One of the joys of being a church planter is the opportunity to disciple, equip, and instruct our people on important aspects of the faith often for those who have very limited knowledge of these things. The importance of baptism is one of these opportunities we should take to disciple our people on it’s importance as well as how they should reflect on it when they observe others being plunged beneath the water.
Here are 3 things I think we should call our people’s attention to as they observe baptism as we seek to instruct them in the faith:
We should never witness a baptism without reflecting on our own baptism.
- When you witness a baptism, reflect on your own – When we observe baptisms (and hear their testimonies before they enter the water) we should reflect on our own baptism and testimony. In that moment when you get to participate in that Ordinance with them and as you see them plunged beneath the water and coming out on the other side, reflect that you to were once dead in your trespasses but God in His mercy has made you alive and delivered you from the body of death! Often as I hear these testimonies, I am brought to tears reflecting on the fact that I am a great sinner deserving nothing from the Lord except, “depart from me you worker of iniquity” and instead now in union with Christ (pictured and proclaimed in our baptism as we are unified with Him in death, burial, and resurrection) we who once had no hope and were without God in the World have now been “brought near by the blood of Christ!” That should make us treasure the gospel and the work that Christ has done on our behalf. We should never witness a baptism without reflecting on our own baptism. (Read Romans 6:3-11 for further reflection on your Baptism)
- Small acts lead to big celebrations – Treasuring the gospel that has changed us should lead us to want others to be changed by it! Often as I have listened to the testimonies of those being baptized, I have been struck at the fact that little acts of obedience had culminated in a day of great celebration (in fact one attendee at one of our baptism services called it a “party”). Ordinary people had done ordinary things like invite someone to an Easter service, or invite someone walking by our building to come in, or a son consistently talking with his mother about Jesus, or people coming around a family when they were financially strapped, or a deacon walking across the street to talk with a panhandler and then sitting down with them about life and inviting them to a service. All of these seemingly small acts had their place in seeing someone transferred from the domain of darkness in to the Kingdom of the Beloved Son. Let’s teach our people not to underestimate how their small acts of kindness, obedience, and invitation can culminate in a party!
- Baptism is not just for the one being baptized but it is for the church – The Christian life is not about a regenerate moment (when we pray a prayer or even our baptism) living out a regenerate life. Baptism in the NT certainly is the public marker that we have been regenerated (gone from death to life) but it is merely the beginning and the acknowledgment that Jesus is my Lord and that this one will follow Him until the end. Teach your people that these that have gone in to the water need us, the church, to help them hold fast to their confession just as we need each other to help us hold fast to our confession. We must teach our people, and remind them of this in baptism, to care for these like the brothers and sisters that they are and help them to fight the good fight until they and we see Jesus face to face!
The Christian life is not about a regenerate moment but living out a regenerate life.
It is my hope that we will use moments like when we baptize to teach our people to reflect on God’s grace and encourage them to be spurred on in the mission. We know that Baptism does not save (especially if the one being baptized has not exercised genuine faith), but it is not merely a symbol. It is a sign to the one being baptized of their union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (that we have died to sin and even death and have been reborn to a life that follows Christ). Baptism is a sign to the church that whoever is the one coming up out of the water is one of ours. And it is a sign to the powers that the flood of judgment is headed for them but we have already been through the flood of judgment and we have already passed through the waters of the Jordan and in Christ we are already seated in the Promise Land! When we observe baptisms, it is not as though we are merely the audience watching as someone else does something. Rather, we are participants who should reflect on where we once were, who we are now, what our mission is, and where we are headed in Christ… to a place where a billion years from now, we will still be celebrating and across the table will be people like Joe, Victoria, Tony, Susan, Crystal, Samuel, Andrew, Robert, and Ricki!
Nate Akin is the Disciple-Making Pastor at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC, the Director of Baptist21, and an Area Lead for Acts 29 in Eastern North Carolina. You can follow Nate on Twitter @nateakin.