By Leonard Laurialt: Church of Christ
Just before he ascended back into heaven, Jesus gave instructions to his disciples about what to do until he returned. That is, they were to make disciples (Matthew 28: 18-20).
Those instructions included, ‘teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.“ A disciple follows the teaching of his master (John 8: 31, 32). This series of articles discussing how one becomes a disciple of Jesus by obedience to his commands has, so far, dealt with the necessity of complete obedience (Matthew 18: 20; John 15 : 14), faith (John 8: 24), repentance (Luke 13: 5), and confession (Matthew 10: 32, 33).
Today’s article will discuss what Billy Graham once called, “the topic that so terribly divides us (paraphrased),“ further indicating that we needed to sit down and talk about it. Have a seat. Immediately before Jesus told his disciples to teach us everything he had commanded them, he told them to make disciples by baptizing people (Matthew 28: 19).
There are a lot of philosophies among men regarding the purpose and place of baptism. Many that cannot be supported or refuted from scripture and, thus, are not legitimate. For example, the Bible never says, or even implies, that baptism is, “an outward sign of an inward grace.” It does say that the act of baptism has nothing to do with outward things, but that it saves us by the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3: 21; Romans 6: 3-5).
The Bible also says that what when we are baptized, an inward change is e ffected by God (Colossians 2: 9-15; Romans 2: 28, 29; 6: 6-10, 17, 18). And so, we must realize that baptism is not an outward symbol of an already received inward grace. Rather, it is the outward means Christians have been commanded to use (Matthew 28: 18-20) and nonChristians are to be encouraged and also commanded to accept (Acts 2: 36-41) so that God can effect the inward change that he wants in all men.
While Christians are commanded to do the baptizing and those who want to become Christians, discipl es of Christ, are commanded to be baptized, it is God who does the work as the baptism takes place (1 Corinthians 3: 5-9).
When it comes to disciple-making, the encouragement and demonstration of the need for baptism by Christians should be so convincing that those wanting to come to Christ will have it be done at the earliest opportunity. In the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8: 26-40), we don’t know all of what Philip said to the eunuch about baptism, but it definitely caused the eunuch to ask for it at the first water hole they came to.
The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized in the middle of the night, within an hour after he was told, “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16: 25-34). And Saul of Tarsus (a.k.a. the Apostle Paul) had fasted and prayed for three days, but when he was told to be baptized, he did so even before he ate (Acts 9: 1-19). Paul later said that he was told to not wait, but to get up and be baptized and wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22: 12-16; Romans 10: 13).
So, again, God uses this outward act to effect an inward change (forgiveness, Acts 2: 38, 39) making us his children and giving us his Spirit (Galatians 3: 26-4: 7) so that we can call out to him when we fall back into sin or need help in any other way (1 John 1: 8, 9; James 5: 13; Romans 8: 26, 27).
As in all matters, anything not done out of faith is sin (Romans 14: 23). So, baptism will be of no avail to those who don’t believe it is the will of God (Mark 16: 15, 16). We all need to study God’s word for ourselves to find out what his will is so that we can gain his approval (Ephesians 5: 17; 2 Timothy 2: 15). If we study with the right attitude, God’s desires will become plain to us (Philippians 3: 15; Ecclesiastes 12: 13).
It really is simple, easy to understand, and easy to obey (1 Corinthians 1: 18-2: 5; Ephesians 3: 4; 1 John 5: 3). Our responsibility is to just do what God commands as we learn (Philippians 3: 16). Have you been encouraged to obey Jesus’ command to be baptized? Stay tuned while you keep reading God‘s word for yourself.