1 John 3:4-5 Baptismal Service December 18, 2016
Sermon Series on I John # 11 “Christmas and Baptism: Perfect Together!”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”
In my 35 years as a pastor, it’s been rare to have a baptism so close to Christmas. Before the days of heated indoor baptistry tanks, when people were immersed in water outside, you wouldn’t want to have your baptism in December, in freezing temperatures and ice on the pond! But there is actually a wonderful connection between water baptism and celebrating Christmas, the birth of God’s Son on earth. And we see it in 1 John 3:5 “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.” Notice two things in that one verse:
First, your sins and my sins needed to be taken away. Second, Jesus Christ appeared in order to remove our sins. And that’s what water baptism symbolizes.
First, your sins and my sins needed to be taken away.
In the passage I just read, the word “sin” or “sinning” appears ten times. Ten times! So sin is a big issue here. In this section of the Bible, the Apostle John explains to us three things about sin: first, the nature of sin – that it is lawlessness (v. 4); second, he tells us the origin of sin (v. 8) – that it begins with the devil. [Last Sunday we looked at the devil and how Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, which includes deception, destruction, and distortion.] Third, here in v. 5 he tells us how sin is taken away, as we see how Jesus Christ came to deal decisively with our sin, and how water baptism is a sign and symbol of how He conquered both sin and the devil.
God teaches us that our sin is pervasive. Six times John uses the expression in Greek that is translated “everyone who,” “no one who,” or “anyone who.” Why this repetition? To show that sin impacts everyone, and therefore every one of us needs to have our sins taken away. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23). This is why everyone needs to turn from their sin and to turn to Jesus Christ. Not just hardened criminals. Not just murderers or pedophiles, but all of us. And if you don’t agree with that, just spend some time with a few children, playing together. Does anyone have to teach the children to be envious? To steal? To lie? To be self-centered? No. Sin is hard-wired in to our DNA. It enslaves us with shame; it cripples us with guilt; and it degrades us with evil. And that’s why everyone needs to turn from sin and to turn to Jesus.
The Bible also teaches us that sin is lawlessness. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (v. 4) Sin is lawlessness. This is one Biblical definition of sin. It means that sin is a defiant violation of God’s moral law. Lawlessness is the essence of sin. It is not just missing the mark or failing to hit the target. It is not merely a negative failure; but it is also an active rebellion against God’s known will and commands. It is untamable, uncontrollable, and ungovernable. In the last few decades science and medicine have given us many new labels for people, such as ADHD. But here’s an interesting one: ODD = Oppositional Defiance Disorder. You know a child who has it? Well, guess what? We are all born with ODD; we are all opposed to God; we are all defiant in our attitude toward Him, and it is a dis-order, in the sense that sin and lawlessness are contrary to the image of God stamped upon us.
Now many people today think sin is an antiquated religious term that has no place in modern society. People think they need therapy instead of forgiveness. Others dwell on being victims, and never consider that they also may be perpetrators before a Holy God. Still others explain bad behavior in terms of improper nurturing, a lack of education, or in pharmacological terms.
But the truth is that unless we own up to our sin, unless we acknowledge and turn from our lawlessness before our Heavenly King, we will never find true forgiveness; we will never be healed, and our sins will not be taken away. A drowning person cannot save themselves. The lifeguard does not shout out words of self-help. No. The drowning person needs to be saved and rescued by someone else. Unless we acknowledge this, and repent of such a wicked heart attitude, we will never see our deepest need for a Savior and a Rescuer!
Jesus Christ appeared to take away our sins. That’s what water baptism symbolizes.
Second, Jesus Christ appeared in order to remove our sins.
“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”
John brings together two truths about Christ. First, that Christ was born to take away our sins: [John 1:29 “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”]. Second, that Jesus was born without sin and remained sinless His whole life. And this is why He was able to remove our sins. How so? Because only a perfect, unblemished sacrifice could accepted as an offering for sin. If Jesus had sinned, He would have had to die for His own sins. But He was sinless. He was fully obedient to His Heavenly Father… so that He could be the perfect and spotless atonement for our sins and our guilt before God.
He was the perfectly righteous One, who took on the guilt and shame of our sins, and gave to us His perfect righteous standing before God the Father Jesus Christ. He took away our sins by bearing them in His own body (1 Peter 2:24; Heb. 9:28; Isa. 53:11-12), and yet He himself was entirely without sin. No other religious leader made that claim. And none of us can make it either. This is what baptism represents: we are forgiven in the perfect work of Christ on our behalf. We die to self and sin, and by being united to Christ, we are viewed by God as forgiven, cleansed and born again by His Spirit.
Consider how God’s grace has been at work in the person being baptized this morning:
Donna, by the grace of God, has realized both her sinfulness, and the wondrous forgiveness of her sins, by Christ dying for her sins, in her place. She has acknowledged that she was a lawless sinner, but when God opened her eyes to that truth, God also showed her that He sent His sinless Son into the world to be her Savior! More than that, Donna came to see with the eyes of faith that as she turned from her sin and her self-centeredness, and turned to Jesus Christ as her Redeemer and her King, she was born of God, adopted into His family, and given a new heart that desires to hate sin, love God, and love others!
And as an outward expression of her faith, Donna now desires to be baptized in water, as a sign of her cleansing, her forgiveness, and her joy in following Jesus!
What about you? If you’ve already been baptized in water as an outward sign of your faith in Christ, then use this occasion to renew your baptismal vows to Christ. But if you have never professed faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and been baptized accordingly, then what are you waiting for? Who else will take away your sins? How else will you experience total forgiveness and complete cleansing? Come in faith to Jesus today. Believe in Him now!