Summary: Once we believe and accept Jesus, there is an act that is to follow; do you know what it is?
First Act of Obedience
April 28, 2001
What is the first act of obedience to God supposed to be? Do you know what you’re meant to do as a first expression of your deepest gratitude to God when you accept free salvation and grace given to you through Jesus Christ? Do you know that you are supposed to do something? I believe we know, in a general way, that our lives are to reflect our relationship with Jesus and with God. I believe we know that gratitude is meant to show itself in actions of obedience. But do you know what the first act of obedience is supposed to be?
Let’s consider a couple of rather definitive passages that point us to this.
Matt. 28. 18- 20- do you see the progression? Jesus instructed His disciples to go and to teach all nations, and to baptize them, and to continue to teach them so they would become disciples, too. That’s one definitive passage. Our Lord tells us something there.
Acts 2. 37- the giant crowd responded to the stinging and honest words of Peter. They shouted out, asking what they were supposed to ‘do’? Sometimes Christians get all bent-out- of-shape over the idea of ‘doing’ anything. They can get all haughty and upset and indignant and express the idea, “I don’t have to do anything.” In one way, they’re right, but, also, they’re very wrong!
v. 38- here’s how Peter responded. Notice that he didn’t say they were to do nothing. Although he would be the first to preach “Jesus did it all”, that is not what he declared to these people. He said what? Read it with me, please. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter is rather clear, wouldn’t you say? The first act of obedience is to be baptized! This is important to know. When we come to Jesus and are convicted by Jesus, and when we accept Him as our Savior, and when we declare for Him and ask Him to be our Lord and Savior (two different concepts, by the way), then we are to be baptized.
It’s important to note, too, that a new believer doesn’t have to know a lot. He/she doesn’t have to know all the books of the Bible, or all the prophets in order of time written and the central message of each one. He or she doesn’t have to have all sorts of verses memorized. He or she doesn’t have to have his/her life straightened out. He or she is to have repented, and to be baptized. Baptism is not unimportant. Baptism is not even optional for the Christian seeking to follow God’s Word to us. Baptism is the first act of obedience.
So, is it just some ceremonial thing we do? Is baptism just something symbolic of something and nothing more? (In our society, many tend to think of symbolic acts as unimportant or superfluous acts- as something to take or leave, but not as really important.) Again, let’s permit scripture to speak to us.
Rom. 6. 3, 4, 5- baptism speaks loudly to Christians. It speaks of being with Jesus in death and resurrection. It tells us something about what happens in our lives. We haven’t just ‘accepted Jesus’, but we actually go where Jesus went and then begin to live where Jesus now lives. We get to walk in ‘newness of life’. If we’ve actually been together with Jesus in death, or the likeness of His death, then we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. This does NOT speak of something for our future. This speaks of what happens NOW when someone is baptized and comes up out of the water. This speaks of the new and present reality! The new Christian NOW lives in the likeness of Jesus’ resurrection. Resurrection happens NOW, not at some unknown distant future time. (Oh, there is to be something in the future, but we must not downplay the importance of what happens now!) The new Christian begins to live with resurrection power and begins to live the Kingdom life NOW, not just at some time in the future! Baptism does more than picture this. Baptism is the vehicle for this to happen!
Col. 2.12- speaks of the same things. Paul declares that God is involved and something spiritual is happening. He calls it ‘the operation of God’, and applies it to what happens as God is involved in the rising of the new Christian from the dead!
1 Cor. 12.13- tells us that the Holy Spirit is involved in baptism. On this, let’s be clear that Jesus brought something better than existed before He came on the scene. There was baptizing going on. Most notably, John the Baptist used baptism. However, even though his baptism prepared the way for Jesus to come, it was inadequate- second rate.