Preparing for baptism
As every Bible reader knows, John the Baptist came baptizing with water for the forgiveness of sin, but is that still necessary today, in order to have salvation?
If so, then how should it be done and who should do it? Do we really need to be a certain age or level of maturity before being baptized? Please read on.
Christ said this to the eleven apostles, in Matt 28:19-20, which also applies to the true COG today; "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (NKJ throughout, unless where otherwise noted.)
Let us ponder some more questions, as we get started. In today’s world of so many differing religious concepts and teachings, is baptism an exception, or are there various teachings and beliefs on that to? Do all religions, even those who falsely claim Christianity, practice what the Bible reveals about baptism? How many today really understand and teach what the Bible reveals about baptism and preparing oneself for it? Are the majority in the “ministry” of these various religions giving proper counsel and practicing what the Bible teaches when they baptize others? Can you be properly counseled from someone who does not know or believe the full truth of the subject and what the Bible actually reveals? Seeing at least some of the answer from what the Bible reveals on this subject will be the focus of this article, in order for you (the reader) to have a better understanding and more properly prepare yourself for a truly Biblical type of baptism. Many people have a false “conversion” because of not following the required steps given and therefore do not get the desired Spiritual benefit from this ever so important requirement for salvation.
Mark 16:15-16 we find this recorded; V. 15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Too many people today have never deeply considered the above passage and also never been given or taught the Biblical guidelines for true repentance and baptism. The world’s way of approaching this, for the most part, is quite different than what we find in the Bible and the true COG. (Many twist or pervert the Scriptures in order to try and match them with what they believe and teach their followers, therefore leading many astray. (See Col.2:8 & Matt.24:4-5,11) We find John the Baptist saying this to some who approached him for baptism, who may have figured themselves the most on track with God; Matt 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” (KJV)
What does that last verse mean? Note how the New American Standard translation words this verse. Matt 3:8 "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance;” (NAS) and the NKJ says; “Fruits worthy of repentance”. Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary gives this for the word “meet” in that KJV verse; # 514 axios (ax'-ee-os); meaning “deserving, comparable or suitable” So it seems John was looking for evidence of true and genuine repentance and did not see it in these individuals.
True repentance of past sin and obedience to what you now know and understand as truth is a requirement for baptism, so it is a very good idea to counsel with a true servant of Christ who believes and teaches what the Bible reveals. As a true Christian, even after baptism we all are still living in these fleshly bodies, which fall prey to sin, but we must repent of those past sins and the sinful way of living before baptism. We have to overcome sin all through our lives—it is not just a onetime thing to repent—so the NAS has this worded appropriately. It points to a life style or way of living that focuses on doing things God’s way. We have to have the kind of fruit, as much as is possible before and then certainly after baptism, that shows we are “keeping with” an attitude of repentance and obedience. Paul gives the example of this in Rom.7 for his own life. Christ told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would work with them and would be in them, so we can learn something from that as well. John 14:16-17 "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-- 17 "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” This same thing applies to every person alive today that God is calling.
After Christ’s resurrection, we find this took place; John 20:22 “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit was not yet given, so they did not have it internalized, (only working with them, as seen above) and Christ instructed them as to what to do from that point forward, so they could teach others. Acts 1:4-5 “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." And then we find in Chapter two when that actually happened, seeing it was on the day of Pentecost, which signifies the giving of the Holy Spirit to those who are to become the “first-fruits”, along with Christ. (Rom.8:23 & 1Cor.15:23)
Christ did not actually baptize, as we see from the record of John 4:2. From that time forward, the normal procedure was to have God’s true servants do the baptizing and laying on of hands, in order for anyone to receive the Holy Spirit. There are of course exceptions under certain conditions, also found in Scripture. But how is the baptism with water supposed to be done? Is the method of “sprinkling” Biblical and can that also be done for children and teenagers? Do you remember reading of any little children being baptized, anywhere in Scripture? The word “baptized” (in verse 5 above) actually has this meaning; #907 baptizo (bap-tid'-zo); “to immerse, submerge; to make overwhelmed (i.e. fully wet); the ordinance of Christian baptism:” ---and that is why we find in Scripture that John was baptizing where “there was much water”. Paul also likens it to a burial. (Rom.6:4 & Col.2:12) So all baptism for any true conversion; becoming a Christian was done by being submerged completely in water, by a servant of God. It also is for those who can maturely decide for themselves that truly are repenting of all past sin, that they want to follow Christ down the narrow and difficult way that will lead to eternal life, (Matt.7:13-14) for the rest of this physical life.
We learn some of these steps from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, that he was also speaking to adults and we never find anywhere in Scripture where young children are being baptized, nor is the term “Sprinkling” used for baptism. It is always those who are old enough to understand and grasp what they are doing, having also the capacity (Maturity) of mind to be able to make a lifelong commitment. Acts 2:38-39 “Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, (descendants) and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." We also see here that one has to be called and we can also reflect on the fact that Christ chose the apostles and appointed them. (Mark 3:14 & Luke 10:1) God does the calling, (draws) will begin to teach and even grants repentance to those who truly do, from the heart, seek Him. (John 6:44 & 45 & 2Tim.2:25-26) This is how the Holy Spirit will begin to work with them before actually being in them.
Notice this passage from the OT. Jer.29:13-14 “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (A casual approach is not good enough, nor will God accept excuses for lack of effort and honesty.) V.14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity;”--- and if you compare this to 2Tim.2:25-26, given above, we also have to escape the captivity of Satan and our bondage to sin, with God’s help thru the working of the Holy Spirit. We have to turn from those ways of disobedience and now seek to go the way of obedience to God and all His Commandments. We have to commit to that at baptism, as being our new way of life.
Again, we find this in the book of Isa 55:6-7; “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. (That is, when the opportunity comes—take it!) 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” This should be our mindset when thinking of and seeking baptism—that we are in earnest to change our life to please God and begin to live His ways we are now seeing revealed to us. God looks on the heart, and knows what is in the mind, so one must first begin with honesty and be whole-hearted within themselves and with God. It is not just the past sins we have to repent of, but we have to also recognize that we ourselves are wrong and sinners, that our very mindset has to be changed. (Rom.8:5-7) That is part of counting the cost (Luke 14:28) of conversion; considering that it is a way of life (Commitment) from that moment onward and a step we cannot deliberately and decidedly turn back from, nor compromise with. (Luke 9:62) We have to set our minds to quickly put sin out and away from us when it crops up or is found—not yield to it and let it begin its work once more. "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance;” as we have already seen.
SO WHEN SHOULD A PERSON SEEK BAPTISM?
When anyone see themselves as being a sinner who needs that forgiveness and is honestly willing to repent of their past sins and change their way of living is when you need to seek baptism! In Acts 2, we see a very good example, to go along with what we have already seen. We have already read the passage of verses 38 & 39, but it was just before this that the realization of sin set in and these people were “cut to the heart” and asked eagerly “what shall we do?” I have found this in Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary to be a very helpful comment; “[Men and brethren, what shall we do?] This is that beautiful spirit of genuine compunction which begets tender and eager docility, and which, on discovering the whole past life to have been one frightful and fatal mistake, seeks only to be set right for the future, no matter what this may involve of change and of sacrifice.” (See REPENTANCE for more, as these two articles go hand in hand with each other, for the purpose of helping the reader to come to a better understanding of these subjects.)
When the realization hits home we HAVE SINNED, been wrong and are wrong in our ways and even thinking, patterned after this physical world and the lusts of the flesh; we come to understand those sins have brought us under the death penalty. (Rom.6:23-first part & Ezek.18:20) Every un-repented of sin does this! Our sins have and will cut us off from God, as with Adam and Eve, Israel and just as the gentiles were. The realization of that is a time to act with conviction and zeal. Eph 2:12 “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Seeking mercy and forgiveness for reconciliation with God is the next step; V.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Rom 5:8-10 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Christ living in us, thru the Holy Spirit. Gal.2:20—KJV)
Seeking counsel for baptism with a proper person should be done quickly, when the proper realization of that need has been seen and accepted. Philip and the eunuch is another good example of those steps to be taken. If they are not taken, and things go on for too long, Satan will surely try and take advantage of that delay to ensnare one even more tightly, by his evil influence. Once we have that baptism and the Holy Spirit is now working within us, we have far more Spiritual power to understand and resist things we could not before, so we can begin to really overcome sin. Satan knows this and does not want this to happen, so you may also begin to experience some trials to try and bring you back down.
James 4:7-10 “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
We cannot “give place to the devil” in thought or actions any longer nor be tossed to and fro by errors of the past and deceptions of men! (Eph.4:27 & V.14)
So in preparing for baptism, contact with a true minister of Jesus Christ should be sought, once anyone has become convicted of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God and earnestly desires to begin to obey Him. (Acts 5:32) Studying these Scriptures given within—go over them in your mind and the many more about this subject that you may have found in your Bible, as well as reading the material at the links given. This is a good start at preparing oneself for that next step of counseling with a true minister for baptism and then receiving the Holy Spirit. This author/editor can put you in contact with a minister of the COG in your area or close proximity. (Editor for tcogmso)