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Q. What Questions Should be asked and answered at one’s baptism?

Answer

Dear *****,

This is a very good question.

We have to take into account that in the New Testament baptism came almost immediately after a person’s profession of faith. This is particularly evident in the Book of Acts. One must conclude that being this young in the faith the new believer should not be expected to be a theologian, or even to understand all of the implications of baptism. (Paul spells these out in Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 6). But what should be clear is a simple, uncomplicated, grasp of the gospel, which is what baptism symbolically depicts.

  • Thus, one must understand that they are a sinner, rightly under divine condemnation (Romans 3).
  • They must understand that they are helpless to earn God’s favor, or to save themselves, by good works and efforts to please God (Romans 3; Ephesians 2:1-3).
  • They must understand that Jesus Christ is God’s only solution for sin, and for salvation (John 14:6).
  • They must understand that by faith in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection we die to sin and are raised to newness of life in Him (Romans 6).
  • They should understand that trusting in Jesus for salvation means that they become a new person, and thus our old way of thinking and acting is to be put off, and that thinking and acting like Jesus is our new identity (Ephesians 4:17ff.).

It is not a bad idea to inform the one being baptized that publicly identifying with Christ in baptism may lead to rejection by friends or family, and possibly persecution as well (1 Thessalonians 1; 1 Peter 4).

One way to go about baptism is to distill the above essentials to three or four questions:

1. Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner, deserving of eternal punishment, and that you can do nothing to earn God’s favor by your own efforts?

2. Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God’s one and only remedy for your sin, and the only provision for your salvation?

3. Do you acknowledge that by your identification with Christ by faith you died to sin and were raised to newness of life in Him?

4. Is it your intention to live a different kind of life because of your trust in Jesus and the new life He has given you?

“On the basis of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ, it is my privilege to baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

The baptism of young children is a matter of concern for me, because they may be doing this to please their parents, or to follow their friends, yet without really experiencing the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin or grasping the essence of the gospel. In asking questions which only require a “Yes” response it makes it fairly easy for a child to appear to be a believer. Over the years I have re-baptized a number of adults who made childhood professions of faith (followed by baptism), when they did not really understand the gospel.

I believe that an impartial interview (not by a parent, but by an elder or Sunday School teacher, or small group leader) should always precede a baptism, so that one’s grasp of the gospel can be evaluated. It has become popular in some circles for the father to baptize his child. When I look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:12-17 it appears that caution should be exercised so that the baptizer does not have too important a role in the mind of the one being baptized.

Overall, my preference would be for the one being baptized to give their testimony, expressing the essentials mentioned above, but in their own words.

I have entertained the possibility of videotaping the testimony of the one being baptized, so that stage fright might not occur as easily, and (if such should prove to be the case) one could be encouraged to “wait” until certain truths are more clearly grasped if the need becomes evident.

Let me add that I think we need to be very careful about the terms we use for conversion. I know of an occasion where a friend had the sons of a well-known Christian in his Sunday School class. One of them confessed that he had “asked Jesus into his heart.” When my friend asked how He got there, the boy pondered the question for a bit and then replied, “I guess through the hole in my sock.” Seriously, this really happened.

In John 16:7-11 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It would be good for the one seeking baptism to give testimony to these things.

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Baptism