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

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

Donnie Cruz
Donnie Cruz

November 26th, 2003, 9:08 am #1

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.
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on November 26th, 2003, 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quote
Share

Tom
Tom

November 26th, 2003, 2:49 pm #2

Donnie, thanks for posting this document. This is the most cogent and logical explanation of baptism that I have ever read.
Quote
Share

Kenneth Sublett
Kenneth Sublett

November 26th, 2003, 4:25 pm #3

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.
Max's friend Rubel Shelly who was picked up by Max in a lemo says that repentance doesn't lead to baptism but to a GUSHING FORTH of the holy spirit person. Max says that baptism is the first response for a BELIEVER. He means "believer's baptism" which is ancient pagan baptism which denies that the ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice was good enough for them as Catholics insist that breaking the LITERAL body and shedding the blood is something they must do. He means that those SAVED BY FAITH or just looking at creation and believing that God created it SAVES you AND therefore, you don't need the FIRST shed blood of Christ. AFTER you are saved because you are one of the PREDESTINATED few then God gives you the HIGH FIVE, the church accepts it and then you are baptized BECAUSE your own faith saved you.

When Paul was jailed (meaning ISOLATED: no "family" here) and the earthquake freed the prisoners, the Jailer was thinking probably about physical salvation. However, we should look back at the commission Jesus gave to Paul--the task of Jesus and Paul was not to baptize but to preach the gospel:

"But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Acts 26:16

...Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, Acts 26:17

..To open their eyes, and
..to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,

..that they may receive FORGIVENESS of SINS, and inheritance (patrimony) among them which are SANCTIFIED (A holy spirit) by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18

They were not made holy or received A holy spirit BY FAITH until they repented and were converted.

TURN means to CONVERT. Jesus used BAPTISM and CONVERTED to mean the same thing.

Luke drew a parallel between BAPTISM and being Converted. There would be no true enlightened human spirit until they had obeyed the direct command. For instance,

..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

..Repent ye therefore, and be CONVERTED, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; Ac.3:19 [Meaning A man of victory]

In Acts they received an inheritance AMONG THEM because the were ADDED to the church:

..Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the LORD ADDED to the church daily such as should be saved [Those who were BEING saved by repentance and baptism]. Ac.2:47

Paul did not preach a PAULINE gospel, He preached what Peter preached:

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: Acts 26:19

..But shewed first unto them of DAMASCUS, and at JERUSALEM, and throughout all the coasts of JUDEA, and then to the GENTILES, that they should REPENT and TURN to God, and DO WORKS meet for repentance. Acts 26:20

When Paul went to the Gentiles he did not preach a POST CHRISTIAN GOSPEL which excluded baptism. What he preached in Jerusalem he preached in Corinth and the result was that believers were BAPTIZED without having to be baptized by Paul.

..Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach CHRISTS gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, 2 Co.2:12

In the case of the Jailer, after the earthquake and the prisoners were freed:

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Acts 16:30

And they said, BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31

If you believe Max you can just look at nature and say "father" or "wow" or something like that and you are SAVED. Therefore, he stops at Acts 16:31. However, Paul knew that he had to preach THE GOSPEL which the jailer had not heard. If Acts 16:31 is the PROOF TEXT then you can be saved without ever hearing the gospel and that is what Max believes. Paul had been commissioned to PREACH the gospel and Philip preached BAPTISM or the Eunuch would NOT have asked to be baptized BECAUSE he believed. You CANNOT preach the gospel without preaching baptism which is the GOOD NEWS about what a Holy God has purposed and commanded as the WAY by which He will remit sins and add you to the church. You cannot REJECT HIS COUNSEL or direct command without being DAMNED because you are still "treacherous" and cannot be added to the church/kingdom.

And they spake unto him the WORD of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. Acts 16:32

PREACHING THE WORD OF THE LORD INCLUDED REPENTANCE AND BAPTISM OR THE JAILER WAS A MIND READER.

And he took them the same hour of the night, and (repented) washed their stripes; and WAS BAPTIZED, he and all his, straightway. Acts 16:33

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, BELIEVING IN GOD with all his house. Acts 16:34

BELIEVERS ARE BAPTIZED BELIEVERS. NO EXCEPTION. But, Max has even joined the GLOBAL CHURCH. I suppose that if I had books to sell I would want to SAVE EVERYONE.

Paul said BELIEVE but not FAITH ONLY. Paul preached the gospel and, LO, the jailer was BAPTIZED which is the ONLY first response to faith and repentance. Only after he was baptized is he said to be BEIEVING with all of his "house" where no child would be ISOLATED and none able to hear and be baptized.

Abraham was justified by FAITH. Ask God why: "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. Ge 26:5

The promise of the Spirit of Christ made to Abraham shows how to have the faith of Abraham and become children.

WHAT? FOR ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:26

HOW? FOR as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Gal 3:27

You cannot be added to the church BY CHRIST or HAVE AN INHERITANCE AMONG THEM without obeying the direct command to be baptized. Why is there such DREAD and HOSTILITY against baptism and those who must still SHOW FORTH THE GLORY of Grace through faith in baptism?

People who believe that they can be saved just by believing must wonder how they can be saved OUTSIDE of Christ.

These are mostly weasel words because Max Lucado doesn't see hearing, believing, confessing or baptism as instrumental in salvation. In that, he BELIEVETH NOT and that does not mean "a lack of belief" but it means that one who rejects baptism and rejects the counsel of God calls Jesus a liar and the word includes being TREACHEROUS, or an INFIDEL.

If you became a baptist you would have to be baptized all over. Their baptism is a pagan baptism. Like the Eucharist, it means that YOU must have Jesus come and die for you personally or YOU must become CHRIST and die for your own sins. It was adopted in the Calvinist group in 1525: too late to be any more a CHRISTIAN baptism than tossing a few drops of water on an infant.

Ken Sublett
Quote
Share

Donnie Cruz
Donnie Cruz

November 27th, 2003, 9:25 am #4

Donnie, thanks for posting this document. This is the most cogent and logical explanation of baptism that I have ever read.
Tom,

Please! Not so fast! I posted the largely Baptist-imitated doctrine of baptism that Max Lucado now holds—NOT as an endorsement of such a fallacious tenet, but as a beginning point with which we can civilly discuss this man-made-controversial issue. I am uncertain if only some or if most or if all of the elders—and the members similarly—of the Oak Hills [Community] Church concur with Max. I am also uncertain as to the adverse effect of this adulterated truth upon those who completely reject it, since this major shift in this core and crucial doctrine of baptism appears to have been subtly and gradually introduced and implemented at Oak Hills through the years.

Note that this sermon was delivered by Max in 1995 and in 1997, and it would not surprise me if he had revised it to “Baptist” perfection. You also failed to notice or purposely ignored the “Trans-Baptist” imagery projected in the title of this thread.

By the way, Tom, have you had a chance to check out another thread titled: “CHANGE YES: APOSTASY NO!”? I responded to a poster with an identification of “Shameless Change Agent” (11-23-03) as follows:

———————————————————————————————————————————
Now, let’s see if “Maxi Driver” (Max Lucado), a very prominent CHANGE AGENT operating in the brotherhood passes all the qualifications of the SHAMELESS CHANGE AGENT:
———————————————————————————————————————————
YES — Operates under false pretense and is really a trans-Baptist destroying the church of Christ
YES — Shrewdly kept purposes veiled until sufficiently powerful to claim it as Community Church property
YES — Speaks disrespectfully of great servants of God who blazed the trail—such wicked ingratitude
YES — Turns back on pure biblical Christianity for a cheap imitation created by men
YES — Publicly teaches doctrines contrary to God’s Word—grace/faith alone; saved before baptism
YES — Perverts the Word of God to justify new beliefs and programs—instrumental music, cello in Communion
YES — Sows discord and division among God’s people—should leave the brotherhood alone
YES — Exchanges the church Christ built for another—swaps pulpits with Trinity Baptist and others
YES — Transformed the Oak Hills church of Christ into Oak Hills [Community] Church
———————————————————————————————————————————

Tom, I gather from your short remark that you no longer affiliate yourself with the majority in the brotherhood that still clings to the scriptural significance of baptism in God’s wonderful scheme of redemption. There’s definitely a colossal difference between salvation being obtained BEFORE or AFTER baptism, which translates to when [at what point] a sinner or an unconverted (outside of Christ) becomes a BELIEVER, which Max has confusingly referenced numerous times in the sermon. So, let us explore this topic and determine if brother Maximus Consensus is still preaching the truth. OK?

Donnie Cruz
Quote
Share

Donnie Cruz
Donnie Cruz

November 28th, 2003, 10:10 am #5

Donnie, thanks for posting this document. This is the most cogent and logical explanation of baptism that I have ever read.
In reading Max Lucado’s sermon on “Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion,” I came up with many questions, such as the ones listed below. I’m sure that there will be more questions as we continue to discuss this particular subject. When an item is listed as a direct quotation, it is really asking you to consider if the statement is incorrect.

• Why is the title of the sermon, “Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion”?
• Why isn’t the title of the sermon simply, “Baptism: for the Forgiveness of Sins”?
• Is one baptized in order to be a member at Oak Hills (or another congregation)?
• Quote: “If you choose not to be immersed at this time, we still welcome you as a member.”
• Quote: “… elders … need to be in agreement and compliance with the teaching position.”
• The already baptized will gain “new insights into the … significance of this demonstration of devotion.”
• Baptism is “a one-time declaration of a lifetime of devotion to God.”
• Quote: “… two extremes: we make baptism either too important or too unimportant.”
• Quote: “The challenge is to let the pendulum stop somewhere between the two viewpoints.”
• Quote: “Baptism is the initial and immediate step of obedience by one who has declared his faith to others.”
• Quote: “The thief on the cross … is a crucial exception … the first one to accept … Christ.”
• Of the thief on the cross: “Here is a man who never went to church….”
• Quote: “Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ.”
• Is “believer” in the preceding statement one who has just believed after hearing the gospel?
• Is “believer” in the preceding statement one who has already been redeemed, now a Christian?
• Does the act of baptism symbolize how one has been saved or how one is being saved?
• Quote: “The invisible work of the Holy Spirit is visibly dramatized in the water.”
• Quote: “There is no indication of an unbaptized believer in the New Testament church.”
• Is the “believer” above one who believes in Christ before or after being saved?
• Max quoted a key passage in Acts 2:38—Repent and be baptized … for …
• Did Max point out “believe” preceding “be baptized” not to make the Baptist doctrine an issue?
• Why did not Max explain “for the forgiveness of sins” as either before or after baptism?
• To the “sprinkled”: “you have an opportunity to complete their prayer by … adult baptism.”
• Quote: “If you were baptized [for what, dc] in a Baptist church or Pentecostal camp … that doesn’t matter.”
• Quote: “The work of salvation is a finished work by Christ on the cross.”
• Quote: “If baptism were a redemptive work, why did Jesus die on the cross?”
• Quote: “If we could be saved by being sprinkled or dunked, do you think Jesus would have died for our sins?”
• Quote: “Baptism is the initial test of the believing heart.”
• Again, is the “believing heart” above in reference to the initial faith or to the Christian?
• Quote: “Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely.”
• Quote: “Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.”
• Again, in the preceding statement, is it the believer before or after becoming a Christian?
• Conclusion: “Baptism is the first step of a believer.”
• Again, in the preceding statement, is it the believer before of after becoming a Christian?

Donnie Cruz
Quote
Share

John Waddey
John Waddey

December 11th, 2003, 11:32 am #6

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 Editor
The Christian Chronicle

Dear Bro. McBride:

Every Christian should strive to be balanced and fair-minded and endeavor to familiarize himself with both sides of every question. Yet there comes a time when every Christian has to take a stand for that which is in harmony with God's will and oppose that which is contrary to it. In your attempt to be neutral towards the various trends within the Lord's church you are giving significant aid and comfort to those who are working to corrupt the church and reduce it to a humanly devised denomination. The very favorable attention you provide to the "agents of change" at work among us is evidence of this.

The Dialogue with Bro. Max Lucado is a perfect example. I hazard the guess that you were not baptized with the same understanding that Bro. Lucado expressed in his interview.

Neutrality is a pleasing concept to those who neither know nor love the truth of the Gospel, but Jesus said, "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" (Matt. 12:30).

Sincerely in Christ,

John Waddey
E-Mail: JOHNWADDEY@aol.com
http://www.christianity-then-and-now.com
Quote
Share

Wayne Jackson
Wayne Jackson

December 31st, 2003, 8:57 am #7

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”> Acts 2:38 – Not So Tough </font>

by Wayne Jackson
Christian Courier: Penpoints
Monday, June 7, 1999

Another argument which denies the essential role baptism plays in our salvation is answered.

———————————————————————————————————————————

The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry maintains a web site that operates out of southern California. It is under the oversight of author and web master, Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M.Div. Mr. Slick is also an associate “pastor” and “elder” with the Wellspring Christian Fellowship in Escondido, California.

[Note: In the New Testament, the titles “pastor” and “elder” represent the same role (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-2, where the verb “feed” (vs. 2) is a cognate form of the noun “pastors,” Ephesians 4:11).]

On his web site, Mr. Slick has articles dealing with a variety of topics. Some of them are commendable. Many of them, however, dreadfully distort New Testament truth.

Consider, for example, a piece titled, “Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?” The author succinctly replies: “The answer is a simple, ‘No.’” He then addresses what he describes as “some of those verses that are commonly used to support the idea that baptism is necessary to salvation.”

We will not take the time at this point to review Mr. Slick’s entire article. Our attention will be confined to his discussion of Acts 2:38. He begins by quoting the passage:
  • “Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”
Our friend then muses: “This verse is a tough one.”

It’s not so “tough” – unless one already has his mind abused with the notion that baptism cannot be a condition in the plan of redemption.

The gentleman continues: “It seems to say that baptism is a part of salvation.” It doesn’t “seem” to say it; it actually says it. He opines that this cannot be the case, though, for such a conclusion would contradict other scriptures. Our friend then seeks to employ a rather time-worn evasion in defense of his position – although his version of it may suggest that he really does not understand the nature of the original argument.

Mr. Slick attempts to sever the connection between the verbs “repent” and “be baptized” (even though they are connected by the coordinate “and”) on the ground that the former term is plural in number, while the latter is singular.

According to him the sense would seem to be: “Repent [plural] for the forgiveness of your [plural] sins, and [separate from the foregoing] each of you [singular] get baptized [as a now-saved person].”

The gentleman appears to think that simply because there is a change in grammatical number, this somehow has disassociated baptism from repentance, and therefore distanced it from the phrase, “for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is a debate quibble hoary with age. It was ineffectively employed by Ben N. Bogard in his discussion with N.B. Hardeman more than sixty years ago. The eloquent Hardeman demolished the argument!

First of all, let us focus again on the motive behind this argument. Here is the difficulty for Mr. Slick and others of his theological persuasion.

The two commands, “repent” and “be baptized,” are joined by the conjunction “and.” It follows that if repentance is essential to salvation, so also is baptism. On the other hand, if baptism may be dismissed, repentance may be as well.

Since protestants have already determined in their minds that baptism cannot be a requisite for salvation but that repentance is essential, this passage obviously “troubles” them.

Their challenge, therefore, is this: How may one divorce the obligation to “repent” from the command “be baptized” in this passage?

The above-stated grammatical contortion, based upon the differing verbal “numbers,” is their solution.

However, the argument is futile. It is a fundamental form of grammatical construction that a group may be addressed with a general command; and then, as a matter of emphasis, a second injunction may be issued to each individual within the group – both commands being equally obligatory.

Here is an example of this construction we hear frequently: “All who are departing for San Francisco, approach Gate 3; each of you must have his ticket available for the agent.”

Let me follow up on this in a couple of ways.

Several years ago I wrote a letter to F.W. Gingrich, co-translator, along with William Arndt, of the highly-respected Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957). This is the most authoritative Greek lexicon extant in the English language. The letter, dated February 12, 1968, inquired as follows:
  • “Dear Professor Gingrich: Is it grammatically possible that the phrase ‘for the remission of sins,’ in Acts 2:38, expresses the force of both verbs, ‘repent ye’ and ‘be baptized each one of you,’ even though these verbs differ in both person and number?”
From Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania (February 21, 1968), Gingrich replied:
  • “Yes. The difference between metanoesate [repent] and baptistheto [be baptized] is simply that in the first instance, the people are viewed together in the plural, while in the second the emphasis is on each individual.”
No credence can be given to the sort of argument made by Mr. Slick. But, as indicated above, some religionists – particularly our Baptist neighbors – have argued this position for years. In reality, though, they’ve been notoriously inconsistent.

I have before me at this moment a copy of the Church Manual Designed For The Use Of Baptist Churches, by J.M. Pendleton (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1955). In a segment which addresses the “subjects” who are appropriate candidates for baptism, Pendleton was attempting to explain why baptism may not be administered in the case of infants. In a consideration of Acts 2:38, he wrote:
  • “The gospel was preached, the people were pierced to the heart, and cried out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you.’ No man will say that the command ‘Repent,’ is applicable to infants, and it is certain the same persons [emp. added here] were called on to repent and be baptized” (p. 84).
Pendleton’s concession completely devastates the argument of his Baptist colleagues.

But consider this additional statement from Mr. Slick, the director of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry:
  • Repentance is a mark of salvation because it is granted by God (2 Tim. 2:25) and is given to believers only. In this context, only the regenerated, repentant person is to be baptized.”
A couple of observations must be made regarding this statement:
<ol>[*]Repentance is a “gift” from God only in the sense that the Lord grants man the opportunity to repent (cf. Acts 11:18). That the sinner has the obligation to personally do the repenting is evidenced by the fact that he is commanded to discharge the responsibility (Acts 2:38; 3:19).

[*]There is no biblical evidence whatever that “regeneration” is effected at the point of repentance. That is Mr. Slick’s unwarranted assertion. In the text under consideration, “forgiveness of sins” follows both repentance and immersion; it does not precede either of these commands. The gentleman is simply wrong about this matter.
[/list]Our friend’s desire to defend the integrity of the Scriptures in various areas of apologetics is commendable. However, his egregious perversion of the divine plan of salvation undermines an otherwise noble effort. We can only hope he will restudy his position on the plan of redemption.
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on December 31st, 2003, 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quote
Share

Kenneth Sublett
Kenneth Sublett

December 31st, 2003, 3:20 pm #8

John MacArthur commented: "it MIGHT be that Acts 2:38 means what it says." Might be!!

Acts 2:38 and ALL of the Baptism passages trouble people. However, they are so locked in to Zwingli's FAITH ONLY and CALVINISM (confessed or not) that they make a HUGE effort of training preachers to teach FAITH ONLY by professors who KNOW BETTER that they cannot turn the tiger loose. However, the ploy is that more than half Baptists believed that they were saved BECAUSE "BELIEVETH" demands it and "BELIEVETH NOTS"call Jesus a liar.

But, without confessing predestination, there are people Jesus called OF THE TRUTH. Some people turn into drunks and identical turns into a saint. Some people MAKE A CHOICE which says TRUTH is going to cramp my style and BAPTISM confesses a deadness to the LUST OF THE EAR and Eye which I don't want. The result is FAITH ONLY which among non-Calvinists is universalism.

If EVERYONE who says I BELIEVE is going to heaven then I can say that I believe and just turn church into a Spiritual Whore House (Spiritual adultery is God's word) and Revelation 18 seals their doom.

This is the story of The Book of Enoch: those who were seduced into the FALL by mixed-sex choirs and instrumental music, could NEVER GET UP. As a result they had an ungodly urge to seduce everyone into it to give them aid and comfort for the moment knowing their doom. Misery DOES love company.

I have reviewed Matthew Slicks take on baptism here.

http://www.piney.com/FaithOnly.html

Ken Sublett
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on December 31st, 2003, 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quote
Share

Anonymous
Anonymous

December 31st, 2003, 6:53 pm #9

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.
God provides GRACE for the same reason we cannot SAVE OURSELVES. However, that GRACE is preached in the GOSPEL. If you reject or mock baptism you REPUDIATE the blood of Christ and CLAIM your right of PREDESTINATION. Grace or faith is then YOUR legalistic high sign that God has ESPECIALLY selected you to be saved WITHOUT obediance.

PAUL, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the GOSPEL of GOD, Rom 1:1

(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Rom 1: 2

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; Rom 1:3
...And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit OF holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: Rom 1:4

PETER SAID THE SAME THING

....For Christ also hath ONCE SUFFERED for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened BY the SPIRIT: 1Pe.3:18
..By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 1 Peter 3:19
....Which sometime were disobedient, 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. 1 Peter 3:20
......The like figure (INSTEAD OF) whereunto even baptism doth also now SAVE us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the [request for] a good conscience toward God,) by the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3:21

NO BELIEVER would call Jesus and Peter liars.

Christ suffered JUST ONCE. His blood looked backward just as easily as it reaches forward. REMISSION OF SINS is the same as SALVATION. That can happen only ONCE. Christ then ADDS us to His Kingdom: that can happen only once. ONLY PAST SINS can be forgiven at any given time: future sins--while Simon may have been still wet--was demanded Repentance and Confession.

BELIEVER'S BAPTISM is based on the dogma that the FIRST sacrifice of Christ was for the JEWS. However, they claim falsely, that Paul preached ANOTHER gospel. This demands that one is saved by FAITH. Later, when the church members decide whether you should be ADDED TO THE CHURCH, Christ must COME AGAIN as in the Mass to die for them PERSONALLY. Some believe that they BECOME CHRIST and die for their own sins. However, in prophecy, in the commands of Jesus and to the Apostles and the gospel of Paul was the gospel of Christ to the GENTILES ALSO.

By whom we have received GRACE and APOSTLESHIP ,
...for OBEDIENCE to the FAITH among all NATIONS, for his name: Ro.1:5

The Romans were called by Paul in the same way: to OBEDIENCE to THE FAITH.

Among whom are YOU ALSO the called of Jesus Christ: Rom 1:6

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints (with A holy spirit): GRACE to you, and PEACE, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Rom1:7

You cannot OBEY either FAITH or GRACE. You can only OBEY the gospel to become a DISCIPLE or CHRISTIAN by baptism and ongoing teaching in the school of Christ.

FAITH ONLY people intend to hurt you REAL BAD. Only those baptized to become disciples are covered by Scripture. It is a fact that receiving A holy spirit or becoming SANCTIFIED is a process of being a DISCIPLE. The musicians cannot make your spirits HOLY.

http://www.piney.com/FaithOnly.html

Ken Sublett
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on December 31st, 2003, 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quote
Share

Wayne Jackson
Wayne Jackson

January 1st, 2004, 10:08 am #10

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”>Was Cornelius Saved Before Being Baptized? </font>

by Wayne Jackson
Christian Courier: Notes
Friday, July 5, 2002


Was Cornelius, the Roman centurion, saved before and without baptism? Some so claim.
————————————————————————————————————————

Was Cornelius, the Roman centurion, saved before and without baptism? Some so claim.

They reason in this fashion: Cornelius received the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized (Acts 10:44-48). But only a child of God receives the Holy Spirit. Thus, Cornelius was a child of God before his baptism.

The argument is invalid for several reasons.

First, Cornelius’ reception of the Holy Spirit represented a very unique situation. He was the first Gentile to be offered the gospel. This was a revolutionary step in the unfolding of God’s scheme of redemption.

The fact is, the supernatural work of the Spirit in this case had nothing at all to do with Cornelius’ personal salvation. The outpouring of the Spirit was to persuade the Jews that Gentiles had a right to the kingdom of heaven, as well as Jews. Note these passages.
  • “And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45).

    “If then God gave unto them the like gift as he did also unto us, when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17).

    “And God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9).
Second, the apostle Peter, in his defense of the Gentiles’ acceptance into the church, made it very clear that God “made no distinction between them [Gentiles] and us [Jews]” in the matter of salvation (Acts 15:9). If one can learn, therefore, what the Jews were required to do in order to secure the remission of their sins, he will be forced to conclude that the identical process applied to Cornelius and his household.

Acts 2 contains the record of the first Jewish response to the gospel. Believers who had been convinced of the message regarding Christ were instructed: “[R]epent and be immersed ... for the forgiveness of your sins” (2:38). Baptism was crucial to their obedience.

One must conclude that Cornelius was under an equal obligation. No wonder Peter “commanded” the Gentile soldier to be immersed (10:48).

Third, according to Peter’s rehearsal of these events, which is more chronological than is Luke’s original record (cf. 11:4), the Spirit fell upon Cornelius just as the apostle “began to speak” (11:15), and therefore, before this Gentile even heard the message, hence, before he had faith (cf. Rom. 10:17). If the argument mentioned above is valid, then Cornelius was saved without faith – which is quite unreasonable.

Underscore “began” in verse 15, and marginally note this point.
Last edited by ConcernedMembers on January 1st, 2004, 4:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Quote
Share