Over the past few days, our Baptism devotionals have considered the “why” and “what” of baptism. Today, we’d like to discuss the “who?”
When I ask “who?” in regards to baptism in our individual-centric culture, the question that likely comes to mind is “who should be baptized?” And that is an important question. As Pastor Josh wrote earlier, “Baptism is where our faith goes public.”
At FCBC, we practice “believer’s baptism,” in which we baptize those who have both professed and demonstrated authentic faith in Christ. The Bible shows no “test” required for baptism beyond this saving faith. Hear this: one need not be a “mature” believer to be baptized! Note that when Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples, he includes “baptizing” in that disciple-making before the mention of “teaching them to obey” (Matthew 28:18-20). On the day of Pentecost, Peter exhorts the crowd to “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38), not “Repent, get you life straightened out, and then when you’ve earned it be baptized.” Later when the Gospel is accepted by Gentilies, it was with a sense of urgency that Peter would declare, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47).
So, to the question of “who should be baptized?” we say that all Christ-followers who have confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believed in their hearts that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9) should be baptized as a mark of identification, a public declaration, and a practice of obedience to their professed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But the other “who?” questions include “who is involved in baptism?”
At FCBC, our answer to this is “the whole congregation.”
Just as the individual being baptized is identifying with Christ, making a public declaration of faith in Christ, and practicing obedience to Jesus’ commands, the congregation is also identifying, declaring, and practicing obedience.
As the local representation of Christ’s Church, we are identifying with the baptized, saying “this person, through the grace of God, is a part of our body having been redeemed by Christ’s blood” (Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 12:27).
As fellow believers, we are repeating our public declaration of faith, that on authority of Scripture alone, through faith alone, by the grace of God alone, on account of Christ alone, and to the glory of God alone, we have been marked as God’s children (John 1:12), heirs of his kingdom (Romans 8:17), transformed to partake in his mission (Matthew 4:19).
And as disciples of the living Christ, we are practicing obedience to his command to make disciples. As joyous an event as baptism is, it is not the end. Jesus’ commission continues, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
This week, I have been struck by the image of newborn babies. Though they may only be aware of their lives at the most basic level, they are by all definitions alive. They breathe. They eat. They move. They do all these things without fully comprehending them. Yet they need others to grow and thrive. It would be reprehensible for their parents to abandon them soon after birth.
So also new believers are by all definitions fully alive in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), even if they do not fully comprehend the intricacies of their new lives. But they need others to help them grow and thrive. If we baptize them Sunday morning, then abandon them on Sunday afternoon, we are being disobedient to Christ’s command to make disciples.
No, God calls us to nourish the young believer (1 Peter 2:2), and to grow them in the faith (Titus 2:1-10), using Scripture to teach, rebuke, correct, and train (2 Timothy 3:16), prayerfully considering how to encourage, exhort, and stir up to love and good works in the community of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). This is discipleship, and it is the promise we make as a congregation at baptism.