Last week, in an attempt to discern the significance of baptism to the Christian believer and thus, its application within the church today; we looked at a number of Biblical calls for its practice and thus, its importance to the early church. This week I’d like to look at some specific examples of New Testament convert’s responses to this call for genuine sorrow, repentance and redemption embodied in this simple act of obedience.
After delivering the very first Christian sermon, Peter was asked by his conscience-stricken audience – ‘What shall we do?’ His reply was, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”; and receipt of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
Philip the Evangelist, one of the original “deacons” chosen in Acts 6:5, preached to both commoners (Acts 8:9-13) and the social elite (Acts 8:26-38) the same message of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. Upon their confession of belief, both sets of people were baptized.
Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Persecuted as a result of his confrontation with Christ on the way to Damascus to harass Christians who had fled from him there. Upon his correction, confession and repentance – he straightway became a baptized believer in Christ. Acts 9:1-19 & 22:1-16
Later, while ministering in Philippi, Paul’s message was heard and received by a woman named Lydia, a Philippian business-woman and worshipper of Jehovah who responded by being baptized along with her whole household. Acts 16:13-15
Paul and Silas, worshipping and witnessing while jailed in Philippi, were released as a result of an “other-worldly” earthquake. Their jailer asked, “…what must I do to be saved?” To which they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” After attending to their wounds in appreciation of their ministry, he and all his family were then immediately baptized. Acts 16:16-33
Paul’s ministry to Corinth was rewarded with many turning form paganism to belief in Christ. Those, “…who heard and believed were baptized.” Acts 18:7,8
Upon finding “disciples” at Ephesus who had been baptized by John the Baptist but had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit, Paul re-baptized them in the name of Jesus to reaffirm their repentance of evil, to confirm their faith in Christ, and to bestow upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit as well. Acts 19:1-5
These are just a few of the incidents recorded that highlight the importance of baptism to the early church. As a part of the Restoration Movement, the “Christian” community attempts to practice all aspects of the church as closely to the original as possible. Baptism is often used to define us by those outside the “brotherhood”, when in reality we are merely attempting to elevate it to the place it held before. We are not all about baptism but realize it does have an important place in worship and faithfulness. Realizing that faithfulness requires a commitment to live as Jesus did, we are moved to conform our will to His; most commitments being sealed by that first act of obedience. As, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
There is no list of things to be or do to become saved (thank God), but there are requests and expectations afterwards. (John 14:23) Consider God’s premier spokesman of the Old Testament, Moses. He was nearly killed by God for failing to meet fully the requirements of his faith (Exodus 4:24-26) and was punished severely for channeling God’s provision in a way other than God requested. (Exodus 17:5-7 & Numbers 20:7-12) Or consider Naaman, a man seeking God’s blessing of healing who was told to wash – immerse – or baptize himself seven times in the Jordan River. He balked. Why the Jordan River? Why seven times? Why him – why now? Would he have been cleansed and healed if he had stopped after the first dunking? The third or fifth? I don’t think so. God said do it – the way you’re told. His healing was finally realized as a consequence of his faithful response to God’s word; who orchestrated the conditions whereby the beginnings of faith would generate a lasting belief. Realized, at least in part, through obedience.
Can we be saved without baptism? Possibly. Can we be faithful without it? I don’t see how.
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