This blog post comes from an email that I sent a man in our church about how we do baptism and affirm salvation. It seemed blog worthy.
When we have candidates for baptism in our church, I meet with each one, go over the gospel and what salvation is, and ask them questions and give them a chance to give a confession of faith in Christ and respond to the questions. In this conversation, we focus specifically on Christ's atonement and their faith and repentance and experience of salvation in Christ alone. I am always sure to tell them that I cannot affirm that they are indeed born again, but if they express faith in Christ and give a good confession of faith, then we will receive them as new Christians to be discipled and taught in the Way of Jesus. They must continue to look to Christ and not to their salvation experience, baptism, or church membership as assurance of salvation.
Here are the questions we ask and the response that we look for, based in part on 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 being Paul's definition of the Gospel. Then, we add in Acts 2 and the ideas of repentance and faith. It is kind of a baptismal catechism.
1. Q: Who is Jesus? A: The Son of God
2. Q: What did Jesus do for you? A: He died on the cross to take away my sins and rose from the dead to give me new life.
3. Q: Why did Jesus die on the cross for you? A: Because my sins separate me from God - God is holy and I am sinful and I am under God's wrath. Jesus took my sins and paid the penalty - death, and absorbed God's wrath for me (idea of Atonement).
4. Q: Did Jesus stay dead? A: No, he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and gives new life to all who believe in Him.
5. Q: Have you confessed your sin to Jesus, asked Him to forgive you, and by faith, have received new life from Him? Have you been born again? A: Yes.
6. Q: Have you repented of your sin (turned away) and desire to live for Jesus and obey Him all the days of your life? A: Yes.
7. Q: When you stand before God on the Day of Judgment, will you enter into His presence because you were a good person who did the right things, or because you placed your faith in Jesus for salvation? A: Because I placed my faith in Jesus for salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith. Good works follows faith.
Baptism: Q: What is baptism? Does it save you? A: Baptism does not save. It is the response of obedience to Christ where he commanded, "Be Baptized." It follows faith and repentance and demonstrates identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and identification with the Church as regenerated believers in Christ. It represents the old man dying and being buried with Christ and then being raised to newness of life in Christ. It is also my witness to the world that I am a New Creation in Jesus and that my life now belongs to Him.
This is obviously a short description of Jesus' atonement and crucifixion/resurrection and our response to God's saving initiative through Christ. It is not all encompassing, but it provides a chance for the Baptismal candidate to express a basic understanding of what Jesus has done and faith in Christ alone for salvation. In one way or another, I talk with every Baptismal candidate about these things, ask them these questions, and make sure that they can answer sincerely from their own belief on each one. It is conversational and often, they don't know that they are answering each question in order. I don't want it to be a formula or some rote memorization. I really try to get at what they honestly believe and have given their life too.
We will see 5 baptized on Sunday. I will have had this conversation with all of them.
Here is another good description that I saw the other day put out by my friend, Trevin Wax. It is the Gospel in 300 words. It is actually 311 and then I add 8 more words in one area. My addition will be in parenthesis. This might be a good thing to give to baptismal candidates as they prepare for their baptism.
God’s Word to You: A Summary of the Bible
In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal God created the universe. This God created human beings in His image to live joyfully in His presence, in humble submission to His gracious authority. But all of us have rebelled against God and, in consequence, must suffer the punishment of our rebellion: physical death and the wrath of God.
Thankfully, God initiated a rescue plan, which began with His choosing the nation of Israel to display His glory in a fallen world. The Bible describes how God acted mightily on Israel’s behalf, rescuing His people from slavery and then giving them His holy law. But God’s people – like all of us – failed to rightly reflect the glory of God.
Then, in the fullness of time, in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself came to renew the world and restore His people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law given to Israel. Though innocent, He suffered the consequences of human rebellion by His death on a cross. But three days later, God raised Him from the dead.
Now the church of Jesus Christ has been commissioned by God to take the news of Christ’s work to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church calls all people everywhere to repent of sin and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. Repentance and faith restores our relationship with God and results in a life of ongoing transformation (ME: that also manifests in restored relationships with others).
The Bible promises that Jesus Christ will return to this earth as the conquering King. Only those who live in repentant faith in Christ will escape God’s judgment and live joyfully in God’s presence for all eternity. God’s message is the same to all of us: repent and believe, before it is too late. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.
ME AGAIN: There are lots of different ways to talk about this with people, but I think that it is important that we have these conversations and meet with people and try and discern where they are. I have told people before that they were not ready for baptism because they did not have a good understanding of the gospel or that they were not expressing faith in Christ. I have shared the gospel in these meetings and have seen people come to true faith and repentance in Jesus. Others have been sent away because they recognized they were not ready or it was apparent that they were not really ready to confess Christ as Savior and Lord. That has only happened a few times and has always been with children whose parents were perhaps pushing them before they were ready.Salvation and baptism is a really big deal.
We should take some time to talk with people and pray with them about what is actually going on. What we do is not the whole story. It is not the whole gospel or the implications of the gospel. It is the part particular to personal salvation and baptism. The rest comes as we disciple and train. There is much that could be added here, but I also do not want anyone to believe that coming to Christ requires a theology degree. I do, however, want people to have understanding of their own sinful state, their need for a Savior, and how Jesus is that Savior.