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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Is Baptism?

A person gives his or her heart to Jesus. The church says baptism is necessary. Why?

People are baptized for three reasons. The church may administer the baptism but the reasons exist beyond the church.

The first reason a Christian needs to be baptized comes from obedience. When Peter was asked at Pentecost what one must do in order to be saved, he answered, "Repent and be baptized."(Acts 2:38) Jesus told His followers that they should go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) Baptism is at the heart of lordship for the Christian. He cannot say that Jesus is his Lord if He will not be baptized. Baptism won't save you. It is just one of the indicators that you are saved. You should be baptized if you are a believer.

A Christian needs to be baptized to present a testimony to others. Baptism represents a change in the person's life. He was walking one direction but by coming to Jesus will walk in a different direction. He lived one way of life and will now lead another. Baptism represents the burial of the old life and being raised to walk a new one. (Romans 6:4) Baptism should be a time to invite friends and family who know and don't know the Lord. Those who know the Lord have their own Christian lives encouraged at another's baptism. Those who don't know the Lord hear the Gospel through their observation of what the Christian life should be.

Baptism also shows that a Christian is in agreement with other Christians. Jesus, Himself, was baptized. Now, we have to ask why? He wasn't baptized for the remission of sins. He wasn't doing so because He was a sinner who needed to repent. He was baptized as He started His ministry. John the Baptist preached about Him before Jesus started His ministry. He came to John to be baptized so that He would show that He was in agreement with John. (Matthew 3:15) Baptism is the common experience of the believers. It is something each Christian should have experienced. Baptism shows that Christians are in agreement with each other and with the Lord.

Now, what is the manner of baptism? I must admit that I don't think Jesus is going to be looking for watermarks when we get to heaven. However, I believe that immersion best represents baptism's testimony of being buried. I do not negate someone's baptism from another denomination who does not believe as I do. I don't tell them that that wasn't real or that it doesn't count. If they come to join my church I ask them to be baptized by immersion (if they haven't done so somewhere else before) to show they are in agreement with the body of believers. It seems like a simple act of compliance but it represents a commitment to the community of believers in our church. It is a much greater commitment that most people would recognize. 

I came from a church that did not immerse to join a Baptist church after becoming an adult. I resisted becoming a Baptist more than I resisted baptism. However, I went to a Baptist church regularly. The reason I went to the Baptist church is because I loved the Bible. The messages given in that church was biblically based. I read the Bible personally and loved the sermons.

One day I realized that I had become what I had never wanted to become. My understanding of the Scripture lined up with the Baptist. I was a Baptist whether I liked it or not. I might as well make it official and join the church. I knew they would ask me to be immersed and thought of it as an initiation rite. I was wrong.

I did not expect anything to happen when I came to be baptized. I just put on the robe and went into the water. Dr. Malcolm Bane of First Baptist Church, College Station, Texas baptized me. Something happened somewhere between going down in the water and coming up. It was something deeply spiritual. The Holy Spirit was there. I wish I could explain it better.

I have baptized hundreds of people since then. I pray that everyone's baptism is a spiritual experience. I don't pray that it was exactly like mine. I think God loves each of us deeply and personally. I think He has something special for everyone. 

Honestly, if you are a believer, what keeps you from being baptized? Call your church and tell the pastor what you know you should do. I promise that your walk with the Lord will be greater when you do what the Spirit leads you to do.

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