Baptism by Rocky Fleming
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
I’ve been asked to state my position on baptism. I was baptized at 9 years old in a little Southern Baptist Church in Mississippi. I didn’t understand it that well. I was only told that when I declared my faith in Christ, in order to join that church, I had to be baptized, and be completely immersed in the baptistery. I wish I had fully known the beauty and joy of that event, for it is a holy sacrament that is a declaration of our faith, and I believe all professing believers should experience it. But at 9 years old I did what I was told to do and checked it off as a requirement. Is that the way it should be? Are we just to check off our baptism as another requirement that we are told to do to be right with God? Are we told to do it, but not know the truth and significance of it? Later, when I was 70 years old and my wife was 67, we were both baptized in the Jordan River, when we visited Israel. That was one of the most special and joyful encounters with the Holy Spirit that we’ve ever had. Is that the way Jesus wants it … that it be a joyful declaration of our faith and love for Him? I believe it is. What I experienced in the last baptism was a significant milestone in my life. But was my first one also a milestone? Yes, indeed it was, for that was the beginning of my early life with Christ and it is part of it. But my life in Christ didn’t begin in that water in the baptistry. It began when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Should baptism be encouraged? It should be.
So, what is our position with Influencers concerning baptism? I think it would be similar to the position Billy Graham took with his ministry. He led thousands of people from many nations to Christ over many years. I went to one of his crusades and watched many on TV. But I never saw a baptistry in any of his crusades. I did hear him encourage the new coverts, who began their eternal life the moment they declared their faith in Jesus, to return home, find a church if they do not already have one, and be baptized. We do the same. We’ve had some of our retreats where people wanted to be baptized. We joyfully administered it to them in rivers and such, while telling of its significance in their life. Its significance is very important to us.
We realize that there are different positions churches and denominations have on baptism, and other doctrinal issues as well. We want our Influencers to honor the pastor and elders of their church and follow their guidance on such issues. We do teach them how to self-feed in God’s Word and learn to discern if what they are being taught is scripturally correct. If not, they should go to a church that will teach them correctly. I believe baptism is to be administered by their home church and pastor if possible. If not, we will do it, for Jesus has told us to do so, if we are to be disciple makers. The scripture above commissions us to do so, and we follow the leadership of the Lord.
There are those who want to argue their point of view and want to bring us into their position on many doctrinal views. Believe it or not there were those who criticized Billy Graham because he didn’t baptize new converts immediately. It will happen, for the Accuser works best against Christians with Christians. So, we will not join the doctrinal debates that some people enjoy. We feel that Influencers’ mission, and mine personally, is to simply, but profoundly, move people to an intimate, abiding relationship with Jesus, and through their self-feeding on the Word, they will discover truth. For those who want to superimpose their view on us with their take on baptism or other doctrinal issues, we encourage them to go and make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, for those are the things we should all agree on, if we are disciples of Christ. We encourage them to help us build up the Body of Christ, rather than create divisions and arguments. If that’s not their mission, then they will have no sway with us, and especially me.
I would like to see Christians loving and learning from each other, without condemnation because of a different doctrinal point of view. Isn’t it time that we seek to honor Christ with our relationships with each other, and bring Him honor by joining with each other to make disciples? I see great hope with this in many Christians that I’ve met. I believe that this perspective will reach a lost and dying world, for they see the peace of Jesus in us. I truly believe that this is the heart of Jesus, and I will seek to follow His heart. Will you do this as well? To His glory we will do it.