Now that we have been saved by God’s grace what happens?
Baptism in the early church
In the book of Acts we have many stories of many different people coming to faith in Christ. The pattern is always the same. Faith is always immediately followed by baptism. The longest delay from regeneration to baptism is Saul. He waited three days, and the first Christian to come to him baptized him.
The chain of salvation
Salvation in Scripture is a distinct chain of events. First, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin through the preaching of the Word of God. Then the Holy Spirit regenerates the person causing them to believe in Jesus. This belief is followed by publically indentifying with Jesus by publically confessing sin, confessing belief in Christ, and indentifying with Jesus in baptism.
A huge problem
Within the professing church today we do not follow the New Testament pattern. We have either ignored it by baptizing unbelievers, or we have ignored it by elongating the process. What took place in a few moments in Acts, now takes months. This is largely due to the fact that we have not preached the Gospel in such a manner that men understand the radical change of life that comes about through believing in Jesus, and we have not taught them properly concerning baptism. We have added a “public profession of faith” which in the New Testament was a part of your baptism, not separate from it.
In our church we require people to be baptized before joining the church or partaking of the Lord’s Supper. This is never mentioned in Scripture. The problem is not with our church’s stance. The problem is with our understanding of salvation as it relates to baptism. In the New Testament there simply was no such thing as an unbaptized believer in Jesus. The Apostles never addressed the issue of unbaptized believers partaking of the Lord’s Supper simply because there was no such thing as an unbaptized believer. The only two people who were not immediately baptized upon their faith in Jesus were the thief on the cross who could not be baptized, and Saul who was waiting for someone to come baptize him. In Acts, faith in Christ was immediately followed by baptism which stands in stark contrast to the way we do things today.
What is baptism?
Salvation is not what brings about our salvation, but it is the first visible sign that we have been born again. Baptism is a public confession of sin and faith that Jesus has died on the cross for that sin. It is a total immersion in water upon someone’s profession of faith in Jesus Christ. It is a public identification with Christ and His death and resurrection. It is a public acknowledgement that because of Jesus’ death our old man is gone and because of Jesus’ resurrection we are now forgiven and new creatures. It is openly confessing Him before men. Baptism is the first cry of a new born babe in Christ. If a baby does not cry as soon as they are born, we know that something must be wrong. If someone refuses to be baptized we must seriously question whether they have truly been taught the Gospel or whether they are truly born again. Many times it is a lack of teaching, not lack of faith. In the New Testament, there was no such thing as an unbaptized believer in Jesus accept for the short delay necessary to get into the water. Remember that Jesus said that those who deny Him before men would be denied before the Father. Baptism was also normally administered not by the Apostles but by the one who led the person to the Lord.
Acceptance into the body of Christ
All believers in Jesus become part of the body of Christ. It is baptism though that publically affirms that you are a believer in Jesus. There is only one true baptism, so we accept all baptisms that are in line with Scripture no matter what church or denomination someone comes from.
Are you a new creature in Christ? Why are you waiting? Be baptized! Also, we must change (repent) our approach and teachings as a church body to follow the pattern laid out for us in Scriptures.