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The right time?

One of the things that has been so sorely lacking in our ministry since the covid setback is people getting baptized. I shared this concern with the elders at a recent meeting and we decided to have me teach a class on baptism starting in July. Baptism is one of two ordinances that we practice as a church. It was part of Jesus’s instruction before He left this world when He spoke in Matthew’s gospel these words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age”, (Matt. 28:18-20 NIV). Jesus very much accentuates baptism as part of the discipleship process and so it should be something that is highlighted and encouraged in the life of the local church. Baptism doesn’t save a person, but it is a testimony that they have been born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the amazing examples of baptism is seen in the conversion of Cornelius’s family and friends in Acts 10. This is really the first time when a mass of Gentiles gets saved through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember in this passage not only did the Jewish brethren hear the Gentiles speaking in tongues, but they also heard them declaring the excellence and majesty of the living God of the universe. We read, “For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them a few more days,” (Acts 10:46-48 NIV). One of the first things that Peter declared here is that the new converts to Jesus Christ should be baptized. It’s important to note that they didn’t have to go through a membership class or receive instruction on what baptism meant. Baptism is a public declaration of our conversion and should occur, for believing adults or children, as soon as possible after our salvation. God had clearly accepted the Gentiles into His family of faith and their baptism would be evidence of their new experience and testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ. How good it is for us that the grace of God gives us the ordinance of baptism to declare what God has done for us and in us.

It’s very important to note that the Gentile believers were baptized, not circumcised. If circumcision had been required, then Christianity would simply have become a sect of Judaism with another ritual added for Gentiles. I imagine that Peter was very astonished afterward when he reflected on all the things that had taken place. I’ll repeat again what I stated earlier that water baptism does not make us saved, it demonstrates the fact that we have placed our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the basis of our salvation. It’s interesting that Peter stayed in Caesarea for a discipleship ministry after the believers were baptized. Baptism definitely is a part of discipleship, but discipleship does not end with baptism. Not only did Peter oversee the baptismal service, but he then proceeded to teach them the Word of God, as he had been instructed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember Jesus’s direction to Peter to feed His sheep in the Gospel of John (John 21:15-19). In staying with the Gentile believers in Caesarea. Peter was confronting all his former prejudices when he stayed in the home of a Gentile, and he ate with them and learned that those who receive Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit still need further ministry in the Word. Jesus had modeled this very same thing in John 4 after leading the Samaritans into a personal relationship with Himself, then staying for several days to minister and disciple them. One of the sure proofs that we are moving forward in our spiritual lives is when we have a deep desire to understand the things of God and a larger acquaintance with the love and work of our Savior. All are demonstrated by the step of obedience in being baptized.

I don’t know how God takes the simple words of people to transform another person’s heart and life through the Holy Spirit into a child of God, but I’m thankful that He does. I’m also aware that when we are used as an instrument in God’s hands, He also changes our hearts and gives us an enlarged vision of who He is and what He can do. You would think that everyone in the early church would be rejoicing over the fact that the gospel has started to make inroads into the Gentile world and that Cornelius and his family bore witness of their new faith experience by being baptized. Unfortunately for Peter that was not the case, as he was greatly challenged by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem in Acts 11 for going into the home of uncircumcised men and eating with them. But all that did was give Peter an opportunity to tell how God had led him to go into the home of Cornelius and see the amazing work that God was beginning to do. Aren’t you glad for Peter’s obedience to God’s call on his life? Let’s make sure that we are obeying the voice of our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the coming week.

In the King’s service,

Pastor Rich Sivo

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