This weekend, I met with one of several fellowships in our county that’s primarily comprised of men who surrendered to Jesus while in jail.
They are now out, and meeting weekly in different gatherings as they encourage, support and move forward together in the Lord.
Because they came to the Lord in jail, many of these men did not have an opportunity to be water baptized quickly after conversion. Some ended up serving the Lord – and the State of Virginia! – in jail for several years after becoming believers, and were only recently released.
As a result, they now want – and need – to be water baptized.
Laying a Foundation
Normally, I advocate quickly becoming water baptized upon accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior – and I think that’s the Biblical ideal. But sometimes circumstances don’t allow this.
So some of these men – at their initiative – asked if they can use our pool to organize a mass baptism next month for those who have been recently released from jail. Of course, Marianne and I said yes.
In the meantime, I’m taking the time to meet with these different fellowships to study scripture together and discuss why water baptism is so important. I want to make sure this foundation is firmly laid in their lives, and their fellowships.
I also want to emphasize to them that water baptizing someone is not reserved to “clergy” – but that anyone can, and should, quickly offer to baptize those they lead to the Lord.
After all, the Great Commission – and the command to make disciples, baptize and teach obedience to all that Christ taught- is not just given to some special class of “professional” Christians!
I think generally there is a benign neglect these days on the importance of water baptism. It’s been turned into lots of things that no longer comport with scripture – like viewing it as initiation into “church membership”, or a purely symbolic and thus optional act, and the like.
In the New Testament, however, we see an urgency over new believers quickly becoming water baptized. For them, this was how we literally – and not just symbolically – leave behind our old nature that died on the cross upon initial repentance and faith in Jesus.
Scripture teaches that water baptism is how we bury that old corrupted nature and rise up into new life – so the same resurrection power that raised Christ from the grave, victorious over the grip of sin and death, then becomes real in our life.
Through water baptism, then, we too bury the old self and rise up in newness of life – through that same resurrection power.
As Paul states:
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)
Deny that dynamic, and we deny the power of the resurrection life that’s ours through water baptism.
In fact, as we have affirmed the significance of water baptism as an essential foundation for new believers, we have seen it become a significant turning point – as it should be – in the lives of many.
Salvation and Maturity
At the cross, when we repent and believe in Jesus, we are forgiven and our old nature dies. But in water baptism, we leave that stinking, rotting corpse behind and, like Christ, emerge into the power of new life.
Why, I often ask believers who have gone years without being water baptized, do you want to keep dragging that old corpse – your old corrupted nature – around and let it continue to stink up your lives?
Water baptism is not necessary for salvation, but I have found that it’s essential for growth and maturity as we become the men and women God created us to be.
Now that the weather is warm and the pool is available, this is a focus for some of the fellowships I relate to. Together, we are taking the time to make sure this foundation is laid in the lives of those we helped come to the Lord – either directly or through others who we’ve impacted.
In a few weeks, several fellowships will be joining together for a time of celebration, with a cook out and mass water baptism.
My hope, however, is that God adds to our fellowships someone with a deep hot tub, spa or other place where anyone can immediately baptize someone they’ve led to the Lord – or an existing believer quickly upon their release from jail – year round.
This is my passion – seeing lives redeemed as the Kingdom of God advances.