By Charles Okecha
After reading an article in the media entitled “All baptized Christians are born again”, I thought it expedient to share my views on the same subject.
Our degree of reverence to biblical commandments should be derived from the emphasis Jesus placed on the authority of the Holy Scriptures. He said every stroke of the law must by all means be fulfilled and for this very reason permitted John to baptize Him. (Matthew 3:13-17, 5:17-20).
During the church era however, some biblical commandments have been classified as symbols/emblems.
Classifying ordinances as symbols rather than strict commandments of Jesus Christ has tempted the church into disregarding their significance let alone altering the manner in which they are observed.
Spiritual symbols/emblems are defined as the acceptable established means of imparting grace and blessings to believers. In Christianity, the two distinct symbols observed as ordinances are baptism and Holy Communion (the Lord’s Supper). Other symbolism like the use of anointing oil during ordination and prayer for the sick are optional and only observed as and when deemed necessary.
One major point of contention is the tendency for believers to turn their attention from God to these symbols. When the sons of Eli and the Israelites turned away from the ways of God and put their confidence in the ark of covenant, they were subdued before the Philistines and the ark was captured for seven months.
The events unfolding in these last days are not any different. The church and the clergy have become part and parcel of many sex and embezzlement scandals even though they claim to have been saved through baptism. In his writings to the Romans and the Colossians, Paul emphasizes the need for commitment to live a new life after water baptism. He says it is a prototype of spiritual circumcision in which the old nature is buried so that believers can rise to live a new life. But since the apostolic age the church has suffered from many heretical attacks to the extent that infant baptism was introduced.
Before the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, John His frontrunner came preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Those who heeded his message and turned away from their sins in repentance were baptized in river Jordan. Forthwith John taught them to bear good fruit by doing deeds that confirm their conversion. In essence he was cautioning them that good deeds must accompany their conversion and only then shall they escape God’s wrath on evil doers.
(Matthew 3:1-11) All those who afterward believed the message of the gospel that Jesus preached were baptized by His disciples (John 4:1-3). Upon His ascension into heaven, He commanded the apostles to preach, and baptize all those that believe among all nations, teaching them to observe everything that He commanded. Only then shall their baptism and salvation be sealed. He also said not everyone who calls Him Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of the Father.
The message of the gospel is clear and baptism can only be conducted when someone makes a deliberate decision to believe and follow Christ’s teachings. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you continue in my teaching you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. (Jn 8:31) Anyone who receives water baptism and afterward turns away from keeping His commandments ceases to be His disciple. In other words baptism and conversion can only be confirmed if the believer turns away from the old manner of life.
Without such evidence it remains a ceremonial washing devoid of salvation and significance. The thief on the cross regretted over his sins and repented prompting Jesus to declare his acceptance into the kingdom without passing through water baptism. But if he were live again in the world he would have been baptized. All those who believed Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost were baptized to confirm their conversion and acceptance into the church.
Water baptism is vital because it prepares believers for baptism in the Holy Spirit, though in some instance they are filled with the Holy Spirit before water baptism as it happened to the household of Cornelius the Roman centurion. Baptism also gives believers clarity of conscience and an assurance of unity of faith with other believers.
After Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he explains that the Spirit of adoption enables believers to pray and destroy the lusts of the sinful nature and live in a manner acceptable to God. This is how they become effective witnesses of the Christ. Majority of believers today are of the kind Paul met in Ephesus who had received water baptism but had never heard about the Holy Spirit. This is why the church has failed to the extend of denying that the Jesus who is the same yesterday today and forever no longer heals nor does miracles.
The Holy Scriptures outline the status of the world in these end times. Apostle Paul describes it as terrible times when people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than God and brutal among others. (2 Timothy 3:1-2) Should we say that culprits of vices like witchcraft, child sacrifice, brutal robberies, sexual perversion, corruption, human trafficking and terrorism are just unlucky to born at the wrong time? Certainly not because Paul explains in Romans 5:20 that where sin increases, God’s grace increases much more.
Moral decay has increased at a time when the world has access to lots of information than never before. People have express knowledge of the dangers of every activity they indulge in but are simply overtaken by the desire to satisfy their lusts. They know before hand the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the HIV/AIDS scourge and the laws regarding violent crimes before they put their lives at stake. God’s power and knowledge is very much available to deliver those who renounce evil and yearn to please Him. Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
If you were baptized as an infant, be thankful to your parents who introduced you to the path of salvation. You can now confirm the sincerity of your faith by renouncing evil and accompanying your conversion with prayer, fasting, bible study, fellowship and commitment to obey God’s commands. Make a willful decision to boldly declare his truth and goodness to the perishing world and stop yielding to its lusts. May the Love of Christ compel you to believe in Him and declare His truth! Do not receive God’s grace in vain. Behold today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). Believe the message or else it won’t benefit you. (Hebrews 4:2)
St. Paul's College,