I trusted Jesus as my Savior as a 13 year-old boy, in a very Roman Catholic culture. Until then, I was convinced that I had a good chance of getting to heaven if I did my best and continued in the religion I had been raised in. As many others, I was trusting in good works and religion as a guarantee of some kind of favor in the afterlife.
I remember the day I finally trusted completely in a personal Savior (Jesus) and stopped trusting myself. Then, I started reading the Bible, and without any other outside prompting, I knew I had to be baptized. Some things that are obvious to people that grew up in Biblical Christianity, were not obvious to me. I had to learn them. My Bible reading soon convinced me that only people that already have a personal assurance of having been saved could be baptized. I also learned that all the baptisms in the Bible were done by full immersion of the candidate. I was only 13, but I remember going to the missionary and telling him that I wanted to be baptized. I had a plan, we would go down to the dock at night, take some towels, and he would baptize me. This way I would not get in trouble with my dad that did not understand or approve of my newfound faith. Nothing had prepared me for the answer I got from the missionary.
Even though he told me he understood my desire to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism, he advised me that while living under my dad’s roof, I had to respect his authority. That was very wise and sound advice. Second, and I think it goes with our theme, baptism is not to be done in secret. He told me that baptism is a public testimony of one’s belief in salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One day in the future, he said, if I still desired it, I would be able to obey the Lord in baptism. Years later, in October of 1999, I was baptized, very publicly, on a beach in Southern Portugal.
Baptism does not save or wash away our sins. Also, baptism is not a means by which God gives us grace (a sacrament). Baptism is not the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament circumcision. Baptism is the public testimony of a person’s faith. I believe this is clearly seen by the fact that Jesus Christ was baptized. He did not have any sins to wash away. His baptism was the sign that inaugurated His public ministry. The more we can expose the unsaved world to true New Testament baptism, the closer we will be to its true intent.
Inside a church building, in a river, lake or in the ocean, wherever we have it, we have to make baptism missional. We should not delay it, but we should not perform it in a hurry. The baptismal candidate, but also the baptismal spectator, needs to know what is going on. In our fast paced world, we need to take time for New Testament baptism.