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Monday, August 30, 2010

Baptize right away or wait?

Acts 2:37-41

In the early church we see that someone would share the gospel and people would respond by faith being saved. It appears that it was normal for people to get baptized right away (or later that same day) instead of scheduling it for a later date. I wonder if it matters?

We should note that their cultural context was different than ours. Jews who became Christ-followers were seen as dead to their family members if they got baptized publicly in the name of Christ.

They were cut off from their family, their synagogue and the Temple. This isolated them family-wise, socially, educationally, and religiously. It also caused dramatic economic problems.

As a result, it was a BIG decision for a Jew to follow Christ publicly with baptism. It required a decision to "die to self," effectively. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus commands it.

Today it's much easier to get baptized. In other words, the price you pay is usually much less.

Christianity is still a legitimately recognized religion by much of our country. (although this is changing) As a result, unless it's for cross-cultural reasons, generally the greatest obstacle might be getting all wet in front of a bunch of people you don't know or sharing a few words up front. It is hard for people but not a life and death decision like in the days of the early church.

As a result, some churches choose to make it a little harder to get baptized. Some require a class or series a classes. Others want a sit-down with a pastor or lay leader.

Since our culture is more tolerant of baptisms in the name of Jesus, I wonder if this is wise in light of how it went down in Acts. They heard the message, were convicted, repented, believed and were baptized--all before supper.

These days more and more churches are having baptisms right after the service. Some are counseling with them first. Some are just going right to it taking the candidate's word at face value.

What is good practice today? Does God want it to be more closely tied to the public response or not? Are we following scripture or are we discounting the cultural differences too much?

I'm curious as to your thoughts on this (here or on my Facebook). What other factors are there? While there may not be a "Right" way, I think it's good to challenge our traditions and ask the question, "Why do we do it this way?"

Jesus is Lord!