On the day of Pentecost under the conviction of the Holy Spirit three thousand people were convicted of their sins, repented and were baptized after hearing the Apostles preach Christ in the streets of Jerusalem. What fascinates me, and a great deal does, in these verses is the speed by which these people were baptized. “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:41.
The very day of their conviction that they were sinners who needed salvation, they were also baptized. Luke, the writer of Acts, never tells us where, how or who baptized this great crowd, but they were baptized. What further intrigues me is that there are times in Acts that Luke speaks of baptism and in all nine times the people are baptized the same day. Pentecost was not an aberration, but the norm, at least for the thirty-three years covered by the book of Acts, on when people were baptized.
There is an interesting aside to the stories of the Ethiopian who was baptized by Philip, the Philippian jailor and Cornelius family. Not only were they baptized on the day that they believed, but they were witnesses to miracles. As soon as the Ethiopian was baptized God whisked Philip away, “And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus.” Acts 8:39-40a
Peter had gone to Cornelius house under God’s directions and when arriving there he began to preach about Jesus death and resurrection. “While Peter was saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God,” Acts 10:44-45. Luke then records what happened next, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ,” Acts 10:48.
Even the baptism of Lydia was not without incident. She accepted Jesus while listening to Paul preach and was baptized, but into the story is inserted the incident with the slave girl that had a spirit of divination. “And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” Acts 16:18
Her owners were angry and had Paul and Silas thrown into prison where another miracle took place. “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s chains were unfastened,” Acts 16:25-26.
From this event, the jailor came to become a believer and was baptized. “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family,” Acts 16:32-33.
There are amazing things happening in the book of Acts and the question is why are they not happening today? First of all these people all heard the word of God and allowed the Holy Spirit to fall upon them with power and the result was they were convicted of sin and their need of Jesus. The Apostles then baptized the people and all kinds of things happened.
In the case of Cornelius, he and his household began to speak in tongues as they were listening to Peter and that was the sign that he was to baptize them. For the Philippian jailor, he heard the word of God and was moved to bind up Paul and Silas wounds and that was the sign his heart had changed. Paul and Silas then baptize him and his entire family.
The second thing of interest is that miracles, healings and casting out of demons all revolve around these baptisms. What is going on here? What is God saying to us by equating so many of these baptisms with supernatural events? Even in the baptism of the three thousand at Pentecost Luke records, “And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles?” Acts 2:43
Was this a phenomena that died out after the first thirty some years of the Christian church forming? Has the fact that we now make people wait long periods of time and study doctrine before baptizing them have an impact on the Spirit’s work? I guess what I struggle with the most is why are we so suspicious of people’s confessions of faith in Jesus?
I remember baptizing a woman who showed up at our church one morning seeking baptism. We happen to be conducting baptisms that morning so, based on her sincerity and desire, I baptized her. By the way, she is the only person I have ever baptized that asked me what I believe before she would allow me to baptize her. I never saw the lady again, but I felt very strongly the working of the Holy Spirit when I baptized her.
Let me know what you think about what is the appropriate time to baptize someone who had been moved by the Spirit and seeks baptism. And why is that when we baptize people we baptize them into the church? Could people not be baptized into Christ and belong to the church universal and then join the church of their choice as they grow spiritually?
I’m looking forward to your thoughts as I attempt to work this out in my own thinking.
* Please remember to pray for the Christians that are suffering under persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/