Why We Baptize When We Worship Together

Worshipping Together 2023
November 1, 2023
Greg Scheideman

I have had the joy of coming alongside people within our church who are being obedient to Christ’s commands and have attended the baptism class in the last couple years. This is a summary of what I recently taught at a Sunday night gathering, and Tim did a great job preaching this as well. I would encourage you to listen to his sermons from 9/3 and 9/10 if you haven’t already! I wanted to address a couple “elephants in the room” (or questions that are common but often not asked) from the baptism class.

I like the 9Marks definition of baptism which says that it “is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.” Scripture gives us a lot of details about when, who, and how to baptize but leaves the where and some other details up to the wisdom of a church’s leadership.

One of the questions people have before they are baptized at BCLR is: “What’s up with the white robes?!” This is one of those items where you won’t find a chapter and verse commanding them but where wisdom has set a practice. Apart from maintaining modesty for those being baptized and keeping the attention on God’s work in the life of an individual - a white robe symbolizes purity, putting off the clothes of an old life and the new clothes of a new life in Christ. The robes add to other great symbols like washing and complete covering of sin as well as identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as a payment for our sin.

Another question that has been raised is: “Why do I have to be baptized in front of the church and speak?” I believe this is a wise practice for several reasons:

1. A public baptism in front of the church encourages all those who are there – if you have an opportunity to strengthen the church, go for it!

2. When people throughout scripture were getting baptized, they were declaring publicly that they had just made the decision to follow Jesus, and we should do the same. Psalm 105:1 says “Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”

3. It is a good, practical hurdle in 2023 Little Rock to help examine whether an individual desiring to be baptized is genuinely saved. In many parts of the world today and in most of history, there was a built-in negative consequence or persecution that would come with identifying publicly as a Christian that we largely don’t experience today. God’s word explains that there is a cost of discipleship and that a Christian should be characterized as being willing to do hard things (Matt 4:18-22; Matt 19:29; Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 14:25-33). A personal testimony can be a great tool to use for evangelism for the rest of a Christian’s life. Also, although public speaking is difficult, it provides some self-examination to determine one’s willingness to do a hard thing out of love for one’s Savior, which is a great tool to check the validity of professed faith in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

4. Finally, it is a great way to unite a believer with the church. After someone has publicly identified themselves as a Christian, those who are in the church can readily look to pray for, encourage, and practically come alongside that person who has just been baptized in their spiritual journey.

I have been blessed through the years by my own obedience to be baptized and also from the multitude of baptisms I have witnessed. What an incredible ordinance Jesus instituted for the church! I love that we do everything we can reasonably do to make sure it is a blessing to those being baptized and to our body when one is witnessed while we worship together!