Welcome to the Commands of Christ blog series where we
will examine together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post we will look at the second of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This second command is to be baptized. In the reference above, Jesus speaks to His disciples about baptizing new disciples in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But what does baptism mean? Is it just dunking (or getting dunked) in water, or is there something more to it?
Four Questions to Answer
1.What is baptism?
Let’s take a look at the biblical account of Phillip’s interaction with the Ethiopian official found in Acts 8:26-38.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep He was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opens not his mouth. In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who can describe His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth.”
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
The story begins with an angel of the Lord instructing Philip to run up to a chariot owned by an Ethiopian eunuch. Philip heard the eunuch reading the book of Isaiah, specifically a prophecy of Jesus’ death. Philip is able to explain the passage to the eunuch and tell him the good news about Jesus. And now a new believer, the eunuch, in faith, eagerly gets baptized as soon as he sees a body of water.
In this story, we see that although baptism is done in water, it’s a symbol of something more.
According to Romans 6:3-4, baptism is a symbol of Jesusʼ death, burial and resurrection. It means we have died to our old life and been raised to live a new life with Jesus. Matthew 3:13-15 depicts even a scene of Jesus receiving a water baptism, and so should we. Receiving baptism means we identify Jesus as our Lord. It’s something for new believers to do not out of tradition but out of a desire to solidify and symbolize their new life in Jesus. It really is an initiation rite into the church, the Body of Christ.
2.Why should we be baptized?
There are a number of answers to the question of why we should be baptized. The first is that Jesus set for us an example in Matthew 3:13-15. Jesus received baptism and so should we. The second is that Jesus has commanded it. Matthew 28:19 is where we see it in the Great Commission, which we have already looked at. A third reason why we should be baptized is that it was taught and practiced by the early church. Throughout the book of Acts we see examples of new believers being taught to be baptized and actually being baptized.
3.Who should be baptized?
In Acts 2:37-38, Peter responds to the crowd who had just listened to his sermon following the Pentecost events in the upper room. These people were cut to the heart by the sermon and knew that something had to be done. Peter answers them in this way.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
It should also be noted that Luke records the response to the command of Peter.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
This specifies that baptism was administered only to those who “received his word” and therefore trusted in Christ for salvation (repentance and belief).
As we saw in the first Command of Christ, repentance and belief are connected. Here Peter gives the process. Repentance and belief are prerequisites to baptism. Only those who have repented and believed should be baptized. Because of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6 that baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, that union, which happens through repentance and faith, must be a reality first which is then demonstrated by the ordinance of baptism.
4.How should we be baptized?
The practice of baptism in the New Testament was carried out in one way: the person being baptized was immersed or put completely under water and then brought back up again.
Baptism by immersion is therefore the mode of baptism or the way in which baptism was carried out in the New Testament.
It is also evident in the Acts 8 and Romans 6 references above that immersion is in view when mentioned by Peter and Paul.
So how are you doing with this command? Have you been obedient? Have you challenged those you are discipling to be baptized? Have you baptized anyone? We would love to get your comments. Just respond in the comment section below.
Have a great and obedient day.
Welcome to the Commands of Christ blog series where we will examine together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The first command of Jesus’ public ministry was to repent and believe. He spoke this command indiscriminately to all who would listen and it was a call for radical inward change toward God and man.
When Jesus said “Repent,” He was talking about a change of heart toward sin, the world, and God; an inner change that gives rise to new ways of living that exalt Christ and give evidence of the truth of the gospel.
What does it mean to repent? The New Testament Greek word translated as “repent” is METANOEŌ. It has two parts: META and NOEŌ. The second part, NOEŌ, refers to the disposition of your inner self, your “default setting” toward reality. The first part, META, is a prefix that means movement or change. META, or “change,” plus NOEŌ, or “disposition” equals “to change your disposition towards life and reality, to have a transformed default setting about what’s important.”
Jesus explained that when our default setting is changed by the Holy Spirit, it shows, as we “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Genuine repentance is an inner change of heart that produces the fruits of new behavior. Acting differently, speaking differently, and living differently (these are the fruits) are the inevitable outward result of being made completely different on the inside (that’s repentance).
An excellent example of this inner change producing fruits of new behaviour is Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was a chief tax-collector by profession. This was a job synonymous in people’s minds with deceit, theft and lies. At that time, the chief tax-collectors were reliable servants of Rome. While they ensured that taxes were paid, they managed to enrich themselves in a number of legal and illegal ways, at the expense of Jews who were poor. By this method, Zacchaeus became rich and acquired lots of material goods. He wasn’t a person for whom other people felt admiration, love and respect. He was someone who exploited his fellows. His relations with them were hypocritical and based on his own advantage.
But something sparked inside of him when he heard that Jesus was coming to Jericho. Perhaps he was having a crisis of his soul, realizing that the riches and possessions did not lead to the happiness he so desperately wanted. Perhaps he had heard that Jesus had granted the wish of the blind beggar at the city gate and hoped that he might do the same for him. So he decided to see who this Jesus was. But the crowd was big and Zacchaeus was small and he couldn’t possibly see Jesus. So he climbed up into a sycamore tree near where Jesus would need to pass by.
As He entered the town, Jesus saw the crowds of people with a look that was full of authority, yet loving and merciful. His eyes came to Zacchaeus, who was up the tree. The Lord called him by name. This personal call from Jesus to Zacchaeus indicates his personal preparation for salvation. He climbs down from the tree, full of happiness and joy, and welcomes Jesus into his home. He publicly acknowledged the sinfulness of his ways and began ‘bearing fruits in keeping with repentance’, by giving half his substance to the poor and restoring fourfold to anyone he had wronged. ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold’. This is what repentance and faith look like.
Jesus made it clear that repentance and faith are like opposite sides of the same coin. Mark 1:15 records the inspired summary of Jesus’ message as He began His ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance and faith go together because if you believe that Jesus is the Lord Who saves (faith), you have a changed mind about your sin and your self (repentance); and if you repent, it’s because you trust that Jesus is the Lord Who saves.
That’s because faith, as Scripture defines it, is trusting that Jesus is who He said He is and that He does what He said He would do. The important thing about this biblical definition of faith is that it focuses on who Jesus is, not on you or your efforts. Here’s what that means for you. Think of faith as having three parts: knowing, agreeing and relying.
The knowing part of faith means that you learn from the Word of God Who Jesus is and what He has done to save sinners. That why the Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The agreeing part of faith comes as the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth about Jesus. You agree with God’s testimony and admit, “What God says is true.” This is one of the primary ministries of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth…”
The relying part of faith means you stake your life on the truth you know and agree with. This is where faith becomes personal, as you entrust your eternal soul to Jesus only.
The first two parts of faith — knowing and agreeing — are like going to an airport, watching people get on airplanes, and seeing the airplanes take off. By observation, you come to know that these big winged objects can carry people thousands of miles at amazing speeds; and you agree that it happens all the time. The third part of faith, relying, is like you boarding an airplane. It’s one thing to know and agree that planes can take people to faraway places. It’s another thing to get on a plane yourself.
Biblical faith is just like that. You come to know from God’s Word the truth about Who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Then, the Holy Spirit convinces you of the truth of God’s Word, and you agree that the gospel is true. And then you take it personally: you renounce reliance on your own efforts to achieve salvation, and place your life in the hands of Jesus, trusting that Who He is and what He did are sufficient to save you.
Romans 3:23-26 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Repentance and faith are absolutely essential for the disciple of Jesus. Have you repented? Have you placed your faith in the gospel, believing that what Jesus did in his death, burial and resurrection cleanses you from your sin and secures a relationship with the God who created you?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Let’s be encouraged to come boldly before God not only to confess our sins, but also to repent and believe.
Okay, so most of us reading this blog will be familiar with the Great Commission. We know that discipleship is an important part of God’s plan for the church and the kingdom. But how many of us have actually stopped and thought through a strategy for how we could implement an intentional process to see people who are far from God become disciple-makers themselves? Perhaps not many of us have.
And, when Jesus tells to teach them to obey every command he gave, what does that involve? How many commands are there? Are some more important or more critical for a new Christ-follower to master?
Now, I think that we need to acknowledge that obedience-based discipleship is generally not a popular topic in the Canadian Christian context. We have transformed our Christianity into something that is about us and for us and intended to give us a comfortable feeling. Being confronted about obedience or our lack of obedience certainly does not give us a comfortable feeling, so we usually reject it.
However, obedience is exactly what is required, even demanded. So, what are we to do?
I must first acknowledge that I was created by God and He can require of me whatsoever He pleases and I have absolutely no grounds for argument.
The apostle Paul speaks to this reality in Romans 9:20 when he says, ‘Who do you think you are, talking back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?’’
Second, I need to evaluate how I am doing with my own obedience. I mean, honestly assess where I am. The reality is that there is no way I can move from point A (where I am right now) to point B (a position of obedience) unless and until I know where point A actually is. Unless and until I determine where I actually am, I am lost in terms of obedience.
Third, I need to systematically begin to do a better job of obeying the commands of Christ. John Piper, in the book What Jesus Demands from the World, states that when you account for repetition within the four gospels, there are recorded about 250 commands of Christ. How do I handle these in a way that contributes to the discipleship process and leads to healthy church members and healthy churches?
And finally, I need to make sure that as I make disciples, this process of intentionally working on obedience to the Commands of Christ is implemented from the very beginning. I need to begin the process of implementing a culture-shift within my sphere of influence away from a comfortable Christianity to one that is committed to increasing obedience to everything that Jesus commanded.
I have been researching the topic of discipleship for some months now and I have come across a list of nine commands of Christ that can form the foundation upon which a movement can be built. These nine commands will be the subject of a new series of blog posts. I hope you will take the time to read each post and ask God to help you to be more obedient to it.
So what are the nine foundational commands? Here is the list and the date each will be posted.
What do you think about obedience-based discipleship? Does this make you uncomfortable? Are you doing this already? I would love to know what you think. Leave a comment and let me know.
And, if you would like to be involved in a group that can help you do this kind of discipleship and don’t know where to turn, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help you find the help you want and need. We are in this together.