By Larry Houchen
The book of Acts is a book of conversions – in other words it tells how people became Christians. There are about eight cases of conversions in the book. Note the attitude of the baptized believers in the following passages: “. . . they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46); “and there was much rejoicing in that city” (8:8); “. . . but went on his way rejoicing” (8:39); “and he brought them into his house and set food Wore them, and rejoiced greatly” (16:34). What were the reasons for the first century Christians to rejoice? What ought the Christian’s attitude be toward someone who obeys the gospel?
The first century Christians rejoiced because they were converts. According to Webster, the word convert is derived from the Latin word convertere which meant “to turn around; transform.” The early Christians were comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were converted from “the letter of the law” – they had much to rejoice about. The Gentiles were converted from immoralities and various heathen practices – they, too, had much to rejoice about. Sometimes,’those of us who have been “raised in the church” take for granted the many blessings which we enjoy in Christ. Some of us have never been “wrapped up” in Catholicism or denominationalism; some have not engaged in the immoralities or yielded to the temptations which are so typical during the teenage years. Therefore, we sometimes fail to fully appreciate the drastic change that has been made when one decides to obey the Lord by being baptized for his past sins.
The early Christians rejoiced when they were baptized because they had taken such an important step. The second most important step which one takes in life is marriage. Choosing a marriage partner for life is no small matter. Yet, the most important step in life is to obey the Lord in baptism. The thought that we try to impress upon those desiring to be baptized is that they are about to consummate a commitment. Baptism is not something one does without serious thought about what baptism is and should do. Baptism delivers one from the domain of darkness and transfers him to the kingdom (the church) of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1: 13). It causes one to be freed from sin in regard to no longer being a slave to it and makes him a slave of righteousness (Romans 6:18). How, then, can we not rejoice in this transformation?
Unfortunately, baptism has been relegated to a relatively insignificant act in the minds of some Christians. For an “ample, during announcements a baptism will be mentioned almost as a second thought after other not so important announcements have been made. This writer is aware that announcements are not necessarily given in their order of importance, but a baptism ought to be the exception – that is what Christianity is all about! Some time ago, a couple of young men were baptized after the services. One(of the deacons went around spreading the word and several who were getting into their cars to leave returned to the building – that is the way it should be. Christians should not feel right about leaving the premises knowing that a baptism is about to take place. (Of course, the shyness of the one being baptized may dictate an exception.) Perhaps the deacons or others could be contacted when someone obeys the gospel during the week and they in turn notify the remainder of the congregation. Why should such an occasion for rejoicing be postponed? If you had won an automobile or cash on a television game show, you would be contacting your friends pronto.
Brethren, baptism needs to be restored to its rightful place in our minds – perhaps it has in intellect but not in practice. Perhaps some of the suggestions that have been made will help to accomplish that. “Rejoice with those who rejoice . . . ” (Romans 12:15).
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 16, p. 487
August 18, 1983