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Chapter - 5

Grace, repentance, and baptism

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.» Ephesians 2: 8-9

 

The understanding of the word grace as used in the Bible has its background in the oriental autocratic monarchy. The Bible always describes grace as God's immediate intervention, help, and gift. To stand in grace is therefore to stand in an immediate personal relationship with God, where God is the giver and sustainer.

Grace is the opposite of getting paid after doing some work. The salvation given by grace is a free and undeserved gift that you can only receive as a gift, by faith. It is not something you can earn or get by giving someone a gift or doing a good deed for a person.

 

I was told a story when I was young, which I think in a way explains God's grace: «Back when the railway bridges were operated manually by railway personnel, a father brought his son to work. The boy played all over the place, and he really enjoyed being with his father. When the father heard the signal that there was a train on its way, he started his work of lowering the railway bridge so that the train could pass unhindered. There was only one problem: the father suddenly saw that his son was playing right under the bridge, and he would be crushed to death if the father continued to lower the bridge. The father had a dilemma. The train approached quickly, and the father had to decide whether his son should be allowed to live, or whether all the passengers on the train should survive. The father chose to sacrifice his son, and the train with the traveling, happy and ignorant people passed. They did not know what had happened and didn't know of the grace this father had given them without him knowing them.»

 

God created us, so He knows us. The father in this story didn't know the people he saved so this story can't directly, but what becomes even more overwhelming is knowing that God sacrificed His Son Jesus, even though He knew that we humans had turned our backs on Him. In this story, the father can be compared to God and the son to Jesus, and the ignorant, happy, and indifferent people on the train can be compared to us. God created us, paved the way for us and paid for everything for us. He owes us nothing, while we owe Him everything. And all of it is free!

 

Grace is an expression of God's love and mercy. According to the Bible, for the sake of Christ, God allows grace to prevail. That is, God frees the guilty from the punishment they deserve, forgives them, and offers them eternal life in his kingdom.

God's grace is enough, it is all we need. In our weakness, it is the strength that keeps us going. We can live in God's grace every day. 2 Corinthians 9: 8 states: «And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work..»

 

What God offers is an undeserved benevolence. It is grace that takes away all our sin and saves us, but it is also grace that gives us strength for each day. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, and we receive His righteousness as a free gift only if we choose to believe in Him. We need power to live the life God has called us to. We receive this power in addition to salvation.

 

Repentance

Let us go through the basics again. We have all sinned and fall short of God's perfect standard. It is not possible for us to be saved on our own. We need God to save us. It says in Acts 3: 19 «Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,…»

We have already talked about believing in Jesus Christ, that He died and rose again, and that He is Savior and Lord. So where does repentance come in?

Literally, repentance means to turn around, to turn away from evil and start going in a completely different direction, to turn towards God through Jesus Christ. 

Getting a new mind means thinking differently than we have done before. Repentance is thus not a feeling, but a decision that leads to a change in our intentions and actions. We do this by confessing our sins to God, asking Him for forgiveness, and turning away from our sins. 

In John 3: 3-7, Jesus says to Nicodemus, «Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’»

 

This means that repentance means more than just regretting our sins, more than just being sorry that we were caught doing something wrong. It means moving away from doing these things or thinking these thoughts, and letting the Spirit of God give us a fresh start, a new Spiritual birth. God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us live this new life. When the Holy Spirit takes residence in us, then our spirit is born again. He then begins a process in us, which gradually makes us more and more like Jesus Christ, The son of God!  We then start to make choices that show that we have chosen to follow Jesus, who is the Truth.  

 

When we come to God for the first time, we repent, ask for forgiveness and we are saved. But repentance is not something we do only once. We must continue to live with an attitude of repentance. We will continue to make mistakes, so we must continue to ask for forgiveness. We must continue to confess our sins to God.

It doesn't mean that you lose your salvation if you fall into sin but when you sin and you do not confess and repent, then your heart can become hard and begin to pull you away from God and turn in the direction of evil.

Revelation 2: 5 states: «Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works,… »

 

In order to live close to God, to become more like Him, we must live with an attitude of repentance, of constantly turning away from evil and towards good.

I do not know what kind of evil things you have in your life, maybe anger, violence, lack of forgiveness or racism? There can be many different things. The Bible says that we should reject evil and stick to good (Romans 12: 9). Therefore, always choose to turn away from evil. Ask God to cleanse you from the evil you have in your heart. For example, choose not to judge people based on gender, appearance, position or where they come from. Let God be the judge. Choose to forgive if someone hurts you. Choose to be good and live-in love. Live in the light and not in the dark. Because ideas, mindsets, and emotions will manifest themselves in our behavior, we must turn away from both the wrong mindset and the wrong behavior.

Jesus said in John 13:34 «A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.» This is how He wants us to live with each other.

 

I can't pretend and say that this is easy. It can be very difficult. But with God, anything is possible. Remember that He has promised to give us the Holy Spirit as our helper. Jesus says in the Gospel of John 14:26 «But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.» 

Pray that God, through the Holy Spirit, will help you to live in harmony and with love with the people around you. Pray that God will show you the practical steps you need to take in the different situations. And when it is difficult, it helps to talk to other believers who can pray for you and pray with you. In this way, we can stay close to God, as it says in James 4: 8-9a «Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep!»

 

Baptism

Faith is not a private matter. God asks us to confess Him, and we have no reason to be ashamed, we who belong to the living Almighty God that created us all.

But why do we baptize people who choose to believe in God?

Just as there is power in confessing God as Father, there is also power in baptism! No one can make the choice of faith, confession, or baptism for you, it is acts of faith that must be taken by each individual himself. The Bible says that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, but it does not end there. Baptism is a part of the process of getting the benefits of the kingdom of God. There is no salvation in baptism, but there is baptism is part of salvation. Mark 16: 16a says, «He who believes and is baptized will be saved;»

 

Let me explain again: Jesus' sacrife and death on the cross redeems those who repent from the devil's bonds, chains, and eternal damnation. Jesus paid the price for everything we owe to the devil, whom the Bible speaks of as «the god of this world» (2 Corinthians 4: 4). Jesus paid for our sin, guilt, and shame when He dies on the cross and rose again. This freed us from the wages of sin which is death. (Romans 6:23)

Baptism is more than a symbolic act. When we choose to be baptized into Jesus Christ, in the name of God the Father, the Holy Spirit and The Son, we bury our old selves. The spiritual connection we once had with the devil is broken, or buried, and we are raised to a new life with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. With our self-chosen baptism, we agree that Jesus has taken our sin, guilt, and punishment on the cross and we die a spiritual death with Him, and then rise again with the Spirit of God alive in us. 

Romans 6: 4-6 says, «Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.»

 

Baptism is a command from Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and from us a response that we surrender to Him. The word baptism means that the whole body is submerged under water, i.e. full immersion or purification in water.

 

2 Kings 5: 1-14 tells a story of Naaman, who was commander of the army of the king of Syria. He had leprosy and was told by the prophet Elisha to wash seven times in the Jordan River in order to be healed. Naaman dipped seven times in the river and was healed. This story does not deal directly with baptism, but still gives us a taste of the purification and power that is found in immersion and in being obedient to what God says. In this story, the word of God came through the prophet, while today we have the New Testament word of baptism. We also read in the story of John the Baptist (Matthew 3) and of the Ethiopian courtier in Acts 8: 26-39, how they practiced immersion in water (they went into the water) when they were baptized.    

 

John 13: 7-8 says «Jesus answered and said to him (Peter), “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”»  This is taken from a story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, so it does not deal with baptism directly either, but there is still a connection and a comparison in the words Jesus says: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." In the baptism you get a share in His death and His resurrection.

The apostle Peter was led by God to the house of Cornelius, a Roman officer, and preached the word of God to those he met there. When the Holy Spirit fell on those who heard the Word, Peter commanded that all who were filled with the Spirit should be baptized with water. The story can be read in its entirety in Acts 10.

Also in Acts 2:41, after Peter gave a long speech to the people when they first experienced the Holy Spirit, it says: «Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.»

 

The Bible does not say anything about children and baptism, but it says in Mark 10: 13-16 «Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.»

Romans 10:17 says, «So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.» Proverbs 22: 6 says, «Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.» 

The task we have is to teach the children who God is and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. As children, they already belong to the kingdom of God, including the stillborns. But when they grow up, they themselves must one day make the choice to belong to Jesus and then be baptized. If they adhere to the teachings of the Bible, the Holy Spirit will eventually remind them of baptism.

First we must choose to believe, and then we confess our faith. That means you have to be old enough to make your own decisions. It is because of your own faith in God, and in your own confession, that you are baptized into Jesus Christ.

 

In the baptism, we get a whole new spiritual identity, and we are given access to the same authority Jesus had when He lived as a human being on this earth. The devil has power, and it may seem scary, but he has no authority. The authority belongs to God Almighty and the Lord, Jesus Christ - and we in Christ bear the authority of God.

«I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.»  Galatians 2:20

 

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:29 «And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,..» Further in John 14:12 He said: «Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will also do; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.»

 

Paul writes in Ephesians 1: 17-19 «That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power»

 

James says in his letter to those who are followers of Jesus Christ,

James 4: 7-8a: «Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.» Jesus himself was baptized as an adult, where also the Spirit came down on Him and He then began His ministry. (Mark 1: 9-11)  

 

Baptism is more than a symbolic act, so I recommend that you become baptized if you have accepted the faith in God and have not yet been baptized as a believer.

Ask God by the Holy Spirit to show you this and obey His word. Psalms 34: 9 says, «Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.»

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 78, 9, 10, 11, 12, closing

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