This will be a long blog covering baptism. My goal is not to provide 2,000 years of baptism history. My goal is to share some parts of baptism, as seen in scripture, and to emphasize the point that if you are a Christian, and not baptized, you are being disobedient to Christ. I will also state from the beginning, that, as of this moment I have not been baptized- more on that later.
Acts 2, quoted below, will be referenced several times throughout this blog. Peter is preaching the first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost. He is preaching to thousands of people, and telling them about Christ. Acts 2:36-41 is the conclusion.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”
When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them.
When I reflect on events from missionaries lives in books, I often think of Nik Ripkins stories. The underground church is fascinating. Through intense persecution the church is actually experiencing rapid growth. It’s really phenomenal.
Imagine a family that had to sneak to church. They sneak out in the dark to a house with curtains closed. They made sure no one was suspicious. They didn’t really know about this Jesus person, but they heard some things about him.
They get preached the gospel, and fall in love. They want Jesus. The missionary then asks, “Are you willing to be baptized today, knowing there is a good possibility it may cost you your life, or the lives of your wife and kids?”
Wow. I think we can agree that is completely different than how we approach it here in America. I mean we all agree Jesus is great, amazing, and spectacular…but is he worth everything? This is hypothetical to us, but millions of people are faced with this reality every year. They have to ask themselves…. “I may die…I may experience great pain because of this decision…is he worth it?”
I think many people, myself included, have had a great misunderstanding of the significance of baptism. We have lessened baptism’s worth and meaning.
Something you can see as different from the normal is the timing. From the beginning here in Acts, you can see that as soon as people placed their faith in Jesus they were immediately baptized. In fact several times throughout the book of Acts you see the significance of baptism.
Obviously there are 2,000 years of Church history that people can look at and see regarding baptism. I’m going to simply look at baptism in the context of beginning Christians.
Baptism is a celebration of Christ’s grace and mercy based on what he did, not based on what we do. No matter what, there is nothing we can do to earn Christ’s grace and mercy. We are incapable of earning it.
For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.
Paul is saying basically the Jesus died on the cross as our substitute. He died for us. Scripture then says that Jesus then triumphed over sin. This is the mercy and grace that we are celebrating. I want to be clear here. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. We don’t get baptized to earn salvation. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it is not important- it is.
Baptism is a picture of the Gospel. The reality has already taken place in a Christian’s heart; baptism is a picture for the world to see. I love Romans 6 quoted below.
What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.
When our body is put into the water, this is our identification with Christ’s death. We are buried with Christ. Thankfully Jesus didn’t stay dead forever. Three days past and he rises. So when we come out of the water that is representing our participation with his resurrection. We see a beautiful picture that one day we will rise and be with Christ forever.
When you see someone baptized, that’s not their salvation (cannot emphasize enough)- it’s a representation/illustration of what Christ did.
1 Peter 3:15-22
But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.
Why Baptize? ( and more on Meaning)
So why should Christians be baptized? A huge reason is to follow the example of Jesus. Everything we do in life should flow from this.
After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!
What we are seeing here is that this isn’t based on physical heritage; it’s placed on spiritual birth. You become part of the family of God. This is why John was baptizing- in faith and repentance. It was a symbol of them washing their sins away. This is kind of inaugurating Jesus as the leader of the church. Jesus is our leader, we follow his example.
Not only do we want to follow Jesus’ example, but we also want to obey Jesus.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Jesus commands us to baptize. These are some of Jesus’ last words on earth. He is telling us to make disciples, preach the gospel, and baptize. I’d say those things are pretty important.
That’s why in the book of Acts, you see people baptized immediately. Jesus did it, and told us to do it. We have to be obedient to Jesus. We already have enough reason to baptize right here. We don’t baptize to become a Christian. We don’t baptize to join a church. We baptize to obey Christ. Now obviously there are connections with obeying Christ and becoming a Christian, or church membership, etc… but the main reason is not to meet a requirement by a church, but to be obedient to Christ.
It also unites the family of God together. Not to be baptized is to be disobedient. It is also saying you do not want to be identified with Christ or the Church.
1 Corinthians 12: 12-15
For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many.
Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Ever since Acts chapter two Christians have been watching people get baptized and united to one family. It doesn’t matter where you are from, how your family treated you, the awful sins you committed; we are all united together as one family.
Looking back Acts 2 we see that repentance and faith are basically the requirements for baptism. A baby doesn’t have the capability to repent of sin. A baby doesn’t have the ability to place faith in Christ. Think of the background again behind baptism with John the Baptist again. Baptism came to replace the idea that you were born into a spiritual family at birth. Once we place our faith in Christ then we are baptized. Baptizing a baby is not believers baptism.
So people wonder…well should I get baptized again. Baptism isn’t about doing it fifty times. Once you are married, you stay married…renewing vows doesn’t change that. You do baptism once…as a believer. Which is precisely my point; a baby cannot be a believer.
Now several people have been baptized before he or she truly believed or committed (My wife as an example), I believe these people should be baptized again. If, once we believe, we are fully justified; you should be baptized after this point. Again, it should happen after we repent and place our faith in Jesus.
Back in the introduction of this long blog I referenced how in the Bible, as soon as someone places his or her faith in Christ, they were immediately baptized. Here are some scripture references backing that up.
But when they believed Philip, as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
Acts 9: 18
At once something like scales fell from his eyes (Paul’s), and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.
Acts 16: 14-15
A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Acts 16: 29-33
Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized.
Acts 18: 8
Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed the Lord, along with his whole household. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized.
Acts 19: 4-5
Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
From these verses you can see a pattern. And it is always the same in the book of Acts. Baptism was immediate with conversion. Every single example of baptism was immediately following belief and commitment.
Some people think that baptism should be after a period of time so the individual can verify or prove their faith. There are millions of smarter people than me, but when I read the bible, this popular thought does not seem to be accurate to me. Biblically baptism goes with the initial confession every time.
Want to say again and again, baptism is not necessary for salvation. But it is an obedient response to our salvation- according to the Bible.
Baptism is a public picture to tell the world what Christ has done in your life. Baptism is a way to shout to the world that you belong to Jesus. You are his son or daughter. It identifies you as one of God’s children. It doesn’t make sense for you to say you believe in God but don’t want to be identified with God- or his family.
Why wouldn’t you want to declare that to the world? That, despite the darkest, sickest, moments of your life, you have a God who has pursued you? In love, God has pursued you and united you in an eternal family. You belong to him. So why would you not want to be baptized? Don’t devalue it. Don’t disobey Christ. Celebrate it! It’s amazing.
If you are a follower of Christ, and you have not been baptized, you are living contrary to the New Testament. The church today has made it an optional extra. I have made it an optional extra. Nowhere in the New Testament is it viewed like this. In fact, do you even see an unbaptized believer in the New Testament?
Why did I decide to write a long blog on baptism? Well, it’s very simple. I haven’t been baptized as a believer. One of my first posts for my blog was my testimony. If you have no read it, scroll down to one of the first posts and take five/ten minutes to read it.
As you can see, my true relationship with Jesus is more of a recent thing. In early 2013 I really wanted to be baptized, but I thought, oh I’ll just wait- no rush. By the end of summer 2013, I came into the realization that I was, based on the Bible, being disobedient in putting off baptism. However, Ashley and I were in the process of looking for a new church to attend, so I decided to put if off a little more.
Once we found a church we loved in October I really wanted to get baptized there, however, I held it off because we were still in the getting to know you stage at church (I am not agreeing with my holding off, or making excuses, the reality is I still wasn’t obey the bible’s view on baptism- no matter the reason).
We became church members early in 2014. Part of the requirement was agreeing to be baptized once the church was able to set that up. I said earlier that you don’t get baptized to join a church- but the two are connected. How can we love Christ as a community, if we disobey Christ and don’t follow his example? How can we love each other, if we are not willing to be identified and unified with each other in the way the Bible tells us? How can we believe and want to follow only part of the great commission? So being a member of a church, and being baptized are directly tied and related to one another. How can a member of the church be openly disobedient to what Christ says- you can’t.
I asked several times, in follow up, about being baptized. It was, as a church, put off because no baptismal was set up yet (understandable, still a newish church). I was thinking at first about suggesting outside baptism…but we had the worst winter in the history of Indiana- so I didn’t think people would go for it.
Finally, a date is set. August 9, 2014. I finally get to participate in a beautiful display of the gospel. To make it even better, I get to do it with my absolutely amazing wife.
I think it would be awesome to have this available instantly in the church. If a guest comes, and commits to Christ, instantly baptize he or she- then follow up with Christian educational classes/support the next few months.
Yes I was disobedient by putting it off so long. Sadly many people are. I am so glad that this sin will be remedied soon. I want to end this long blog with a question geared towards any potential Christian readers who haven’t been baptized. It is not my intent to judge or act like I am better. I simply would like new Christians, and current Christians to not make the same mistake I did in putting off this wonderful illustration.
So think and reflect on this question:
If you are a Christian, who has not been baptized, why are you ok with publically disobeying Christ?