I have witnessed the same story repeat itself. It is a story about initial resistance and a follow up letter. However, the story ends with people rising up with joy from the waters of baptism.
The first two examples of this story that jump to my mind involve a zoo keeper and her husband as well as an IT professional and his wife. Each of these couples informed me they had been honoring God for a long time.
Perhaps you can imagine their surprise when after learning a little bit more about their spiritual journey, I suggested that in order for them to receive the benefits of Jesus’ death they would need to be baptized. Their confusion, doubt and resistance to this idea was obvious. Yet within a week after receiving a letter each couple called requesting to be baptized.
For me the zoo keeper’s comment stands out. “After reading through what you sent and looking everything up in the Bible, I now understand why your church insists upon baptism for membership.”
The reason these stories have come to mind is because this pattern repeated itself again this past week. What were in those envelopes? Here are the significant portions.
As I remember, these letters began by expressing appreciation for their desire to serve God and for their willingness to have spent a little time with me sharing their spiritual journey. Each of the letters made the claim that the gospel calls us to have faith in Christ and to express this trust in him with baptism. Last week’s letter to the oil field worker and his wife put it this way.
“We understand scripture to teach that God will forgive us of our sin and God will add us to his community when we trust in Jesus by confessing him and being immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus salvation is by faith and involves confession and baptism.”
Finally, each letter contained the following page from our evangelism workshop resource book.
What are the Purposes and Results of Being Baptized in the Name of Jesus? The Bible recognizes only “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) whose purpose is ….
- To be born of God, that is, born again. John 1:12-13; 3:1-7 (John 3:5 was a favorite baptismal text of the early church)
- To become God’s people by faith. Galatians 3:26-27 (A central promise of the new covenant is that God will take people to become his people. Hebrews 8:10)
- To set a person free from his or her sins. Acts 2:38; 22:16; For Romans 6:17-18 see the baptismal context of Romans 6:2-18. (Incidentally, this promise of freedom from sins is a central characteristic of the new covenant. Hebrews 8:12; 10:14-17; Matthew 26:28)
- To be saved. 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16; Titus 3:5-7
- To become a disciple. Matthew 28:19-20
- To be able to enter the kingdom of God. John 3:3
- To be added by God to the one true body of Christ. Acts 2:41, 47 (1 Corinthians 12:13 – The baptismal language of the Spirit adding us to the body is appropriate given that in baptism we are united with Christ. Gal. 3:27)
- To have Christ perform a surgery cutting off our sinful flesh in order that we might become alive with Christ. Colossians 2:11-14
- To call upon the name of the Lord in order that our sins might be washed away. Acts 22:16
- To gain a clean conscience as Christ’s blood is sprinkled upon our heart. Hebrews 10:22 (This sprinkling does not describe the physical mode of baptism performed on a body, but rather employs priestly metaphorical language how sacrificial blood was applied to people as a way to describe Christ’s blood being applied to our hearts. Hebrews 9:18-22 See also 1 Peter 1:2 which identifies Christians using this metaphor. Another phrase in Hebrews 10:22 does refer to the mode of baptism, namely a body being washed with water. Biblical water baptism was and is a burial and a raising up from the water.)
- To die to a way of life characterized by devotion to sin. Romans 6:2-18
- To be raised up through faith to walk a new life dedicated to God. Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-17