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Baptism to Discipleship

Some years ago, I was on a follow-up visit with a friend, and we were visiting a gentleman who had recently prayed to receive Christ. The man had not yet been baptized, and we were going to talk with him about doing so.

We began by reviewing the Gospel and his decision. He clearly gave evidence of his commitment to Christ, but indicated he had no intention of being baptized. One reason was his age. Another reason had to do with his hesitancy to stand before a large crowd. We listened compassionately to his story – one that I had heard many times – and I was waiting to interject all the reasons he should be baptized. When there was an appropriate break in the conversation, my partner said, “Well that’s ok, you don’t have to be baptized if you don’t want to be baptized.” I just about lost it. I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking about all the things that I was going to tell him when we got back to the car.

Then, my friend proceeded with his own personal testimony. He said, “When I first was introduced to Jesus, I had the same reaction as you. I believed in Him for salvation and the forgiveness of my sin, but I said I will never be baptized. And then something happened. The Lord convicted me that I should be baptized. And then I got baptized, not because I had to be baptized, but because I wanted to be baptized. And when I came to that place where I wanted to be baptized, nobody was going to keep me from being baptized.”

My friend was instantly a genius in my eyes. The question always comes up “Do I have to be baptized to go to heaven?” We are saved by grace. We cannot add anything to that work of grace—not even a good thing like baptism. But, there is another question to ponder – why would a person be a follower of Jesus and not want to be baptized?

I have been thinking heavily about what it means to have a culture of evangelism. Among other primary considerations, when and where there is a culture of evangelism, we must believe in progressing every decision towards discipleship. Belief is just the beginning. Believer’s baptism is a next step, but only a next step.

In the Acts 8 account of Philip’s conversation with the Ethiopian Eunuch that led to his conversion, we read, “The eunuch said, ‘Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?’”

Until then, there is no mention of Philip broaching the subject of baptism, but surely it happened. How else would the Eunuch know to ask about baptism? At some point Philip moved the conversation from baptism, and so must we. And not only this, but we must move Gospel conversations to discipleship conversations that focus on a growing relationship with the Jesus they profess.

God, grant us this kind of evangelistic culture!

    About the Author

  • Steve Horn