Great Questions of Life: What is to Stop Me From Being Baptised?

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“As they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, there is water! What is to stop me from being baptized?’” [1], [2]

Baptism is truly the water that divides. It is an unfortunate fact of ecclesiastical history that the rite has engendered such conflict among the followers of the Prince of Peace. When the Bible was being translated into the English language, the king commanded that words in common use were not to be translated. Thus, ecclesiastical words were adopted in the place of words more commonly used in the English tongue.

When King James commanded the Authorised Version, one of his stipulations was “that the old ecclesiastical words were to be kept.” [3], [4] Because of this royal command we now commonly use the word “church” instead of “congregation.” Likewise, we use “baptise” rather than “immerse.” This was in reaction to the usage of such terms by the Puritans. [5] In fact, as one of the specific demands of the King, the translators had to accept the thirty-nine articles of the English church [6]; these dealt with rites and ceremonies. Thus, any aspect of the translation that appeared to point out the deviation in practise from what was written was to be rejected.

James was offended by the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible and the Bishop’s Bible, believing them in a couple of instances to be seditious; and he was offended by the growing influence of the Puritans who appeared to be influencing the populace toward a religion that depended less upon the clergy than upon the Bible itself. The practical consequence, in terms of our study this day, is that multiple lines of thought arose among the professed people of God concerning the initial rite of all who call themselves Christian.

Some worshippers are insistent that the act of baptism was necessary to secure salvation. Others imagine that baptism plays a part in salvation, though they are unwilling to make the act itself salvific. Still others imagine that it is the sign and seal of a follower of Christ—a necessary mark for disciples. Other professing Christians reject the need for baptism all together, insisting that the desire to follow Christ was sufficient to identify one as a Christian. In the face of such contradictory views, the only sure solution is to appeal to what is written in the Word of God.

The incident that serves as the backdrop for our text is worthy of review. Here is the account as provided in a newer translation. “An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: ‘Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is the desert road.) So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud.

“The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go and join that chariot.’

“When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’

“‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this:

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,

and as a lamb is silent before its shearer,

so He does not open His mouth.

In His humiliation justice was denied Him.

Who will describe His generation?

For His life is taken from the earth.

“The eunuch replied to Philip, ‘I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or another person?’ So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture.

“As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, ‘Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized?’ [And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’] Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any longer. But he went on his way rejoicing” [ACTS 8:26-39 HCSB]. [7]

At this time, those who were saved were not called Christians. It was sometime after this that believers came to be known as Christians. Luke writes, in ACTS 11:26, “In Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that this Ethiopian official was converted to Jesus Christ. Moreover, his conversion preceded his baptism.

Focus your attention on VERSE 37. Of course, for many of you attempting to do that, and perhaps for most of you, you noted that there is no VERSE 37. If the verse does appear in your translation, there is likely a marginal note indicating that the verse is not found in many manuscripts. Let me make a comment on that point. This verse, found in numerous texts and quoted by many of the ancient ecclesiastical writers, reads, “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”

There is little doubt that the verse was not included in the original text. However, what is easily neglected is that the verse reveals the general understanding of Christians living near the time of the writing of this book. Though Luke probably did not write these words, it was generally accepted that those who were to be baptised would openly profess faith in the Son of God. Moreover, they would do this themselves, and not via a proxy. In other words, it would be expected that only those who openly confessed Jesus as Master, being of mature mind, would be received as candidates for baptism. Of necessity, this excluded infants and those seeking to be baptised in order to become Christians.

This is the pattern observed throughout the Book of Acts. For instance, on the Day of Pentecost, “Those who received [Peter’s] word were baptised” [ACTS 2:41]. Those who did not receive that word, whether incapable of receiving the word because of immaturity or whether refusing to receive the word, would not be admitted for baptism. Only those receiving the word were to be baptised.

Earlier, in the chapter wherein is found our text, we read of Philip’s ministry in Samaria. Note in particular ACTS 8:12: “When they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women.” It was “when they believed Philip” that “they were baptised.” There is a point that is significant, though it is easily overlooked. Those baptised are stated to have been “both men and women.” What is significant in light of the contention of some who wish to argue for household baptism and especially for the baptism of infants, that Doctor Luke does not say, “men, women and children”; he is careful to designate that those of mature age were the ones who believed, and because they believed they were baptised.

With this information, I ask you to focus again on the text. Philip told the eunuch the “Good News about Jesus.” Apparently, the man did believe, because he saw water and requested baptism. This brings up the issue of why he would request baptism if there is no baptism in the passage from which Philip preached. The man had been in Jerusalem, and it would have been difficult not to have been aware of the turmoil arising from the growth of Christians in the city. Doctor Luke has written, “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” [ACTS 2:47 NKJV]. [8]

After Ananias and Sapphira were judged for lying to the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were honoured in the eyes of the people, and again we read of the working of God’s Spirit, “More than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” [ACTS 5:14]. Some estimates of the size of the congregation in Jerusalem at the time Saul of Tarsus began his pogrom against the believers to have been so many as one hundred thousand believers. Certainly, there were no less than twenty thousand believers. Such a large group of believers would have assuredly drawn the attention of the authorities, and even those who were worshippers of the gate, as was this Ethiopian, could not help but be aware of these events. It is quite possible, therefore, that the eunuch had witnessed some of the baptisms that had taken place in the city during his time there.

It was only shortly before the time of the account before us that the assembly in Jerusalem was scattered. The mad boar named Saul of Tarsus wreaked havoc on God’s people. This is God’s assessment of what Saul has done. On the day that Stephen was martyred, “there arose … a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” [ACTS 8:1b-3].

This means that the Ethiopian man had been in Jerusalem when these events were taking place. Moreover, because he was a worshipper of the gate, he must surely have been aware of the things that were happening. Perhaps he had even witnessed baptism, hearing the questions that were asked of those who openly confessed the Master. It is the most natural thing in the world to want to identify with Him Whom we worship. We come to Him in faith. He delivers us from condemnation. We are freed of guilt. We want to embrace Him openly as Master.

I quote ROMANS 10:9, 10 when pointing people to life in the Son of God. One portion of that passage is sometimes overlooked; I want to point out that neglected portion at this time. “The Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame’” [ROMANS 10:11]. The thrust of the Word is that those who believe in the Son of God will not be disappointed. They will be thrilled in His grace, mercy and goodness. Salvation prompts the new believer to want to tell others of what has happened. And God provides that opportunity to tell others.

WHAT IS BAPTISM? — The marginal note in the NET Bible states the eunuch’s question as, “I should get baptised, right?” The implication of this construct is that he was cognizant of baptism as a believer. It is highly likely that the Ethiopian eunuch had witnessed new believers declaring their faith through baptism when he was in Jerusalem. If this is actually the case, he would quite naturally want to declare his identification with the Risen Master when he had come to faith. Baptism is the initial response of obedience prescribed for a new follower of Jesus Christ.

I am compelled by contemporary practises to state what baptism is not. Baptism is not the means of salvation. Baptism neither saves an individual, nor does baptism contribute to one’s salvation. Baptism does not make one more acceptable to the Lord God. Scripture convinces us that salvation is by faith in the Risen Son of God.

Following from this are several statements that must be made. Because baptism is not salvific, we do not baptise infants. Neither do we baptise adults in order to make them followers of Christ. If one goes into the water as a goat, she will come out as a goat. Baptism is the declaration of a sheep that he has decided to follow the Christ, and that henceforth he is to be known as a Christ follower—a Christian.

Paul makes a significant contribution to our understanding of salvation in his final letter. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” [2 TIMOTHY 3:12-15].

You will no doubt recall the words that are so well known from the Ephesian encyclical. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” [EPHESIANS 2:8-10].

When the jailer who watched over the prisoners in Philippi witnessed the missionaries’ calm demeanor and compassion, he cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas responded in clearest terms, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” [ACTS 16:30, 31]. Those who believed were baptised that same evening.

Related to the foregoing errors that have crept into church practise, it must be stated that baptism is not the means of joining a church. To be certain, one cannot unite with a New Testament congregation without having received baptism, but baptism is not the door to the church. That means of entrance into a Christ-honouring church is the confession of the mastery of Jesus the Saviour over the life of the disciple. The initial demonstration of obedience to the divine reign is the individual’s baptism.

The word “baptise” is a transliteration of the Greek term “baptizo,” the Greek word for immerse or dip. This is nothing less than acknowledgement of the act itself. Baptism pictures one’s faith, a fact that is too frequently neglected in modern church life. Because so many among the various churches have moved from the concept of an ordinance to the concept of a sacrament, baptism has been transmogrified into a strange caricature. Some churches speak of it as a “washing,” and then wipe a wet finger on the forehead. Few mothers would approve of such washing for their children. Many of these good people argue that it is a spiritual washing, but they are uncertain as to the efficacy of the washing. Others emphasise baptism as a rite, and have thus emptied the act of its right meaning.

Let’s appeal to Scripture to inform us concerning the act of baptism. Though the Apostle was arguing against antinomianism at one particular point in the Letter to Roman Christians, he appealed to what would have been for them an act they would have witnessed many times as new believers entered into the faith. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” [ROMANS 6:3-11].

Baptism pictures the faith the believer possess. Looking back, the believer declares confidence that Christ died, that He was buried and that He has risen from the dead. As the believer is dipped beneath the water, he pictures confidence in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

Simultaneously, the believer speaks of her own confidence of God’s effective work in her life. She is identifying with the Saviour in His death, burial and resurrection. She pictures her certainty that she has died to sin and in a sense has been buried with Christ. When He died, He took her sins to the cross and was buried because of her sin. Therefore, she is expressing her confidence that He died because of her. However, just as He conquered death and rose from the dead, so she is picturing her confidence that she is risen with Him. She is expressing in tangible form her confidence that the Risen Son of God lives in her.

There is a wonderful declaration that is not stressed nearly enough as believers are baptised—we who are baptised declare our confidence in the resurrection of the dead. We look forward with a perfect faith, picturing confidence that though we may pass through the waters of death, we live in the hope of the resurrection. We state our confidence that Christ Jesus is coming again, and that when He comes, the dead in Christ shall be raised. We picture our certainty that we shall be transformed into His image at that time.

How powerful is the picture provided in Scripture for those who will identify with the Master! It is impossible to discover authorisation to change this ordinance into something else. Assuredly, there is no warrant in Scripture to remake this act given by the Master Himself so that it no longer pictures what it was intended to picture.

Though that which is commonly called baptism among many churches appears with the patina of age, it must align with Scripture or be rejected. Whether an action seems justified by sweet family ties, if it fails to meet the biblical criterion provided by the Master Himself, it must be rejected. Jesus warned, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” [MATTHEW 10:34-39].

Let’s bring several threads together at this time. Baptism requires a proper candidate. For baptism to be valid there must be a proper candidate. Only one who is redeemed qualifies as a proper candidate. This necessary component of biblical baptism excludes all who were baptised in order to be saved. It excludes all who were baptised as infants. Though such people may have come to faith at a later time, and though they may speak of the rite their parents performed for them, they cannot be said to be baptised. When Philip baptised the Ethiopian official, he baptised one who was a proper candidate. Underscore this truth in your mind: Baptism requires a proper candidate.

Baptism requires a proper motive. Baptism is not meant to secure salvation, nor is it meant somehow to enhance salvation. One is a Christian through faith in the Risen, Living Son of God. Baptism is an act of obedience as the candidate acts in obedience to the One who redeemed him. Baptism is a means of identification with Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. As we have seen, in baptism the believer identifies with Christ the Lord in His death, burial and resurrection, confessing through the act that we have counted ourselves dead to sin but now alive through faith in the One who gave Himself because of our sin. Baptising the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip ensured that the motive was proper, as did all those whose baptism is recorded in Scripture.

As an aside of some considerable importance, it is important that you understand that the identifying doctrine of Baptists is not baptism, but salvation. We get salvation right in relation to baptism. We do not baptise to make the candidate a Christian; we baptise because the one to be baptised is already a Christian. We do not baptism to make one a better Christian; the one who is baptised is already complete in Christ the Lord. We do not baptise in order to cause the one being baptised to receive more of the Holy Spirit; the one baptised already has the Spirit living within and that Spirit cannot be given in measure! Baptism does not define us as Baptists; salvation defines who we are! Our motto is blood before water! As a people who adhere to the Word, we are convinced: Baptism requires a proper motive.

Baptism requires a proper mode. If baptism pictures the faith of the one baptised, then the act must have a proper mode. Properly speaking, baptism is a burial and a resurrection. No one will argue that smudging a dirty finger on a casket suffices for burial. Likewise, no one would agree that sprinkling a handful of dirt on a casket constitutes burial. For burial to be burial, we know that the casket must be placed out of sight—the body must be placed in the sepulcher and then sealed, or the casket must be covered with earth. Why, then, would any conscientious individual imagine that a wetted finger or a shell with water would suffice to picture a burial? And even if that action somehow pictured a burial, where is the picture of a resurrection in that act? There can be none! When Philip and the Ethiopian man went down into the water, it was to ensure that the mode was proper. Fix in your mind this singular truth: Baptism requires a proper mode.

WHY REQUEST BAPTISM? — “As they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized’” [ACTS 8:36]? Continuing deeper into the desert, Philip and the Ethiopian came to a wadi. Seeing the water, the Ethiopian requested baptism, a request to which Philip acceded. Establish a significant truth in your mind; write it down in the margin of your Bible. Baptism is given; it is never imposed. The New Testament teaching is that baptism is not an action to which an individual is passively brought by another person; rather, baptism is an action to which the candidate comes of his own volition. Baptism requires an active faith; baptism is sought and received voluntarily.

Never is baptism obtruded; it is always granted at to the request of the one baptised. Never could a Baptist steal the independence of another by imposing baptism without the consent of the one baptised. I suppose that parents who insist that their children undergo a ritual they speak of as baptism, do so thinking it is something like an inoculation against a loathsome disease that may take their life.

Not so many years past, a mother phoned me to ask if I would baptise her children. I inquired of the age of the children, and the young woman told me they were two and four, as I recall. I asked why she wished to have these toddlers baptised. She responded as though I was a dolt! “Well, to ensure they are safe,” she sputtered.

I asked if I might share the Word of God with her, and she agreed that I could read what was written in the Word. I sought to present three great truths. First, that salvation is by faith in the Son of God. Second, that infants and those without the capacity to believe are kept safe in the Son of God. Third, that only those who confess faith in the Son of God are to be baptised.

For the first point, I read to her several Scriptures. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” [EPHESIANS 2:8, 9].

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” [ROMANS 10:9, 10].

And, of course, I read what must assuredly be the most quoted verse in all the Word of God. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” [JOHN 3:16].

Having established that it was only through faith that a person is saved, I asked if an infant could be saved. Could a little child understand right from wrong? Could a little child understand that the wages of sin is death? Of course, she agreed that a child could not discern right from wrong. Nevertheless, I pointed out, children do die. They die, not because they have committed some grievous offence against the Living God; children and those who are born with minds injured so horribly that they cannot think, die because of what the theologian calls original sin—sin that has contaminated the race and not rebellion against the Lord God.

Yet, God has made provision for the innocent. One verse that has comforted many parents grieving at the death of a child is that found in 1 CORINTHIANS 15:22. Paul makes what superficially appears to be an enigmatic statement when he states, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Those who die because of Adam’s sin, die because of original sin, are kept safe in Christ. They cannot be said to be saved, for they have never confessed Christ, but God has kept them safe from the taint of sin through the sacrifice of His Son.

Then, thirdly, I pointed out to the young mother that only a person who confesses faith in the Son of God is a proper candidate for baptism. That individual is obeying the command of the Master and identifying with Him as taught in the Word and as exemplified by the Saviour Himself. I pointed to the account provided in Matthew’s Gospel that relates John’s reaction when Jesus came requesting baptism. “Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented” [MATTHEW 3:13-15]. Jesus identified with sinful man; now, those who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light are taught that they are to identify with Jesus. Just as He was baptised in identification with mankind, so we are to identify with Him through baptism.

The young mother was not satisfied; she protested that her children would be in danger if they were not baptised. I spoke as plainly as I could in telling her that God loved her children, and that He has made provision for their safety. I urged her to become a Christian, to follow the Master, providing an example for her children. Then, as they would grow to adults, they would be prepared to turn into the path their mother had marked out for them. It is the same advice I give to parents to this day. Be a Christian; be a follower of the Christ. Let your children see your walk with the Master so that they will know nothing other than the love and grace of the Saviour, and so that early in their lives they will turn in faith and be saved. Then, having come to faith in the Son of God, they will seek to identify with Him according to the Word of God.

There are no proxies for salvation, and there can be no proxy for baptism. Baptism functions as the means by which an individual professes his faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. Baptism requires active faith before it is administered; however, the baptism of infants is dependent upon passive faith. No infant ever requested baptism; it is parents who insist on seeing their infants baptised; they do so out of fear that the children may somehow be lost or hindered in their progress toward faith in the Saviour. I speak lovingly, but plainly, when I say that parents who bring their children for baptism do so out of profound ignorance.

It is a conundrum to me to observe that among paedobaptist, faith is required as a prerequisite for adults to receive what they call baptism. However, the same rite administered to infants is dependent upon the faith of parents as a prerequisite.

The consequence that follows this understanding is that we must never baptise an infant. To perform a rite on an infant, claiming that said rite is baptism, is tantamount to imposing on the infant a ritual that the child never requested. It is compelling the child to be something that he or she is incapable of being. It is interesting to me to observe that one of the great paedobaptist theologians, Charles Hodge, makes this precise confession in his theology.

“The difficulty on this subject is that baptism from its very nature involves a profession of faith; it is the way in which by the ordinance of Christ, He is to be confessed before men; but infants are incapable of making such confession; therefore they are not the proper subjects of baptism. Or, to state the matter in another form: the sacraments belong to the members of the Church; but the Church is the company of believers; infants cannot exercise faith, therefore they are not members of the Church, and consequently ought not to be baptized.” [9]

Just before His ascension, Jesus gave disciples what we have come to know as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” [MATTHEW 28:19, 20]. There is but one imperative in this command, and that is to “make disciples.” Three participles modify the imperative: “going,” “baptising” and “making.” To paraphrase the Master, “Since you are going in any case, make disciples of all nations by baptising them and by teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”

The implication should be obvious: since baptism is the external means by which one confesses his desire to become a follower of Christ in response to the Gospel, it is entirely inappropriate to baptise infants or to baptise those who are not already followers of the Christ. Infants are incapable of making a voluntary confession and the unsaved have refused to make such voluntary confession. The individual requests baptism because he or she has already become a follower of Christ, because they are already born from above. Thus, baptism is requested because the individual has committed his or her life to the Son of God.

WHO SHOULD BE BAPTISED? — Throughout this message, we have touched on this matter. Now, it is time to press the appeal. Who should be baptised? You should be baptised if you have believed in the Son of God. You should be baptised if you have been born from above. You should be baptised if you will obey what the Master commands. You should be baptised if you will honour the will of the Lord Christ.

Recall our discussion of that thirty-seventh verse, the verse that is absent from many contemporary Bibles. You will recall that it reads as follows, “Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” The man from Ethiopia sought baptism because he had decided to follow Jesus the Christ. All that could stop him from obedience would be a refusal to accept the responsibility to identify with the One whom He called Master. However, this man proved obedient to the divine command. He requested baptism. Philip ascertained that he had indeed placed his faith in the Risen Saviour. And with that open confession, he was baptised.

According to the divine text, the chariot was halted, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. Then Philip immersed him. If there was question as to whether they acted in accordance with the clear meaning of the Greek word, Doctor Luke, guided by the Holy Spirit, appends the statement that they “came up out of the water” [see ACTS 8:39]. They went down into the water so that the Ethiopian could be immersed, and when the action was completed, they both came up out of the water.

I was privileged to be God’s instrument to lead a lovely couple to faith in the Master. Though Richard had trained in a Jesuit seminary, he was not at all conversant with the Word of God. He was well versed in philosophies, but was ignorant of God’s Word. Maryann was even less aware. We had studied the Word as recorded in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, and the wife said, “I’ve always wanted to write in the front of my Bible the date I was saved.”

I explained to her that salvation was the gift of God freely given to all who believe that Jesus if the Son of God and that He died because of her sin and was raised for her justification. Shortly after reading the passage I cite from Romans so frequently, she asked if she might pray and ask Jesus to save her. Her husband knelt beside her at our chesterfield, and in turn, each of them prayed, asking Christ to save them.

After we had prayed, she was so excited. Lynda brought her a pen, and Maryann wrote in the front of her big Jerusalem Bible, “On this date, I received Jesus as my Saviour.”

I asked if I might show her a portion of the Word that I had not previously stressed. When she handed me her big Bible, I turned to the Book of Romans again. There I read the passage we had previously read. “If you declare with your mouth the Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved. When scripture says: No one who relies on this will be brought to disgrace, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: the same Lord is the Lord of all, and his generosity is offered to all who appeal to him, for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” [ROMANS 10:9-13]. [10] I took particular care to point to the eleventh verse: “No one who relies on this will be brought to disgrace,” I explained that the emphasis is that faith in Christ is not something to be hidden; it is to be embraced and openly proclaimed. Of course, both Maryann and Richard were in agreement with this.

I continued by pointing out that if Christ is King of the life, there should be a coronation ceremony. That seemed quite reasonable to the couple. I wondered aloud what the coronation ceremony should be. They were puzzled at first. Then, I said, God has provided the coronation ceremony that He desires, and it is that those who are born from above are to be baptised as a picture of their faith and as an indication that Jesus is now ruler.

“Oh, I see it,” Maryann suddenly exclaimed! “It is a bit like a wedding ring.” I believe she saw the puzzlement on my face as my mind had not been moving down that lane. “We don’t put on a wedding ring in order to be married, but because we have made a commitment, we put on the wedding ring,” she explained.

I could think of no clearer explanation of what is done in baptism. If you have believed on the Son of God, have you openly confessed Him as He commands since you believed? If not, why not? What is to stop you from being baptised? The ancient answer echoed throughout the whole of this Church Age continues to be, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] The NET Bible First Edition, Biblical Studies Press, 2006

[3] F. F. Bruce, The English Bible (Oxford University Press, New York, NY 1970) 98

[4] Gustavus S. Paine, The Men Behind the King James Version (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 1959) 70-71

[5] Bruce, op. cit., 105

[6] Paine, op. cit., 94

[7] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version (Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN 2009)

[8] The New King James Version (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN 1982)

[9] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 3 (Logos Research Systems, Inc., Oak Harbor, WA 1997) 546-7

[10] The New Jerusalem Bible, Regular Edition,, accessed 24 November 2012

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See the rest →