Perfect knowledge? Right doctrine? Make everything right in your life? Forgiving your abusive parents? These are often the “price tags” we put on people being baptized into Christ. Why is that? Why do people think that? What brings these issues up?
This viewpoint, stems from our human nature. We are at heart perfectionists. We want to commit ourselves to doing something and we want to do that “something” right. It’s a noble and wise thing to strive for. Where it becomes a problem is this: when does a person possess enough knowledge to become a Christian? What are the requirements? What are the prerequisites that one must meet?
I could refer to a scholarly article on the subject, but rather, I want to turn to the ultimate authority on the subject: the Word of God. If you take a brief survey of the Book of Acts, we can see there is quite a bit of baptisms happening. In Acts chapter 2, the first sermon is preached, and 3,000 people are baptized into Christ at the Apostle Peter’s command given by the Holy Spirit. So, logically, if 3,000 people were baptized, they didn’t have the New Testament as we do today, and this was the first sermon, than the people didn’t know hardly anything about doctrine, practice, forgiveness, heaven, etc. “That was an extraordinary event,” some might say, and you would be right—it was the fulfillment of the prophecy given by Joel and the beginning of the New Testament. But, for the sake of context , there are nine plus other Scriptures dealing with conversions of individuals and groups in the book that all end with the person (s) being baptized into Christ.
Let’s visit one of these in Acts chapter 8. The narrative of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). I’m going to paraphrase here for space’s sake. Here we have an Ethiopian man who had traveled to Jerusalem to worship. Keep in mind that by carriage, this was a six month journey (1000 miles). Deuteronomy 23:1 also tells us that it was illegal for a Eunuch to enter the Temple (Tabernacle) courts. Basically, this Ethiopian traveled 1000 miles to just look. But, by the Spirit, Philip happens upon this man as he returns home—and the Ethiopian happens to be reading from Isaiah 53 (not a New Testament book). He asks Philip to help him, and they discuss it. Philip tells the Eunuch of the wonderful news of Jesus Christ using Isaiah 53. Read that chapter for yourselves and notice that there is no doctrine or passages about perfecting your life and knowledge of God. After that, the Eunuch is baptized! What did he have to know? Listen to the conversation:
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).
So what’s the point? What am I getting at? Maybe we’ve lost the point of baptism altogether. Sure we preach and teach it, but do we practice it? The point of baptism is to be joined TO Christ, the one who makes us right, the One who washes our sins away, the One who gives the Spirit to guide us into all truth! It’s not a rite or ritual that says “you’ve learned enough and we are confident that you will make a good Christian” – no! It happens when a person realized who Jesus is, how their not, and that only Jesus Christ can save them. It’s the point at which a person is saved!
I agree there is some instruction needed on what baptism means and who Jesus is, but beyond that, we have no right to say who can come and who isn’t ready yet. Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose His followers. It’s His message, His grace, and His sacrifice that make us righteous and holy in God’s sight…not our learnedness or aptitude. That will come later. We need to get people to Jesus—He will take care of all the junk in their life! That’s what he’s supposed to do. We have to be fishers of men, and by that we need to catch the fish first…and then God will clean it up! Just something to think about!