Category Archives: Baptism
Baptism is practiced by many in the Christian world. But do you know why? I do not think baptism is hard to understand but some people make it more difficult than it should be.
The first thing about baptism that one should be able to understand easily is that is a command to be obeyed. In two of the Gospel accounts, Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ last instructions to the disciples were to preach the Gospel to the whole world. As you read these, notice where baptism falls in the context.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) 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, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”English Standard Version
Mark 16:15-16 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.English Standard Version
Now in these two passages, there is only one command that needs to be obeyed in regard to baptism and the command is not “Be Baptized” but rather “Baptize.” It is not a command given to the person who hears the Gospel but rather to the person who preaches the Gospel.
Notice that Jesus in Matthew 28:19 says “Go….Make disciples…baptizing them…” Today, you will find many people who are willing to “Go” but not to baptize. That is to say, they will teach about Jesus and not even once mention baptism. They are content to teach about Jesus and when a person says they believe in Jesus then they move on and consider their preaching is done. (To be fair, some will tell these people that they ‘should be baptized’ at some point but “it is not necessary.”) Jesus then follows up his command to the Apostles by telling them to teach the new disciples all of his commands, one of which is to “Go…Make disciples…baptizing them…”
In Mark’s account, the message is a bit clearer. “Go…proclaim! Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” In this command, the Apostles were to proclaim the Gospel. The purpose of proclaiming the Gospel is so that people can be saved. Paul tells us in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is “God’s power for Salvation” and so it makes sense that Jesus would have them preaching the Gospel. Then he tells them who will be saved from their preaching efforts: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”
But let me ask two questions here. Who will be baptized? and “Why would they be baptized? The answer to the first question should be fairly obvious: Someone who heard the Gospel message and believed. And for the second question: They would be baptized because they were TOLD TO BE BAPTIZED. There would be no other reason. Whatever the purpose is for baptism (that is, whatever reason God has for us being baptized) is completely separate from a command to be baptized.
Think about it like this: An insurance salesman comes to you and shares with you your need to have his free insurance policy, you believe him and he gives you the policy which, he says, contains all the benefits. Now what? Well, if you are not told to do anything with it, then you might put it a filing cabinet or you might file it in the trash, the thing is, you don’t know. What if, what you don’t know is, the policy says that you need to sign the policy for the policy to be valid? How would you know?
Your first, and best opportunity, would be when the salesman offers you the policy for him to TELL you. (Salesman: It is free but you need to sign it for it to be effective.) Your second opportunity would be when you READ the policy and notice the words “Policy valid only with customer signature”. In either case, your signature would make it valid, even if the salesman ‘forgot’ to tell you.
I hope you understand what I am suggesting. If you preach the Gospel and you fail to inform your listener of his need to be baptized, you have not given him all the information.
We can infer a second command that applies those who hear the Gospel. That is, that the one who hears and believes must submit to the baptism. We infer this because if the preacher is going to “Go…and baptize”, someone has to be willing to submit to being baptized. A preacher might preach the Gospel to all creation and only wind up with people who hear. But what these preachers are looking for are people who hear and believe. These are the people who will submit to baptism….if they are told to be baptized.
Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (41) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.English Standard Version
Only those who received (accepted or agreed to) Peter’s preaching were baptized. Peter was simply following the instructions of Jesus and those 3000 souls were simply following the instructions of Peter: Repent and be baptized (verse 38)
So again, the first thing about baptism that needs to be understood is to be understood by the preacher of the Gospel. When you preach the Gospel, you baptize the believers. Whether you do it yourself or someone else does it does not matter, we are not keeping score because Christ did not send us to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Still, as a result of the preaching of the Gospel, believers are baptized.
Question: If you share the Gospel with someone and do not tell them to be baptized, why not?
Jer 7:22-24 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. (23) But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ (24) But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
When it comes to pleasing people, we often want to know “What is the most important thing you want?” We like to prioritize and assume that if we do the most important thing that we will be O.K. even if we don’t get the other “lesser important things” done. Sometimes though, we elevate the less important things above more important things.
In Jeremiah’s message, God reminds Judah that when He brought Israel out of Egypt, that his first words to them were not about burnt offerings and sacrifices. This is not to say that He didn’t command sacrifices. He most certainly did! However, here in Jeremiah and in other places such as 1 Sam 15:22, the message is clear that it not the Sacrifice by itself or in and of itself that God wants…..what God wants is Obedience to His commands.
1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
The problem in the days of Jeremiah, Moses, the Judges, most of the Kings, the days of Christ, and well….even today is that people want to offer sacrifices but not obedience. People will spend time, money, and resources in sacrifice to God, they will do many things in the name of the Lord, even teaching people about Jesus, but I am afraid they also forget the words of Jesus:
Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
I wish to challenge everyone who reads this to be obedient to the Gospel of Jesus and, for those who preach the Gospel, to be obedient to the commission of preaching the Gospel which is God’s power to save. How will they be saved if no one preaches it and how can they obey it if no one tells them what is required?
Obedience never earns salvation. If you obey the traffic laws, you don’t get a reward but you do avoid the penalties of disobedience. Salvation is God’s gift and it is from Grace not by works but if God tells you He wants to you to write 500 times “I will not sin” to be saved, even after you do it…guess what? All you did was Obey…you didn’t earn salvation. In the same way, Obedience to the Gospel message does not EARN you salvation, it shows your faith and trust in God, it shows your obedience to Him, but doesn’t earn it. Yet, again, just because salvation is not earned by obedience, doesn’t mean you don’t have to obey!
Jesus will return to bring judgement to those who do not obey the Gospel…
2Th 1:7-8 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
The Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation:
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Peter preached the Gospel on the day of Pentecost and told those who believed his message what to do:
Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, “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.
Those that received his word were baptized:
Act 2:40-41 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (41) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
And notice WHY Peter told them to repent and be baptized: Jesus told him to.
Mat 28:19-20 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, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Yes, that is right: Somewhere between the Resurrection and His ascension Jesus gave the above command.
Peter was obedient to the command to make disciples baptizing them in His name. The hearers were obedient by being baptized based on their faith in the Messiah.
So when preachers are disobedient to Christ’s command today, people cannot be obedient to the Gospel.
There is a command to make disciples by baptizing them. There is an example of a Spirit led Apostle, commanding hearers to repent and be baptized.
There is NO command, or example of anyone being told by a preacher to pray a sinner’s prayer to be saved or of anyone in the scriptures doing so.
Will you offer sacrifices? or will you be obedient?
Sometimes taking a step back and getting an overview can help you see the topic more clearly. I want to do that in this post. Baptism is a topic that is sorely misunderstood, ranging from those who think that it is the very act of baptism which has the power to save, to those who think that baptism is a mere suggestion which we are free to do or not do. Of course, as is often the case, the truth lies in the middle.
It should not need to be stated but I will here (and probably repeat it), the reason why I am not writing about “FAITH” is that I don’t know anyone who has a problem with faith. Perhaps they misunderstand it but all agree that it is necessary. However, baptism does not enjoy such agreement, some thinking this and some thinking that, so I am focusing on this topic in an effort to share what I see the scriptures teach about it and challenge any who may have missed such an obviously important teaching. (And if you don’t think it could happen to us, how did the Sadducees miss the Resurrection teaching of the Old Testament? cf Mt 22:23) In stating that it is “what I see that the Scriptures teach” it should also be understood that Acts 17:11 is a good verse to keep in mind. Read the Blog and then search the Scriptures for yourself. Question, Ask, Challenge. My goal is not just instruction but to get to Heaven, if I am mistaken, please show me where and how.
First, the command.
Jesus commissioned his Apostles to go out to the world with a new message. In Matthew, He said “Make disciples” and in Mark, He said “Preach the Gospel” and in both Gospel accounts, Jesus mentioned baptism: In Matthew, he said that his disciples would be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, in Mark, he said that the one who had faith and was baptized would be saved.
Second, the example.
So if Jesus sent His Apostles out to preach the Gospel, what was the message that they presented? If you look at Acts 2, Peter’s sermon, the message was simple: Jesus was the Messiah, you killed him, but God raised Him from the dead. Then not only did he tell them to repent and be baptized, the text says (verse 41) that those who received his word were baptized.
However, time and time again, throughout Acts, the preaching of the Gospel message and baptism of those who listened are joined together. From Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 16, Acts 19 one gets the clear impression that baptism wasn’t something that was delayed or suggested, but rather commanded. Why the command? My guess is because that is part of what Jesus sent them to do. They were simply following orders. But there is more to it so let’s look at the epistles.
Third, the explanations.
It might seem amazing that someone would make a life changing commitment before knowing all the facts but sometimes, we know enough to realize that we need to make the change and later we find out all the implications. This was the case with Abraham when he left the Ur of the Chaldees; he left by faith not even knowing where he was going. Israel agreed to serve God in Exodus 19 just before receiving the commandments from God-apparently not even having time to look over the contract so to speak.
However, the explanations of baptism in which we learn more about what baptism means, what happened when we were baptized, and even what baptism does not mean and what it does not do are found in the epistles that were written to Christians and almost every epistle has some reference back to this important event. Those passages and meanings will be discussed in future posts, Lord willing.
Our duty: To follow the commandment.
Does it matter what baptism does or does not do? One certainly can understand wanting to have a better understanding of this event but what matters more than what it does or does not do is “Is it taught?” and “Is it taught like the Apostles taught it?” and “Is it taught like Jesus commanded it?”
For those who teach the alien sinner how to become justified by God and leave out all mention of baptism, you are not following the commandment. Jesus said not just to “Go make disciples”, not just to “baptize them” but to teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. Baptizing is one of those commandments. (Mt 28:18ff)
I know people who will tell someone all about Jesus but not tell a person to be baptized; I know those who say they have been a Christian since age 5 and baptized at age 18 or 25, I know people who think they can go through life and never be baptized yet still be a Christian.
Question: If I teach only Faith in Christ, Repentance from sins, Confession of Jesus as Lord and do not teach them to be baptized but DO tell them to pray a Sinner’s Prayer, am I following the commandment of Jesus? Am I following the example of the Apostles? Am I in line with the explanations given by the Apostles in their Epistles?
Please leave your thoughts and comments!