Maybe you belonged to a secret organization. It could have been as children at school were you had a type of gang that was not known to outsiders; it could have been a religious brotherhood; it might have been a secret society that although you may be able to find everything about them on the internet, they remain “secret”. Secret could mean a number of things, such as secret because we are embarrassed should we be found to be within this organization. It could mean secret in that what we do is morally or ethically wrong within society. It could even mean secret in that what we do is criminal. There is however another possibility in that secret could mean we do not want people to know the good we do within society. In Jesus however there is nothing secret! Everything to do with His King is open, transparent and knowable. In other words there is nothing secret about Jesus, His Kingdom and being part of His Kingdom. This means that there is no such thing as a secret disciple of Jesus. Let me make one clarification quickly. In certain countries where the Gospel is banned, Christianity might be underground because any known Christian will be imprisoned or executed. One understand that a believer would have family to care for and therefore caution would need to be practiced. Our text is:
Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Over a few days we have covered a few really important issues. You will recall how the Religious Leaders of the Jews wanted lies to be told about the empty tomb. In our passage our Lord Jesus wants the truth to be told about Him and His Gospel. As we progressed we found that disciples need to be made from every nation upon the earth and these disciples need to be visibly Jesus’ Kingdom Citizens.
(4) The way this is done is through baptism.
1) The formula of baptism is in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The ethnic grouping one lives with and are part of need to know that they, the new believers have made a transition from the religion they were part of into Christianity. The might have been Jews but they might have been Gentiles following a variety of idols. It might have been their traditional religions ranging from a localized god, ancestral veneration to modern day materialism and secularism. They needed to show their old worship family and friends that they now surrendered to live exclusively under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and therefore they are openly baptized into the True God’s, Forever Family. It certainly drew repercussions such as being excluded from the family and marriage; losing their employment; suffering economically and even being beaten up or stoned to death. This still happens today! Remember, there are no secret disciples. You either stand for the true God or you are not a disciple of Jesus!
2) The mode of baptism is a bone of contention. I have friends who believe in believer’s baptism and I have friends who believe in paedobaptism. The first group believes that a person needs to be immersed in water as one who has understood the Gospel, confessed, believed and repented. The second group believes that children of believing parents may be baptized, be it by immersion or pouring of water with the understanding that the believing parents will raise the child in the ways of God and once able to understand the Gospel, believe, confess sin and repent. Neither of these ways makes a person a believer. Such would fall into the category known as Baptismal Regeneration which is not found anywhere in the Bible. There are groups who believe that when they baptize an infant, that infant immediately becomes a believer. The reason this is unbiblical is because confession of sin, faith in Jesus’ meritorious work on the Cross and repentance unto new life cannot be exercised by an infant. Never forget that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. Those who perform this and believe this are totally unbiblical. Christianity is a faith based religion, not a work based religion. Elsewhere I have written about my persuasion which is paedobaptism. When a person comes to faith and they had not been baptized as an infant of believing parents I would perform the rite of Believer’s Baptism. One matter we need to be clear on is that nowhere in the Bible does it categorically say baptism must be by immersion. Scholars have sought to read such a statement into the Biblical text. They fail! Even at Jesus’ baptism one cannot prove that Jesus was immersed. Scholars might try to imply this but the text does not say it. The reason for laboring this point is that as believers we need to be clear on the importance of the “formula” and not major on the “mode” … baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
3) Irrespective which baptism and where this would be performed, it needs to be done in a place open to the public. Only in the case of illness leading to death would baptism be practiced privately. A Church is public and so is a gathering at a pool or lake. The importance of baptism being public is that everyone may see and hear the new believer or the parents of the infant declare their vows of repentance and faith as well as denouncing the devil and his ways. The picture I find coming out of this is something like … “Look everyone, hear everyone, now watch me (us), examine me (us) and see whether I (we) live up to these vows we have made in your hearing.” Personally, from the clergy and congregation side I believe we fail here! We fail to examine the candidates properly (believer and parents or parent of the infant) before baptism and we fail to watch (examine) them after the baptism. There ought to be proper pre-baptismal counselling which would include the candidates understand the Gospel properly and what is required after baptism. Then, after the baptism there ought to be follow up meetings to encourage, motivate and assist those baptized or their parents to remain true to Jesus and His requirements.
4) Lastly, baptism means participation and involvement. Be it the believer or the parents, once the rite had been administered they need to take up their rightful place in the Church. Paul writes extensively about the Church Body and the Human Body. All parts need to fulfil their role for smooth functioning.
Help me Lord to fulfil my role in the Church. Amen.