A gracEmail subscriber in the Northeast writes that she believes that we are saved by the grace of God and the actions of Jesus — not by anything we do here on earth. She also understands Scripture to teach that baptism is for believers and that it is by immersion. “How I can embrace any others as Christian siblings,” she asks, “and still teach credibly what I see as biblical baptism?”
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Jesus commissioned his people to make disciples of all nations, to baptize those disciples and to instruct them in his ways (Matt. 28:19). A disciple is an apprentice, a personal pupil, a follower. Discipleship is a response to the good news that God reconciled sinners by Jesus’ life and death, and that the divine rule has begun to be realized on the earth. Discipleship is not a means for obtaining God’s favor or for persuading him to bestow his grace. Disciples have trusted Jesus as God’s Son and have entrusted themselves to him as Savior and Lord. They have embarked on the continuing assignment of learning from the Master, of imitating and obeying him, of knowing him more and more deeply in personal relationship.
This includes following and obeying Jesus in baptism, among other matters. Not all disciples of Jesus understand the details of baptism the same way. It seems clear to me (but not to all disciples) that baptism is for believers, rather than for babies, and that it involves dipping the whole body under water rather than sprinkling or pouring a small amount of water over the head. Since that is how I understand Jesus’ wishes, that is what I teach and practice. I recently immersed a middle-aged friend who was sprinkled as an infant, but who came to believe that Jesus desires this response from him now as an adult believer. He did that to please Jesus, however, and not to please me. He understands that Jesus is his Savior and his Lord.
It is always appropriate for disciples to discuss the Master’s wishes together. It is always appropriate for any disciple to follow what he or she believes the Master desires. It is never appropriate for any disciple to force or even to urge anything on another disciple which that disciple does not personally understand to be the Master’s desire. We disciples have no right to judge each other. The Master will judge us all.