A recent note in our question box was asking a question regarding baptism and the great commission. The question went like this: “How does our church stand in regards to the great commission (Mat 28:16-20) and why do we not receive any teaching on baptism, what it means and its place in the church?”
Let me try and give a short answer…
Our teaching plan at church is to work through different books of the bible in sections. In between each book we have been addressing a topical or ethical issue. So it is hard to cover every topic regularly. We did however touch on baptism a number of times in the series we had on Acts in 2012 and we even looked at the great commission in Matthew in 2009.
We also cover what baptism is all about at almost every baptism in both the formal service and the introductory comments made.
It is also worthwhile noting that outside the gospels and Acts baptism is rarely mentioned so it might not come up regularly as we work through books of the bible.
That aside, what is baptism all about? (in a very short space)
Lets first of all look at what baptism is NOT about. Unfortunately some people think it is the essential ceremony that people must go through in order to be saved. “Unless they are baptised they will not be able to get to heaven”. I have heard this comment made to me by people seeking to get their child done as well as sometimes from people who have been in church for many years. Let me be clear, baptism does NOT save you. It does not remove your sin.
Baptism is not about the quantity of water used. You can be fully dunked or sprinkled, or if you are in a desert and there is no water you can use sand.
So what is baptism? Baptism is a public declaration to those around that because you have accepted the gift of forgiveness your relationship with God has now changed and you have moved from ‘following something else’ to ‘following Jesus as your Lord and Saviour’. Jesus’ death and resurrection has removed your sin. In other words baptism is a public sign of your conversion. Thus whilst baptism does not save you it should be closely associated with your conversion as you declare to the world you live in that you now follow Jesus.
In Matthew 28:16-20 the disciples are sent to make disciples and this will result in people repenting and being baptised. Note this important thing – baptism does not make disciples but gospel proclamation does. Baptism simply proclaims publically that they are converted. So we see in the rest of NT scripture as the disciples fulfilled this great commission that they went about proclaiming the gospel. The gospel was proclaimed. People got converted and so they were baptised.
So in answer to the question – I am really seeking to get us to be a gospel hearted church that desires to see people saved, hence my focus on proclaiming the gospel. When people are saved it will be really exciting to baptise them.
Of course there is more I could say but this will do for now.