Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit….
— Matthew 28:19
In yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, I related the story of the first large meetings that Denise and I conducted in the former Soviet Union. We held those meetings in Latvia’s capital city of Riga. During that amazing week, approximately 8,000 people attended the meetings on all five nights — for a total attendance of 40,000 people. Just as people followed Jesus to witness the powerful, mind-blowing miracles He performed during His earthly ministry, we discovered that these precious people didn’t want to go away once they had been touched by God’s power. Miraculous power abounded all around us, and that week we witnessed several thousand people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ!
However, during these meetings, I was deeply disturbed by one very important fact: These new believers needed to be water-baptized! In Matthew 28:19, Jesus proclaimed, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus didn’t tell us to just preach to them; He commanded that we baptize them and get them moving on the road to discipleship! Jesus treated baptism like it was important, so I knew I needed to find a way to get these new believers into baptismal waters.
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Before I continue with this story, let’s look at the word “baptism” for a moment to see what it originally meant in the Greek. The word “baptize” is from the Greek word baptidzo, a word that originally meant to dip and to dye. For instance, in very early cases, the word baptidzo described the process of dipping a cloth or garment into a vat of color to dye it; leaving it there long enough for the material to soak up the new color; and then pulling that garment out of the dye with a permanently changed outward appearance. Likewise a person who comes to Jesus Christ can be likened to an old garment that needs to be dipped into a vat of dye so its color can be changed. However, the person isn’t dipped into a vat of colored dye, but into the precious blood of the Lamb! This person is so totally transformed by Jesus’ blood that he becomes a new creature. His countenance is so changed that he even looks different. You could say that this new believer has been supernaturally “dipped and dyed”!
What a new light this sheds on baptism! In Romans 6:4, the apostle Paul said, “Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Water baptism is a symbolic proclamation of the fact that believers have been buried with Christ and raised with Him. When a believer is placed in the baptismal waters, it symbolizes being immersed in one condition and coming out looking brand-new. In other words, it is a picture of what happened to that person when he got saved! This outward symbol represents the fact that he has been dipped in the blood of the Lamb, and now his entire life has been newly colored and transformed to be like Jesus!
According to Paul’s instructions in Romans 6, this was the act of officially burying the past and starting a new life in Christ. At the time of those meetings, I fully understood that Christ commanded us to lead people into the waters of baptism as a public declaration of what God had done in their lives — in addition to preaching and leading people in a prayer of repentance. When we saw so many people get saved the first night, I knew we had to come up with a solution to baptize them.
To solve this problem, we rented a public swimming pool for three afternoons, and I announced that we would make water baptism available to each new believer and that we would instruct him or her about water baptism around the sides of the swimming pool before they entered it to be baptized.
We thought it would be extraordinary if 100 converts showed up to be baptized in a mid- afternoon service, but even at that, our team was ready to baptize 10 people at a time. We thought that with all the getting in and out of the pool, we could handle 100 people in one hour per afternoon if we were really careful with our time. We thought that if 300 of the new converts showed up over the course of all three afternoons, it would be a fabulous turnout — so you can imagine how stunned we were when more than 300 people showed up the first afternoon. There were so many people that we could not fit them around the edge of the pool in one teaching session, so we decided to divide the afternoon into three different baptismal sessions that each accommodated about 100 people. This meant we ended up baptizing a little more than 300 people in that first afternoon.
But on the second day, another 300-plus people came to the pool for water baptism — meaning the turnout had already exceeded 600 people! Then on the third day, we were stunned when an additional 300-plus people showed up to be baptized. By the end of those three afternoons, we had water-baptized 926 people. To be honest, we were both spiritually elated and physically exhausted. And we still had one more evening service to preach where more people would repent. That meant even more people would need to be water-baptized!
It was an amazing week in our lives. It was our first public event in the former USSR. Approximately 40,000 people attended, approximately 7,000 people repented and received Christ, countless notable miracles abounded, and we water-baptized 926 people in a public swimming pool! Little did we know that we were just getting started, but as you will see in tomorrow’s Sparkling Gem, God had plans that we were unaware of when that week of meetings began!
So have YOU ever received water baptism?
I am amazed at how many believers think that water baptism is optional because Scripture never presents it as an option. Certainly it doesn’t save us, but it is, in fact, the first step of obedience for a believer who wants to become a disciple. Jesus commanded that we receive water baptism in Matthew 28:19.
Since Jesus spoke of water baptism as the first serious step for a believer, it is essential that you not simply skip over this step, as so many people have done. I have seen over many years of ministry that people who neglect this divine command tend to let other vital requirements of their Christian walk slip through the cracks. Don’t let this describe you. You’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus, and if you haven’t already been water-baptized, it’s time for you to go under the waters of baptism to declare publicly that the old man is gone and that you are now “dyed” in the blood of Jesus Christ! Don’t you want to do what Jesus has asked you to do?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, today I see more clearly than ever the significance of water baptism as a powerful demonstration of my spiritual transformation in Christ. Father, just as Jesus publicly obeyed You when He suffered and died to purchase my redemption, I obey the Lord’s command to publicly proclaim through the waters of baptism that I have been washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb. I thank You that because Jesus died in my place and You raised Him to new life, I take every step to demonstrate that I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Clothed in His righteousness alone, baptism symbolizes that I’ve been dipped and dyed in the crimson flood of Jesus’ blood as I gratefully proclaim: I am a child of God!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. Old things have passed away and through Him, all things have become new. Crucified with Christ, I follow the Lord into baptism to bury my old man in a watery grave. And when I rise up, it is as a demonstration of how Jesus saves.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- At what age were you water baptized? What do you remember about that event? Were there changes you witnessed in your life as a result of publicly proclaiming your faith in Christ with the act of water baptism?
- If you have never been water baptized, why not? What would prevent you from obeying the Lord in this very elementary first step of obedience? Did you inadvertently skip it because no one told you it was important?
- Do you attend a church that regularly baptizes people? If not, why do you attend a church that doesn’t obey a command of Jesus that is so clear and simple? If your church doesn’t regularly baptize people, is it possible that you should ask your pastor for the church’s position on water baptism?