Baptism has become an outrageous word among many groups of Christians, ever since it came to be accepted as an act of confirmation of faith by a professed Christian. While this concept may seem innocent enough, it has given rise to endless controversy and jangling among us, and sprouted useless questions such as whether baptism is necessary to go to heaven, whether a ‘born-again’ person or a ‘believer’ who is not baptized is a disciple, whether those who are not baptized after professing Christ are full Christians... the list could go on, but you get the gist.
However, the Lord Jesus Christ gave as one of his last commandments to his disciples, “ Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” This Great Commission, as many call it, is clear in its scope. The apostles were to (1) Go and make disciples. How? (2) By baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and (3) teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus had commanded.
This commandment makes it clear that the disciples were to baptize, and further instruct in the way of Jesus Christ, only those who are willing to become disciples. And it was to his disciples that Jesus gave the marvelous assurance, “Lo, I am with you always”.
No one else.
In this verse the order of instruction is very important. It is important because the commandment was not given by a mere man, but God. God, you remember, does everything according to His will. Now, the Devil is very clever, especially when it comes to confusing people. He uses his diabolic intelligence only to steal, kill and to destroy. Thus, if you look at many of the Devil’s ideas, they may seem very logical, sweet and reasonable. In fact, you may be able to summon up another couple of verses to support his subtle fallacies, but still, they will not be of God.
Take just one instance in Luke 24, verse 26, where Jesus asks, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” He implies that the whole course of his life had followed God’s foreordained plan for the Christ, to suffer first, and only then to enter his glory. But compare this with Luke chapter 4, where the Devil comes to Jesus and insinuates with fake compassion, “Hey Jesus! You don’t have to go through all these sufferings to enter into glory. See, all the authority and the glory of this world has been delivered to me. If you just bow down and worship me, I will give it all to you.”
Now from our human standpoint, the Devil’s plan appears much more logical, kind and easy, as
well as more sure of success, than God’s strait and narrow way of testing, trial, death and glory.
After all, if our aim is to enter glory, the Devil has come up with a plan which is simpler and quicker, as well as more merciful and less humiliating. Indeed… if that was our aim! BUT... Jesus’s aim was not just to enter his glory; his aim was to please God, his Father. This is the overmastering passion of those who choose to be his disciples.
Now, why did I bring this up? What does it have to do with baptism, after all? You see, in the same manner, today the Devil confuses people by putting the thought in their mind that it is not essential to be baptized. In many churches and organizations, indepth Bible studies are conducted, but none of these ever teach about baptism. Why?
Let us not fall into the Devil’s trap. Firstly, it is very clear from the words of our Lord that being baptized is not just some man’s idea, nor is it the teaching of a particular church or community. Rather, it is GOD’S IDEA. When we refuse to accept His commandment, we are at war with the
will of God. And that is what the Word comments about the Pharisees in Luke chapter7, verse 30, “But the Pharisee and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him (John the Baptist).”
Again, Jesus did not command baptism as a means for the church, or for any denomination, to register its new members, or to join those who wished to become his disciples to any particular church or denomination. He commanded the disciples to baptize new would-be disciples in the name of the triune God, so that they would be joined to Himself. In being joined to the Lord, we become part of the Body of Christ, all those who live as disciples of Christ, with obedience and faith in Him as their foundation (Matthew 16:18). We read in Acts 5:14 that in the early days of the church, the believers were added to the Lord, and not to any particular church or organization.
A common question that people usually put forward is, “Must we be baptized to go to heaven, or to get saved?” While some may ask this questions in all innocence, in many other cases, a careful examination will reveal not-so-acceptable motives behind this question. For instance, did Jesus Christ come to somehow get the whole world into heaven, irrespective of their faith or obedience to his Father? He came to save sinners, but does that mean sinners do not need to repent, obey and move forward in absolute, unquestioning trust and obedience? Does grace mean we no longer need to obey God? Is a disciple’s real aim is to get as many people to reach heaven somehow, or to win others to follow Christ? Does a disciple just want to squeeze into heaven? Or is his life and every decision, like his Master’s, now based on the yearning to please the Father?
Baptism is Jesus’s commandment, and an introduction to a life of discipleship. No one. Still again, when we ask this question about whether the command of Jesus Christ to baptize those who want to be his disciples is related to going to heaven, are we consistent? Do we ask the same question for all the other commandments too? Has anyone asked, “Do we need to love our neighbors to go to heaven?” Obviously not, for a disciple’s privilege and badge of honour is to learn from and obey his Master, rather than sift and debate his Master’s words.
Anyone who studies the Book of Acts without bias will clearly find that all those who believed the gospel of Jesus Christ were immediately baptized, whether at midnight, cockscrow or whenever. Baptism was the first step taken by anyone who believed the Word, in the first century. Though in most instances we are ignorant of who actually performed the baptism, the fact of the baptism is unmistakably attested in many, many cases, such as the eunuch to whom Philip was sent, the 300 people who were convicted on the day of Pentecost, Paul when Ananias came to him, Crispus and all the others in Corinth who believed, the jailor and his family when they heard and believed the word in Philippi, Cornelius when he was blessed with the Holy Spirit as he believed Peter’s word... the list continues.
And yes, Paul was very much in favour of baptism, though not necessarily with his own hands. The verse so often quoted, in I Corinthians chapter 1:17, that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel, does not mean that Paul did not consider baptism the hallmark of entry into discipleship, but simply that he did not think it needful to baptize all those who believed following his teaching, with his own hands. When compared with the rest of the story in Acts 18:8, we see that all the many Corinthians who believed during Paul’s stay and preaching in their city were baptized, to profess their discipleship of Christ.
So what does it really mean to be baptized? Romans 6:17 clearly explains the meaning of baptism. Paul reveals that our old man was crucified with Christ. Most Christians believe, and rightly so, that Christ died in our place, so that we need not die. However, this death that we escape is eternal death, and not the death of the old man, the nature with which we were born. This accursed nature, sinful by inclination and by deed, has to be put to death if we are to be saved from the power of sin to pollute us. Thus it is the Lord’s crowning mercy on us to have crucified our old man with himself on the cross. Having died with him, in baptism we are buried with Christ into death. It is this death and burial with our Lord that fits us for the new life, of resurrection power, united with our risen Lord as his witnesses, which is so powerfully enacted as the baptized person emerges from his watery tomb.
This may be hard for new Christians to understand at first. However, it is not essential to know all this first before we can live in the reality of it, accepting Jesus’s command to be baptized as his disciples, and obeying all he taught us. We can just believe what God says. If God's Word says that our old man was crucified with Christ, then we believe it, and act on it as a real fact. In the days of Noah, no one needed to understand fully how the ark was going to save them from the flood. In fact, they had never even experienced rain in their lives thus far. Yet, when the floodwaters of judgment came roaring up, only those who had already believed God’s warning and obediently entered the ark, before the first raindrop fell, and before God closed the ark’s door, were saved at the end.
Baptism is, by design, the first step of the obedience of faith in the life of a disciple, leading on to a lifetime of obedience. Yet, this obedience is the obedience of faith, and may often transcend human reason, while being in accordance with it. If Jesus had leaned upon His own reason only, He would never have gone to John the Baptist for baptism. For His merely human reasoning would have given Him many arguments against being baptized especially, since He had never sinned. John himself could not understand why Jesus needed to be baptized. But Jesus overrode the arguments of human reason, with the greater argument of reasonable faith in God’s wisdom.
It is reasonable to trust in and to obey God, simply because he is God, and therefore wiser and better, as well as more powerful, than we are. Thus Jesus was eminently logical and reasonable in obeying the voice of the Spirit (Matt. 3:15). However, pure human reason, which trusts only in what it can grasp, and fails to trust God’s superior wisdom and goodness, is the Number One enemy of faith because human reason cannot grasp spiritual truths. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding," says the Word (Prov. 3:5). 
As a final thought, turning to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith implies the willingness to honour and obey him as God indeed. Obedience to God must never be delayed. If you have realized that your old life is one of horrible sin and pain, one of impenitence, one of sinfulness in the deep places of the heart, even though you are religious or at least decent outwardly, you will seek to realize by faith, in baptism, the death and putting away of that old man, which occurred with our Saviour’s death on the cross.
This baptism into the death and burial of Christ will be a welcome sign of your introduction also into his reviving and saving grace, whereby he makes you alive with him as a new creation, in his resurrection. Indeed, if you realize that your old man was crucified with Christ Jesus, as the Spirit of God declares, you also haste to bury him straightaway. It's a crime not to bury a man who is dead! "Why do you delay then? Arise and be baptized" (Acts 22:16).
Let your discipleship begin with this act of faith, as you declare and confess yourself joined to Christ forever, Christ your salvation and your life.
 A Good Foundation by Zac Poonen