Today marks 25 years of my commitment and obedience to following Christ. 25 years ago I stepped into the waters of baptism in obedience to Christ's command, renounced my sins, and publicly announced my faith and dedicate my commitment to following Jesus. It was an emotional heart-wrenching moment, renouncing my old ways and life. In those days, I was the first believer in Jesus in my family. And my parents were not approving of it. But I was glad I obeyed Jesus' commands and never looked back since.
As much I would like to think it was 25 years, actually it goes to at least 6 months before that. Not that the number of years matter or that it was longer. But I will always remembered that fateful night on 8 Dec 1994, the last night of the camp organised for Christians by Cru, and how I encountered Jesus as I acknowledged and confessed my sins, repented from them and turned to Him. How I wished on hindsight, beyond just saying the sinners' prayer after 45 minutes of crying and sobbing my eyes out, and more crying and repenting, that someone would have taught me water baptism and to obey Christ in that simple command to then baptised me in water! Come to think of it, It probably would not happen, because it was a "para-church" and para-churches do not water baptise believers.
All these extra-biblical terms that man have created, like "para-church" refers to ministries that are not classified as church because it has less similitudes of church than Sunday church. The question is how is the Sunday church "more church" than what the Bible describes as "church"). And how is being the church, the body of Christ has to do with that? If that is the case, then if I got saved from my sins and encountered Jesus at a "para-church", does that make me less a true follower of Jesus??
On hindsight, I also kind of feel a bit "cheated" by the whole "church system" telling me when I could be baptised and when I could not be. I was not taught about water baptism, till about 6 months later even though there were many opportunities as I had then faithfully started attending a church and going to a cell group. 6 months in the church, I was told by the cell leader that there were classes organised by the church administration and they have compiled enough numbers to start a class and I was able to attend a class to learn about water baptism. I always wondered why something so straightforward had to be carried out over so many hours and classes anyway ( some denominations hold the class for 10 sessions of 1 to 2 hours; some will issue a "confirmation" after you finish the classes). Not that teaching is bad, but can we school, or teach someone information about God and get the person into the kingdom of God through the accumulation of head knowledge? Jesus had said "how can a man see the Kingdom unless he be born again?" (John 3:3). We can teach all we want, but unless a man be born again, of water and Spirit, He cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5).
3 Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb again and be born?
5 Jesus answered, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a man is born of water and [even] the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.
6 What is born of [from] the flesh is flesh [of the physical is physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not [do not be surprised, astonished] at My telling you, You must all be born anew (from above).
8 The wind blows (breathes) where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
John 3:3-8 (AMPC)
Yes we must do our part to preach, to share, to tell and to disciple. That we must do. But it is really the job of the Spirit of God who determines who and how and where and when someone is born again! No 10 classes is going to cut it if that is the job of the Spirit of God. No amount of confirmation by men is going to cut it. The wind blows where it wills. No one knows where it comes from or where it is going. So no one can birth a man into the kingdom of God unless it is by the Spirit of God.
Baptising Someone You Discipled into the Kingdom
Today, after knowing and reading the Bible, teaching and preaching the words of Jesus, and His kingdom, I do everything so differently - more biblical I would dare say. If someone has a touch from God and have heard the message or are repenting from their old sinful ways, and would like to follow Christ into His death and also resurrection, I would explain water baptism in 5 minutes and ask them if they would like to be water baptised. The choice should never be ours as the baptiser/church/leadership to make. The choice should lie with the one who desires to follow Jesus! And honestly, how long does it really take to explain Matt 28:18-20, Rom 6, and Matt 3, some verses in Acts 2, especially if a person is already confessing his sins and repenting in godly sorrow in front of you?
Sins might be washed and cleansed when we confess them but no one is "perfect" when they come out of the waters of baptism. It is only the start of a journey not an end point. If it is the end point, no one on this earth will ever be ready to be water baptised. It is an invitation to die to self, sin and the sinful nature and to walk in the newness of life, overcoming sin and becoming crucified in your old sinful nature with Christ.
What's With the Baptiser?
Now the baptiser issue. Why does baptiser have to be an ordained leader in a position within the church systems? Did Jesus give that as the criteria? How many of you have been baptised by a pastor who has fallen into sin? How many of you have been baptised by a preacher who was caught in an affair? How many of you even know much about the life of the one who baptised you? Or is the baptiser mutually accountable to you for his life? Just because someone wears a robe or a collar, does that mean he is more qualified to baptise? Well if that's the case, it might be closer to the bible if we all wore camel's hair and leather girdle and not forgetting you need to eat locusts and wild honey, like John the Baptist to do so. Is the baptiser in water important?
We make much about the baptiser when the baptiser is only a sinful human being who is in need of as much cleansing as you do, and who knows maybe more. When Jesus said, "Go, make disciples, and baptise.", it is clear that if you make a disciple of Jesus out of someone, then you have a right to baptise them.
About Water Baptism
Water baptism is a command of Christ to anyone who wants to follow Him and who repents from sins. It is not a feel-good ritual or a feel-holy sacrament. It is a command clearly given by Jesus Christ when He gave a mission to His disciples. As recorded in Matt 28:19-20, this is one of the tasks we are to do when we make disciples of Christ.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
- Matt 28:18-20 (NLT)
In the book of Acts of the Apostles, you see them obeying this command Christ gave them and they started baptising those who follow the Way of Christ, and those who believe on the name of Jesus, His message of the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and His death and resurrection as the way to salvation and eternal life. They were being baptised into the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and had taken on a new life, and a new spiritual DNA/seed and nature. The old is passed away, and the new had come for these ones. (2Cor 5:17)
Why Can't I Be Baptised?
In many instances recorded in the book of Acts of converts and new followers, many were baptised in water on the same day and some almost that very hour and believing seems to be in conjunction with baptism in water:
1) 3000 who believed when Peter preached (Acts 2:41) "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them"
2) Ethiopian eunuch being baptised in water in the desert (Acts 8:36 "Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”)
3) Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9) - his baptism happened 3 days later after his encounter with the Lord, because God needed to heal his blindness. Immediately after scales fell off his eyes, he was baptised in water. In Acts 22:16 - Paul recounting his encounter with Christ and his water baptism: "And now, why do you delay? Rise and be baptized, and by calling upon His name, wash away your sins."
4) Cornelius, a Roman officer and his household whom Peter preached to and who were baptised in the Holy Spirit as he preached (Acts 10:47 “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?)
5) Lydia and her household (Acts 16)
6) Jailer at Philippi and his household. (Acts 16:31-33 "They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.)
7) Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, with all his household, and many of the Corinthians (Acts 18:8)
In fact in several instances, it was not just the person who believed and repented, but he or she together with the whole household (which is unlike a nucleus household in our day and age but in those days households included servants and maidservants and many of their relatives living together under one roof, as a community).
Even in the middle of the desert, water baptism can happen! Philip met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch, (Acts 8) and baptised him in water in the desert. In Acts 8:36, the Ethiopian eunuch asked "Look there is water! Why can't I be baptised?". The eunuch commanded the carriage to stop and they came down from it. And Philip baptised him that moment!
You don't have to wait for the baptism pool to be open. You don't have to wait for the only pastor in the church to be available. The question of someone truly born again should be like that of the Ethiopian eunuch: "Why can't I be baptised?" or "What hinders me from being baptized?”
When was it the last time you discipled someone and walked a person through life with the help of the Holy Spirit and empowered that person to go disciple another for Jesus? Have you ever baptised anyone you discipled?
You don't need permission from anyone else to do it.
If you are a disciple of Christ, YES you can baptise. Jesus has already given you the permission to. In fact He has commanded you and I to do so. We can baptise and be baptised wherever there is water and repentant hearts! Even at an oasis in the middle of desert.
Over 70% of the earth's surface is water, we have no excuse to say we cannot find water to immerse someone in. Help someone take that first step to cutting ties with his or her sinful past and to live a new life in Christ! In fact running water flows into many of our bath tubs, and we even have swimming pools in our homes or estate.
This command to be baptised and to baptise another disciple-wanna-be in water, is not a hard one to follow.
If that person is repentant and confesses his/her sins, and genuinely wants to follow Jesus, then that person is qualified to be baptised!
What does it mean to repent? It simply means change of mind turning away from sin and turning towards God.
“John came baptising in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem went out to him were all baptised by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:4-5)
Don't let fear of men rule you. Instead fear God and keep His commandments!
Don't Let FEAR Rule You too, Pastors and Leaders!
The biggest question on a pastor's and leader's mind is "WHAT IF?"
"WHAT IF they form a cult, or the new believers follow the wrong leader?" (Who knows if you are the right one in the first place others should follow? Only God knows the end of a matter.)
"WHAT IF they don't know how to baptise and do it wrong?"
WHAT IF they start a new church? (HOORAY! you have more church planters for the kingdom!)
What if...what if..what if... There is no end to WHAT IFs! Don't go down that slippery slope.
WHAT IF = FEAR. Don't let fear rule you either way - whether to let someone or to be baptised. Fear is never a part of God's equation. Most leaders in their positions lead and rule out of fear. This is not to be so of God's kingdom and His church.
Fear of losing members, fear of losing control of members, fear of giving others control, fear of "wrong teachings", fear of heresies (i.e. this is the BIGGEST fear amongst church leaders, pastors) , fear of members losing their way, fear of failure etc. If you start on the premise of fear, there is no end. And you have fallen straight into the devil's game.He knows how to use fear to control.
In fact, the very premise of the church systems we see today amongst churches and denominations is a "what-if-fear-based" system. Jesus never came to create a system of hierarchy for the fear of failing. He has not given us a spirit of fear! He has empowered us by His Holy Spirit! He has given us faith to trust in Him.
The systems of fear are falling. Only those who fear God and keep His commands will stand at the end of the day. That is man's ALL.
So fear not, and fear God. Let God do what you cannot do - He is the Guardian of our lives, of His church and the Great Shepherd of His sheep. He bled and died for HIS church. The church is not yours to guard in fear of it becoming wrong. There are probably 101 things wrong about the church you are a part of anyway, and we cannot be more right.
The church of Jesus Christ is HIS. He is building His church, not you. He knows how to protect His Bride. False teachers and prophets and apostles will go out from the church in the last days. They are part of God's plan from the beginning and there is no point FEARING it will happen. It WILL happen and is happening.
Let God do His job and us to obey the things He has commanded us to do. Don't take God's place and do His job. You are NOT GOD.
Instead of trying to attain to any title or position you can have in a FEAR-BASED MAN-MADE SYSTEM so you can start baptising another, how about simply be a disciple by obeying Christ, and make disciples who obey Christ. There is no need to be hung up over titles and clamour for positions amongst mere men. We are all sinners. No one is more qualified than the other if we are all living as Christ's disciples.
What matters the most is when our obedience and submission is first to our King Jesus and His kingdom purposes. FEAR GOD and keep His commandments, for that is your all.
The wisest human king who once lived says:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil."
Ecc 12:13-14 (NKJV)
If you are a disciple of Christ, yes you can baptise. Jesus has already given you the permission to. In fact he has commanded you and I to do so. "