We have a deacon where I serve as an elder who is very quick-witted. He has a unique combination of qualities. He takes his duties as a deacon very seriously. At the same time, he had the ability to see and use to humor almost everywhere and in almost any situation.
All of that came together when something went wrong with the system that is supposed to heat the water in our baptistry. Since that would be a part of the responsibilities of this deacon, it fell to him to rectify that situation. When he had done all that he could, he finally called a business in town and asked them to take a look at it.
As I understand it, a portion of the conversation went something like this:
“When do you need it done? You probably only use it on certain special occasions, don’t you?”
“No. We never know when it will be used. It has to be like Little Caesars; hot and ready!”
In his own unique way, my friend expressed a biblical truth. As we study the cases of people in the New Testament being converted to Christ, we find no evidence for any sort of “special baptismal services.” We find no authority or example of “holding people off” for a particular day or time so that a number of people can be baptized at the same time.
To be sure, there are instances in the New Testament when groups of people were baptized, but it was not because they were “held off” for a particular time. It was because they heard the gospel, believed it, and recognized their need to obey it. They also recognized the urgency of that need. Because of that, they were baptized at that time; not at some other time.
According to Acts 2:41 about three thousand people were baptized on the Day of Pentecost. They were not baptized on that day because that was a day set aside for a special baptismal service. It was the day during which they heard the gospel preached to them. Their understanding of the gospel and desire to obey it prompted them to be baptized on that same day.
Acts 16 contains two more instances like this. Lydia and her household, as well as the Philippian jailor and his household, were baptized immediately after hearing the gospel.
If anybody might have been tempted to delay baptism, it might have been the jailor and his household. After all, as one pieces together the sequence of events leading up to their baptisms, those baptisms must have taken place very, very late at night or very, very early in the morning.
Why didn’t they just wait until they had gotten some rest, called friends and family together, or something? Why were they baptized “…the same hour of the night…” (v. 33)?
This discussion has nothing at all to do with numbers. The instances to which I have referred are not used to suggest that the people involved were baptized immediately because there was a sufficient number to warrant such an action.
In Acts 8, we read of the conversion of one man, not a great number of people. After hearing the gospel, his understanding led him to say, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized” (v. 36)?
Why did he ask that? Why was the chariot stopped? Why was that one person baptized right then and seemingly “in the middle of nowhere?”
The answer to the question we’ve asked in different ways is that baptism is the response of faith that puts a person into Christ. If you wonder about that and/or question that, I pray that you will read the following passages and pay particular attention what puts us into Christ:
[F]or in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:26-29, ESV).
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 (Romans 6:3-6, ESV).
Those three thousand people who were baptized on the Day of Pentecost did so in response to this command: “…Repent and be baptized every one of in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38, emphasis added). Would you have wanted to wait on that day if you heard that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to obey that command as soon as you could?
I am honored to be associated with people who still see the need to preach the same gospel that was preached on that day. We also encourage people to obey it in the same way they did that day. That’s why we do our best to keep our baptistry ready at all times.
There may be some humor in how our deacon expressed himself. In reality, it is no laughing matter.
AUTHOR: Jim Faughn