Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baptizing (Core Practice #3)

Intro Note: I have already written about our Plan on a Page, which lays out the four core practices that we consider the marks of discipleship according to the New Testament. In that document, we try to capture the "irreducible minimum standards" of our mission. 

Basically, I contend that there are many things you could not do and still be a Christian, or follower of Jesus. For example, you could not "go to church" or participate in a youth group or listen to Christian radio stations or become a missionary in a foreign land or tithe or...okay, you get it...and yet still be an authentic, sincere, passionate follower of Jesus. These examples may all be good things, but they are not the marks of true discipleship that Jesus gives us in the Bible. They are not the "make-or-break", non-negotiables of the Christian faith used to identify people as real believers.

Then, what are the non-negotiables?

The third one is BAPTIZING.

Let me start this one with what we teach children. We are baptized as a way of showing we understand that Jesus died and rose back to life to wash away our sins and give us power to live a new way of following Him. I respect that this is a topic about which parents can have strong feelings.

Baptism is one of the topics that has challenged me as I read through the New Testament objectively. It is possible to defend just about any position concerning baptism, depending on which verse people quote and what context they use it in. I am not going to dive into that debate here. Simply, we define this practice as uniting with Jesus in a new life.

Regardless of what you believe about baptism, there is no way to dismiss the significance of this act in the New Testament. The early church's immediate and automatic response to the gospel was baptism

Anyone who encountered Jesus could be baptized and baptize others.

I want to be clear that I am not saying that going into water is what "saves" a person, but I also can't dismiss the obvious importance of baptism as evidenced by the repeated emphasis on it throughout the New Testament. I just have to re-state it again: The early church's immediate and automatic response to the gospel was baptism. It was the Bible's equivalent to what the "sinner's prayer" or "altar call" has become in our part of the world over the past two centuries.

The guiding question for a disciple or church could be, Are we bringing people to salvation in Christ?

My wife baptizing me

(You can read my baptism story here.)

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