Susie just gave her life to Christ, but she’s living with her boyfriend.
John just prayed the prayer, but he’s addicted to drugs.
Cris made a profession of faith, but is also transgender.
They all want to be baptized, but Deacon Dan feels strongly they should not be allowed to because they are “still living in sin.”
What to do?
As a church that reaches a lot of people in many of these circumstances, this was a question we had to wrestle with years ago.
We wanted to be sure that the person who was asking to be baptized was “really repentant.” The only question is, how do you measure that?
In the early days we would push back on people that we felt “weren’t ready” to be baptized. We wanted to make sure their salvation was the real deal; that it would stick.
Obviously, if they’re living in sin, they shouldn’t get baptized, right???
As we grappled with this issue we came to the following conclusions:
1. EVERYONE WE’VE EVER BAPTIZED IS STILL STRUGGLING WITH SIN.
The truth of the matter is that only sinners can get baptized.
The problem was that we were focusing on see-able sins. What about all the liars, gluttons, thieves, pornographers, and adulterers (remember, Jesus said lust qualifies)?
The truth is no one goes into the water worthy. We all go in filthy.
If we only baptized the qualified, then the baptistery would be petrified.
2. THERE WERE NO PROBATIONARY PERIODS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
In the New Testament, every time someone believed they were immediately baptized. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:41, 8:12, 16:15, 18:8)
When Philip led the Ethiopian to Christ, the Bible says, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NIV)
Answer: Only legalism.
When we insert wait and see, we’re saying the verdict’s up to me.
3. IT’S NOT MY JOB TO VALIDATE SOMEONE’S SALVATION.
One of the core fears that is driving a reluctance to baptize someone quickly is the idea, “What if they’re not really saved?”
However, if we are truthful, we can’t even tell which of our members are saved! Heck, I don’t even really know if my spouse is saved. Hopefully she won’t read this. ;^)
Salvation is a divine work of God’s grace enabled through our faith. I haven’t found the earthly test instruments that can measure heavenly providence.
Here’s the good news. It’s not even my job to decide who’s saved and who’s not.
My job as a pastor is to assist people to take steps of obedience towards Jesus.
I’m not the keeper of the Lamb’s Book of Life and I can’t see into the soul.
I baptize people based on their profession not my discretion.
I’m responsible for sharing and showing. God’s responsible for saving and growing.
4 BAPTISM IS THE FIRST STEP OF OBEDIENCE FOR ANYONE WHO BELIEVES.
Sometimes we confuse first steps with the full package.
Of course, there are many scriptures admonishing us to correct, confront, counsel, and condemn sin in the life of a believer, but we don’t expect people to act like a Christian until they become one.
Baptism is step ONE in a billion step journey of growth. No one starts the journey fully grown, we all start at the same point: screwed up but lookin’ up!
Denying someone baptism as their first step is basically saying, “Earn it.” Hopefully we all know enough of our Bible to reject that kind of theology. You can’t earn it, you can only receive it. It’s an act of grace.
Why on earth would I want to communicate a message to a newborn believer that Christianity is about works, not grace?
This is exactly what Paul was trying to communicate to the Christians in Ephesus:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV)
Grace plus works = religion.
Grace plus obedience = Christianity.
We baptize people who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and want to follow Him in believer’s baptism.
Question: What if you baptize someone who isn’t really a believer?
Answer: What makes you think everyone you have baptized was really a believer?
The choice is to be a policeman or a pastor.
I choose pastor.
What are your thoughts?