Friday, September 13, 2019
Acts 16:31-34 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
It was six years ago today that I had breakfast with a post-graduate student who is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Brought up in a works and sacraments based religious system, she had discovered the truth of faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation. It happened through a connection with fellow students involved in a faith-based campus ministry.
The reason we were meeting was to discuss baptism – true biblical baptism by immersion as a public testimony to one’s saving faith in Jesus Christ. As I listened intently to her testimony of faith, I interrupted her as I wiped tears of joy from my eyes. I asked her why she had not been baptized sooner. Her simple reply revealed something to me that I want to address today. She said, “Because it was never taught as a part of my discipleship training.”
As we talked more the joy of what God was doing in her life now overcame my initial reaction to what she said. But as the hours went by after the meeting, it began to weigh on my heart. Why would we in the so-called “modern” church age de-emphasize the fundamental command of Jesus for all disciples to be baptized? What do we believe He meant when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you?” How can we teach them to observe all the commands of Jesus when we ignore the first command of discipleship that He gave?
Throughout the New Testament, without changing the truth of salvation by faith alone, people who were saved were baptized, and it happened as soon after their salvation as possible. Let’s be very clear – baptism does not and cannot save anyone from their sin, at any age. But let’s also be clear about this truth – baptism is a command of God to be celebrated and experienced as a part of the salvation experience, and disobedience limits the potential for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, just as any disobedience to God will do.
I believe that the church has de-emphasized the importance of baptism as a result of cultural pressure to be more accepting of everyone’s personally selected belief system. Someone, in some religious system long ago, decided that baptism either wasn’t important or it was wrongly granted the status of being a means of receiving the grace of forgiveness. As well-intentioned people continued to live public lives of faith, personal experience was elevated to a place of priority over the command of Jesus. The church began to accept lifestyle of faith rather than obedience as “normal”.
As this young woman and I talked, I could literally see the joy bubbling over from her heart as she considered the thrill of public obedience to Christ. She was so thankful that I had addressed this issue with her. She enthusiastically agreed to be baptized at the next opportunity, and that it had to take place in the river like Jesus.
So, on the last Sunday of September in 2013, she was baptized in the Chippewa River. It was cold. She was excited. I was thrilled. She chose obedience to Christ by being publicly baptized by immersion as a testimony of her saving faith in Jesus Christ. I chose obedience by baptizing her as a part of her discipleship.
Have you considered this joyous step of obedience?