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.