The Story of Baptism ~ Grace, Gospel, and Gift

On Sunday we looked at the story of Baptism. You’ll be able to download the sermon here. And what I realized as I prepared the sermon on Baptism is that it’s really about grace, gospel and gift.

We looked at Acts 8 and in the story we meet a eunuch. This is a man who has been socially excluded, hurt, suffered something that is humiliating, and has no opportunity for a family or descendants. And he is reading a passage about humiliation, cutting, and a loss of family (Isaiah 53:7-8). This is a passage that would resonate with a man who has been cut, humiliated, and will never have descendants. Right at that moment Philip asks if he understands what he has read and shares with him the Gospel of grace and Jesus Christ.

The Eunuch understandably wants to join this movement, to be included in a family, but he is scared and scarred. Because the eunuch has just been turned away from the Temple in Jerusalem (see Deut.23:1). He has just been excluded, thrown out, and rejected because of who he is. What is amazing about the story in Acts 8 is that Philip immediately baptizes him and welcomes without wasting any time. The gospel of grace doesn’t demand that the eunuch change before he comes to Jesus; the gospel of grace is that people change by coming to Jesus.

So from this story I pulled three main thoughts. That baptism is really a reminder and a marker of the story we are a part of. It also reminds us of grace, identity, and inclusion in God’s family.

First, baptism is a reminder of the wideness of God’s mercy. So we need to be careful if we limit the scope and activity of God’s grace. The religious institution of the day excluded this man whom the Kingdom of God welcomed. The truth is God’s gospel of grace is for everyone and anyone. Everyone is free to come to Jesus. Jesus died for the whole world and baptism is a reminder of the wideness of God’s grace.

Secondly, it reminds us of our identity. The eunuch is no longer a broken, excluded man with no descendants. He is a part of a spiritual family. He is pure, holy, and clean. Baptism doesn’t save us, make us holy or clean; Jesus Christ does that. Baptism doesn’t change us, but it does remind us of the change that has happened. And when we follow Jesus, we are new, we are no longer sinners, but holy, perfect, and clean because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Paul says, “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore for the old life is gone. A new life has begun (2 Cor. 5:17). So Baptism is a reminder of our identity in Christ. We are no longer the same anymore. The old life is gone and new life has begun. We don’t need to cling onto our old identity but embrace our identity in Christ.

Lastly, it reminds us we are part of a family. The eunuch joins a family of God, and tradition says that he brought the gospel to many people. So while he may not have any physical descendants, he has many spiritual descendants. He is a father to many. Baptism is a reminder that we are apart of a family and a people called by God. We are included in God’s family and that gives us reason to celebrate.

So from an odd story about chariots, eunuchs, and running disciples, we learn about God, gospel, and most of all grace.

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