As the risen Lord, Jesus Christ commanded His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19; see also Mark 16:16). The book of Acts gives ample testimony that this is exactly what the disciples did. For example, Acts records the first public sermon of the church on the day of Pentecost. In this sermon, Peter called for a response to his message with the following words: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we see that baptism is regarded as the public act of our repentance and the public transfer of a new believer from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God.
In the New Testament, it is not sufficient to simply pray a sinner’s prayer and be privately justified before God. Christianity, as the redeemed community, is to be a public witness before the world. In short, we are not only saved as individuals, but we are saved into a new community, known as the church of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the public sign of this transfer and should be the normal “first step” expectation of all new believers.
In this Seedling, Timothy C. Tennent makes a case for the meaning and mode of Christian baptism.
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Timothy C. Tennent (PhD) is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.