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Would You Immerse Me for Baptism

by Bob Russell

Written on March 20, 2016

Bob Russell1 “Would you immerse me for baptism?”   A young Presbyterian minister made that surprising request of me last week.  Each month I conduct a retreat at Country Lake Camp for preachers titled, “A Time of Refreshing.”  The intent is to provide a spiritual renewal for guys who have been grinding it out in ministry and who desperately need to have their spiritual batteries recharged.  I would estimate 75% who attend are from Christian Church backgrounds, others represent a variety of denominations.

On Wednesday evening, Eric Wright, a likeable Presbyterian USA minister who attended last week’s retreat, asked me if I would be willing to immerse him before he returned home to the East Coast the next day.  Of course I said yes.  So this past Thursday afternoon I met Eric and a handful of in-laws and friends and he was immersed for baptism at Southeast Christian Church.  It was a wonderful time of celebration for all of us.  Eric teased afterward that he was now ready to be a part of the Restoration Movement!

Why, after having been sprinkled as a baby, graduated from seminary and preaching for over a decade would Eric decide to be immersed for baptism?  One factor was that his wife, who grew up at Southeast Christian, had been encouraging him to do so for some time since that was what she had been taught and experienced growing up.  Eric’s theology is more conservative than most of the leaders of his denomination and his wife’s encouragement kept the issue on his mind for some time.

Even more important was the fact that Eric wanted to be baptized the same way that Jesus was baptized.  The Bible states, “Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there” (John 3:23),  And, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17),

Since Jesus, who was perfect, was immersed by John in the Jordan River, “to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:15) those of us who are sinful should do the same because Christ has, “set us an example that we should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Another reason Eric was immersed was that he wanted his baptism to be a personal choice – not an incognizant ritual someone else performed for him.  Eric was sprinkled for baptism as an infant because his parents wanted him to be a follower of Christ.  While it’s commendable that parents want their children to be Christian, Jesus requires a personal decision to trust Him for salvation.

It’s been said that God has no grandchildren, only children.  Faith is a personal choice.  We are each commanded to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16) and “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38).  Baptism in itself doesn’t save us but it is a benchmark of our decision to die to self, be buried with Christ and to rise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).  Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Another benefit of adult immersion is that it eliminates uncertainty.  One of the reasons some doubt their salvation is that they are not sure of the moment when they accepted Jesus as Savior.  Suppose you learn you are the recipient of a generous inheritance and all you have to do is fill out the proper forms.  Naturally you would follow the instructions as carefully as possible and then you would be confident of receiving your inheritance.

We are promised the free gift of eternal life if we trust in Christ.  It seems wise to follow the Lord’s instructions as to how to receive that gift as closely as possible.  Galatians 3:26-27 reads, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Obedience in baptism deepens our assurance of salvation.

The late Paul Harvey, popular broadcaster and news analyst, shared a testimony about his baptism in Guidepost Magazine years ago. He had lived a moral life and believed in Jesus from childhood but had never been baptized.

Several decades ago on a trip through Arizona Harvey and his wife stopped to worship in a small country church where just a handful of believers had gathered to hear the word of God.  That morning the preacher announced that his subject was Christian baptism.  Paul Harvey says he yawned and prepared to be bored to death.

But he was unable to escape the simple eloquence of the country preacher and that day he was led to a new understanding of what baptism meant.  At the end of the message he humbly and happily went down the aisle at invitation time and submitted himself to Christian baptism.

Paul Harvey wrote, “The preacher said there was nothing miraculous in the water, but when I descended into the depths and rose again, I knew something life-changing had happened to me.  Afterward I cried like a baby.  The evolving joy this simple act has made in my life is so immense as to be indescribable.

Since totally yielding to Christ through baptism, my heart can’t stop singing.  I’ve shaken off a lifelong habit of fretting over small things. A thousand little worries and apprehensions have simply evaporated.

Also, perhaps because baptism is such a public act–and because one’s dignity gets as drenched as one’s body–I’ve discovered a new unself-consciousness in talking about my beliefs.”

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ but have never been immersed for baptism, why not humble yourself and follow the instruction given to Saul of Tarsus: “What are you waiting for?  Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).

 

                              Bob Russell is retired Sr. Minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY.

 

www.bobrussell.org

 

 




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4