Johnny Hunt serves as the senior vice president of Evangelism and Leadership at the North American Mission Board. Prior to joining NAMB, Hunt pastored First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., for 33 years.
To me, when I study the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, it appears that baptism is the first act of obedience a believer takes after they are saved. It is so important because it is the first time individuals will share about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and they do so without ever opening their mouths!
Baptism serves as a witness to others who need to be obedient to Christ’s command, and it shares the Gospel with those who have yet to believe because baptism is a physical representation of how Jesus saves us.
One of my favorite baptism stories in the New Testament begins in Acts 8, verse 26. Philip is called by the Spirit to leave a major movement of God in the city of Samaria in order to intersect in divine providence with one person — the Ethiopian eunuch.
Philip sees him sitting in his chariot. The eunuch had likely been to Jerusalem and participated in worship, but undoubtedly, all of his questions had not been answered. So, when Philip approaches and sees him reading one of the most prominent messianic passages from the Old Testament, Isaiah 53, he asks the eunuch, “Do you understand what you read?” The man responds, “How can I except somebody help me?”
As pastors, we are trying to help our people be obedient to Jesus. Christ said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Baptism is not an option. It’s a command. When we encourage our people to be baptized, we are encouraging them to obey Christ’s commands, not ours.
There are many questions that I’ve answered throughout my ministry. How old should a person be? Why be baptized? Will baptism get you into heaven? These are good questions, but at the end of the day, we are commanded by Jesus to be baptized.
It only stands to reason that if I’ve said yes to Christ as Lord, where does the “no” fit into that equation? How can a person who has trusted Jesus say to Him, “No, Lord?”
To go back to the Ethiopian eunuch, when he and Philip came across a body of water, he asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” Based on a simple confession about Jesus in response to the Gospel, Philip went down to the water and baptized him.
I don’t know that the eunuch knew much more than his simple confession that Jesus is the Son of God and that Christ saved him from his sin before Philip baptized him. I think, sometimes, we may be too hard on new believers as to what we think they should understand.
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Source: Baptist Press