What does the Bible say about BAPTISM?
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What does the Bible say about baptism? Does God REQUIRE that we obey him? What two things does the Bible state must occur BEFORE we are baptized as Christians? What questions can help us decide whether we are prepared, mentally and spiritually, for a lifelong commitment to God and the truth of his word?
Receiving God's Spirit
On the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D., Peter preached a sermon that powerfully convicted his listeners. After their conscience began to stir within them regarding their sins, they asked what they needed to do. Peter was ready with an answer.
"Now after hearing this, they were cut to the heart; and they said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you yourselves shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:37-38, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV) unless stated).
According to Peter, repentance and baptism are required for our sins to be forgiven and to receive the Holy Spirit. But when we think about it, is this any different from what Philip required of the Ethiopian eunuch?
"Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, 'Arise and go toward the south, on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is in the desert.' And he arose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, one in power under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, had come to worship in Jerusalem, and was returning; and he sat in his chariot, reading the book of the prophet Isaiah.
"And the eunuch answered and said to Philip, 'I pray you, about whom does the prophet say this? About himself, or about another?' Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning from this scripture, preached to him the gospel of Jesus. And as they were going down the road, they came upon a certain pool of water; and the eunuch said, 'Look, there is water! What is preventing me from being baptized?'
"And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, it is permitted.' Then he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' And he commanded the one driving the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:26-28, 34-38)
Was it possible for the Ethiopian eunuch to believe "with all his heart" that Jesus had taken his sins upon Him and died in his place without being moved to profound repentance? Could anyone truly believe that Jesus suffered and died in his place and still wish to continue in sin? We are not told all that Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch, but it is plain that he required no less than Peter.
Like Philip, Peter required no lengthy probation period and no days of fasting and prayer. How could he, when he and the other disciples baptized three thousand people on the day of Pentecost alone (Acts 2:41)?
The most important decision
Baptism is an important decision - a turning point in a man's life. In fact, it is arguably THE most important decision someone will make, as it will affect every moment of his or her life on earth. Why did the apostles baptize people so quickly? What was the rush? Was not there a possibility that some of the people they baptized were not ready? The answer is simple. Peter and Philip knew that being baptized was required for salvation, for Jesus had said:
"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but the one who does not believe shall be condemned.'" (Mark 16:15-16).
For them, it was not enough that a person nod his head when he heard the Gospel. Even an oral profession of faith would not do. When a man or woman accepted Jesus Christ, he or she had to go under the waters of baptism. Without this simple ceremony, he or she could not be saved. The Ethiopian eunuch was ready. Are YOU ready?
God does not expect perfect obedience or any kind of perfection from those He is calling into His truth. What He looks for is a heart that is willing to listen and WANTS to obey Him and the words He inspired in the Bible. Any personal works of righteousness cannot save us. It is of grace, of God's mercy, out of His love for us. When God begins to call a person it is His Spirit working with them. The Spirit prompts a person to begin taking him seriously and begin to obey him. A person begins to show submission to God by a changed lifestyle, by starting to produce good fruit.
Here are some things to consider when deciding if you are ready for baptism or not.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came and died for not only the sins of the world - but also YOUR sins?
Do you believe that you are a sinner and have begun repenting of your sins? Repentance means we voluntarily submit to God's way of life. If we are not committed to doing what is right in God's eyes (and not our own), then we are fooling ourselves and not truly repentant. Instead of worshipping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) we worship him in vain.
Do you believe a CHANGE in your life is needed, that it is now time to begin obeying God? Have you begun to question and reject the world's holidays that promote a Christ DIFFERENT from the truth of the Bible (e.g. Christmas, Easter, etc.)? Have you also begun to reject the world's day of worship - Sunday - for God's day of worship - the seventh day or Saturday? Obedience to God is not "salvation by works." It is an expression of our submission to His lordship and sovereignty. God states that He will give His Holy Spirit only to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).
Are you ashamed of Jesus? Do you embarrass yourself by some of the things Christ demands? If Jesus embarrasses you, then you are not quite ready for baptism.
Are you ready to make an eternal commitment to Jesus? Are you willing to put God and Jesus FIRST in your life? Commitment to Jesus Christ means that you are ready to surrender your life to Him and to live it His way every moment.
Are you ready to enter into a covenant relationship with God and Jesus? When we enter into a covenant, we create a new relationship. This new relationship carries with it certain privileges and obligations. These privileges and obligations are, in some detail, in John, chapters 13 through 17. They are summarized in a short formula: "Whatever you ask of me, I will do it. Whatever I ask of you, you must do it." The new covenant you will make with Jesus Christ is not a one-way deal. It carries obligations.
When you step out of the waters of baptism, you are a new life to God, just as a new baby is to a mother. God's Spirit has united with your spirit to form a new creature. You are a "babe in Christ." Moreover, you have much to learn! You need to grow! Therefore, what God expects from you as a mature Christian after years of experience is not what He expects from you. Thankfully, God does not reveal the specific trials ahead of a new Christian. However, the way He wants us to live as Christians - the evidence that we are truly converted - is clearly shown in Scripture!