By Dick Blackford
My teachers always told me that a preposition was something you should never end a sentence with. I plead guilty in this narrative, and now that you know it let’s talk about something more profitable.
I remember a time when my wife and I drove 35 miles in a blinding storm to baptize a lady into Christ. It was inconvenient but we were happy to do it. However, that was not the most inconvenient baptism of which I speak.
Another occasion comes to remembrance when I baptized a lady in the hospital. She was dying of cancer. A tub was prepared for the baptizing. It was among the inconvenient baptisms I recall, but not the most inconvenient.
When I was in college the family I lived with showed me an old, worn black and white photograph made on their farm in the wintertime. Ice had to be broken on the pond so a baptism could take place. These incidents tell of the importance these folks attached to baptism. They must have believed it was necessary. Still, none of these is the baptism of which I am thinking.
The most inconvenient baptism known to me is this one. Paul and Silas had false charges made against them. Their clothes were torn off. They were imprisoned, beaten, and their feet were fastened tight in the stocks. All of these were unjust actions. The Philippian jailer was impressed with the behavior of Paul and Silas. They had been singing hymns instead of complaining. They had a chance to escape but did not. They even saved his life for he almost committed suicide when he thought they had vanished after the earthquake. Having already been mistreated why would they expect justice to prevail by remaining? He represented the government that was responsible for all of this. Here was a crucial moment that became the turning point in his life. Paul and Silas had something he needed and wanted, so he asked the most intelligent question a person can ask “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved . . .” (v. 31).
Now, most denominational preachers stop right here. These men say the jailer was saved at verse 31 and then don’t bother to tell the rest of the story. They remind me of the atheist who threw his Bible away because the hero got killed right in the middle and he saw no point in finishing the book! The next verse (v. 32) says they “spake unto him the word of the Lord.” In v. 31 they told him to believe and in v. 32 they told him what to believe. By having him “saved” at v. 31 these preachers have him saved before he heard the gospel! If one can be saved before he hears the gospel then Jesus’ death is worthless (Rom. 1: 16; 1 Cor. 15:1-5). It is one thing to tell a person to believe and quite another to tell him what to believe. After speaking “the word of the Lord” to him, he “took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes (indicating his repentance)” and was baptized immediately (v. 33).
How did he know to be baptized? It is part of the “word of the Lord.” Jesus had said “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. . . ” (Mk. 16:16). In speaking unto him “the word of the Lord” is it likely that they would not even mention the last thing our Lord said about salvation before he left the earth – never to return again until judgment day? Notice also that the rejoicing came after the baptism (v. 34).
They had just been through a severe earthquake; a near suicide, the wounds of Paul and Silas needed attention; it was after midnight; they had to go elsewhere for the baptizing, plus other possible inconveniences regarding safety from the earthquake and the Roman government. They must have taught him and he must have believed baptism to be absolutely necessary. It couldn’t even wait til morning! Why didn’t they stop him? Strange, if baptism is not essential. Some churches store up baptismal candidates for several weeks until they have enough to justify getting the preacher wet. Prior to this point it is “too inconvenient.” The real truth is they don’t believe (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Which way does your church teach it?
In all of my life this, my friends, is the most inconvenient baptism I ever heard of. And now you know the rest of the story.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 6, pp. 182-183
March 15, 1984