Summary: The New Testament makes it clear that all who believe in Jesus as their Savior are to be baptized, and so for those who submit to do so it is an act of obedience.
The whole duty of man is to love God and keep His commandments. From paradise lost to paradise
regained this is the teaching of the Bible. The one condition for man's abiding in Paradise was obedience
to God's command. In Rev. 22:14 we read, "Blessed are they who do His commandments, that they may
have right to the tree of life..." Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commandments, and you are my
friends if you do whatever I command you."
The whole plan of God revolves around the issue of obedience. Sin is disobedience, and it was by
disobedience that the angels lost heaven, man lost Eden, Moses lost entrance to the Promise Land, Saul
lost his crown, and Judus lost his soul. All loss can be traced to disobedience, and all gain can be traced to
obedience. Paul sums it up in Rom. 5:19, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so
by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." It was the obedience of Jesus unto death that
became the foundation for our salvation. If you study the word obedience through the Bible you will
discover that every person who is pleasing to God, and who was used of God, was so because of their
Baptism is above all else an act of obedience. Jesus commanded the church to go into all the world
and baptize, and so for those who perform the act of baptism it is primary an act of obedience. The New
Testament makes it clear that all who believe in Jesus as their Savior are to be baptized, and so for those
who submit to do so it is an act of obedience. It is important that we grasp this so that we understand it is
obedience that matters. In itself baptism has no value apart from the spirit of obedience. It is no big deal
to have been baptized, but it is a big deal to have obeyed the Lord's command to be baptized. The
obedience is the big thing. Baptism is a symbol, but obedience is an actual act of the will, and that act of
the will is more important than the symbol.
A wedding ceremony is a symbolic act of commitment, but as any mate knows, it is the actual love
and affection of the partners in life that makes the marriage truly beautiful, and the wedding ceremony.
So it is with baptism. If they will is not committed to obey Christ as Lord, then the symbol of baptism is
of no more value than a wedding ceremony for two people who do not intend to love each other. A
symbol only points to something else, and if the something else is not there, the symbol has no power in
itself to produce it. A wedding will not make two people love each other, and baptism will not make a
person live in obedience to Christ.
A wedding is a public proclamation of your commitment and determination to be loving and loyal to
your mate. A baptism service is a public proclamation of your commitment to be loving and obedient to
your Lord. The wedding is itself an act of love, however, for to make a public proclamation is itself an act
of the will, and a choice that is loving. So also baptism is more than a symbol. It is an act of obedience
and thereby and act of love.
Baptism is not something Jesus does for us, but it is something we do for Him. It is our response of
love and obedience to His command. There is a baptism of the Spirit in which He does something for us
as He fills us with His Spirit in order to empower us to accomplish His will. But water baptism is
something we do for Him, just as the Lord's Supper is an act of obedience. We are doing it in
remembrance of Him because He commanded us to do it.
Baptists require that the person being baptized be old enough to make a choice, for only when the will
makes a choice can it be an act of obedience. If we kidnapped people in their sleep and gave them a shot
so they would not awake, and then brought them to the church and baptized them, and then returned them
to their home, that would not be an act of obedience. They would not have made a choice. When baptism
is done to a person rather than by a person it takes on too much the nature of magic rather than an act of
obedience. The Baptist position is that the value of baptism is not in the water, but in the will of the one
being baptized. The question is, is it their will and choice to do this in obedience to Christ as Lord?