Why Be Baptized

The following article was created from a ser-mon outline by Clay Gentry, and was sub-mitted to me by an elder for our bulletin. It is a timely submission having come on the heels of two baptisms which our church recently celebrated. The original author introduces his subject by telling of all the work some breth-ren have to do digging trenches, lining them with a waterproof material and filling them with water in order to fulfill what is to us (in our well-equipped meeting places) the simple command of being baptized. In light of such situations he asked: “Why would they go to all that trouble?” 

First of all, they go to the “trouble” because of the prominent place baptism receives in the New Testament scriptures. Some of the final words of Jesus recorded to His apostles in the commission given to them commanded bap-tism (Mt. 28:18-20); convicting preaching on the day of Pentecost concluded with baptism (Acts 2:37-41); the Samaritans, being con-vinced by Philip that Jesus was even greater than Simon the sorcerer, were baptized (Acts 8:12-13); the eunuch, after having his ques-tions answered in Isaiah was baptized in the desert by Philip (Acts 8:35-38); Saul, after a compelling vision of Jesus on the road to Da-mascus, was urged by Ananias to be baptized straightaway (Acts 9:18-19; 22:16); Cornelius, having received the gift of tongue speaking was ordered to be baptized (Acts 10:44-48); Lydia and the Philippian jailer, having heeded the things spoken by Paul, were baptized (Acts 16); Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, and the man across the street to whom Paul went after he was expelled from the synagogue, were baptized (Acts 18:6-8); and twelve Ephesians, having only been baptized by John’s baptism, were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 19:1-7). 

In spite of the prominence given to this topic, some discount the role of baptism in a believer’s life. This they do by incorrectly stating that salvation is by “grace alone through faith alone,” and therefore does not necessitate baptism. The addition of the word “alone” is a man-made doctrine that obscures the truth of God’s word. In the place of baptism, they promote such things as: The sinners prayer, asking Jesus into your heart, or a conversion experience as expressions of so called, saving faith. Baptism is erroneously referred to as an outward sign of an inward grace, purporting that inward transformation has already taken place. However, transformation without the removal of trans-gression is a transposition. One is inwardly cleansed, and then baptized to show that he has been cleansed, because God, by faith cleanses us when we are baptized (Acts 22:16; Col. 2:11-12). 

We are right to defend the role of baptism but in doing so we need to ensure that our defense is well thought out and respectably communi-cated. Offering as our explanation that we do it “because it is com-manded” doesn’t really capture the why of baptism nor it’s force. Pointing out that Jesus did it is true and fascinating, but Jesus’ reason-ing for being baptized as the sinless Son of God doesn’t really apply to our situation all that well. Perhaps the shallowest of all arguments that is offered is that one should be baptized in order to make their salva-tion sure because it reduces baptism to a mere sacramental ritual that has saving power in itself. 

Perhaps some more meaningful arguments would include: 

 That baptism is an expression of faith through which the Lord saves us by His mercy (Titus 3:5). It should be observed from this text that there is no incongruity between being saved by God’s grace and mercy, and our undergoing the act of baptism. 

 That baptism is a work of God, and not merely a personal work of man for salvation (Col. 2:12). Those receiving baptism ought to un-derstand by faith that God will be performing an act of excision up-on them, the removal of sins of the flesh. That this is the case, one need not struggle henceforth to identify the moment one was saved. I’ve asked many who believed they were saved to tell me when it happened. Often, they have no idea, having grown up hear-ing about Jesus and believing the things they were taught. But, be-cause their “obedience to the faith” (Acts 6:7) was never tied to a specific action, they do not even know when their sins were forgiv-en. 

 That we are saved by the promises that are embodied In the action of baptism (Rom. 6:1-11). In this text it is shown that we are united with Him in the likeness of His death and in His resurrection. If we have been, then so shall we be. 

 That baptism is the sign and seal of God’s promise to all people of our salvation in Christ Jesus (Gen. 17:1-4; Col. 2:11-15; Gal. 3:27-29). 

 That baptism is a part of the process of being born of water and the Spirit, without which Jesus said that one cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8). 

 That this is not the first time God has chosen to save men and wom-en of faith by means of water (1 Peter 3:20-22 / Gen. 6). In this the wisdom of God is made manifest in that the wisdom of men cannot receive this “foolishness” which God has chosen (1 Cor. 1:21ff). It really is, brilliant!