Trans-Baptist Max Lucado/Oak Hills Church—Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion

Gary W. Summers
Gary W. Summers

January 9th, 2004, 9:30 am #11

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
<font size=“+2”>LUCADO AND BAPTISM (AGAIN) </font>
GARY W. SUMMERS
Most of us thought that the denial of the necessity of baptism for salvation on Lucado's radio program in December of 1996 was sufficient to mark him as a false teacher. After all, when someone says that a person should be baptized because he is saved and not in order to become saved, most people with any experience in the English language can comprehend the meaning.

But some could not; so they wrote or called the congregation in San Antonio, with which Max is associated. We can only imagine that the conversation went something like this: "Say, this isn't true about what Max said on his radio show, is it?"

"No, of course not. You know Max believes in baptism, and so do we here at Oak Hills. We'll send you some material in the mail."

"Okay. I didn't think there was any truth to those rumors. I'll just never understand why people want to vilify such a great Christian leader."

No one is vilifying Max as a person, but he is a false teacher. Sure, he and Oak Hills may say they teach baptism for the remission of sins; so do a lot of people. All of Max's devotees ought to be asking some very simple questions. These three questions were posed to a member of Max's congregation. He never commented on them though they were asked repeatedly.
<ol>[*]Is a person saved before baptism?

[*]Is a person who has been baptized, but not for the forgiveness of sins, nevertheless saved?

[*]Can a Christian have spiritual fellowship with the unsaved?
[/list]Answering these three questions will reveal how much a person understands the phrase for the forgiveness of sins. Anyone who answers that a person is saved before baptism does not understand that the blood of Jesus washes away sins during baptism. Answering number two (above) in the affirmative indicates that a person does not need to know WHY he is being baptized (and therefore he is not being set free by the Truth--John 8:31-32). One can only have spiritual fellowship (number 3) with one who is a member of the body of Christ. To fellowship spiritually those not baptized for the forgiveness of their sins is to say that they must be considered Christians anyway. It is to repudiate Acts 2:38.

Besides the radio broadcast, Max's book And the Angels Were Silent also teaches salvation apart from baptism. While it is true that he mentions that "public confession and baptism came" naturally for him (191), he does not describe them as requirements to salvation.

In fact, other comments in the book make it clear that he believes baptism is not needed. Consider the questions that are submitted as a study guide for this book. Whether or not Max wrote them is beside the point; they are in his book. Consider them carefully.

Question 4b: "Read John 1:12. How does John say Jesus becomes our personal Savior?" (225).

Question 4c: "Read John 20:31. Why did John write his gospel? How do we receive eternal life, according to this verse?" (233).

Question 3b: "Read Romans 10:9. How do you give your life to God, according to this verse?" (251).

Brethren, what more evidence could an honest person need? According to the implied answers of these questions, Jesus becomes our personal Savior, we can receive eternal life, and we give our lives to God--all without even a hint of baptism (Acts 8:35-39).

Max's devotees ought to face the truth--he does not believe that baptism is essential for salvation. He thinks that a person can be saved before and without baptism for the remission of sins. He is preaching a false, albeit popular "gospel," for which he will be accursed.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "LUCADO AND BAPTISM (AGAIN) (8/16/98)."

———————————————————————————————————————————
garysummers@spiritualperspectives.org
http://www.spiritualperspectives.org/ar ... again.html
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on January 9th, 2004, 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Gary W. Summers
Gary W. Summers

January 13th, 2004, 9:36 am #12

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
<font size=“+2”> "Baptist Lucado and Loyalty" </font>
GARY W. SUMMERS

What is it about some people that inspires such loyalty? Moses, as God's spokesman led the people out of Egyptian bondage, for which they had cried for deliverance. He led them through the Red Sea, and the nation rejoiced at the death of their enemies. But when it came time to enter into the Promised Land, the people became frightened. Instead of reasoning, "Moses is a trustworthy man of God who has already done a lot for us; let us follow him," they determined to stone him.

Joash had been saved by Jehoiada the priest and his wife; they kept him safe for six years and saw to it that he was placed upon the throne. All of these bold and courageous acts ought to merit a measure of loyalty, but Joash commanded that the priest's son (who was a prophet of the Lord) be put to death.

Jesus did many marvelous things in the presence of his countrymen, but the people allowed themselves to be incited to crucify Him; even His disciples fled.

How is it, then, that false teachers like Rubel Shelly and Max Lucado inspire such loyalty? About fifteen years ago, when astute brethren noticed the Shelly shift to the left, some absolutely refused to acknowledge it. Even five or more years later some were still mumbling, "He was taken out of context."

The same is now true of Max Lucado. No matter what he says or does, his defenders are Legion. About 75% of all feedback from the numerous articles Pearl Street has on its Website comes from people taking issue with the articles about liberal, lax Lucado.

Moses and Jesus were both deserted, but Shelly and Lucado have a loyal and loud (albeit inarticulate) gaggle of followers, who occasionally honk at us when they feel threatened. Many of them try misapplying Matthew 18:15-17. "Did you talk to Max first before you criticized him? He's soooo accessible." Right! To his fawning fans he may be (although even that is doubtful), but faithful brethren have never been permitted near him. The passage cited, however, is one which deals with private, personal offenses--not someone who sells hundreds of thousands of books and broadcasts over the radio.

Speaking of which, there is a transcript of a Lucado message from a program aired in December of last year, which is currently being circulated through the brotherhood. Max concludes his main message by encouraging his listeners to pray with these words:
  • "Father, I give my heart to you. I give you my sins. I give you my tears. I give you my fears. I give you my whole life. I accept the gift of your Son on the cross for my sins. And I ask you Father to receive me as your child. Through Jesus I pray. Amen"
Can one of Max's devotees explain what is different between that "invitation" and one used by Billy Graham or any other Baptist or denominationalist on radio or television? Following a brief commercial message, the announcer states: "Now, Max Lucado returns with a special word for those who received the gift of salvation just moments ago in prayer." So, yes, the prayer was intended to be one that brought salvation. Saul of Tarsus could not be saved by prayer only, nor Cornelius.

But apparently Max thinks that his listeners can be saved by just saying those words. He continues:
  • Today is the first day you've ever prayed a prayer like that. Could you do me a favor? Could you write me a letter? I don't have anything I am going to ask from you. I do have a letter I would like to send to you. I'd like to give you a word about the next step or two. I want to encourage you to find a church. I want to encourage you to be baptized. I want to encourage you to read your Bible. But I don't want you to do any of that so that you will be saved. I want you to do all of that because you are saved. You see, your father has a great life planned for you, and I want to tell you about it. Give us a call, or drop me a note. And, thanks my friend, for making the greatest decision of your life.
A few observations are in order. Notice first that Max seems quite fond of the personal pronouns I and me, with there being eleven usages of the former and three of the latter. Second, if I think I'm saved by praying this prayer, the obvious question is, "Why do I need to read the Bible? God has a wonderful plan for my life? Hey, I think my life is pretty good already. Thanks for salvation, Lord, but I'll take over from here."

The most important thing about this paragraph, however, is that it is clearly Baptist doctrine. You should be baptized--but not in order to be saved. Max wants you to be baptized because you are saved! For over 150 years faithful brethren have debated this issue with Baptists: Is baptism in order to be saved or because you are saved?

For those who are as confused as Max, churches of Christ have always taken the Bible position: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Baptists have attempted (unsuccessfully) to argue that for means "because of." Not only is the weight of scholarly evidence against them, but Matthew 26:28 (if this same suggestion were applied there) would have Jesus shedding His blood because our sins had already been forgiven.

Paul teaches that there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). Which is it? Does it include baptism or doesn't it? It certainly did for Saul. After Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he believed and knew that Jesus is Lord. How simple it would have been for him to pray, "Father I give my heart to you. . . I accept the gift of your Son on the cross for my sins." If Baptist/Lucado doctrine were correct, Saul would have been saved right there on the road to Damascus.

Saul fasted and prayed for three days (Acts 9:9, 11). He was not, however, saved as a result of those two heartfelt actions, as worthy as they are. Ananias said to him: "'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord'" (Acts 22:16).

Saul, even after praying and fasting for three days, still had all of his sins, which needed to be washed away by the blood of Jesus (Rev. 1:5) in baptism. Saul was not saved on the road to Damascus--nor by prayer. It is in the act of baptism that sins are removed.

Lucado is teaching a different "gospel." Being saved without and before baptism is not the same as saved at the point of and during baptism. Even Max's loyal followers should be able to see that point. One is the true gospel; one is a false gospel. Max is teaching the FALSE gospel; churches of Christ for the past 150 years have taught and defended the truth. Max has been unwilling to defend in debate anything he believes.

If Lucado is teaching a false gospel (and he is), then the Word of God says he is accursed. In fact, anyone who teaches a false gospel is accursed. Why? So many who teach that doctrine are such moral people. True, and we admire the moral stands taken by religious people, but a false gospel cannot save anyone.

There is nothing worse than assuring someone that he is saved when he is in fact still lost in his sins. The false gospel is from the devil, who wants people to be lost. What better way of deluding people than by trying to convince them they are saved when they have never obeyed the gospel? "Oh, I know I'm saved; I could not be mistaken about such a feeling. I was filled with warmth, and the love of God flooded my soul."

But where did such an idea (that salvation would be experienced that way) come from? Is that what Peter told the multitude on Pentecost to expect? Is that what Paul told Ananias had happened to him? "You've made the trip for nothing, Ananias. I accepted Jesus as my Savior while you were on your way, and my heart is overflowing with emotion." Paul may have been filled with emotion all right, as he pondered his former persecution of the church, but he was baptized to wash his sins away (Acts 22:16).

If the Bible is right, there is one gospel. If there is one gospel, all others are wrong. Those who are teaching the false gospels (such as lax Max) are accursed. How do such men command such loyalty when those devoted to the truth are maligned and rejected?

Paul had a difficult time understanding that concept, too. He wrote to the Corinthians: "For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it" (2 Cor. 11:4). Those who gladly put up with Rubel and Max (and their multitude of errors, including a "different gospel") have demonstrated that they no more honor the Truth than those in Corinth, who were willing to submit to frauds and challenge the inspired apostle Paul. Some things never change.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "BAPTIST LUCADO AND LOYALTY (8/3/97)."

———————————————————————————————————————————
garysummers@spiritualperspectives.org
http://www.spiritualperspectives.org/ar ... loyal.html
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on January 13th, 2004, 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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SR
SR

January 13th, 2004, 7:22 pm #13

I find it strange that many people debate baptism while overlooking the most obvious point of all - Jesus was baptized. People want to rush straight to Acts 2:38 and the great texts following but maybe we should first take a look at our Lord.

Once the picture of Jesus being baptized becomes clear, maybe you can take the journey a little further and ask yourself why was Jesus baptized? He never sinned so his baptism could not have been for the remission of sin, right?

After thinking about this, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is not complicated at all- Jesus was baptized to set an exampte for us. He did not need to dedicate himself to God. He did not need to spiritually cleanse himself. He had nothing to atone for... yet the Heavenly Father said this is My Son in whom I am well pleased.

I want to be like Him.... Don't you?
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Donnie Cruz
Donnie Cruz

January 14th, 2004, 11:24 am #14

SR, great issue to discuss….

Jesus’ righteous living is a great example for us to emulate. And as we all know, not one of us will be able to live the perfect life that He lived, although we are expected to mature spiritually. The Father’s purpose for His Son to suffer and die to become the Savior of humankind certainly was not God’s same purpose for us.

I think you already answered your question when you stated: (1) Jesus “never sinned so his baptism could not have been for the remission of sin”; (2) “He did not need to spiritually cleanse himself; (3) “He had nothing to atone for.”

Let’s look at the passage in Matthew 3—“[13] Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. [14] But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? [15] And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. [16] And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: [17] And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The key verse 15 plainly states that Jesus’ baptism was to fulfill all righteousness. He did not have to repent of sins as you stated, whereas the unconverted must repent and be baptized in order for sins to be remitted, according to Acts 2:38. We should not discount, however, that whatever Jesus did to fulfill God’s purpose and divine statutes, there was obedience on His part. Heb. 5:8,9 clearly states—Though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him. So, we can also follow this example of Christ’s obedience.

There’s no way that our finite minds can conclude that Jesus’ baptism is parallel to the unconverted person’s baptism. Romans 6:4 clearly states—“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Col. 2:12 states—“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” I Peter 3:21—“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

If Christ’s baptism and the unconverted person’s baptism were the same, can you imagine Christ being buried with him (Christ) by baptism according to Romans 6:4? Can you imagine Christ being forgiven of sins he did not have and could not repent from? Can you imagine Christ walking in newness of life after baptism? On the contrary, it is the unconverted person that must: (a) “be buried with Christ” by baptism; (b) be forgiven of sins; and (c) “be raised up with Christ” to begin a new Christian life.

Donnie Cruz
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on January 14th, 2004, 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Gary McDade
Gary McDade

February 13th, 2004, 12:32 pm #15

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
<font size=5>BATTLING BAPTIST BAPTISM </font>
<font size=3>Gary McDade </font>

Beneficial discussions about differences in religion today are often beset by the popular practice of political correctness. Political correctness ties into the prevailing position of pluralism in religion, where everyone is viewed as right even though opposite and conflicting points of principle are in place, which does not permit open discussion of differences.

Be that as it may, the value of the souls of lost men and women are crying out for help out of the morass of religious error.

In Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology written in 1915, he tells of fictional characters residing in the silent halls of the local cemetery and imagines them to be speaking from their graves. One of them is J. Milton Miles. His true-to-life epitaph reads: “Whenever the Presbyterian bell was rung by itself, I knew it as the Presbyterian bell. But when its sound was mingled with the sound of the Methodist, the Christian, the Baptist and the Congregational, I could no longer distinguish it, nor any one from the others, or either of them. And, as many voices called to me in life marvel not that I could not tell the true from the false, nor even, at last, the voice that I should have known.” Miles’ dilemma, as imagined by Masters, exists in reality among the multiplied millions asleep in the silent city.

Many choose no longer to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” but among the faithful few this noble demand of Christianity is still taken as a sacred trust (Jude 3). Through reproof, rebuke, and exhortation, the minds of men are challenged to examine what they believe in light of the sacred standard of scripture (II Tim. 4:1-5).

“Battling Baptist Baptism” brings to light the basic error of the entire Baptist system of belief. In the “Baptist Faith and Message,” as adopted June 14, 2000, by the 15 million member denomination, baptism is declared to be a “church ordinance” (Article VII), that is, baptism by the hands of one in the Baptist fellowship makes one a member of the Baptist Church. The “Baptist Faith and Message” says, “It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine, GM).

“Symbol” from the Greek symbolon is literally a “token of identity.” The Baptists do not believe that in baptism the believer actually becomes dead to sin, the old life is buried, and the newness of life begins. They teach that baptism only symbolizes those things; those things are believed to have happened at the moment of belief. Evidence of this emerges in the Baptist confession made before baptism: “I believe that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me of my sins.” Baptist people like to speak of baptism being “an outward sign of an inward grace.” Note the word “sign.” Baptists are correctly represented as believing and teaching that baptism is not essential to salvation or “baptism does not save us.”

The symbol of baptism, therefore, literally does only one thing for the candidate: it makes him or her a member of the Baptist Church (Article VII). Now, bear in mind what the New Testament says about baptism and see in corrupted contrast that which every Baptist must affirm in order to retain his position that “baptism does not save us.”
  • First, Christ is not there in the water, but the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12). And, For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). </font>
  • Second, baptism is not into the death of Christ. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Buried with him by baptism into death” (Rom. 6:3). </font>
  • Third, the cleansing power of the blood of Christ is not in the water. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:33-34). And, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:3-5). Further, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” (I John 5:6). </font>
  • Fourth, the old man of sin is not crucified. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6). </font>
  • Fifth, the body of sin is destroyed prior to baptism. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). </font>
  • Sixth, the person is not raised with Christ. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him” (Col. 2:12). </font>
  • Seventh, the person is not “raised to walk in newness of life.” But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). </font>
  • Eighth, no “faith in the operation of God” is required in baptism. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”>“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12). </font>
  • Ninth, sins are not forgiven in baptism. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). And, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). And further, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). </font>
  • Tenth, “baptism does not save us.” But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21). And, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:12-13). </font>
  • Eleventh, candidates are made Baptists by a vote of the members and baptism by the hands of one in fellowship with the Baptist Church. The “Baptist Faith and Message” states, “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes” (Article VI). But, the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). </font>
  • Twelfth, sins are forgiven at the point of belief before baptism, “the form of doctrine,” is obeyed. But the Bible says, <font color=“blue”> “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). </font>
“Battling Baptist Baptism” may bring those who believe the Bible to the point where they understand baptism and become willing to follow the Bible which is written by God instead of following the “Baptist Faith and Message” which is written by men. One thing is for sure, if those who know the truth about Bible baptism refuse to engage the battle against Baptist baptism, then millions upon millions of precious souls will one day enter the cemetery saddened by their eternal separation from the loving Savior Jesus Christ.

____________________________
3610 Kipling Ave.
Memphis, TN 38128

“Seek The Old Paths”: Vol. 13, No. 8
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May 14th, 2004, 5:26 pm #16

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
What Jesus SAID about baptism cannot be disputed. However, beginning with Zwingli in 1525 a massive movement, grand institutions and centrally-controlled "churches" decided to all God and everyone liars. Zwingli said of "faith only" that HE invented the idea. Why? Zwingli decided that NOT ONE scholar had ever understood the Bible before HIM. That is,he identified himself as "god" and fools love to be fooled. In witchcraft and theatrically charged GREAT AWAKENINGS 431 separate, organized groups emerged. Most of these were sectarian Baptists. Someone has identifed 146 separate Baptist denominations still alive. With that background, Anti-church of Christ people riding on church of Christ widows claim that with division over "music" and things like "one or many cups" the non-instrumental church of Christ (used like a RACA word) is the most evil, DIVIDED and DIVISIVE group in history.

Untold dollars and human resources and active attacks against baptizers FOR the remission of sins accused as CULTISTS have been squandered on the PRIMARY PREMISS that God in Christ was a liar and that what HE said was not what He meant. NOW, like the Christian Churches or Disciples, Baptist have made a $Career out of seducing so-called scholars so that they are now sent out from church of Christ schools as Baptists to act as Prophets, Chanellers and Facilitators to destroy the old churches and turn them into Christian or Baptist churches.

Just as in His death for mankind, in Baptism God uses physical means. Peter says that in PHYSICAL BAPTISM we REQUEST a good conscience, consiousness or A holy spirit. If people claim to be SPIRITUALLY ALIVE Baptism may DROWN THEM. Peter and Philip and Paul and others baptized in WATER to drown the old person of sin so that they might rise to walk in newnes of spirit and life.

One who BELIEVETH must believe the direct command of God in Christ and make disciples by BAPTIZING AND TEACHING. One who is not baptized BELIEVETH NOT is defined

<font color=red>Apistia , Ion. -iê, hê, unbelief, distrust, pisteis
  • pros -ian tou katêgorou to discredit him,
</font>
<font color=red>Katêgoros an accuser a betrayer
  • II. want of faith, faithlessness, thnêskei de pistis blastanei d' a. S.OC611 ; treachery
</font>
http://www.piney.com/FathAphrahatDemon.html

<font color=blue>19. Now thus is faith; when a man believes in God the Lord of all, Who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them; and He made Adam in His image; and He gave the Law to Moses; He sent of His Spirit upon the prophets; He sent moreover His Christ into the world. Furthermore that a man should believe in the resurrection of the dead; and should furthermore also believe in the sacrament of baptism.
  • This is the faith of the Church of God. And (it is necessary) that a man should separate himself from the observance of hours and Sabbaths and moons and seasons, and divinations and sorceries and Chaldaean arts and magic, from fornication and from festive music, from vain doctrines, which are instruments of the Evil One,

    from the blandishment of honeyed words, from blasphemy and from adultery. And that a man should not bear false witness, and that a man should not speak with double tongue. These then are the works of the faith which is based on the true Stone which is Christ, on Whom the whole building is reared up.

    If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 1 Jn 5:9

    He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself:

    he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 1 Jn 5:10
</font>
<font color=blue>Baptizô, dip, plunge
  • to be drowned, of ships, sink or disable them, flooded the city,

    2. draw wine by dipping the cup in the bowl,

    3. baptize, Pass., baptisthêtô hekastos eis aphesin hamartiôn [fault] Act.Ap.2.38 ; eis Christon Ep.Rom.6.3 , etc.:--Med., dip oneself, LXX4 Ki.5.14 (2 Kings 5:14); get oneself baptized, Act.Ap.22.16, 1 Ep.Cor.10.2:--Pass., perform ablutions, Ev.Luc. 11.38.
</font>
Of Acts 2:38, the Greek proves that we cannot have our sins remitted BEFORE we repent. Of devious characters, John wanted proof that those who were anti-Christ had turned from being children of the devil. Humans can baptize in water if people believe and repent. However, only God can give us A new, holy spirit by "sweeping out" our minds.

<font color=blue>Purgamen
  • I. What was annually swept or washed from the temple of Vesta, i. e. the dirt or filth swept out, the sweepings, offscourings

    II. A means of purgation, purification, or expiation: aquae, i. e. baptism, Prud. steph. 6, 30.--

    III. Purity, clearness, Prud. Cath. 7, 80.
</font>
WHO IS GOING TO TELL US THAT THE TEMPLE WAS CLEAN <font color=red>BEFORE</font> IT WAS WASHED OUT?

<font color=blue>Regenera-tio, o-nis, f. [regenero] , a being BORN again, regeneration (ecclestical Lat.), Aug. Civ. Dei, 20, 5; Vulg. Matt. 19, 28; id. Tit. 3, 5: lavacrum regenerationis, of baptism

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 </font>
<font color=red>baptisthêtô hekastos EIS aphesin hamartiôn</font>

<TABLE BORDER=0>
<TR>
<TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=140 HEIGHT=5>
Baptistht---
[color=#000000" size=2>Dip in or under water--</font>
<FONT COLOR="#000000]Kataduo-----[/color]
[color=#000000" size=2>[duck whole person]</font>
</td><TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=100 HEIGHT=5>
<FONT COLOR="#000000]hekastos--- [/color]
[color=#000000" size=2>each, every one--</font>
<FONT COLOR="#000000" size=2>every single one--</font>
</td><TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=130 HEIGHT=5>
<FONT COLOR="#000000]EIS------ [/color]
[color=#000000" size=2>into the--</font>
<FONT COLOR="#000000" size=2>within one's power</font>
</td><TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=130 HEIGHT=5>
<FONT COLOR="#000000]Aphesin-----[/color]
[color=#000000" size=2>letting go, dismissal--</font>
<FONT COLOR="#000000" size=2>discharge from a bond--</font>
</td><TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=100 HEIGHT=5>
<FONT COLOR="#000000]Hamartin[/color]
<FONT COLOR="#000000" size=2>fault committed--</font>
<FONT COLOR="#000000" size=2>off guilt and sin--</font>
</td></tr>
</table>
Ken Sublett
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May 20th, 2004, 1:27 am #17

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
<TABLE BORDER=0>
<TR>
<TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=5>


Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent:

and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ:

for the remission of sins:

and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Ac.2:38
</TD> <TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=5>


Acts 3:19:

Repent ye therefore

and be converted,


that your sins MAY [shall] be blotted out

when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; Ac.3:19
</TD> </TR>
<TR> <TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=5>


Repent: Metanoeo (g3340) met-an-o-eh'-o; from 3326 and 3539; to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (mor. feel compunction): - repent.

Baptized: Baptizo (g907) bap-tid'-zo; from a der. of 911; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the N.T.) of ceremonial ablution, espec. (techn.) of the ordinance of Chr. baptism: - baptist, baptize, wash.

Remission: Aphesis (g859) af'-es-is; from 863; freedom; (fig.) pardon: - deliverance, forgiveness, liberty, remission.

Gift is: Dorea (g1431) do-reh-ah'; from 1435; a gratuity: - gift. A new, holy spirit
</TD> <TD VALIGN=top nowrap align=left WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=5>


Repent: Metanoeo (g3340) met-an-o-eh'-o; from 3326 and 3539; to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (mor. feel compunction): - repent.

Converted: Epistrepho (g1994) ep-ee-stref'-o; from 1909 and 4762; to revert (lit., fig. or mor.): - come (go) again, convert, (re-) turn (about, again)


Blotted out: Ecaleipho(g1813) ex-al-i'-fo; from 1537 and 218; to smear out, i.e. obliterate (erase tears, fig. pardon sin): - blot out, wipe away.

Refreshing : Andronikos (g408) an-dron'-ee-kos; from 435 and 3534; man of victory [Nike]
</TD></TR>
</TABLE>
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Kenneth Sublett
Kenneth Sublett

August 4th, 2004, 10:26 pm #18

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
The LOGIC in the Black Jack Forests of my little hamlet, because God MIGHT save someone withoug baptism then WE cannot teach the Bible. We must, furthermore, consider all "believers " as saved.

Max Lucado rejoices in sticking a telephone pole into the eyes of BIBLE BELIEVERS by exulting in that the Thief on The Cross was saved without baptism. Well, the slow ones in the slow group of the Card Class know that is silly.

I just ran across this event again and notice what I discovered. Jesus is speaking of those who crucified Him:
  • <font color=blue>And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Luke 23:33

    Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. Luke 23:34

    And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. Luke 23:35</font>
Now did YOU hear that. First, the MALFACTORS are still called MALFACTORS.

However,the soldiers were FORGIVEN because they were IGNORANT.

Then, if we believe this at face value, Jesus WAS NOT SAVED.

Oh, well, getting sleepy. I just wanted to toss this out as the fodder for another SCRIBAL BOOK by a PHARISEE who PERFORMS.

Ken
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Donnie Cruz
Donnie Cruz

May 26th, 2005, 9:22 am #19

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
Here’s a not-so-recent but interesting article on the ecumenical change agent in the brotherhood:
  • <font size=3 color=indigo face=Times New Roman>Lucado is the author of many books (over 11 million sold) [I think that has tripled since the late 90’s, d.c.] and is the minister of Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas [the name “of Christ” has been dropped since, d.c.]. One of his books, "Just Like Jesus," reached #105 on the USA Today best seller list, an is # 1 on the Southern California Christian Times list. Lucado was a major speaker at the large Promise Keepers rally in Washington, D.C. in 1997. He says the desire to break down the denominational walls without compromising denominational convictions is a healthy, present-happening phenomenon.

    Lucado is quoted as saying in 2/8 Christianity Today, thusly: "I'm thrilled about ECT [the ecumenical Evangelicals and Catholics Together document]. I signed that document. I don't consider myself an authority on all of that. I look up to men like Chuck Colson and others who are architects of this." Lucado is apparently no hard-line Campbellite and is willing to sign doctrinal statements concerning things that he admittedly knows little about. Lucado's ability to avoid controversy and embrace alien gospels such as Roman Catholicism makes him a perfect no ecumenical man and did not run from controversy, see Matt. 10:34-39, 23:1-39. [Christian Answers of Texas – Vol. 2, #1]</font>
___________________________________________
Source: http://www.cephasministry.com/news_pulse_5.2002.html
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Donnie Cruz
Donnie Cruz

August 30th, 2005, 8:05 am #20

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
The Purpose of A Teaching Position
This study is based on a sermon preached by Max Lucado on Nov, 12, 1995, and again on Feb. 2, 1997. This paper has been revised, edited and prayed about by the elders and ministerial staff. A cassette of the original sermon c an be ordered from UPWORDS MINISTRIES, (210) 561-9673.

A teaching position serves to articulate the convictions of the Oak Hills leadership on a particular doctrine or practice. This paper on the topic of baptism is useful for:

1. Those who have never been baptized. This study will help you see the importance of baptism. If you have never been baptized in any form, you will need to “demonstrate your devotion” by baptism in order to be a member at Oak Hills.

2. Those who have been baptized, but not by immersion. We have many potential members who were baptized by sprinkling, usually as infants. This paper will help you see why we baptize by immersion. It also explains why we don’t baptize infants. We urge you to read the paper and consider adult baptism. If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member. We ask only that you respect our teaching position and not to be divisive. Members serving in instructional capacities (such as Bible class teachers, small group leaders, ministry leaders, elders and staff ministers) need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.

3. Those who have been baptized by immersion. It is our prayer that this study will give you new insights into the beauty, simplicity, and significance of this demonstration of devotion.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion
Christians participate in two God-ordained sacraments that celebrate what God has done for us: communion and baptism. Communion is celebrated on a regular basis and bptism as a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God. This study will consider the second of these two events: baptism.

The human mind explaining baptism is like a harmonica interpreting Beethoven: the music is too majestic for the instrument. No scholar or saint can fully appreciate what this moment means in heaven. Any words on baptism, including these, must be seen as human efforts to understand a holy event. Our danger is to swing to one of two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant. Either we deify it or we trivialize it. One can see baptism as the essence of the gospel or as irrelevant to the gospel. Both sides are equally perilous. One person says, “I am saved because I was baptized.” The other says, “I am saved so I don’t need to be baptized.” The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints. This is done by placing it where it should be: at the foot of the cross. Baptism is like a precious jewel-set apart by itself, it is nice and appealing but has nothing within it to compel. But place baptism against the backdrop of our sin and turn on the light of the cross, and the jewel explodes with significance. Baptism at once reveals the beauty of the cross and the darkness of sin. As a stone has many facets, baptism has many sides: cleansing, burial, resurrection, the death of the old, and the birth of the new. Just as the stone has no light within it, baptism has no inherent power. But just as the stone refracts the light into many colors, so baptism reveals the many facets of God’s grace.

Once a person admits his sins and turns to Christ for salvation, some step must be taken to proclaim to heaven and earth that he is a follower of Christ. Baptism is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others. So important was this step that, as far as we know, every single convert in the New Testament was baptized. With the exception of the thief on the cross, there is no example of an unbaptized believer.1

The thief on the cross, however, is a crucial exception. His conversion drives dogmatists crazy. It is no accident that the first one to accept the invitation of the crucified Christ has no creed, confirmation, christening, or catechism. How disturbing to theologians to ascent the mountain of doctrine only to be greeted by an uneducated thief who cast his lot with Christ. Here is a man who never went to church, never gave an offering, never was baptized, and said only one prayer. But that prayer was enough. He has a crucial role in the gospel drama. The thief reminds us that though our dogma may be airtight and our doctrine dead-center, in the end it is Jesus who saves. Does his story negate the importance of obedience? No, it simply puts obedience in proper perspective. Any step taken is a response to salvation offered, not an effort at salvation earned. In the end, God has the right to save any heart, for he and only he sees the heart. A helpful verse to understanding baptism is I Peter 3:21. ”And that water is like the baptism which now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead,” (emphasis added). This promise is vital. Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers. Would you feel comfortable marrying someone who wanted to keep the marriage secret? Neither does God. It’s one thing to say in the privacy of your own heart that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. But it’s quite another to walk out of the shadows and stand before family, friends, and colleagues to state publicly that Christ is your forgiver and master. This step raises the ante. Jesus commanded all his followers to prove it, to make the pledge, by public demonstration in baptism. Among his final words was the universal command to ”go and make followers of all people in all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the New Testament, baptism was no casual custom, no ho-hum ritual. Baptism was, and is “a pledge made to God from a good conscience” (I Peter 3:21, TJB).

The Apostle Paul’s high regard for baptism is demonstrated in the fact that he knows all of his readers have been instructed in its importance. ”You wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior. We ”became part of Christ when we were baptized” (Romans 6:3).

Do the bride and groom understand all of the implications of the wedding? No. Do they know every challenge or threat they will face? No. But they know they love each other, and they vow to be faithful to the end.

When a willing believer enters the waters of baptism, does he know the implications of the vow? No. Does she know every temptation or challenge? No. But both know the love of God and are responding to him.

Please understand, it is not the act that saves us. But it is the act that symbolizes how we are saved! The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.

That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept overhead, was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.” (Sanday and Headlam, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” in The International Commentary.)

Remove your shoes, bow your head, and bend your knees: this is a holy event. Baptism is not be taken lightly. The event is a willing plunge of the body and soul into the promise and power of Christ. The ritual of washing signifies our admission that apart from Christ we are dirty, but in Christ we are pure. The ritual of burial signifies that we are willing to die to sin and self and that we can be made alive again because of him. (Luther referred to baptism as death by drowning.) Baptism effectively seals our salvation, uniting us to him and his body. Christ’s death becomes my death. Christ’s resurrection becomes my resurrection. There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church. Let us now turn our attention to specific questions that have been raised in regard to baptism.

1.) Which is more appropriate: to baptize babies or to baptize people who are old enough to make a personal decision?

Obviously there are bright, godly people of both persuasions. But it seems clear that in the New Testament baptism is a willing pledge made by those who are old enough to recognize their sin, mature enough to comprehend the significance of the death of Christ, and independent enough to commit themselves to him.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear reference to a baby being baptized in the whole of the Bible. Almost every time baptism is mentioned, it is preceded by some command for belief. A good example is Acts 2:38—“Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

We are never told to be baptized and then believe, but to come to belief, to trusting faith, and then display that decision by associating ourselves with Christ in baptism. Baptism I the initial step of a faithful heart. This decision requires significant levels of maturity.

It is appropriate to dedicate a baby (though more appropriate to dedicate the parents.) At Oak Hills we do this. On a regular basis we offer parents of newborns an opportunity to come forward with their children for prayer and consecration. But these are dedication ceremonies, not baptisms.

2.) What if I was baptized as an infant? What should I do? I have been baptized, but not by immersion.

First, you should be grateful that you had parents who cared enough about you to set you apart for God. Because of their devotion, you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by willingly submitting to adult baptism. Adult baptism is not a sign of disrespect for what your parents did. In fact, it can be seen as a fulfillment of their prayers. Be thankful for the heritage of concerned parents, but don’t be negligent of your responsibility as an adult to make your personal pledge toward God in baptism. Several who are now members of this church were baptized as infants and then, upon coming to a personal faith, were baptized as adults. God has led you to this point and we pray that you will take this important step as soon as possible. All the Greek dictionaries of the New Testament define the Greek word baptizo as immersion. The symbolism of immersion is compelling: just as a person lowers you into the water, Christ lowers you ino the pool of his grace until every inch of your self is clean. Buried in a watery grave, covered from head to foot with God’s love, you are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. If you have any questions or concerns about this aspect of baptism, we would welcome the opportunity to visit with you.

3.) How much do I need to know in order to be baptized?

You need to realize only that you are a sinner and that Jesus is your Savior. As you grow in Christ you’ll learn more about baptism. You’ll learn that embodied and represented in baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:39); commitment to the church (I Corinthians 12:1); and being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26), to name a few. It is helpful to read the book of Acts and try to determine what the candidates in the first century knew before they were baptized: the three thousand baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2; the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8: the jailer in Acts 26; and the conversion of Paul in Acts 22:16. In each case there was an innocent faith and an immediate response. Let’s take a quick look at each of the events:

What did they understand at Pentecost?
”God has made Jesus—the man you nailed to the cross—both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How did they respond?
”Those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day” (Acts 2:41).

What was the message of Philip to the Ethiopian?
”Philip began to speak and…told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

What was his response?
”The officer said, ‘Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?’ Both Philip and the officer went down in to the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:39).

What did the jailer understand?
”[Paul and Silas] said to him, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all the people in your house’” (Acts 16:31).

How did he respond?
”At that hour of the night the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Then he and all his people were baptized immediately” (Acts 16:33).

What did Saul know before he was baptized?
”[Ananias] stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul…the God of our ancestors chose you long ago to know his plan, to see the Righteous One, and to hear words from him….Now why wait any longer? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, trusting in him to save you’” (Acts 22:14-16). “Then Saul got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).


Do you see some similarities? The message and the response are consistent. The message is Jesus and the response is voluntary. A simple faith in Christ and an immediate response to faith in baptism.

Could it be possible for someone to be baptized without even a knowledge of Christ? Absolutely. Some may be baptized out of peer pressure, parent pressure, or even as a good luck charm. There is the extreme case of Emperor Constantine marching his troops through a river and claiming that they were all Christians. There are those who, upon reflection, decide that they had no idea hat there were doing the first time. But now that they understand what God did for them, they want to say thank you in baptism. Such a decision is personal, for only you know your heart.

4.) Does it matter where I was Baptized?

No. If you were baptized in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp or in the lake at a family reunion, that doesn’t matter. What is important is that you knew that you were a sinner and Jesus was your Savior.

5.) Does baptism, itself, have the power to save people?

The answer to this is a resounding “No!” Scripture is abundantly clear that only Jesus saves. The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross. Baptism has no redemptive powers of its own. There is nothing special about the water. Nothing holy about the river or pond or baptistery.

Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their head a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd. If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross? If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins? If your faith is in the sacrament and not the Savior, you are trusting a powerless ritual. This leads to another question.

6.) What if a person is not baptized? Can he be saved?

This question is best answered with a question. Why isn’t the person baptized? There are three possible answers:

1) “I never understood baptism.”
Perhaps you were never instructed to be baptized. Maybe you’ve never been challenged to consider the issue. That’s entirely possible. If this is the case, we urge you to give thought to what God says about baptism. This doesn’t negate your faith up to this point. Part of maturity is an openness to understand new areas of the Christian walk.

2) A second reason for not being baptized is ”I don’t want to.”

Let’s analyze this response for a moment. God humbles himself by leaving heaven and being born in a feed-trough. The God of the universe eats human food, feels human feelings, and dies a sinner’s death. He is spat upon, beaten and stripped naked, and nailed to a cross. He takes our eternal condemnation on himself in our place. He then offers salvation as a free gift and asks that we say yes to him in baptism and someone responds, “I don’t want to.” Such logic does not add up. Such resistance doesn’t reveal a problem with baptism. Such resistance spells trouble of the soul. It reveals a problem of the heart. Such a person does not need a study of the sacrament. He needs a long, hard examination of the soul. The incongruity puzzled even Jesus. ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I ask?” (Luke 6:46)

True believers not only offer their sins; they yield their wills to Christ. Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart. If one won’t obey Christ in baptism, what will they do when he calls them to obey him in prayer? Or evangelism? Or service?

The highest motive for doing anything is because God asks you to do it. The heart of the saved says, “If you want me to be baptized in a pile of leaves, I’ll do it. I may not understand every reason, but neither do I understand how you could save a sinner like me.” If one is resistant on the first command, one might wonder if there has been a true conversion experience.

3) But there are those who are not baptized for a third reason. ”What of the ones who die before they have a chance? What if I entrust my soul to Christ and before I can tell anyone or arrange to be baptized, a swarm of killer bees attacks me and I die?”

The answer to this question is found in the character of God. Would a God of love reject an honest heart? No way. Would a God of mercy and kindness condemn any seeking soul? Absolutely not. Having called you and died for you would he cast you away because of a curious sequence of events? Inconveivable.

Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.

Baptism is bowing before the Father and letting him do his work. The moment is like that of the first-grader entering the first grade. The young student does not enroll by virtue of his knowledge or merits. He simply requests, “I’m here to learn, will you teach me?” Baptism is like that-not graduation but matriculation. It’s the presentation of the willing pupil before the Master Teacher. “I’m here to learn. Will you teach me?”

Conclusion
Don’t allow baptism to be something it is not. Apart from the cross it has no significance. If you are trusting a dunk in the water to save you, you have missed the message of grace. Beware of dogmatism. No one this side of heaven can fully understand the majesty of baptism. Watch out for the one who claims to have a corner on the issue, especially if that person is in your mirror.

Don’t prevent baptism from being what God intended. This is no optional command. This is no trivial issue. It is a willing plunge into the power and promise of Christ. Baptism is the first step of a believer. If it was important enough for Jesus to command, isn’t it important enough for you to obey? And if it was important enough for Jesus to do, isn’t it important enough for you to follow?

In baptism God signs and seals our conversion to him. For all we may not understand about baptism, we can be sure of one thing—it is a holy moment.

How does one arrange for being baptized at Oak Hills?
1. A baptism can be arranged just about anytime that is convenient for you: either during worship assembly or any other time during the week.

2. The baptistery is always heated. There is a full supply of baptismal garments and towels.

3. Baptisms may be performed by a minister, an elder or someone that you prefer to do the baptism.

4. Call Pat Hile (698-4610), Dennis McDonald (698-4690) or David Padilla (698-04640) for baptism arrangements.


Oak Hills Church of Christ
19595 IH 10 West
San Antonio, Texas 78257
(210) 698-6868

_______________________________________
1There is also the case of the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-6. They had been baptized by John but were unacquainted with the role of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving instruction, they sought to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
Source: http://oakhillschurchsa.org/visitors/faqs/#q7

<font color=indigo size=3 face=times new roman>
  • 3. What do you teach about baptism? Would I have to be baptized again in order to be a member here?

    Baptism is a "promise made to God from a good conscience" (I Pet 3:21 TEV). We urge all believers to be baptized (immersed) as a public demonstration of their desire to put their faith in Jesus. Those who have already been baptized before coming to Oak Hills don't need to be baptized again. For those who are not, we'd consider it a privilege to be a part of this important step. A special study on Baptism: Demonstration of Devotion [see the beginning part of this thread, d.c.], will help answer your questions and concerns. Copies are available at both Information Booths, you may phone the church office and request that a copy be mailed to you.
But the passage in I Peter 3:20,21 states—“… when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” [KJV].:

Slick Max Lucado is indeed accommodating the listening audience by skipping the part that there is no redemption in the blood of the Lamb apart from baptism. While it is true that a clear conscience or refreshing is the result of baptism, Max has flatly rejected the truth that baptism is UNTO [toward] the forgiveness of sins in His blood (Acts 2:37,38).

Therefore, Max Lucado has redefined and twisted the truth by making his own statement that baptism is “a public demonstration of [the] desire to put [one’s] faith in Jesus”— rather than UNTO [in order that or toward] the REMISSION OF SINS.</font>
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