Believe and be Baptised
At the heart of the expression of the Church's faith are the rites of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Although both rites have been an area of controversy throughout Church History, they are clearly commanded by the Lord and so form a vital aspect of the life of the Christian community. Any neglect of these rites will result in the impoverishment of the church. Baptism is performed in response to the command of Christ
From the book of Acts it is clear first thing required of a new convert was to identify themselves as a Christian by being baptised. Everyone knew from this public witness that the person was now a believer in Christ. The acceptance of Christ by faith brings the believer into possession of eternal life, and baptism proclaims this fact to the world (cf Acts 15:7-9; Acts 10:41-47). By being baptised publicly it rescues faith from being a "private affair".
To publicly confess the Lordship of Christ is no light thing. "Lord" for Romans was a title that belonged only to Caesar. In the Old Testament, "Lord" is a name given to God. In the every day language of the slave markets in the first century A.D. "Lord" signifies the absolute mastery of possession exercised by the master over the purchased slave. Against this background, to call Christ "Lord", when He had died on a cross of shame, is a revolutionary faith. Baptism is the declaration that Jesus of Nazareth is the "Living Lord". He alone has the right to the allegiance of men and women. In the face of persecution such a confession is a truly dangerous one. It is no light confession, for Jesus says, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?" (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21).
To be baptised in the name of Christ is a declaration by a Christian that he/she belongs to, and is the property of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 10:8-9). Someone notes that baptism can be called, "the badge of discipleship". Just as people often wear badges to identify themselves with a certain group, club, or movement, so baptism is the public demonstration that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Besides the example of the early Christians, another reason why a Christian should be baptised is that it was the command of Christ that all believers should declare, by being baptised, their faith in Him (Matthew 28:18-20). Further, the disciples and the early evangelists baptized all who through their preaching, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament church there were no unbaptised believers. Each person who accepts Christ is baptised. Also, "In the keeping of His commandments there is great reward." Baptism is an act of obedience to the expressed will of God. Every act of obedience gives fresh joy, ministers new strength, and helps the Christian to grow spiritually.
The Christian has an obligation to confess Christ openly before men (Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 8:38; 1 John 2:22-23). Baptism is a confession, a testimony of the Christian's new life in Christ. It speaks of the Christian's surrender to Christ and of their joyous desire to live for and please Jesus who she/he calls "Lord". Normally when a girl becomes engaged, her fiancé gives her a ring which is an indication to others that her life is to be linked with his, in the future, in marriage. What does she do with this outward sign of her inward attachment? Does she keep it secretly in its little box? Of course not! She proudly wears the ring on her hand for all to see. So let the believer be equally glad to confess that her/his life belongs to Christ by being baptised.
Following Christ implies the submission of: our hearts and minds to His teaching; our conscience to His Lordship; our life to His example; our deep need to His overflowing grace, love and power.
Dr Keith Graham
A 68 page booklet 'Believe and be Baptised' is available fro Equip Rock Ministry P O Box 346, Bayswater, Vic 3153. Australia.