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 immersed, 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call,” [Acts 2:36-39]
There is one crucial, pivotal question that is expected of every soul on this planet: “What should I do?” There is, perhaps, no question that is more important than that one. It’s the question that gives assent that what God is trying to get across to us is true and vital: We are sinners and in deep trouble. We have a Creator who made us for a purpose, and we have all strayed away from that purpose. He is Merciful and Compassionate and gives us the freedom to believe Him, to investigate what He has said and accept (or reject) the conclusion that He is the Author of Life and His ways really are the only ways that are good and truthful. He gives us a lot of help to reach this conclusion. His Spirit convicts us with the truth to lead us to the conclusion that we are sinners, enemies of God and that something needs to be done to change the situation so that we are no longer God’s enemies but rather rejoin His family and have life (John 16:5-11; Colossians 1:21-23). God first gave the world the Law that we might understand that He is completely Pure and Perfect and that we are in a great predicament because we are separated from Him, but that His Son has taken our place and has become our atonement for our sins if we believe that God can actually do that (Romans 2:19-26). When the heart is convicted that this is true, then the question is asked, “What should I do?” This is when God can bring real change, if people will simply follow His instructions. But this is where people begin to argue. Unfortunately, many traditions of men have confused this process. This is when we have to draw a line. We have to believe God, not people. And God’s instructions are not complicated. If we believe that Jesus is the Savior who can save us, if we accept God’s invitation to believe that His Son actually can and did take our place to pay our penalty for sin (death –both physical and eternal punishment), then God says that there are some things that we need to do (but also keep in mind that we could not do a single one of these things without God’s intervention, power and mercy:
1) Repent, 2) Confess Christ, 3) Be immersed and receive His Spirit, 4) Grow in faith, commitment and service.
God convicts us by His Spirit to believe the message. If we decide in our hearts that God is speaking the truth, if we allow our hearts (which were actually designed by God to accept this very message: Ecclesiastes 3:10—11) to believe, then God asks us to repent. To repent means to literally change your whole way of thinking about sin. It means to become disgusted with sin and to realize what it has done to you. It means to change your mind and hate sin (not sinners, sin) and to invite God to make you holy as He is holy. And this leads us to confess Jesus as Lord.
To confess Jesus as Lord means to accept who He really is, completely as the Word reveals Him to us. To confess Him as Lord means to make Him your Master. You are now giving the “reigns” of your life over to Him because of the realization that He is the only One who can change your state from a condemned state to an eternal, vibrant state. You likewise accept all that He has commanded when you confess Him as Lord. Romans 10:9-13 reveals that we are justified by believing that Jesus rose from the dead and we are saved by confessing Jesus as Lord. And upon confession, immersion always follows.
In the Apostolic Age (the time during which the Church began on Pentecost and until the last Apostle died (John), immersion was normative –meaning that it was always practiced immediately upon the event of someone’s belief and confession, and it was always by immersion. The word we read as “baptism” in our English versions of the Bible actually means “immersion.” This is obvious from the text of the Bible itself in many places, such as when you read how Jesus “came up out of the water” when He was “baptized” (Mark 1:10). It is likewise obvious when discussing the idea of a flood of water, as discussed in 1 Peter 3 (a flood covers and cleanses), or the idea of death, burial and resurrection embodied in baptism (Romans 6). And we are likewise told in Acts 2:38 that we are to be “immersed in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God convicts us with His Spirit before we are believers, but some confuse God’s powerful conviction with the permanent, indwelling gift of the Spirit. God promised His Spirit if we believe, repent, confess Jesus as Lord and allow ourselves to be immersed into union with Christ. And when that union is sealed, the Spirit of God resides within us to become our Counselor, to guide us and teach us and reveal God to us in greater and ever-increasing measure –so long as we remain in faith of Jesus Christ.
But no one can make this decision for you. We are told that children who have Christian parents are holy (1 Corinthians 7:14) but we are never commanded to baptize infants or small children –we are only commanded by Jesus to immerse believers. To be a believer, you have to be old enough and conscious of the decision yourself.
If you received a different baptism, if you were baptized as an infant, please do not think that I am looking at your experience as worthless or that I am condemning your family or your background. Parents who do not have the whole truth do what they think is best because they care about us. But continue to build upon the foundation that your parents may have begun and accept the full Gospel of Jesus Christ by obeying his commands. On the last Day, He will be our Judge –it will not be family, friends or denominations. It will be Jesus. For this reason, I encourage you all to investigate the Truth, the Word of life and obey His teaching.
Why is this so important? Because without unity on the simple things of the Church (and Jesus really did intend for all of this to be simple), then we cannot advance in maturity and do great things for the King. Please consider the simple Gospel, that we might grow to new heights. There are great things coming for Kouts Christian Church –please pray for unity, and strive to become one Body with one Head, Jesus Christ. If you have already obeyed these commands of Jesus when you accepted Him as Savior, would you please, please join me in praying for the others among us, who have not yet done so? God is One. I pray that we may also be completely one for His glory.
Love in Jesus,