. The scholarship of the world, regardless of denominational connection, but speaking as scholars and leaders of Christian thought, hold with remarkable oneness and even emphasis, that the baptism of Jesus was his immersion in the Jordan, and that John sent of God to baptize fulfilled his mission by immersing those who came to him. And thus the great ordinance came, and found its place in the new dispensation as a ceremony in the gospel system. Christ put upon this ordinance the emphasis of his example, and later the authority of his commandment, and so it was to stand for all time as a thing to be done by those who love him, and to be done in the way of his example, and in the spirit and purpose of his commandment. And our bearing in this impressive ceremony of baptism may become a test of our allegiance in his kingdom and our loyalty to Him in his service.

      Our Lord's baptism in one phase of its meaning, prefigured in beautiful and powerful symbol his "being plunged under penal judgment," as described by a distinguished Episcopalian, and also his resurrection and risen life - all of

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this in one glorious picture, as he was laid beneath the yielding wave and raised again from the watery grave. Standing midway between the Jordan and the garden, to be followed by his crucifixion, and manifestly holding in comparison the two startling and tragic events, Jesus said: "I have a baptism to be baptized with -" "an immersion to undergo," as translated by an able and honored Presbyterian, "and how am I straightened till it be accomplished." He was looking forward to his baptism of suffering, the overwhelming sorrow and anguish of soul that broke over him in the garden and came to its flood-tide on the cross. Oh, that cry of his heart in advance, as already he saw its coming - "how am I straightened till it be accomplished." The first baptism and the second baptism stood one over against the other in his vision, the one a figure and shadow, but the other afl awful reality and substance. The shadow of the cross was upon the Jordan, but also the glory breaking from the open and empty sepulcher. And in his baptism he set us a glorious example, indeed, but went far beyond that to set out beforehand the mighty work of his atonement for sin through the shedding of blood for sin's remission and human redemption.

      The believer's baptism - our immersion, whether in pool or river or baptistry, bears

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close relation to our Lord's baptism in the Jordan. As he looked forward, so also we look backward to Calvary and his open grave. In our baptism we not only follow his example set us at the Jordan, but declare in figure our personal faith in him as our Lord and Saviour, and in his atoning death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave with power as the Son of God. In the sublime act we declare in bold and beautiful figure that "we believe on him that raised up Jesus out Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification."

      The baptism of Jesus, therefore, fixes the great ordinance in the Christian system, and gives us the key to its wonderful meaning and message. Baptism is best seen in its relation to Christ's redemptive work, and as declaring our personal belief in him and our allegiance and loyalty to him. This is strongly stated by Dr. Sanday, of the Church of England, and one of the foremost scholars of the day. When commenting on the expression, we are buried with Christ by baptism, he says of baptism: "It expresses symbolically a series of acts corresponding to the redeeming acts of Christ:

"Immersion = Death;
"Submersion = Burial (ratification of death);
"Emergence = Resurrection."

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      This states the case with rare beauty and force, and its meaning cannot be either missed of gainsaid. Baptism is for saved people, and the occasion of their rejoicing as they walk in the ways of the Lord. It has no meaning for others, but holds exalted and glorious rank in Christian belief and practice. We follow Christ in baptism as we follow him in other things. It is wrong, surely it must be wrong, even seriously wrong, to profess our love and obedience in everything else - and then refuse to follow him in the great ordinance in which he sets the example. The beautiful song we sing takes on new meaning by a slight change in a single word, and gets a touch of the heroic, especially as referred to the ordinary duties in our church life:

"I can hear my Saviour calling,
I can hear my Saviour calling,
I can hear my Saviour calling,
Take thy cross and follow, follow me.

"I'll go with him thro' the garden,
I'll go with him thro' the Jordan,
I'll go with "him thro' the Jordan,
I'll go with him, with him, all the way.

"Where he leads me I will follow,
Where he leads me I will follow,
Where he leads me I will follow,
I'll go with him, with him, all the way."

      Why not the Jordan as well as the garden? He met the one in fulfillment of righteousness,

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as he endured the other with sorrowfulness of soul. He was as heroic and lofty before God in the one as in the other. Why not follow him in life's ordinary duties as well as in life's trials and sorrows? Why not follow him in baptism - buried with him unto death and rising again to a new life with him? There is nothing higher or more heroic than the keeping of his commandments and the walking in his ordinances. To obey is better than sacrifice, especially when the obedience is of love and loyalty. Herein is the very heart and beauty and power of all Christian living. It is our joy and his glory to go with him, with him, all the way.
      Nashville, Tenn.

[From The Baptist Message, SSB/SBC, 1911, p. 30-36. This book was provided by Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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