Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- What were the two things that identified believers in the early church? Why were these important? For the early believers in Jesus, what social and/or family repercussions would that have carried?
- Read Romans 6:3-4. What picture do these verses give us about baptism? What is its significance?
- In a non-committal culture, why is identification with a local church so distinct? What are some of the challenges that come with it? What are some of the blessings?
- What is your next action step in light of Sunday’s message? Who or what do you need to help you take that next step? How can we, as a group, help support you?
Well good morning everybody and happy new year to you, to all of you who are here at our Cross Point campus to those who are at our Lockport and our Cheektowaga campus, who are watching us online, who are listening to us on the radio, who have some lunar module on Mars, whatever. Just glad everybody is here, happy new year to you. So I've got a quick question for you, have you ever either daydreamed or night dreamed, either one, whatever your choice is, about living or growing up or being born in a different time and place? Has anybody ever just paused to think about what it would have been like to have been born or grown up in a different time or place? Anybody?
I think a lot of us have, right? It's something that maybe we've thought about. Maybe we've read some things or whatever. And I'm not talking about fantasy worlds, I'm not saying, "Hey, I wonder what it would be like to grow up The Shire next to the hobbits in Middle Earth." I'm not talking about that, or if you're thinking to yourself, "It would've been so cool to grow up in Wakanda, Wakanda forever!" I mean I'm not talking about that, all right? What I am saying is like real places with real people and all of that. If you ever thought about what it would be like to grow up as a pioneer where you don't have any electricity or whatever, or maybe you thought about growing up in the wild west and what that would've been like. Or who knows? Maybe it could be being part of knights in the Medieval world you're going ... that was chivalry and knights and damsels and all of that stuff. I don't know what you thought of. Or maybe you thought about some things that maybe are more serious minded where you've tried to think about, "Man, what would it have been like to have been born in Africa during the British slave trade? What would it have been like to have been a Native American in the late 1700's, early 1800's? What would would it have been like to have been a Jew living in Germany in the 1940's?"
Those are serious things when you start to think about those kinds of things. I have a tendency to do the same. I'll drift off on occasion and think about other times and other places and truthfully that's mostly informed because I live in the world of the Bible. It's kind of what I do vocationally, it's what I've done academically, and I kind of just live in that world and as a result what I have a tendency to do is sometimes think about what it had been like to have lived in that place at that time. Specifically, I've thought about what it would look like to have been born and to have lived in the time of the early church period. When the church began.
When I was a younger man, I would think back on that and I would romanticize it. I would think about how, "Oh, this would be so cool, man, it was just like everybody hanging out and we all have everything covered, everything's awesome, everything's awesome!" I'd be singing the Lego song at that point, right? Nevermind. I didn't really see The Lego Movie, I'm just pretending.
That's kind of how I thought about it, I kind of romanticized the whole deal. As I've matured and gotten older, what I've realized is that human beings are human beings. And whether they lived two thousand years ago, whether they lived today, even in Jesus Church, there's a lot more that we have in common with the early church than we don't have in common. And although they had the actual Apostles that were teaching them originally, as the church grew and developed and spread out, that changed a bit. And what we see in the New Testament is how the church itself is much like sometimes the church of today, that sometimes the church is just a beautiful mess.
Because they're made up of people, right? We can't romanticize this and make it something that it's not. It's sometimes a beautiful mess. But I began to think about what it would look like to be an Israelite, a native born Israelite, a Jew, who was living during that time and Jesus is entering in and there he is in Jerusalem and he's proclaiming the truths about the kingdom of God, he's talking about his father in real intimate terms, not just as God but he's referring to him as Father and he's saying all of these things about who he is as the light of the world, and then all of a sudden you're taken and you realize this is him, this is the one! This is He! Do you realize what that would cost you in that context? You wouldn't have a friend in the world because ultimately the Roman oppressors who had Israel under its thumb, they wouldn't be happy with you. They would think that this must be some kind of sect and they were worried about what it would mean toward revolt against the empire itself and so the Roman Empire would have their eye on you and not wonder very long about how much they want to keep up with you.
Then you're Jewish family and friends, not happening with them either. Because the religious leaders of that time in the Jewish world mostly were talking about Jesus as a blasphemer and as a drunk and somebody who hung out with prostitutes and sinners and this is not someone that you want to be around. So the people were following after that kind of lead and ultimately it led him to a cross, right? Where he was crucified. So this would be ... what I realize is that this idea of growing up in the early church, this idea of growing up in that context, those people were serious people at a serious time. Now, I don't mean to say that they didn't laugh. I don't mean to say that they didn't have fun. I don't mean to say that they weren't people filled with joy. I'm sure they did all of those things. But they were serious people at a serious time about the things that are most serious.
As I think about that, I think about how all of that began to unfold. Because as you and I both know, when the early church began, when you come to Acts chapter two, which is where we're going to be today concentrating just on really a verse or two, in Acts chapter two what happened was that there was a promise that the spirit was going to come. Jesus had lived and preached the message of the kingdom and he had died standing in the place of sinners and then he had risen from the dead, he had ascended to his father and he said, "Go and wait in Jerusalem," this little band of followers, "I want you to go wait in Jerusalem, you're going to receive power and I'm going to do something through you." And so they did and they waited and then at the time of what we call the Feast of Weeks, or in Hebrew the Shavu'oth, or as we like to refer to it, Pentecost. At that time, the spirit is poured out, confirming what Joel had prophesied, the spirit is poured out upon this band of people and all of a sudden Peter becomes the voice of this group of people that were meeting in an upper room.
And Peter steps out on the veranda and he begins to preach. It's 9:00 in the morning and when he begins to proclaim what God is doing, everybody thinks he's drunk and he's like "Drunk? It's nine! It's 9:00 AM, I haven't even had time!" People are saying, "Man, he's out of his mind." No, he was filled with the spirit of God and he was proclaiming the truth about who God is. Could you imagine thousands of people that had gathered for this festival from all over the place are now listening to Peter preach and as he's preaching they're actually hearing it in their own language so that the gospel can go forward in this context because God is doing something incredibly supernatural in their midst.
So what he does is he starts out in this particular message in Acts chapter two and he gives them a history prophecy lesson. Here's what the prophets have been saying all along and then he lands the plane in Acts chapter two at the end of his message and here's the piece that he delivers, he says, "Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this, God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah." This was pull the pin, detonate the theology grenade, because that's exactly what he did. He's talking to Jewish people and he's saying this, all of this prophecy about the one to come, that is Jesus, he is Israel's true Messiah, and by the way if you are hooked up with Rome, I want to remind you of something else, Caesar is not Lord, Jesus is. He is Israel's promised Messiah and he is the world's true Lord. This was an incredible thing.
What do you think that their response, hearing that kind of message, was? Well it goes on to say in verse number 37, when the people heard this, they were cut to the heard and they said to Peter and the other Apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" You gotta realize that for Peter, you knew this was a spirit act from Peter. Peter is proclaiming with incredible boldness in front of a bunch of people that may not like his message and just seven weeks earlier he denied that he even knew Jesus. He was cussing about it. And now, empowered by the Spirit, here's Peter proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and Messiah, and what happens to all of the folks? They are cut to the heart and here's what they way, "What do we do? What do we do?" Peter answers them very directly. Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call." He was including gentiles in this as well as Jews. "With many other words Peter warned them and he pleaded with them 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'" And, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."
Would you like to have been at that church meeting? Me, too. It's absolutely astounding. But isn't it crazy, kind of, how Peter lands this? He proclaims Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the people are cut to the heart and they say, "What do we do?" And Peter tells them two very direct things, here's what he says, "Repent," that's the first thing that he says, "I want you to repent." That word, we sometimes only think about it when we look at football games and people hold up signs or you see them on the corner sometimes and they're yelling through bullhorns and saying, "Repent! Repent!" And we don't know what it means, we just think they're mad at us and they're yelling at us, right? But the word is found in the Bible and it has a real meaning, the idea of the word repent, it's kind of a military term, it means to do an about face, to do a 180, you're headed in one direction, you change and you go the other direction. It's a change of mind that leads to a change of course. That's kind of what the idea of the word repent means.
So what Peter is saying is this, he's saying, "You've been taught wrongly about the nature of who God is and Jesus has come to show us truly who God is. He is God in the flesh, he is the Messiah, he is the world's true lord, he is the one that's prophesied, he is the way to truth in the life, he is everything that he said he was! He is resurrected from the dead! He died for sin and he rose from the dead!" Peter is proclaiming all of these things in their midst and he says, "This is first thing's first, you've got to repent and you ultimately are putting your faith in Jesus." And then he says, "And be baptized."
The first part we get. We understand why Peter was so serious about the idea and the need for repentance, right? We can't save ourselves. We can't depend on ourselves for our salvation. We've got to turn from trusting in ourself and we've got to turn from our sin and put our faith in Jesus if we want to be reconciled to God. We understand why Peter said that first. But then he said following it, immediately, he said, "Repent and be baptized." Why was Peter so serious about baptism? We get why he was so serious about repentance and ultimately about faith that he would talk about. Why was he so serious about baptism? Because of Jesus, that's why. Simple. Because of Jesus.
In fact, I want to show you what I'm talking about, the first thing that I would tell you is that Jesus commanded baptism. It's why Peter is so serious about it. You remember this commission that Jesus gave as he was about to ascend to his father and what he said to his Apostles, his disciples, those who were following after him, Jesus gave some very clear instruction. Notice what it says in Mathew 28, "Jesus came to them and said all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."
I think it's beautiful that what Peter did, he did what Jesus did. When Peter concluded his message, he actually took the same format that Jesus took. Peter begins by saying here's your greatest need, you've got to repent and turn to Jesus. And you know what Jesus says? The commission is for all of his disciples? Here's what I want you to do, I'm commanding you to do what? Not "go", that's not a command. When you read this in the Greek language, the word "go" there is not a command. In other words it could be translated this way, as you're going, wherever you go, wherever you find ourself, and then he drops this command on them, "Make disciples." Make disciples. How do you begin doing that? You proclaim the gospel. You tell people that they must repent of their sin, put their faith in Jesus, that that's the only way to be reconciled to the Father. This is how this begins.
And then Jesus says, "You go and you make disciples of all nations and I want you to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I want you to baptize them." Why is Jesus giving us this kind of command? Why is he saying this so specifically? Because what baptism is, ladies and gentlemen, is a visible identifier with Jesus Christ. It is what people can see in terms of the visible identification with Jesus. That's why Paul actually talks about what this picture of baptism means in Romans, chapter six, look at it. Paul says, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ, Jesus, were baptized into his death? We were therefore," look at it, "we were therefore buried with him through baptism into his death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
Do you see the picture? The picture that baptism is painting this visible sign is us saying that when we go through those waters, it's not just some religious ritual, we are actually visibly identifying with what Jesus has done by his death, his burial, and his resurrection. Do you see it? This is why we sometimes say it's similar to a wedding ring. Because a wedding ring is a visible sign. It would be an awful thing if you were to get married, you exchange rings, and then as soon as you get out of the wedding you look at your spouse and you're like, "Hey man, here's the thing, I'm not wearing this. I'm not doing it. Bottom line, people might associate us. I'm just not doing it"
I don't go anywhere without my wedding ring. I am so glad that I wear this because it identifies me with my wife, who is gorgeous and godly and I way out kicked my coverage and she is the perfect mate for me that God has given me. If I could wear a full body ring, I would do it so that people would go, "That dude isn't just married he is so married it is crazy! Look how married that guy is!" Why? Because I am never ashamed of the one that I am married to, I am thrilled that people identify me with her. So why would we not choose to visibly identify with the one who died and was buried and rose from the dead?
So Jesus commanded it, right? This is command language from Jesus. And by the way, just as a heads up, the early church knew nothing of an unbaptized believer. Didn't exist in the early church. They didn't even think twice about it, you know why? They were serious. They were serious about what Peter preached to them as an Apostle of Jesus Christ who got his message from Jesus Christ, the son of God, who commanded it.
Let me give you another reason, it's because Jesus baptized baptism. This is why Peter was so serious about it, because Jesus baptized baptism. You understand what I'm saying when I say that? What he did is Jesus kind of ... he brought new meaning into something that already existed. He took what already existed and it just went boom and filled out with such rich meaning that you probably are like, "Man, I didn't even recognize that, I didn't realize that, I didn't even think about that." We know that Jesus himself was baptized, right?
I get asked this question, I've been asked this question a million times over the course of my million years of ministry, "Why did Jesus get baptized? He didn't need to get baptized." Well sure, by the way, John the Baptist who baptized him, he thought the same thing! Look at Matthew chapter three, "Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?'" And, "Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now. It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John consented."
You see, up to this point, the baptism that John was baptizing was a very specific baptism. It was a baptism of repentance. It was the idea that you were understanding that you had done wrong and you needed to be made right. But when Jesus shows up on the side of Jordan there in the south side, I'll tell you about that in just a minute, and he comes to John, John sees him and Jesus is coming to get baptized. And John's like, "Uh, no. I'm not baptizing you. You should be baptizing me because this is a baptism for forgiveness of sins and here's what I know, I've already said it, you are the lamb of God. You are the spotless lamb of God. You don't have any sin. In fact, you're coming to save the world from their sins." This is what John the Baptist was saying. He knew Jesus was sinless, he knew Jesus was spotless, he knew Jesus was the lamb of God who would die for the sins of the world and he's saying, "You don't need to be baptized! You need to baptize me!" And Jesus says, "It's cool, John." It's not literally what he said, when I read the Greek it doesn't say that exactly.
But he said, "Hey, John. It's okay. Here's why. This is proper because it's to fulfill all righteousness." Now, in your mind you're kind of going what does that mean? Well I need you to buckle up for just a minute, can you do that? I need you to buckle up and I need you to think with me because we're gonna go deep for a moment and then we're going to come out of that and I'm going to give you some stuff at the end, it's going to be really practical and helpful and I'm going to sum it up and it's going to make really good sense for you. But I need you to go with me for a second, okay?
Why, when we're talking about this, why was this to fulfill all righteousness? I'm going to give you three reasons, there's probably way more. I'm going to give you three that I'm thinking about. First was this, is that because Jesus was a faithful son. And this fulfilled all righteousness. You see when Jesus came, he came to identify with us. The Father gave the Son a mission, and that mission was to be born as a human being, fully God and fully man at exactly the same time. Born of a virgin, living life as a human being. Why? Because the son of God had to identify with the ones he was going to save.
So what Jesus did is those that were trying to keep themselves in right relation because of the law, they knew they could never do it on their own but Jesus could. Jesus completely obeyed and fulfilled the law. I'm not talking about the man made stuff that was all around the law that a lot of the religious leaders were doing, I'm talking about the heart of God and his law, Jesus completely fulfilled and obeyed that. And Jesus completely obeyed and surrendered to the Father who had sent him on this mission. This is part of why this was to fulfill all righteousness because Jesus was demonstrating he was a faithful son who was engaging the mission of the Father and he had come to identify with the people he was going to save. So when he gets in the water, he does it as an example, not because he had any sin, because he is demonstrating what's to come. That there is going to be a plunging of his life in death and burial and that he will get up from the dead so that he can free us from our sin.
In fact, you see how pleased the Father is with this faithful son, don't you, in that passage? Notice what he says at the very end, he said, "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water." And, "At that moment, heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased." Why? Because he was faithful. He was a faithful son. He was fulfilling all righteousness when he was baptized.
There's a second one, here's you're going to have to stay with me here, put your thinking cap on ... I don't even know what that means, what is a thinking cap? Who made that? I don't know what it is. I want one. Here's a second one. Not only was a faithful son, but Jesus was a forever priest. When we see Jesus being baptized to fulfill all righteousness, it's because something had to happen so that the priesthood was actually transitioned. For those of you that are Bible students, you're going to get a kick out of all of this. For those of you that aren't, you're going to go back and listen to it.
To do this, I'm going to have to go back a little bit, because John the Baptist is the baptizer of Jesus, right? We know that. But I need to take you back further than John the Baptist to his mom and dad. You see when you begin to read Luke and his account in chapter one, very early in that account it says this, it says, "In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah," that's John the Baptist's dad, "Who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron." Now you're going, "Jerry, why did you highlight that he was in the priestly line of Abijah?" Because it's important. Most of the time we read that and we're like, "Cool, I just go to ancestry.com and we figure out what my lineage is, and that's good for them, awesome." But that's in there for a very specific reason. Luke, the doctor, is very meticulous, and he's putting that in there for a very specific reason.
And what is that reason? He wants us to know that Zechariah is from the line of Abijah. Abijah's descendant, earlier than him, is Eleazar. Eleazar is the son of Aaron, and Aaron is the true priestly line. This is who God ordained the line of Aaron in the tribe the Levite. He ordained Aaron to be the one who was going to be His line, be the priests that ministered before the lord, that ministered in the Tabernacle, that ministered in the temple, this was the line. And by the way, not just Zechariah was from this line, it says Elizabeth was also from the line of Aaron. That makes John the Baptist, listen to this, John the Baptist is so fully pure in the priestly line of Aaron, you can't be more pure than that. Mom and dad and now you've got John the Baptist.
So the question that you're asking, I see it, I see the smoke coming out of your ears, the question that you're asking is why John the Baptist is not ministering at the temple? His dad did. Why isn't he? He is a part of this line, this should be what he is doing now as a male who would be a priest in the line of Aaron. Well here's what I think, it's because at this time that we're talking about, the time of John the Baptist, stay with me here, is that the Roman's had so corrupted the religious leadership now in Jerusalem by occasionally making appointments of priests who were not even consistent with the Aaronic line and they were leading the people wrongly and so John the Baptist, who instead of getting involved in the corruption that was filling the temple which Jesus would ultimately speak to and eviscerate, if you remember, John the Baptist punches out and says, "I'm going to the wilderness and I'm going to do this how I'm supposed to do it because I know I'm called by God, I know I've been given the mantle of being the forerunner of the one who is to come, and I'm going to get about my business in a serious way."
So he does. And there he is at the Jordan river and Jesus shows up to be baptized. What is going on here? There's a transfer of the priesthood from the line of Aaron to the Order of Melchizedek. Some of you are going, "You've just lost me. I have no idea who Melchizedek is but his name is awesome." I do not have time today to dive too deeply here, but what I'm going to show you is what the writer of Hebrews said about this.
Here's what the writer of Hebrews said in chapter 7, "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood, and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood, why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said," Jesus," Belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah," not Levi, "And in regard to that tribe, Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears," you'll have to go back to Genesis to read about Melchizedek, "One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.' The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless for the law made nothing perfect, and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God."
Let me just explain it in a bottom-line way. The transition at this baptism was the transition of a priesthood from priests who die to a priest who never will. An indestructible life. Do you know why that is so important to us? Because we now have a high priest who intercedes for us forever. He died, he rose, he sits at the right hand of God and our high priest will always intercede for us.
Here's what else it means. Here's what else it means, it means that when we are baptized into Christ, Jesus, we are baptized into priesthood. That's why the New Testament says you are a royal priesthood. Because we've been baptized into a different kind of priesthood at this point, that we are now ambassadors, listen, of the living priest who lives inside of us, who lives an indestructible life, who will never die and who will always make intercession for his people. This is what we're talking about about Jesus being baptized to fulfill all righteousness.
He was a faithful son. He was a forever priest. But he was also a fearless leader. This is what it means for him to fulfill all righteousness. Let me explain what I mean here. To know what I'm saying you have to know where Jesus was baptized. You're going, "Dude, I can get this one right. I can't get everything right, but I can get this one right. Jordan river." Buh-bing. Right? It's like mic-drop for you, you're like Jordan river, Bible drill complete. I hear you. But this goes a little deeper.
Matthew, when we see the Baptism narrative that we just read said it was the Jordan. That's all it said. John talks to us a little more specifically. Listen to what John says, the baptist said, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of who's sandals I am not worthy to untie." This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan where John was baptized. Now, some of you, if you read a King James version of the Bible, that doesn't say Bethany, it says Bethabara. That's an okay translation as well, it kind of had two different names and all of that, but Bethabara actually translated means "the crossing."
On the south side of the Jordan where Bethany on the Jordan would be, most archeological scholars would talk about this place as a place on the south side of the Jordan. So if here to the north you have the Sea of Galilee, and then going down you have the Jordan and then it connects to the Dead Sea in the south. So this place that we're talking about would have been much closer down to the Dead Sea. I've been in those regions multiple times. Eight times I've been in that exact region. It's arid, it's wilderness, it's all the kind of stuff that you would think John the Baptist would be a part of.
But why is that important to us? Because in that place, that same place, is where we read the story of Joshua bringing the people of God across the Jordan river into the land of promise. And what we're seeing at this baptism, to fulfill all righteousness, is we're seeing Jesus be commissioned as the new Joshua. The one who would lead his people out of the captivity of sin and lead them into the promised existence of life in God in his kingdom. So when we see the statement that Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, there's a whole lot going on there than you and I maybe have thought when we first looked at it, right?
That said, this is why Peter was so serious about talking about baptism. Peter said, "Repent and be baptized." And he was painstakingly serious about it when he came out of that message. So if you want to understand what I'm talking about when I talk about baptism, write this statement down, it's simple. Baptism is our obedience to identify with Jesus as he has identified with us. Baptism is our obedience to identify with Jesus as he has identified with us. I don't want to stop here, I've got so much to say and not enough time today, so we're going to be here until 3:00, if you're good with that. I'm kidding. We're not. It's going to be 2:45 and you'll be gone. I promise.
I'm going to finish on time but I want you to stay with me because I've got a lot to say and a short time to say it. Not only was this this great identifier, this idea of baptism, it's what visibly identified the early church, so that's why when Peter said, "Repent and be baptized," he was saying ... because they were saying, "What do we do," and he said, "Repent, put your faith in Jesus, turn from thinking of these other things and put your faith in Jesus, and then be baptized," a visible sign that you're identifying with his death, burial, and resurrection. But then at the very end, when these people, three thousand of them are baptized, notice what it says in Acts chapter two, "Those who accepted Peter's message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." They were added to that number. In other words there was already an existing group that was there.
Think about these people that responded. They were from all over the place. Remember, they were all there for the festival. They responded in faith to Jesus Christ and now they're baptizing three thousand people. And that three thousand people, listen to this, were added to their number. Listen carefully. What we know when we read on in Acts, they didn't go back home because they so identified with Jesus that they identified with his people. They belonged. They belonged. You see, these are the kind of visible markers that we're paying attention to because when these people, listen to this, when these people were baptized, they were identifying with Jesus and then they were added to that number. They identified with Jesus and they identified with Jesus' people in that specific place. In that specific location. That's who they identified with right there. It was a real place with real people. It wasn't a place all by themselves, it wasn't a place on an island, it was a place with real people in a real location and that's really important.
Do you know why? Because when we belong to the body, there's a lot that goes on with that. Do you know that in the New Testament, between Jesus and the Apostles, there are around 60 commands that are one another commands. In other words, you got to do this with one another. You can't do that unless you belong. You have to identify with the people of God, this is the only way you can actually live this out. You can't do one another when there ain't no other. You know what some of those commands are, right?
Here's a quick survey, "A new command I give you," Jesus says, "Love one another as I have loved you. So you must," what? "Love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples," if you what? "Love one another." Listen to what Paul said in Romans 12, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Listen to what he said in Galatians five, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love." Look at what he says in Ephesians four, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you." How about First Thessalonians five, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
Why am I telling you all of this? Because you can't do this unless you're belonging to the body. So those of you who are listening online, the reason that we do what we do online is because sometimes people are sick, sometimes people are traveling, sometimes people are home-bound. We are not doing it so you can sit in your PJ's with your coffee cup and you can sit there and go, "Oh, that was a nice little message for the rest of my day that I can be a little bit inspired by," when you're not actually belonging with the people that you can live out the truth of all these things with.
I love you. Love every one of you. Telling you the truth today. Same if you're listening by way of radio. This can be a supplement but it can't be the main deal, right? You got to be with real people in a real place to live this truth out. You got to belong. Because these are the identifiers for what it looks like, but we live in a different kind of time. People don't want to make a commitment.
By the way, even in our belonging, do you know that the scripture actually talks about it, and this sometimes is difficult for me because I don't like talking about my role even though the bible talks about my role. So I have to work through that, "Ah, I don't really want to talk about my role because ... " but the Bible talks about my role. Do you know what happened as the church began to expand in the early church? When it got outside of Jerusalem? Because the Apostles were there in Jerusalem, right? That's great spiritual leadership. The Apostles. Yep, I'd like to go to your church. Peter, what do you got to say? I'm all ears, I'm taking notes, I'm in. But it began to grow.
And then Paul comes to Christ, and Paul and Barnabas start traveling and they start planting churches, notice what happens in Acts chapter 14, "They preached the gospel in that city and they won a large number of disciples. And then they turn to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, and they strengthen the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." Do you know what he did? He set up spiritual leaders in every place.
Why? Because the people there that belonged needed spiritual leaders who looked, acted, and talked like Jesus. As long as the spiritual leaders of the chapel, in as imperfect a way as that's going to be, because like you know me, right? And I know you, right? As imperfect as that is, as long as those who are in spiritual leadership here are leading like Jesus, are walking like Jesus, are trying to serve like Jesus, again as imperfectly as that might be, then the responsibility of the body is to lovingly follow that leadership because it's good for your soul.
In fact this is what the writer of Hebrews said, "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account." That is an incredible overwhelming accountability for those of us that do this. "Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you." And I do want to say this, just as a testimony to you as a people, generally speaking, there are specific instances this isn't the case because this is just life with a lot of people, but generally speaking it is a joy. It is a joy for me. There are times where it is not a joy. They happen. But generally speaking, it is a joy.
Why do I tell you all of this? I tell you all of this because in the day and age that we live in where we don't want to make commitments, we don't want to go all-in, right? We have a disease that's called FOMO, fear of missing out. And so here's what happens, we do it with marriage, instead of getting married we just live together for a real long time, see how it is, we'll play, see how it goes, let's get a feel for it. By the way, I've got an easy out if this isn't ... if I see somebody I like who's a little cuter, whatever, and I can just punch out no problem, no harm, no foul, I can just do all of that right? No commitment.
Or my social calendar, I can, yeah, I'd love to go to that party, I want to hang out with you, I'd love to see you or whatever, but I'm holding open some time just in case something better comes along because I want to make sure that I don't miss out so I can't commit to you. Hey I know I told you that I'd hang out with you tonight but I've got some people that I think are cooler and better than you that I'm going to hang out with instead and so you bust out your commitment there and you go do something else. We just don't like commitment and it happens in the church all the time.
We got spectators. Spectators who don't want to get all the way in. Spectators who don't want to just believe and say I want to go all-in in my discipleship, I want to be all-in in getting in with this body of believers and I want to live in accountability to them, I want to live in accountability to Jesus, I want to honor what's going on in the church, I want to use my time and my resources and my talents and my gifts and I want to use them for the building of the body and for the sake of the mission. That's what Peter's talking about. Because the Bible knows nothing of unbaptized believers and the early church knows nothing about believers who didn't belong.
They weren't lone rangers just doing their own thing. Real people, real places, real time, identifying. So two things primarily identified believers in the early church, baptism and belonging. Those are two primary things. That's what we're learning from our text right here in the early church. And do you know why? Why we're serious about it? Because they were. We're serious about it because they were. This is the foundation of who we are. We're serious about it here.
I told you I'm going to wrap up and give you something real easy. Here it is. The first order of business is if you're here and you have never come to a place where you have repented of your sin and put your faith in Jesus, that is your greatest need. Stop right there, don't think about anything else, that is your greatest need. If you are willing to say that you are the way, the truth, and the life, if you are willing to say you can make your own way to God, then I would say to you you need to repent. Only Jesus, only Jesus can save you. Only Jesus can forgive you. Only Jesus can give you access to being reconciled to the God that every single person is going to stand before and give an account. Only Jesus. Because of what he did in identifying with us so he could save us. Because he loves us.
So if that's your need, that's your first issue. Just like Peter said, "First thing's first, repent." Just like Jesus said, "First thing's first, make disciples." But secondly, maybe you haven't been baptized as a believer. I'm not talking about you said, "You know what? I got baptized when I was six months old." How did that go? Do you remember that? Was your party awesome? You have no idea what you were doing, right? Here's what the New Testament knows, the New Testament knows of this, they believed and they were baptized. That's what the New Testament teaches us. They believed and they were baptized. And by the way, though I'm not going to throw stones at people who take other modes, the biblical mode of baptism is not sprinkling, it's not a little dabble do you, it's immersion.
Do you know what the word "baptizo" means in Greek language? To dip under or to immerse. Jesus went down into the water, he came up out of the water. It's pretty clear. When Phillip was dealing with the Ethiopian Eunuch in the Book of Acts, he had to look for enough water to be able to baptize him. Why? Because he was going to immerse him, why? Because the picture is the plunging of a life and death and burial, identifying with Jesus and the resurrection to a brand new life. That's the picture. And if you have not taken that step of obedience after believing, then that's a need you have.
For some of the rest of us, when are we going to stop playing spectator and start identifying with real people, being accountable to real spiritual authority, being in the midst of the people of God, using our gifts and our talents and our resources to further the mission of God? Instead of holding out going, "Well I'm not really a member so I don't really have to do anything." And by the way, if you have this wrong idea of membership, which many people do, they think about it like this, "Hey, what are my rights as a member?" What? Wouldn't that be interesting to ask Jesus? Oh, okay. You have the right to carry your cross daily. You have the right to lose your life so you can find it. You have the right to wash the feet of your brothers and sisters. You have the right to be generous beyond the point of even making sense to the people that you minister to.
That's what we're talking about. Now yes, in a congregational style church like ours, if we are ever to do something like purchase property or anything we don't just make those decisions in isolation, we bring that to those who are members of the church for affirmation that this is what the spirit of God is leading us to do. So yes, there's that. If you needed one. But the truth is this is about you identifying in a real way with people instead of living in a non-committal culture. And that takes something to do.
So you say, "Jerry, how do I do that?" If you need, listen, any of those pieces. If you need to trust Jesus, when we dismiss in a moment I want you to go straight to the fireside room, we've got pastors and prayer partners there who would love to talk to you about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. That's first step for you. But if you need to understand what it means to be baptized and you want to take that step, I think you understand it now, but you want to take that step, if you want to know what it looks like to become and belong here and you want to take that step, here's two options. One, you can go straight to the information center, this campus or any of our campuses, you can go straight to the information center and we'd be glad to talk to you about those things. They're ready to do that. Secondly, if you want to go online, which is where they're going to point you anyway so that you can find out the information, it's a real simple spot, we're going to show it to you on the screens. Thechapel.com/nextsteps. That's one page. You can get right on it and you can read all about it.
When's the next time I can connect with this? When's the next time I can do this? You can do that. You see, there's a reason, ladies and gentlemen, that we have a discipleship pathway here at The Chapel. There's a reason. In fact, this is what it looks like. If you can throw that up there for me if you have it. This discipleship pathway. It starts with foundations, where we talk to people about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and what it means to be baptized and why. Then we move into teachings. Why? Because that's what the great commission said, "Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I've commanded." We're going to start living out what does it look like to love God, love the church, love the world.
Then we talk about my circle, how does this play out in my sphere of influence? How do I live on mission for Jesus around all the people that are around me? And then we get into community groups where we are now being formed in the word, and we're going to talk to you more about that in a couple a weeks. We're being formed in the word and with one another to practice the one another's that the scripture commands us to practice. It's why we do it.
So get all-in. Why? Because that's what Jesus calls us to. The early church were series people in a serious time. And I want the world that we live in in this region that if they look through the windows of this church, I want them to see people who are serious about Jesus. That they have joy, that they can laugh, that they can live abundantly but they are serious about what it means to follow Jesus and to identify with his people. Let's prey together. For those that need to follow Jesus, I've already given you instruction as to what I'd encourage you to do, to come by the fireside room, we'd love to talk to you.
Father for those of us who you've spoken to today, which is many of us, myself included, you have put this message so heavy on my heart today. Because God, I know that your desire is for your church to be serious about you. We can enjoy, we can have fun, we can laugh. All of those things are proper and right. But our hearts have to be so fully devoted to you. That we believe what you say, that we do what you say, that we surrender to your lordship. That Jesus, if you told me that I need to go change tires every day for the rest of my life, that I would gladly say give me a wrench! Because you are Lord and everything you say is right. You are the head of your church. And we want to be a picture that the world looks at and sees and says, "These people love one another, they love Jesus with all of their hearts and they're serious about the most important things in life."
Father, I prey you do that because I know that I'm giving an account to you in the now and in the future for whether I have led us in that way and whether our leadership here has led us in that way. So Father, may you do what only you can by the power of your spirit and would you give every single heart the opportunity to say yes to you in whatever way that needs to be said. Trust you in Jesus' name. Amen.