Friday, July 8, 2011

Pastoral Concern #4 - Baptism

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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...” (Matthew 28:18-19)

“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)

“But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)

“And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’” (Acts 8:36)

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18)

“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:48)

“’John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:4-5)

Ok, I will be brief and blunt. My fourth pastoral concern has to do with the ordinance of baptism. No, I am not referring to the theological understanding of baptism. I am not referring to the mode of baptism. My concern relative to baptism has to do with individuals who claim to be born again by our Lord but REFUSE to be baptized.

How in the world can you refuse to enter the waters of baptism? You tell me it’s not necessary to be baptized to be a Christian. I agree, along with all my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters. Water baptism saves no one. But that does not mean baptism is unimportant.

The first Scripture reference above is the commandment of Christ given to all of his disciples. We are commanded to baptize those who trust Christ. The remaining passages testify to this fact by providing several examples from Scriptures of either calls for baptism or new converts being baptized.

The Scripture is very simple on this matter: repent of your sins, trust Christ for salvation, and be baptized in obedience to the Lord’s commandment. Water baptism testifies to the world you are a follower of Christ. As I understand Scripture, baptism is the sign of the new covenant as circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. If you are physically born a child of Abraham (and, therefore, an heir of that covenant), you are circumcised as a sign of that fact. If you are spiritually born a child of God (and, therefore, an heir of the new covenant), you are baptized as a sign of that fact.

You and I can debate on a variety of matters relative to baptism. Is baptism for babies? Is baptism for salvation? Is baptism by immersion? But if you are one of those individuals of our era who believe you can be a Christian, follow Christ, and yet refuse to be baptized, I challenge you to rethink your position.

Christ commands you to be baptized. Until you do, you are living in disobedience to the very one you claim is the LORD of your life. So, get on with it!

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