Thursday, August 6, 2015
Commanded
Through the years there have been differences on the importance of baptism.  Some believe it may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.  Others believe immersion is the one baptism in Ephesians 4:5, Romans 6:4, and Colossians 2:12.  Some believe that baptism is essential to one’s salvation because all passages containing “baptism” with “saved,” list it before not after the benefit (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Others believe faith and baptism are connected, but teach that one is saved by faith and afterwards must be immersed to OBEY the Lord.  They believe the immersion need not be immediate, but must take place in the near future.  If one refuses to obey Jesus’ command, it marks him as a pseudo Christian, not a real one!

Those who believe baptism should not be put off for several days or weeks, cite us to the jailor and his family (Acts 16:33) and to Pentecost (Acts 2:41).  Emphasis is upon “same hour” and “straightway” as well as “same day.”  The reasoning is, that since immersion is cited before being saved, one should be immersed immediately just in case sudden death robs him of that blessed gift.  Those who differ point out that neither Paul nor Silas objected to the jailor tending to their wounds first, rather than immediately baptizing him and his family.  Neither did they warn the jailor that he and his family would lose their souls if they died while cleansing those injuries.  The objection concerning the day of Pentecost, where Peter told the crowd what they must do, shows he did not do so immediately, but continued on with “many other words” (Acts 2:37-40).  Also, it is argued that there were about 3,000 who desired immersion.  There is always a “last one,” so how much time elapsed before they immersed him?  It is true that there is a lapse of time from the moment a person expresses belief, makes his confession, changes clothing, and steps into the baptistry.  However, neither Acts 2 nor 16 negate the biblical need for the individual to obey the command (Acts 10:48).  Because of this delay, some ask: “Is the ‘same hour’ of Acts 16:33 or “same day” of Acts 2:41 a time frame which must be strictly complied with for one’s baptism to be valid?”  One cannot deny that there is some  delay involved, and a precise delay time cannot be given from book, chapter, and verse.  Judgment must be exercised, and when human, it cannot be bound as God’s standard!  Regardless of where one stands on the question, when it comes to obeying the Lord, why put it off?  If obedience isn’t necessary, then the question is irrelevant.

Those who teach baptism is the Lord’s command and must not be rejected, usually attempt to immerse candidates within a few weeks in a special service.  However, what if a person who responded to the invitation, did NOT reject baptism, but insisted putting it off until his next birthday?  Would eyebrows be raised?  If so, why?  If a waiting period of a few weeks is permissible, why not 5, 6, or even 12 months?  Since a time element is not specifically dealt with in scripture, would not months, as well as a few weeks fall within the realm of human opinion?  If the hesitance to obey Jesus is permissible for days or weeks, why not months or even years?  If a lengthy period portrays one as a pseudo Christian, why not someone who puts it off until a more convenient time?  Some might ask, “Is there a precedent set by the New Testament of folks wanting to wait weeks, months, or years to obey Jesus’ command to be immersed?”

It is true that there are extremes espoused by folks on any issue.  What is not clear, at least to this writer, is the teaching that one is saved by a faith which is validated as REAL only WHEN the person obeys Jesus by being immersed.  If there is no forthcoming obedience, that person’s faith is viewed as not being real and he is described as a pseudo Christian (“not really saved”).  That implies to me that being immersed is God’s TEST of who is or is not a true Christian.  If there is no submission, the conclusion is that he is a bad imitation of one!  In other words, if there is no immersion; there has been no salvation.  This seems to me to be the conclusion: One must submit to immersion in order to prove that his faith is genuine or a living one rather than a dead faith!

Since Jesus commanded baptism, and one’s positive or negative response indicates the KIND of faith he possesses (alive or dead), why would he put off proving whether he is a real or a pseudo believer?  If, on the other hand, the believer isn’t putting it off, but wounds need tending before he enters the baptistry, or the sermon’s conclusion has not yet been reached, does the believer possess a living or a dead faith just before he steps into the water (James 2:21-23)?