Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…(Matthew 28:19-20)
He was madder than a hornet. A young soldier we had led to Christ walked up and confronted us. “I’ve been reading my Bible,” he says. “Why didn’t you tell me I needed to get baptized!?” (He had now been in our ministry for over two years) Red-faced I turned to the guy that was discipling him and apologized for not being a better disciple-maker. One of the things that I’ve learned about problems in the ministry is that you ought always look upstream first. And the finger I was pointing for this young disciple-maker’s critical blunder was squarely pointed back at me.
In almost every conversion story in the New Testament, a profession of faith was immediately followed by baptism. Immediately! Not 2 years! Not even longer than a few days in Paul’s case. (Act 9.10-18) Paul even baptizes the Philippian Jailor and his family in the middle of the night. (Act 16.33) It seems in almost every case both the baptizer and the baptizee had a sense of urgency. It really was the disciple’s first step of obedience.
Today we want to wait to see if “salvation” is really going to stick or we want people to go through eight weeks of classes to make sure that they understand what they are getting into. We use baptism as a gate of authentication. There is no such Biblical precedent for that. That my friends is pure tradition. So let’s stop holding the first step of obedience hostage for new believers. We would never say, “Don’t stop committing adultery until we are sure you’re a real believer,” would we? No way! Start challenging all would-be disciples to immediate baptism. It should be the first step of many steps in following Jesus.
Here’s a good little Bible study on the immediacy of baptism; Baptism Hammer