Baptism: Why are we so confused?

There is no doubt that Jesus commanded His disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) to be baptized. So why are professing Christians, in increasing numbers, refusing baptism? I suspect it is because confusion dominates the issue: Confusion over the mode of baptism (sprinkling, pouring, immersion).

Confusion over the subjects of baptism (infants, believers). Confusion over the significance of baptism (means of salvation, picture of salvation).

The problem with confusion is that it paralyzes us. We are frozen in our tracks until all of our questions are answered, and all of the mist has cleared. We try the case for baptism in the court of our own conscience, and then allow the jury to stay out. . . indefinitely.

But this confusion should never exist for long in disciples of Jesus, for two reasons. First, because baptism is not an issue of conscience. It is not a grey area or option. It is not a judgment call or an indifferent thing (Romans 14). It is fundamentally a command, a requirement, which has never been rescinded. The disciple asks, “Look! Water! What stops me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Indeed, what?

The second reason confusion should not reign on the subject of baptism is that it is not merely a personal decision. The command Jesus gives is not first to the individual disciple, but to those doing the discipling, that is the Church. There are no independent disciples. Period. Baptism is the initiatory rite into a New Covenant spiritual community, Christ’s Body, God’s family embodied in specific local churches.

This means that once the disciple is converted, he/she should be part of one of these churches, adopting the teachings and practices of that church, including its teachings and practices on baptism.

Churches are not stops in a spiritual smorgasbord, a virtual buffet of doctrines, teachers, and preferences. A church is, or should be, a closely knit family of families, where trust, nurture, and accountability are the catalysts for growth.

When professing disciples are unwilling to accept the basic teaching of his/her church on this fundamental doctrine, it does not bode well for the unity and maturity of the local Body (Ephesians 4). For example, when adults refuse baptism, what can we expect from their children?

Jesus’ word settles the “if” question on baptism. The local church’s specific guidance should settle the how, when, and who questions. Following Jesus is not just between you and Him. It is a Family matter.

“And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized. . .”
Acts 22:16.

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