Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why were you baptized?

A two-part class I taught recently on baptism included some of the following notes . . .

Occasionally someone will ask me: "I've been baptized before. Do I need to be immersed again in order to be a part of this church?" In response I simply ask: "Why were you immersed?" Then I listen to their answer and compare it with the way Scripture speaks of baptism. If their answer resonates with any one reason given in Scripture, I tell them they obviously don't need to be baptized again. After all, if they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and they appear to be sincere in wanting to order their life around him, who am I to hinder them, lay down extra conditions or say otherwise?

It matters not which reason of the many given in the word that they state to me or start with, simply that part of God's will is indeed their starting point. Someone may start with the concept that baptism is linked to forgiveness (Acts 2:38) while someone else may have first encountered the truth that in baptism we are promising to keep a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21). Both of these reasons are from God's own word. I have no reason to believe any of the God-given reasons in Scripture are "superior" to any of the other God-given reasons. And it is surely also true that very few people have grasped most, much less all, of the reasons discussed in Scripture before being baptized. There is plenty of room left for growth in all of us concerning just what all took place in our immersion into Jesus Christ.

But what exactly are some of the ways baptism gets discussed in Scripture? Following are twenty-five reasons a person could give as to why they were baptized. Each reason is followed by at least one Scripture that reflects that reason. If someone answers my "Why were you baptized?" question with answer like "To get my parents off my back" or "So I could join such and such church," I know there's room for more teaching from the word before we go any further. They may indeed need to be rebaptized since their initial "baptism" clearly didn't grow from a root grounded in God's will. But if a person offers any of the following reasons, I can see no reason they should be re-baptized. Carefully consider the Scriptures listed here as well as the reasons stated below and see if you don't come to the same conclusion.

1. Jesus thought it was the right thing to do and he was baptized himself. I want to imitate Jesus. (Matt.3:15)

2. I want to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. (Matt.28:19-20a)

3. Jesus commanded it. (Matt.28:18-20)

4. I want to be saved. (Mk.16:16)

5. I believe. I trust Jesus is enough for me. (Mk.16:16; cf. Acts 8:13; 16:14-15,31; 18:8; etc.)

6. I've turned away from the world. I want to turn my life over to God. (Acts 2:38)

7. I want to be forgiven of my sins. (Acts 2:38)

8. I want to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

9. I sense that God is calling me, through Jesus Christ, to do so. (Acts 2:39)

10. I want to be delivered from this wicked world and its ways. (Acts 2:40-41)

11. I want to get into God’s kingdom; I want him to rule my life. (Acts 8:12)

12. I want to identify myself with Jesus Christ. ("in the name of Jesus Christ" - Acts 2:38; 8:12; 10:48; 19:5; etc.)

13. I sense God’s Spirit is working in/on me to do so. (Acts 10:47-48)

14. I want to have my sins washed away. (Acts 22:16)

15. I want to get into Jesus Christ. (Rom.6:1-4; Gal.3:27)

16. I want to die with Jesus Christ and to be raised with him. (Gal.3:27; Col.2:12)

17. I want to live a new life, a godly life. I want to live differently than I have before. (Col.2:12; 2 Tim.2:12)

18. I want to be right with God. I want God to make me right. (1 Cor.6:11)

19. It’s something every Christian does to become one with God & his people. I just want to be a Christian. (1 Cor.12:13; Eph.4:4-5)

20. I want to become a child of God. (Gal.3:26-27)

21. I want to be clean. (Eph.5:25-27)

22. I want to be reborn. I want to start life over. (Titus 3:5-7)

23. I want to be renewed. I wanted to be refreshed. (Titus 3:5-7)

24. I want to get closer to God and I want him to draw close to me. (Heb.10:22-23)

25. I want to pledge my life to God. I want to sign my life over to him. (1 Pet.3:21)