We once concluded with the outpouring of our heart to an electric audience of attentive Bible lovers. After the lesson, one seemingly apprehensive, but convicted believer, stood up and valiantly said, “I want to be baptized right now!”
So after initial preparations for the event, both of us proceeded down into the water. There was a sense of nervous apprehension in the willing subject who had declared his intentions to follow Jesus. He was quite nervous with his first step into the water. As the subject was in the process of being laid back into the water in order to be immersed, arms and legs went flinging everywhere. Hands and feet grabbed after everything that was above water. He was hydrophobic (terrified of water). After some reassuring persuasion, the self-confessed hydrophobic believer fought against his fears. Nevertheless, we almost both went down into the water, he wide-eyed and struggling, and me not seeking to be rebaptized. What was so encouraging was that he overcame his fear of water in order to follow Jesus into the Jordan River. He had not informed us before of his phobia. However, regardless of his phobia of water, he was determined to be baptized as Jesus had commanded. After the experience, no one in the attentive audience let him pass without hugs and encouragement for his courage to overcome his fear of water in order to obey the gospel.
It is unfortunate today that there are thousands of “believers” who claim to be followers (disciples) of Jesus, but they do not have the courage to overcome their hydrophobia. They claim to be followers of Jesus, but they will not follow Him to Aenon where there was much water into which they would be immersed after the example of Jesus (John 3:23). They will not follow Jesus by obedience to His instructions to be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16). And thus, they are not willing to be “of Christ” by baptism into His name (1 Corinthians 1:12,13).
Paul said, “Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But there are hydrophobics today who will not follow Paul to the grave of water as he imitated Christ by following Him (Acts 22:16). Some hydrophobics today are so afraid of the water that they would never even “follow the crowd” of those who followed Peter’s instructions on the day of Pentecost to be “baptized for remission of sins’” (Acts 2:38). A crowd of about 3,000 men and women followed Peter’s instructions on that day to be immersed for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:41). They followed his instructions right into and out of the water in obedience to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (See Romans 6:3-6). We are sure there are some who could not say as the Ethiopian eunuch, “See, here is water! What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Instead, some religious hydrophobics would say, “See, here is water! Get me out of here!”
Too many seem to forget that when a pagan idolater responded to what a Christian believed in the first century, he was not initially told to either repent or confess that Jesus was the Christ and Son of Christ. He was not initially informed about baptism. Pagan unbelievers were initially told what Paul said to the idolatrous Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved.” (Acts 16:31). Idolatrous unbelievers had to first believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and then they were taught the rest of the story. Paul and Silas continued with the rest of the story to the Philippian jailor by speaking to him “the word of the Lord.” (Acts 16:32). And the result? “And immediately he [the jailor] was baptized, he and all his household.” (Acts 16:33). One must first believe in Jesus, and then obedience to the rest of the story will follow. And the rest of the story involves repentance and washing away of sins in the waters of baptism.
The entire gospel according to John was written that the idolatrous unbelievers to whom John wrote “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing” they might have life through His name (John 20:31). In his book, John was not writing to believers. He was writing to idolatrous unbelievers who knew nothing or little about the life and ministry of Jesus, especially the fact that Jesus was the Word (John 1:1-14), the Son of God who came down out of heaven for the salvation of man (John 3:13). Idolatrous unbelievers must first, as the eunuch and idolatrous jailor, believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. After belief, that which was necessary to be born again would come (John 3:3-5).
It is highly unfortunate that so many throughout the religious world have twisted the gospel of John out of John’s purpose for which he wrote the book. His message, that was only to be the beginning of the message of the gospel, has been made the conclusion. We must not forget, however, that belief is only the beginning of one’s journey to do all that God requires of each individual in order to be saved. If one stops at the beginning, then no obedient repentance will occur (Luke 13:3). There will be no confession that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God (Romans 10:9). There will be no baptism into Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).
When those on the day of Pentecost believed that they had crucified the Lord and Christ, they said to the apostles, “Men and brethren, what will we do?” (Acts 2:37). The apostles did not leave them at belief by telling them that they were saved by “belief only.” Instead of allowing them to remain lost in a “state of belief,” Peter instructed that they follow through with their belief. We read the gospel according to John in order to believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. We read the book of Acts to find out where to go from belief. Belief in the New Testament is more than a smile on one’s face, or a warm feeling. It is an inward activation to follow Jesus to the Jordan River in order to be immersed for the remission of all past sins. Once they believe, true believers will overcome their hydrophobia by asking, “Where is the water?”
Research: BAPTISM: A FAITH RESPONSE TO THE CROSS, www.africainternational.org