“Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” ~Acts 2:38
Paul was in a small church conveniently located three blocks from his apartment. In his youth he had attended a Baptist church with his family. Although he enjoyed his experience, he was never “saved”, which meant being born again. Born again is an experience where a person believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for his sins and was raised from death on the third day. Paul was 14-years-old at the time of his confession of faith (he made this out of a sense of obligation, not really from his heart). However, once in college, his mostly worldly wise and faithless professors chipped away at his faith which was fading into the background anyway since he didn’t bother to find a church or Christian study group, even though there were an abundance of such groups.
But now, it was different, college was long gone and Paul felt it was necessary for a true confession of faith, time to share a belief in the Savior.
At the next mid-week service, Paul stood and professed his desire to “be saved”. Friends gathered around, laid hands on Paul and supported his prayer of faith joyously. Lots of hallelujahs followed.
A week later, Pastor Sam called to set an appointment with Paul to discuss baptism. “I want to discuss being baptized, Paul. What are your plans for that?”
“My plans? I want to be baptized soon, just like it says in the New Testament.”
“Well, you have to attend our baptism class first, Paul, and then we can schedule a time when we have at least five people wanting baptism.”
“How long will that take?”
“Oh not long. No longer than, say, six months.”
“Six months? I want to be baptized right away. I want people to see my confession of faith just like in the New Testament.”
“Well, maybe we can shorten the wait time, but the class is mandatory.”
“What’s the class for, pastor?”
“To make certain you know what you are doing and that you make a full confession of faith in the Lord.”
“But I just did that last week in the service. You were there.”
“Well, you know, Paul, it’s part of the deal here, just like in the churches I’ve attended in my life. Baptism class is necessary.”
“Pastor, you know more about the Bible than I do and you know there are verses that talk about people being baptized right after they confess their faith. Look at Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
“Later in verse 41 we see the incredible baptism of 3,000 souls: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
“And here in Acts 8:12, “When they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”
“Pastor, I’ve allowed myself to sink into a mediocre faith in Christ, hanging onto some tepid version of following my Savior. I am tired of that lifestyle. I want to be obedient and effective for the Lord. I need to follow Him in being baptized so the world can see where my heart is. Please let me be baptized. I’ll gladly go to a river or lake or someone’s pool, pastor.”
Tears welled in Pastor Sam’s eyes as he realized that he, too, had become mediocre in his walk of faith. Rather than “devoting himself to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers,” (Acts 2:42), he had become self-obsessed, more concerned with personal comforts and accolades from his small congregation. The Holy Spirit was pricking his heart through young Paul whose desire to follow the Lord burned brighter than his own.
The words found in Revelation 2:4-5 stung Sam’s repentant heart: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”
“Well, my dear fellow,” said Sam, “let’s get you baptized. How about me making a few calls to see if there are others who want to have the mighty experience of baptism as well. Phil Williams has a very nice pool that would work just fine.”