Here is some water! Can you baptize me?
Ever been asked this question before? There are some big questions around the issue of baptism.
- Who can baptize others?
- How do you know if someone is ready to be baptized?
- Can someone be considered a “believer” or “disciple” if they don’t desire (or are not willing to take) this the step of obedience?
Who Can Baptize?
We’ll start with the “Who can baptize?” question. Let’s consider some scripture as we begin.
35 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [[i]And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the [j]chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”(Acts 8:35-38 NASB)
In this passage, Philip baptized the eunuch immediately after he shared the gospel with him. Was Philip an apostle? No. He was an ordinary believer who shared good news and then took the next natural step. He didn’t wait for Peter, John, or James. The eunuch was ready and he knew his authority as a priest of God. He didn’t hesitate to baptize this government official.
Baptism In Remote Areas
I heard a story once of some new believers in the high mountains of Nepal. They lived above the tree line. In order to reach their village it took at least six days of walking on narrow mountain paths. They had believed, but as they considered baptism, they faced a difficulty. There was a shortage of water in the village. It had to be carried by yaks from the river far below. There was also a shortage of “qualified” people who could do the baptism (according to the traditions of churches in their country). The pastors back in Kathmandu didn’t have time to trek many days up a mountain to baptize these people!
What were they to do? Some of the national church planters who had taken the gospel there originally were from a Baptist church background. “They need to be immersed!” they thought. There was also the problem of how cold the rivers in those mountains were, even if the trek down the mountain was made. Some of those who had believed were quite old.
Tradition Versus Obedience
Traditions are not bad things in our lives. I love certain traditions, especially at Christmas time. Before we open gifts, we always read the Bible story and our kids always take turn handing out the gifts while wearing a Santa hat. Traditions make things feel special, “normal” and somehow “right.” I love the old movie, Fiddler on the Roof, and Tevye’s song “Tradition!”
I’m not against the developing of and honoring of church traditions, be they ancient or modern. What I don’t like is when they prevent disciples from being obedient to Jesus’ commands.
Basically this issue comes down to what you chose to value most in your discipleship process. Will you choose to value church traditions most? Or will you value the example of scripture like where Philip (not one of the 12 apostles but a lay person) baptized someone immediately? Will you place a high value on serving the new disciple as they take steps of obedience? Will you think more about what consequences not following a church tradition may have to your own reputation? Or the goal of seeing a movement begin?
Fear Of Man Is Bondage
Fear can really keep us in bondage. The fear of man and the fear of God don’t mix well. We need to place an extremely high value on obeying Jesus’ command found in Matthew 28:18-20. He told us there to make disciples and baptize them. This scripture applies to all believers.
“We all are to go. Everyone can make disciples. All can baptize.”
Wouldn’t Jesus have made it clear in that Great Commission if the part about baptizing was only for specially trained people?
Let’s not make it difficult for new disciples to take this step by limiting who can baptize them. Don’t make it difficult for disciples to become disciple makers and to obey the Great Commission. Fear of the traditional church around us is in direct contrast with faith in God’s ability to fulfill His promises.
The Reward Is Worth The Cost
You may face some opposition from people who don’t understand. They might even call you a heretic if you begin to practice Jesus style, Book of Acts style, evangelism and disciple making. Don’t be surprised if this happens. It is a price we must be willing to pay. The rewards are great though! You also will see a whole lot of people welcomed into the Kingdom and their lives transformed.
I know how precious and valuable this is to me. How about you?
Get busy baptizing people this week! Release others to baptize too!