During the month of May, I will preach (God willing) from biblical texts on baptism. This was a decision the pastoral staff thought through and prayed over together last January. Here are some of the reasons.
1. This is a gap in our teaching and knowledge. In sixteen years I have never done a series of messages on the biblical meaning of baptism. This is a gaping hole in our treatment of the whole message of the Bible for our time.
2. Jesus made baptism part of his ministry and our mission. Baptism is not man’s idea. It was God’s idea. First, he sent John the Baptist to “baptize with water for repentance” (Matthew 3:11). Then, Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, and his disciples also baptized (John 4:1-2). Then, he sent the church into the world, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
3. The practice and picture of baptism was universal in the early church. There are no instances in the New Testament of believers who do not get baptized (except the thief on the cross). They were all baptized as far as we know. For example, in Romans 6, Paul says to a church that he has never visited, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:2-3). In other words, he bases his argument that Christians can’t go on sinning on the fact that we have all died with Christ, as baptism shows. He assumes that the Roman believers were all baptized. It was a defining experience.
4. We are Baptists. First Christians, yes. Second, evangelicals (born-again, Bible-believing, gospel-loving, world-evangelizing, holiness-pursuing, daily-praying Christians). But also, and gladly, Baptists. What is that? Why is that important? What does it have to do with baptism? Many of us are weak in our knowledge about this. If it’s important enough to be in our name, we ought to know about it and cherish its biblical meaning.
5. We are seeking a kind of public, biblical closure for many whom God is calling to himself. Sometimes people wonder about the use of various invitation schemes at the ends of services. Well, there is no clear biblical model or teaching about how to end a service. Inviting people to Christ happens all through the Bible. But if you look to the Bible for a decisive public act declaring commitment to Jesus, it is not walking to the front or signing a card or raising a hand; it is baptism! “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).
Therefore, in May we will preach on the biblical view of baptism. We are praying for God to bring many people to the point of public commitment to Christ. That is why we plan to have Wednesday night teaching, testimony and baptism services all summer long. Some will be in the building. And some will be at the lakes. Would you pray for many who are among us and need to be baptized? And pray for dozens or even hundreds this summer to witness that they have died with Christ and risen to walk in newness of life.
Obediently and expectantly,