Baptism on Monday
Dr. Jim Denison
A couple of weeks ago, the Dallas Morning News carried one of the strangest stories I’ve seen in a while. It seems that Beverly Mitchell of Douglasville, Georgia came home from 2½ weeks in Greece to find a stranger living in her house. Beverly Valentine broke in with a shovel, ripped up the carpet, took down the owner’s pictures and replaced them with her own. She had the electricity switched over to her name, and moved in a washer, a dryer, and a dog. She was even found wearing some of Ms. Mitchell’s clothes when she was apprehended. Just because someone is living in a house doesn’t make it theirs.
Just because you and I are in church today doesn’t mean we’re in Christ. We can be faithful attenders; we can serve on committees and sing in the choir; we can give through our various missions offerings, teach Bible studies and preach sermons, but still be lost spiritually. And we can be baptized and just get wet.
The most misleading and misunderstood symbol of salvation in a Baptist church is baptism. Many people think that baptism makes them a Christian. Many of our guests don’t understand why we baptize the way we do. Many of our members don’t really know what baptism means, either. And many of us can miss the present-tense relevance of an act we experienced years ago.
So let’s discuss baptism today: who, why, and so what? What does the subject have to do with the unified missions emphasis we have just concluded? With our church and her ministries? And with your life and faith today?
What does the Bible teach?
Here are some important biblical passages on our subject:
The risen Christ 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Peter exhorted the Pentecost crowd, “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” (Acts 2:38). With this result: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (v. 41).
When the Ethiopian met Philip, “The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:34-38).
When Peter met the Gentile Cornelius and his family, “Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:46-48).
When Lydia became the first European convert, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home” (Acts 16:14-15).
After God sent an earthquake to free Paul and Silas from their Philippian jail, “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of God to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds, then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:29-34).
In Corinth, “Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).
Paul wrote to the Romans, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into 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” (Romans 6:3-4).
He instructed the Colossians, “In Christ you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12).
What does the biblical data tell us?
Fact one: baptism follows faith.
In the Great Commission, “make disciples” precedes “baptizing them.”
At Pentecost, “those who accepted his message were baptized.”
The Ethiopian heard the gospel before he was baptized by Philip.
Cornelius received the Spirit before he was baptized; Lydia responded to the gospel before she was baptized; the Philippian jailer responded to the gospel before he was baptized.
We do not find a single person in the Bible who was baptized before he or she came to personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Fact two: baptism is for anyone who comes to Christ.
Children can be baptized, if they have trusted in Christ. With the Philippian jailer, after Paul and Silas “spoke the word of God to him and to all the others in his house,” they baptized them (Acts 16:32). Crispus “and his entire household believed in the Lord” before they were baptized (Acts 18:8).