Throughout the Christian church there are differing views on baptism and not a little controversy. We are currently studying the elements of Christian worship in the adult Transformation Class that I lead on Sunday mornings at Stanton Evangelical Free Church. This past Sunday we began to look into what the Bible teaches about baptism. We focused our time on the references to baptism in the book of Acts. We were interested in seeing how baptism was practiced in the earliest days of the church. Here are three observations we made from the practice of Baptism in Acts.
1.) Baptism followed conversion or belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 16:14-15, 29-34; 18:8)
In these passages in Acts, these things are held in common, an individual or a group of people hear the preaching of the gospel, the Spirit brings them to conviction of sin, they respond with faith in Jesus as the Christ, they are baptized and rejoice in their salvation. This seems to be implying that the normal way for conversion to Christianity takes place is through the hearing of and then receiving the Word of Christ, then baptism in the joy of their redemption in Christ.
The Apostle Peter, both during his sermon to the people gathered on Pentecost in Acts 2 and then to the household of Cornelius when he witnessed the Holy Spirit fall on these Gentiles and give them faith in Christ, commanded the new believers to be baptized in the name of the Jesus Christ. This hearkens back to the command that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles, recorded in Matthew 28:19 to "Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them". Baptism is a key component to becoming a disciple of Jesus and disciple-makers should instruct their disciples to be baptized.
3.) New believers requested to be baptized. (Acts 8:36-38)
Not only were new believers commanded to be baptized by the Apostles, we also see one new believer in particular requesting to be baptized. In this passage we see how the Lord works in the midst of drawing people to himself. For the Holy Spirit brought Philip to this Ethiopian eunuch while he was traveling on the road. Philip cam upon him at the precise moment when the eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah, particularly chapter 53. And the Scripture tells us, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus." In hearing the gospel from the prophet Isaiah, the man then sees water and asks to be baptized, and Philip obliges and the eunuch "went on his way rejoicing." So when believers come to faith in Christ and recognize from the Scriptures the great blessing of baptism, they desire it. They ask to be baptized. They seek to honor Christ and rejoice to be included among the Lord's people.
This coming Lord's Day we will continue our study on baptism from the Bible and think more about its significance, meaning and important place within the worship practices of a congregation as well as the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.