The Great Commission #4
Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)
Jesus gave three primary instructions to His eleven followers on the mountain.
- Make disciples of all nations
- Baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- Teach them to obey all He commanded
We now consider number two on the list, namely the instruction to baptise.
In some respects, I feel this is a forgotten element of the Great Commission. I have said previously that simply telling others about Jesus is not quite enough to fulfil the task at hand, and this particular instruction is relevant. Telling others about Christ and the Gospel does not equate to baptism.
We must not neglect the command of baptism in the Great Commission.
We must not neglect the command of #baptism in the Great Commission. #Bible #Jesus #ChristianityTweet
For the individual, this may feel somewhat difficult to fulfil. It is clear that we ought not to run around throwing holy water on people, baptising them with a super-soaker! For the most part, we tend to leave this instruction to be fulfilled by the church, rather than us as members of it.
To be clear, baptism is a symbolic event where water is sued to indicate the new life of a believer seeking to follow Christ. It is a public declaration of an internal change. When we surrender ourselves to Jesus, He gives us a heart of flesh instead of stone, and gifts us with His Holy Spirit to dwell with us. Baptism, then, is an outward sign of that commitment.
Different church traditions do this in a variety of ways. Some will completely immerse an individual in water, using a pool or even the ocean. Others simply sprinkle water over them as a symbol of cleansing. Some church traditions baptise children or infants, while others only adults.
On that last point, it is clear that as an infant, you cannot make the promises required for a real commitment for Christ. Instead, it is the parents and godparents who make those promises on the child’s behalf, and later in life it is hoped the child will make the promises for themselves. In the Anglican tradition, a baptised infant, when they reach an age of understanding, can then go forward for “Confirmation” which is essentially adopting the baptismal promises for themselves.
Whatever your tradition, and whatever your views on infant baptism or total immersion, the command from Jesus is clear – we are to baptise.
A friend of mine came to faith in his twenties, but was never baptised. He had not been baptised as a baby, and his church had not emphasised the need for it. When he moved home and thus changed to a different fellowship, he became involved in serving at the church. One day when the pastor was teaching on the subject of baptism, he came to the decision that he must be baptised as a sign of his belief.
Did it enhance his faith in any particular way? Was he not “properly” saved until he was immersed? Was it just a good excuse for a get-together? The likely answer is no to all of these (although some may disagree) but the point is it was a definite step of obedience. Baptism is a command of Christ, and this man fulfilled it.
As he climbed down the steps into the water, it represented the death and burial of his old life of sin. As he emerged from the surface of the water, it depicted his freshness as a “new creation” in Christ. This is what baptism is all about.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Jesus instructs His followers to baptise in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be honest, there is some debate about this point. Are these not titles, rather than names? Some will ask. Is it not sufficient to baptise in the “name” of Jesus?
There is something of a rabbit hole to avoid here. The issue is not unimportant of course, and I urge you to investigate it for yourself. We do not have time in these brief words to give the topic justice.
The critical point for me here is that we are not baptised into any old name. We are not pinning our colours to any random mast. Instead, we are dedicating ourselves to the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the Bible, and the One who raised Christ from the dead. You cannot easily separate the Father from the Son, nor the Spirit from Jesus. They are One God, in three Persons. To fully understand this is to comprehend God Himself, which is beyond any of us.
How we baptise is a matter for study and debate, and various church traditions have grown up over time with differing views. The point is we are to baptise.
Having gone out, as Jesus told us, and sharing the Good News about Christ, a natural step for those who believe is to be baptised. For many people, it is a key event in their lives of faith. Often it marks the beginning of something too.
Jesus was baptised by John in the River Jordan, which you can read about in Matthew 3. This was not to cleanse Jesus from sin, as He was without it, but instead marked the coming of the Spirit and the beginning of His earthly ministry.
In a similar way, perhaps you need to experience baptism for yourself, or renew the promises you or others made for you?
What will you do?
Some questions for you today:
- Have you been baptised, and if not, does this encourage you to explore it?
- Does your church teach about baptism and encourage it?
- If you were baptised as a child, why not review the promises that were made on your behalf today, and commit yourself to keeping them?