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A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the church. The title was similar to this one. I presented this question: how can I make it any more clear that Christ’s church isn’t a denomination. This got me to thinking about something else that needs to be made perfectly clear. That is, that being baptized in water when you believe in Jesus does not necessarily mean you have been baptized scripturally.
I have had people who belong to various denominations quote Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38, telling me they believe in Jesus and they were baptized in water. From the surface, it sure seems like that if anyone would say such, that they have done exactly what the Lord demands. How could there ever be a scenario where their baptism didn’t work and they simply just got wet?
Before I answer this question, let’s make something clear. It doesn’t matter what Chuck says. No one is lost or saved because I say so. This also means that it doesn’t matter what your preacher, family members, friends, or even yourself has to say. The truth is that those who are right are only those who do exactly what the Lord demands (II Jn. 9). Therefore, it matters not how strong someone believes and feels. After all, there are people that strap on bombs and walk into crowds killing themselves and others, being thoroughly convinced they are doing what God wants.
Have said all of that, now let’s take a close look at situations where people who do believe in Jesus and were baptized in water, only got wet and they are not Christians:
Believed one was saved prior to being baptized
This is the most common misunderstanding I hear. People tell me that they were saved and then they went ahead and got baptized. Folks, the Bible does not teach that. No one can get saved prior to having their sins washed away by the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:5). This is accomplished when baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-7). Peter comes right out and stated that baptism saves us (I Pet. 3:21). Not that there is any power in the water, the power is in the gospel message that we are to obey (Rom. 1:16; II Thes. 1:8).
Believing any baptism is okay, even if done wrong, it doesn’t have to be redone as long as they now have the proper understanding
The Bible does indeed teach there is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). Yet, it is wrong to conclude that you can have a proper baptism without proper knowledge. This would authorize baptizing people before they hear the message, which is contrary to Christ’s words (Mk. 16:15-16). Of course, what would dispel this idea is if there is a passage in the Bible where people were baptized in water already and were told to do it the right way. There is, and it is found in Acts 19:1-5. Remember, the understanding must come first, which leads us to our next point.
Being baptized without meeting the prerequisites
There was a man who was taught about Jesus and wanted to get baptized. With his desire, he asked if there was anything that could hinder him from being baptized (Acts 8:36). He was told that he needed to first confess his faith in Jesus being the Son of God (vr. 37). This supports what Paul stated in Romans 10:9-10, where the apostles said that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. We also read in Acts 2:38, a person must also repent prior to being baptized. This means a person changes their mind and decides to turn their back on sin and follow Jesus. Now this leads us into our next point.
Making an appointment to get baptized, not done immediately
In every example of people getting baptized properly, they did not wait. The reason is they wanted to be saved. This makes sense since we are told that godly sorrow leads to repentance (II Cor. 7:9). Who has this kind of sorrow for their transgression and then opts to wait to be baptized? The answer would be someone who doesn’t understand Bible baptism. This is why a whole household was baptized a little after midnight (Acts 16:25-33). The Ethiopian did it right away with just he and the preacher present (Acts 8:38). Note that these points often overlap. Many times, the reason people don’t do it immediately is because they think they are already saved.
Stating you have been baptized properly without proper reasoning
I have personally had people quote Acts 2:38, where we are told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. But when I ask them when they were saved, they tell me it was prior to their baptism. How can someone be saved prior to being baptized when Saul/Paul was told, after he believed, confessed, repented and prayed, to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16)? To reason that you have done exactly what the Lord commands, yet at the same time demonstrate your inconsistencies is just not proper thinking.
Believing when you are baptized, you are baptized into the local church
The Bible teaches us that we are to be baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3). All those who do this are added by Christ into His church (Acts 2:47). Many religious groups perform baptism ceremonies. They turn it into some sort of event for onlookers. However, as noted earlier, in Acts 8 there were just two people there: the preacher and the one wanting to become a Christian. There wasn’t a ceremony of any sort. Man likes to go beyond what is written, especially when it comes to conversions.
Being convinced your baptism was valid by folks convincing you with non-Biblical phrases.
Ever hear, “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace”? Or, “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior and you will be saved.” These sound Biblical, but they aren’t. Please make sure you did not just get wet. Look at this from a Biblical point of view. It’s the only way!
In one of the winter Olympic events this past week, there was a tie for first place and both countries received a gold medal. I think that was the right thing to do. If both crossed the finish line at the exact same time without any infractions, then both are winners. From this, Christians can understand and appreciate the following lesson.
Even though the Bible depicts the Christian life as running a race and needing to finish to obtain the reward (I Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1; II Tim. 2:5), it isn’t a competition between others. All Christians want everyone to be saved and obtain the reward (the gold medal so to speak).
When Paul spoke about the race he was in, he was definitely thinking about his reward (II Tim. 4:8). Yet Paul wasn’t wanting to obtain the prize alone. He stated, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (vr. 8).
During the Olympics I saw great sportsmanship. Why someone got bumped out of 1st place into 2nd, the runner-up would congratulate the winner. Of course, with Christians ,there isn’t any runner-up. All the faithful are winners! To help followers of the Lord learn this aspect of godly living, Jesus told the parable about the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16). Christ taught that if someone obeyed the gospel late in life, he obtains the same reward as someone who obeyed the gospel early in life. What Christian wouldn’t rejoice over someone obeying late in life? Hopefully none!
There is a comfort in knowing that brothers and sisters in Christ are not competing against each other. There is no such thing as a “Super Christian”. Every child of God is doing what they can, with the talents they have been given (Matt. 25:14-30). After all, no Christian can actually beat (or do more) than another Christian. Whatever one does, it is what was expected of them (Lk. 17:10). One cannot do over and beyond.
When you read II Timothy 4:2-4, one can’t help but wonder why anyone who wants to go to heaven and wants to continue to worship God, turns to false teaching? Even though the apostle answers that question by saying that people will turn their away from the truth and turn aside to fables (vs. 4), we are still left wondering why anyone would do that?
I realize that there isn’t any good reason why people would leave the truth and cling to anything else. Even though the following just doesn’t seem right, here are some possible answers as to why someone would leave the truth and follow lies:
- There is comfort in numbers and that’s what the majority does (Matt. 7:13-14).
- The gospel is considered foolishness and there is no desire to be connected with foolishness ( Cor. 1:23)
- The gospel message doesn’t allow for “enjoyment” of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life (I Jn. 2:16).
- The preaching of the gospel demands that one make changes in their life, and there is a desire to stay the same (II Pet. 3:18).
- The preaching of the gospel doesn’t make one happy playing the hypocrite (Matt. 15:7-9).
- Standing fast in the gospel can cause one to be at odds with their own family (Matt. 10:34-35).
- Practicing what the gospel teaches will prevent one from gaining the praise of men (Lk. 6:26).
- Rejecting the gospel will be upsetting at first, but soon the lies will seem like truth once the conscience is seared (I Tim. 4:1-2).
- By preaching a “different gospel” you will have more success since it will be more appealing to the masses (Gal. 1:6-9).
- Since the gospel can’t be changed, if one turns to fables, they will feel like they have more control and not be governed by limitations (Col. 3:17).
- Without hearing the gospel, a person can now favor foolish flattery and empty praise (Prov. 7:5).
- Leaving the gospel will be much easier and it will take very little effort to go down another road (Jn. 14:6).
- Following the gospel involves church discipline. By leaving it, you can go where it isn’t done (I Cor. 5:1-10).
- By not appreciating those who preach the gospel and point the finger, one can leave and go where it isn’t taught. Then you can point the finger at those who do teach it (II Cor. 11:5-15).
- One can leave the gospel and believe lies because it makes them “feel” good. But it will be temporary (Heb. 11:25).
The first article got me to thinking once again about the commands that we have been given without being given the specifics. Meaning, we need to do what we are told even when no specifics are given.
- Study the word of God, without being told exactly when (II Tim. 2:15).
- Pray often without being told exactly when (I Thes. 5:17).
- Do good to all especially those of the household of God, without being told exactly when (Gal. 6:10).
- Spread the good news without being told exactly when (II Cor. 5:11).
- Meditate upon the word of God without being told exactly when (I Tim. 4:15).
- Give yourself to hospitality without being told exactly when (Rom. 12:13).
- Test the spirits to see whether they are of God without being told exactly when (I Tim. 4:1).
- Examine yourselves whether you are in the faith without being told exactly when (II Cor. 13:5).
- Build others up in their faith without being told exactly when (I Thes. 5:11).
- Rejoice and again rejoice without being told exactly when (Phil. 4:4).
- Be thankful for everything without being told exactly when (I Thess. 5:18).
Recently in our Sunday morning Bible study class we studied the text of I Timothy 5:3-16, dealing with duties of children with a widow parent. It is not the purpose of this article to go back over all the things we studied; however, it was brought to my attention that it would be good to expand on the hardships children often face in having to look after an elderly parent.
The fact is this: just as parents make tough decisions in raising their children, the same happens when taking care of aged parents. Often it comes down to judgment calls. We might be quick to judge harshly someone who puts their parent in a facility that is unwanted. To this we need to be careful. There are times when around the clock medical attention is required. A son or daughter may not be qualified to handle certain needs.
None of the judgment calls that we are talking about ever provides justification for abandonment. I knew of a couple that were blessed with the opportunity to grow very old together. The downside is that it got to the point where one couldn’t physically take care of the needs of their mate. The one was eventually put in a nursing home so she could get around the clock care. The husband got up each morning and went down and spent the day with her. He did that until she passed. My point is that it wasn’t a case of not wanting to care for her, it was that he couldn’t. The same thing can happen with children.
Not all decisions that parents make for their children are understood and appreciated. The same can happen with parents toward their grown children. The important thing to remember is whatever life changing decisions that need to be made for a parent, remember Paul’s words to Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Tim. 5:8).
It’s not necessarily wrong to do something for a parent that makes it better for everyone. The danger is in trying to justify passing off one’s responsibilities by saying it is better for everyone when it is truly only better for you. There is no question that it is very hard for anyone who is looking after a parent on their own. I have personally seen family members age long before their time because of the stress and work that is involved in looking after a loved one.
This is something brothers and sisters need to be aware of. In Galatians 6:2, we are told to bear one another’s burdens. This might mean to volunteer to sit with the member’s parent while they have a night off. It also might be needed to give some objective advice that might be hard to utter. It is very difficult to hear advice that encourages you to seek professional care, when you feel that no one else should do your job. The text of I Timothy 5 wasn’t written to cast guilt upon loyal and loving children who are unable to personally handle all the physical needs.
One of the hardest things any child has to face is when the parent no longer is able to think properly to express their wishes. Gaining the power of attorney is a double edge sword. On one hand, a person can now make decisions that is best for someone else without their permission. However, there can be a lot of doubt and stress, hoping that they choose what their parent would have wanted.
It’s such a wonderful blessing to have our parents live a long life. The reality is that everyone will someday die (Heb. 9:27). Children, as they get older and have families of their own need to think and plan for what will eventually come as their parents age. Also, parents need to also be thinking about things to help make it easier for their children for when that time comes. To not talk about it can create so many more problems. The Bible lesson today is that even though we make many judgment calls, let’s never forget our God given duties.