A question that I receive quite often here at The Beggar Danced regards the relationship between baptism and church membership. When a person is baptized is he/she baptized into the local church, the church universal or into Christ?
Related to these questions are questions that revolve around the requirements for baptism and who is able to baptize. I have personal thoughts on all these questions but how soundly Biblical they are I am not quite sure. I would love to hear from you, the readers of this post, on your views and understanding of these questions.
One day, many years ago, I was preparing to conduct a baptism at the church I pastored when a woman approached me that I had never met before. She approached me with absolute confidence and asked, “Will you baptize me?”
As a pastor many things sped through my head. Did she know what she was doing? Did she understand what it means to be baptized? Did she expect to be baptized that very day? Did she want to join the church? Did she know anything about the Bible or our church? But in spite of all these questions swirling through my mind I found myself saying, “Of course.”
Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and a peace came over me that something special was happening and I was privileged to be part of it. I quickly gathered together a couple of elders and we endeavored to find out who she was and how she found her way to our church.
She gave us her name and then her story. She had been under conviction for a number of days about giving her life to Jesus. She had had no real background in Christianity but somehow the Spirit was touching her heart with immense power and conviction. She had a Bible around the house and began to read and found that she could hardly put it down. And when she came to the place where John was baptizing in the Jordan she knew that she needed to be cleansed of her sins and the power of the Holy Spirit in her life.
The next morning, after reading about baptism, she awoke with such conviction that she couldn’t wait any longer – she must be baptized that very day. She packed a small bag with a change of clothes, called a taxi and began to drive around the city looking for the place that God was leading her. She drove by numerous churches and when she drove by the church we were renting she told the Taxi driver to drop her off.
Coincidence? I don’t believe so. After all it is not like the baptismal tank was full every time we held a church service. God sent her to be baptized at the very day and very hour that we were holding the baptism. I looked at the elders and they looked at me and we knew that God had led this young woman to our church to be baptized.
But the story doesn’t end there. I was just about to pray with her and call a deaconess to show her where to go to change when she said, “I have some questions to ask you before you can baptize me.” She asked me three questions.
She asked, “Do you believe that Jesus is God and His only Son” Where did that come from? First of all I have never had anyone ask me to declare my faith before they allowed me to baptize them, let alone ask me a question on the Deity of Christ. I told her I do.
Next she asked me, “Do you believe that Jesus death takes away our sins and we are forgiven through His sacrifice”? I was floored. This woman told me she had been reading the Bible only for a short time and she understood the deity of Christ and the substitutionary death of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit was so overwhelming that I almost yelled out my answer, “Yes, of course, yes I believe that with all my heart.”
And lastly she asked me a similar question about our relationship with God, but unfortunately I can’t remember the exact question or how it was stated. But, I answered, yes to it as well. She said, “Good, you can baptize me,” and I remember thanking her for the privilege.
She didn’t join the church and I only saw her once again in a follow up visit to see how she was doing. But, that experience has had a major impact on me and how I look at baptism. God prepares the hearts of people through the wondrous life changing work of the Holy Spirit. I learned that day what a privilege it is to be allowed to baptize someone who God has entrusted to me. I have also learned, thinking back over the years, that baptism isn’t about joining a church or an organization, but about connecting to the God of the Universe through surrender and renewal.
When God’s love flows through us and we realize our need of redemption and to be made right with God then we should be baptized. We spiritually are saying we are dying to the old ways and becoming reborn as sons and daughters of the Kingdom. We leave our sins in those waters and rise up out the water clean and filled with the Holy Spirit, and this all takes place by the grace of God.
I somehow think we miss the picture of God’s saving grace when we make people wait twenty-eight weeks while we go through a series of Bible studies with the people to see if they are ready for baptism. If baptism is about joining a church then “maybe”, but baptism is about surrendering to Jesus love. Somehow, I think Jesus would have been sad if I had told the young lady that in twenty-eight weeks after she completed all the Bible studies I had for her, then she could be baptized.
* The persecution of Christians continues – they need our support and prayers. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians