This past week, we have really been focused on the Great Commission. This is right and good because we would certainly be considered a Great Commission church. We consider it our Lord’s marching orders. The renewed focus has brought to my attention several things that are forgotten about this passage when we hear it repeated over and over again. After Jesus says to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) he gives two directions on how one is to make disciples: by baptizing and by teaching. I want to focus on one of those points in particular, baptizing.
I think many of us, at first glance, might find the Great Commission to be somewhat deficient. Where is the command to call to repentance? Where are we told to evangelize? What about getting people plugged in to a local church so that it is easier to “teach them all that I have commanded?” But what dawned on me, and what I hopefully can make clear, is that baptism actually includes all of this. We often talk about loaded words. “Baptizing” here could fit as the hallmark definition of a loaded word. Here are three things that are included in the command to baptize that we see Peter doing in his first recorded sermon after hearing the Great Commission:
It is now fairly widespread, at least in our church stream, to make the point that the Great Commission does not call us to make converts but to make disciples. I wholeheartedly agree, but in one small sense, I disagree. The command to share the gospel with the intent that someone might believe and convert to being a Christ follower is embedded in the command to baptize. Let’s look at an example. Peter declares the gospel to the crowds at Pentecost in Acts 2:14-36, and Luke, the author of Acts, shows them to be convicted by the message in Acts 2:37. But Peter’s work is not done. The convicted people in 2:37 ask Peter desperately, “what should we do?” Peter says clearly, “Repent and be baptized . . .” (Acts 2:38). Peter was essentially calling people to make a decision, to place their faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and to convert their allegiance. This is exactly what we see happen in Acts 2:41a “So those who accepted his message were baptized.” All those who accept the gospel and the call to repentance are baptized.
2. Calling People to Repentance
In our modern day, we don’t like the word repent. We immediately associate the call to repentance with someone who paints the word “repent” on a slab of gopher wood and displays it in the stands at some big sporting event like the Super Bowl. We may not like it, but repentance is implied in the command to baptize. Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The reason believers are baptized into the name of the Trinitarian God is multi-dimensional, but the meaning specifically in the Great Commission is that it is a declaration to God and the world that you are changing allegiances. Paul says in Ephesians 2:2-3 that those who have not accepted Christ live under the rule of Satan who keeps sinners enslaved to the demands of their passions. Jesus now says that “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” Our getting baptized is a public statement that we have been freed from our slavery to sin by Christ, we repent of a life of pursuing our sinful desires, and we now dedicate ourselves to serving his Kingship and rule. His commands now define the shape of our life.
Like we saw, Peter in Acts 2:38 sounds the call, “Repent and be baptized.” Some have said, and I agree, that repentance and baptism are really two sides of the same coin. Those who repent are baptized and those who have been baptized have repented. They are two steps in the same process.
3. Getting Involved in a Church
Now this one might be a little more obscure, but it follows within the same text of Acts 2 that we’ve been looking at. Look here at Acts 2:41, “So those who accepted his message were baptized and that day about three thousand people were added to them.” Greek scholar Dr. David Black has noted that people don’t join churches, they are added by God to the church. This is precisely what we see in Acts. When people commit to a local church through covenant membership, the Christian and the local church are both acknowledging that God has added them to the church through faith, repentance, and baptism. The baptized are added to the church. And it is in the local church context, through preaching, teaching, and relationships formed that believers are instructed (word taught) and shown by example (life caught) how to be a disciple.
Is it Your Turn?
If you have come to believe in the gospel message and you have yet to be baptized, we are baptizing again at all services on Sept. 14th and 17th. We have clearly seen here that it is not only Mercy Hill’s commission to baptize, but that you should be baptized in declaration of handing over your life to Jesus as he handed over his life for you. Please sign up to be baptized here: www.mercyhillgso.com/baptism and someone will be in contact with you to set you up!
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)