By Ron Thomas
I read in a “Dear Abby” letter (1.3.2017) of a woman who desired to have her niece’s son baptized, but without the consent of the parents. Evidently, the parents are not religious, and the family heritage is to have each new-born baptized some short time after birth (the child is 1-year old). Abby replied that such an action without the consent of the parents is unwise. This is obvious on its own, but it brings up another point that needs some consideration.
Exactly how should one look at God’s command to be baptized? That it is a command of God makes it essential to be pleasing to God, but as it was indicated in the inquiry of Abby, is it the one act/command/ceremony that assures one’s entrance into heaven? The way some people look at the word and command of baptism, those same ones are convinced of such. They regard it as God’s “stamp” of approval before entrance is made; some Christians look at it the same way.
Baptism, as a command of God to be obeyed, is for one who believes, understands what he (she) believes, is willing to repent (change his way of thinking), and put his hand to the plow, having the ground already plowed for him by Jesus following that path. Baptism is for one who has decided to not look behind, but long for the new life promised. This person has made a conscience choice to leave behind the ways of the world (Luke 9:62).
I am afraid many have not done this. A great many have been baptized, but the life lived after that baptism is a reflection, not of God, but of this world (and the god of this world; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore, many people who were baptized really did nothing more than get wet, and this includes children. In submitting to the Lord’s authority, one is submitting to the Lord’s way of living and thinking. This way of living is completely different than what the world presents. In fact, the Lord said those who love Him will not love the world or the things in the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
Baptism is not for one who does not understand that which I wrote above. Through the years, I have seen children baptized without understanding this. I am afraid many of these same children, now turned adults, are just as lost as if they had not been baptized; their “lostness” is the result of a life of unfaithfulness to the Lord, which brings to mind a question: did they understand what they said they did?
No doubt, many (if not all) who were baptized because of a genuine belief and desire to obey God – but was there (is there) a proper understanding about what this entailed? Some have doubted and, consequently, for many, a “rebaptism” soon followed. Along this line, it is worth notice in the New Testament, Acts especially, those baptized are men and women. There is a reason for this.
Baptism is a point of entry, but in that entry, it is simply the culmination, the completion of a process of the heart’s desire to please God. In that point of entry, there is a releasing (sins forgiven). Nothing in baptism (in and of itself) will release one’s sins from “clinging” to the one immersed in water, who is brought up from the plunging in water. Unless it is coupled with faith and a penitent heart, in submission to the Lord’s authority, baptism is an empty ritual; it has no value.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/