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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Five Truths About Water Baptism

By Wayne Benson
Aug. 1, 2010

For 18 months, our church relegated water baptism to an afterglow following the Sunday evening service. We soon realized this was inadequate. The problem wasn’t a matter of doctrinal erosion. We had decided to leave the baptistery in our new sanctuary unfinished as a cost-cutting measure. After all, we still had the baptistery in the old sanctuary.

Within a few months it became evident that the money to finish the baptistery was a bargain price to pay for restoring a critical part of our worship. The entire congregation no longer witnessed water baptisms or heard the testimonies of the candidates. Only those interested enough to walk to the other side of the 250,000-square-foot complex where the afterglow took place participated in the service.

We sensed the Holy Spirit’s conviction about the serious loss of emphasis to the body of Christ and made plans to install the new baptistery. The Holy Spirit knew that revival would soon come to First Assembly, and we would need these facilities to baptize the thousands of new converts who would be saved.

Why is it important that converts be baptized without delay?

Baptism is often presented as an outward act picturing an inward experience. The inward experience involves coming out of lostness into the new life of Christ. As important as it is that one give public testimony of this great transforming work of God’s saving grace by being baptized, that is only the first of many reasons for being baptized.

If you read through the New Testament to see why water baptism was stressed, you will see the suddenness with which believers were baptized after conversion, and the great emphasis Christ and the apostles placed on water baptism.

Look, first, at the emphasis given to baptism. In the Early Church, there was no such thing as an unbaptized Christian. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter concluded his sermon with this charge, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NKJV). About 3,000 converts were baptized that day (v. 41). In fact, all converts mentioned in the Book of Acts were baptized as soon as they were converted: the Samaritans (8:12); the Ethiopian eunuch (8:38); the apostle Paul (9:18); Cornelius and his family (10:47,48); Lydia and her household (16:15); the Philippian jailer and his family (16:33) and the Ephesian disciples (19:5).

Second, look at the suddenness with which new converts were baptized. There is no indication in Scripture that anyone was put on probation before being baptized in water. Baptism stood at the very threshold of Christian life. In almost every instance of detailed conversion and baptism, the emphasis suggests urgency and imminence. The Ethiopian was baptized immediately in a pond of water by the road (8:36); Paul was baptized by Ananias within hours after conversion (9:18); Cornelius and his friends were baptized the same day they came to the Lord (10:47); and the Philippian jailer and his household were baptized “immediately” (16:33).

The pattern of immediacy suits the typology. After a person dies, preparation begins immediately for burial. When a person is converted and dies to sin and his old life, preparation should be made immediately to bury the old sinful life. Baptism indicates the beginning of a new direction for life — a “newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

The disciples in the Early Church seemed to know how subtle the enemy is, that delaying obedience to Jesus’ command to be baptized in water opens the door for doubt and spiritual failure. New converts need to quickly make a public confession of their past guilt and sinful lives. The longer they wait for baptism, the less likely they feel the need for it.

The five truths

The urgency and emphasis demonstrated in the New Testament are linked to five truths associated with water baptism. First, water baptism is vital because our Lord Jesus commanded it. Just before He ascended into heaven He told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He then added, “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20).

Second, baptism testifies of new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). It gives public witness to our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-13; Galatians 2:20; 3:27; Ephesians 2:5,6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-4). The “old man” is symbolically dead and buried in a watery grave.

Water baptism proclaims the gospel. It attests to forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Those who have declared their faith in Christ should not be denied this immediate recognition and public witness to their identification with Him and His body of believers. In essence, it is a declaration that, as a child of God, he or she is uniting with the body of Christ.

Third, it declares our allegiance to Christ, putting us on God’s side (Matthew 12:30). Jewish converts already believed in the Father and the Holy Spirit, but had rejected Jesus as the Son of God. After they were converted, they were to acknowledge all three Persons of the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Fourth, water baptism indicates the seriousness of our commitment to Jesus Christ. It is the visible sign that seals the spiritual commitment. It affirms our salvation — that we are born again, dead to sin, alive in Him, and now free to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). We pledge to God that we will live for Him. It gives the convert something to live up to.

Finally, water baptism is an act of obedience to our newfound Savior and Lord. Obedience is the first lesson a Christian must learn. God’s abundant blessings follow obedience to this commandment of the Lord Jesus.

We have discovered the newly baptized believer is open and hungry for the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, we encourage each candidate desirous of the Spirit-energized life to join the elders in the prayer chapel, immediately after water baptism. Approximately 90 percent of these freshly baptized seekers are almost immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit. This parallels the pattern given in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:38,39.

Every unbaptized Christian should notice the attitude of Jesus when He subjected himself to baptism by John, not because He needed repentance, but as He said to John, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15, ESV). Jesus became an example when He surrendered himself to be baptized by John.

Every new person who is saved has the right to be baptized in water and needs to be baptized as soon as possible. Why jeopardize new Christians’ spiritual development? They need the strengthening benefits of baptism so they may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV). Let us communicate with passion the urgency of being baptized.

WAYNE BENSON is president of EMERGE Ministries.

From Enrichment journal, Spring 2000. Reprinted with permission.

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