By Ron Halbrook
When should a person be baptized? When he understands and accepts the gospel of Christ in his heart, or some time later?
Infants and young children should wait. The Bible does not teach infant baptism. The Great Commission says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Faith must precede baptism, but infants and small children do not yet have the ability to understand — much less believe the gospel.
At some age, we reach an understanding of right and wrong and we have the ability to make a moral choice between the two. It is not merely a matter of choosing to obey our parents, and receiving their approval, or to disobey them, and receiving their disapproval. It is a matter of choosing in a deeper sense, making a moral choice between right and wrong. When a person reaches that age of responsibility and chooses to break the commandments of God, he becomes guilty of sin. Thus, the Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Christ died to save us from the guilt and condemnation of our sins. His death provided a perfect sacrifice for sin: Sin was punished in such a way as to offer pardon to the sinner. He died for our sins, but he did no sin. This is the basis of salvation rather than any merit in ourselves (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8).
Salvation is offered to all men but not forced upon anyone. The conditions upon which we make the choice to receive or to reject salvation include faith in Christ, repenting of sin, confessing Jesus as God’s Son, and being immersed in water by his command (Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:10). There is no merit in man when he accepts these conditions, but he throws himself upon God’s love, mercy, and grace by yielding to these conditions.
When we accept the truth of the gospel in our mind, should we delay our baptism until later? No, we should be baptized immediately! Just accepting the truth in our hearts will not save us, for we are not saved by faith alone (Jas. 2:24). We must immediately repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), immediately confess Jesus as God’s Son (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:9-10), and immediately be baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38-41).
In Acts 2:40-41, the sinners were baptized “the same day” when they believed the truth — they did not wait. In Acts 8:35-38, the eunuch was baptized as soon as he believed the gospel and confessed Christ — he did not wait. In Acts 16:32-34, the jailer was baptized “the same hour of the night” — he did not wait. In Acts 22:16, Ananias told Saul, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” — he did not wait.
Why did they not wait? Because until they were baptized, they were still lost in their sins. If they died before being baptized, they would have been lost forever! When a person learns his house is on fire, does he leave immediately or does he wait until a later time to leave? He leaves immediately because he does not want to risk his life! When a person learns the truth of the gospel and knows he is lost in sin (his spiritual house is on fire!), he needs to obey immediately — without delay! We do not know when our life may end through disease or sudden accident, nor when the Lord will return. To obey the gospel is urgent!
The denominations delay baptism because they teach that a person is saved the moment he believes in Christ, but such teaching is from Satan. We are saved by faith, but only when faith acts to receive forgiveness in baptism. We are not saved by faith only (Jas. 2:24). Dear sinner friend, flee the denominations with their “faith only” doctrine. Obey the original gospel of Christ — be forgiven through the blood of Christ — let him add you to the church of Christ — receive a home in heaven at the side of Christ!
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