Are you ready to be baptized?

That's a question that a lot of folks who are part of this church family have asked themselves, and each other, over the years. Baptism is the dramatic confession that Jesus died, buried, and was resurrected three days later. It is an announcement of faith, a proclamation of profound change, and an act of surrender to the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ. Many people have been raised in families that believe in Jesus and have sought to follow Him, but they have been part of traditions that have practiced baptism differently from that experienced in the early church.

What is the history of baptism?
Infant baptism began a few hundred years after New Testament times in the Roman Catholic tradition, which taught that babies were born sinners, who needed salvation through baptism. Many generations later the same group began to practice sprinkling for baptism, apparently for convenience. (The Greek Orthodox Church still immerses infants.)

When the Protestant Reformation occurred in the early 1500's, many things in the Roman Catholic church were changed (with the exception of the Anabaptists who returned to the New Testament form of baptism). The reformers continued to practice both sprinkling and infant baptism, but the reason behind the practice changed. They no longer baptized babies for the purpose of salvation, but as an act of dedication on the part of the parents.

This little history lesson is mentioned simply to say that we face a situation today that the first church did not. Near the end of the gospel of Mark, Jesus is quoted as saying, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16)."

What if I believe, but have not been baptized as a believer? Do I have to be baptized?
Please don't think that we are being simplistic when we suggest that each of us read the accounts in the book of Acts that describe those who accepted the gospel. See that they believed in Jesus and that they are baptized as an expression of that faith — they believe, and they are baptized.


Occasionally someone will ask, "Do I have to be baptized?" If, upon reading the gospels, we hear Jesus say, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19)" — as a Christian who wishes to follow Christ, we should want to do that.

The apostle Peter said to the conscience-stricken believers on the day of Pentecost, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38)."

In recounting (for the third time) his conversion experience, Paul quoted his spiritual guide, Ananias: "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name (Acts 22:16)."

Jesus said to do it. Peter said to do it. Paul said, "I did it." It seems rather strange for me to ask, "Do I have to do it, too?"

Who is the proper candidate for baptism?
If you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and you are ready to confess before others that He is Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and if you repent, and let God lead you (II Peter 3:9), then you are ready to be baptized.

Understanding who God is, comprehending that you have sinned (failed to obey His standards) and have come to know Jesus is key. Most of us who were raised in Christian families begin taking that matter very seriously between the ages of eight and twelve. Quite a few who are part of our church family had been ready in their hearts for quite a while, and upon hearing the call to believer's baptism (at many ages, from twenty to ninety) were more than ready to do that.

Is it necessary to have my baptism as part of the Sunday morning services?
No! In the book of Acts, there are very public baptisms, small group gatherings by the riverside, and an experience in a pond beside the road when there may have been only the candidate and his teacher present. The congregation likes it best when they can support and celebrate with the believer; but if it will be a more meaningful and thoughtful expression of faith in a quieter, more private setting, we are pleased to do that.

Do I need to tell you before I come to make my confession of Christ and be baptized?
If you wish to be baptized on Sunday morning we appreciate knowing ahead of time. If you wish to be baptized during the week, or would like a specific minister or Christian mentor to baptize you, it is wise to discuss those plans with the people involved and to verify that the Sanctuary will be available when you need it (it usually is, but it's always a good idea to check first). Also, we always like to talk to you about your decision and discuss with you what you can expect when you become baptized. New believers often have questions and we welcome the opportunity to address them.

If you feel that you're ready to be baptized, or wish to learn more about it and what it means, please be in touch with a minister who would be happy to speak with you in more detail.

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