During the services that we held on December 14th and 17th, Pastor Andrew mentioned that there is a lot of debate on when baptism should be done in the life of the believer, but the testimony of the New Testament is that believers were baptized as soon as they came to belief. Let’s look at a few passages in Acts.
“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.” (Acts 2:41)
“But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” (Acts 8:12)
“At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:18-19)
This one is particularly interesting. Paul was suffering temporary blindness from seeing the light of Christ’s glory on the road to Damascus. He was praying and fasting about all that God had revealed to him. When God sent Ananias to restore his sight, Paul was baptized BEFORE eating again. Having come to a knowledge of the truth (and with someone to baptize him) Paul thought baptism more important than eating or the strength that comes from eating.
An Example for All of Us
Perhaps the most applicable to Mercy Hill is the story of the Philippian jailer. He was guarding Paul and Silas in prison when God shook the foundations of the jail and essentially broke them out. The jailer was not a believer, but upon seeing the very power of God, understood he was a sinner who needed saving.
“The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. He escorted them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.” (Acts 16:29-34).
Paul and Silas preached the gospel to the jailer and his whole household (who all believed their message) and were baptized “right away.”
Debates rage from whether believers must actually give some evidence of having the Holy Spirit before they are baptized, to whether people should just be baptized anytime they desire. But we see here a pattern that is common in the New Testament: 1) They are convicted of their sin, 2) they believe the gospel preached to them, and 3) they are baptized as soon as possible.
Baptism was a symbol used in the Jewish religion for repentance. It represents the washing off of an old sinful life and arising again to live in a brand new, God-ward direction. For the Christian, baptism symbolizes one’s being united with Christ in his death to this world and the power of sin, and also being united with him in his resurrection to live a transformed life in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why, at Mercy Hill, we say that baptism is the first step of obedience, because baptism corresponds to one’s initial repentance. It’s the first step that Jesus asks you to take in service to him. Biblically speaking, it wouldn’t be wrong for someone to ask you whether you’ve ever really repented of your old life if you have not been baptized, since baptism and repentance went hand-in-hand for New Testament Christians.
There is no biblical waiting requirement for when to get baptized, but only a belief requirement. If you have believed the gospel that Pastor Andrew or any of our pastors have preached, and you are convicted of your sin and want to now live your life in complete service to Jesus, baptism is for you. Don’t delay. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
We are baptizing again at all off our services and campuses next Thursday and Sunday (Feb 8th and 11th) Sign up to talk to someone about possibly getting baptized at mercyhillgso.com/baptism
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups Team)