The last two times that Baptism came up for discussion the first thing that the person said was ‘What about deathbed confessions’? The implication is that if I believe that a person must be baptized then I’m a meany who doesn’t want people to be saved on their death bed. The reality is that it doesn’t matter what I believe. God is going to do what he wants to do anyway. Our goal as Christians should be to bring our values and opinions into line with what is true not try to say that the truth is what we already value or believe.
The case for Baptism is very strong. We have the very a direct answer to a direct question in Acts 2:37-38.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do? Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
We also have some very strong supporting evidence in Acts where every conversion was followed immediately with baptism. The case against Baptism is more secondary. It is more of the ‘if this verse means this then that verse means that’ variety.
Compare the evangelical doctrines on Baptism to the doctrines on the Trinity. Anyone who would dare question the Trinity would be run out of the church on a rail but the evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity is far weaker that the evidence in favor of Baptism being necessary. Nowhere in either Testament is the word Trinity ever used or the doctrine ever presented with the strength of Peter’s Acts 2:38 statement. Everything we believe about the nature of the Triune God is derived. There is nothing wrong with that. Much of what we believe and almost everything that we argue over is derived but let us be honest about it.
What we need to learn to do is to say “This is what the Bible says but this is what I hope it means.” For instance “The Bible says children obey your parents but I hope it means minor children” or “the Bible says to cut off any part of your body that causes you to sin but I hope it means only that sin is to be taken seriously.” Do not say “The Bible says you do not need to be Baptized to be saved” because you may be telling someone the spiritual equivalent of “Don’t bother getting a small pox vaccination”.
This blog is not really about Baptism. I’m agnostic on the subject myself. If I’m around an Acts 2:38 person I tend to be against. If I’m around an against person I tend to be the Acts 2:38 guy. What this blog is really about is being honest in our interpretation of scripture and I can tell you why it is important. The souls of your children may depend on it. If you are not completely honest about your interpretation of scripture when your children are old enough to think for themselves and if they actually do what you tell them to do, which is read the Bible on their own, you run the risk of crushing their nascent faith. I have four examples from (make that five) my own childhood but I’ll only tell two.
My Dad taught me not to say bad words because the Bible said ‘swear ye not’. I was pretty tick off when I found out that the verse was talking about taking oaths and I saw it as hypocritical that Christians swear on the Bible when it says in the Bible not to swear by anything. My faith in my Bible teachers dropped two notches. On the other hand, when I was a teenager Hal Lindsey was predicting that the Lord would come within one generation of Israel becoming a nation (that would have been 1988). I asked my Dad how he interpreted the book of revelation. He said ‘well (it seems like he started all explanations with the word ‘well’) sometimes I read in one way and I see it (meaning like Lindsey) then I read it another way and I don’t. I always appreciated his honesty.
Remember Humility is the key to everything and honesty is the key to humility.