Baptism Sermon by Donald Fox

The year was 1967 when I purchased a book titled “Sermons Delivered in Louisville, Kentucky, by J. W. McGarvey”. One sermon was simply titled, “Baptism” and it was preached on the evening of July 2, 1893 by brother McGarvey. As I started to read the introduction to the sermon a few remarks caught my eye such as, “Why another sermon on that old hacknied theme?” McGarvey then proceeded with an interesting suggestion. He stated, “If you want to investigate any question without bias of mind, it is a good thing to throw out of your mind by an effort of the imagination, all you know or ever have heard about it… I propose then, that before we begin reading we shall each one imagine that we have never heard the word “baptism” pronounced in our lives.” What an interesting approach to a study!

Brother McGarvey wanted all to see what the Bible said about this strange and unknown word baptism. His sermon continued, “Now we begin at the first chapter of Matthew, and after reading that long list of names, and that account of the birth of the Lord, and his childhood, in the third chapter the writer introduces John the Baptist; and in verses five and six we read thus:—“Then went out unto Jerusalem and all Judea, and the region round about the Jordan, and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Why, there is a word I never saw before; I never heard of it. I wonder what it means—that these people were baptized by that man in the river Jordan.”

From that point on brother McGarvey went through the New Testament, stopping each time the word baptism, baptized, etc. was used. Thus, gleaming more and more information as the meaning of this word, allowing the Word of God to interpret and explaining the usage of baptism, baptized, etc.

Upon conclusion of this plain sermon all learned in part: (1) That much water was needed. (2) That people were immersed, buried in the water. (3) That sinners responded after preaching, desiring to be immersed, baptized. (Acts 2:14-41) (4) That sinners required belief in our Savior. (Acts 8:12) (5) Those sinners repented of their sins. (Acts 2:37-38) (6) They confessed that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 8:37) (7) All upon these straightforward acts of obedience were baptized. (Acts 2:38-41) (8) Upon baptism, the Word taught that they were then saved; their “sins washed away” and they were added to the church. (Acts 2:38-47; 22:16)

In a few closing remarks brother McGarvey said, “Can there possibly arise in the heart of any human being, when these things are considered, any repugnance to the ordinance? Any feeling of disrespect toward it? Any other feeling than a most profound reverence for it, and for the God and Saviour who appointed it? I am sure there can not.”

I had never read or heard of a more simplified and honest way to learn about a subject that has been beat up and debated throughout the centuries. How could anyone deny, reject this approach to the subject of baptism? I cannot think of a legitimate reason, can you?

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