God has given us free will to respond to his commands. Adam and Eve were given the choice to obey or disobey. Though He desires everyone to say yes to a relationship with, He lovingly allows people to decide how they will respond to His invitation. Consider:
- The Rich Young Ruler - Matthew 19:21-22 "'…then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."
- The Ethiopian - Acts 8:35-36 "Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?'"
It is also important to understand that not everyone makes the decision to follow Jesus in the same setting or the same way. No two decisions are alike. Some decisions take place on the spot in a gathering of the church family and are charged with emotion while others respond over time and often away from a church building.
A Right Response: Repent and Be Baptized: after an incredible presentation of the invitation to follow Jesus, the crowds asked the Apostle Peter:
- Acts 2:37 "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'"
Peter went on to articulate the key components of a right response to the invitation to follow. Consider:
- Acts 2:38-39 "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.'"
What Is Repentance? Repentance is often misunderstood. It is not simply being sorry for an act. Nor is the admission of wrongdoing. It goes far beyond a mechanical prayer. Repentance speaks of the initial decision to leave our sinful course to follow Jesus, but it is not limited there. It describes a lifestyle of recognizing our sinful condition and making the conscious choice to follow Jesus and to be changed. It also describes the course we take as we walk with Jesus and still commit sin. Repentance, in the original Greek (metanoia), reveals the following key components:
1. Godly Sorrow - remorse - sorrow for sin, a sense of one's wrongdoing
- 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."
2. Recognition/Confession of Guilt - a clear recognition of our sinful condition, sinful course of life or sinful act. This usually starts with a confrontation with God's word, recognition for personal ownership followed by statements of such to God and often others. It usually includes clear understanding that the said condition, course or act is sinful because God has deemed it so.
- Peter - Luke 5:8 "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'"
- Achan - Joshua 7:19-20 "Then Joshua said to Achan, 'My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.' Achan replied, 'It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done…'"
- King David - 2 Samuel 12:13 "Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.' Nathan replied, 'The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.'"
3. Change of Mind and Direction - a turning around and going the other way. Turning from sin to God.
- Acts 3:19-20 "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus."
- Matthew 3:8 "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
What Is Baptism? The internal decision to follow Jesus is expressed outwardly by means of water baptism. Baptism is not the decision, but rather the public statement of the decision. It seals our response and makes it public.
Why Be Baptized?
- Jesus Was Baptized to Show His Commitment to Follow the Father - Matthew 3:13-14 "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?'"
- Believers in the Bible Were Baptized as They Responded - Acts 2:36-41 "'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other Apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.' 4ith many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." (Acts 8:12-13; Acts 8:36-38; Acts 9:18; Acts 10:47-48; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; Acts 19:5; 1 Corinthians 1:14-16; 1 Corinthians 12:13)
- Scripture Teaches Us to Be Baptized as Part of Our Response - Mark 16:16 "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38)
- your decision to follow Jesus to your friends/family, church and the world
- the symbolism of your life being washed of sin
- the symbolism of your old life ending, and a new life of following Christ beginning
- the symbolism of Christ's crucifixion, burial and resurrection and your partnership with Him in that act
- the symbolism of your future death and expected future physical resurrection with Christ
Who Should Be Baptized?
- followers of Christ who have never been baptized
- new followers of Christ who were previously baptized without an understanding of their actions
- followers of Christ who have rededicated their lives to following Jesus after falling away
Who Should Not Be Baptized?
- individuals previously baptized, except for the reasons above
- individuals not following Jesus
- individuals engaged in sinful activity who refuse to repent
- individuals desiring to satisfy wishes of friends/family or because friends/family are being baptized
Can Children Be Baptized? Any child who is old enough to articulate their understanding of Jesus dying for their sin that leads to a life of following Jesus is old enough to be baptized. Children under 18 should have the permission of parent/guardian.