The Lord’s plan for the salvation of the world when fully understood will lead to the salvation of the lost. It is so vital that those of us who are Christians fully understand this plan, or we will sometimes hinder the conversion of the lost soul we are trying to win. Let me urge every member of the church to think soberly of His Divine plan.
That plan involves the proclamation of the gospel to one who is lost. Look at how Paul sums up the heart of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4. Keep this in the context as you read it. “Brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, and in which you stand, and by which you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again, the third day according to the Scriptures…” We are to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), but preaching the gospel involves this message about Jesus.
Sometimes we miss it. We think because of the essentiality of baptism that we begin by encouraging them to be baptized. We so easily say, “Why don’t you get baptized. What are you waiting on?” There is a time when this should be said, but it rarely should be the opening remarks we have with others who visit our services. We mean well, but it is premature.
Look at Acts chapter two. The words of this sermon were spoken as the Holy Spirit gave this message using the apostles’ mouths (Acts 2:4). These Jews already knew a lot about baptism for the remission of sins because of the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4). Yet the Lord did not begin with words encouraging them to be baptized. Read it carefully. It began with the proclamation of His death, burial and resurrection. The subject of baptism was not the starting place, yet too often this is where we begin.
In Acts 8, Philip preached about Christ, about His name (nature and authority) and His kingdom (Acts 8:5, 12). When they believed this, then they were taught to be baptized. Later in the same chapter Philip taught the Ethiopian, but Philip did not say to him, “Here is water, don’t you think you should be baptized?” Think about this.
Must the essentiality of baptism be taught? Absolutely. But it is not where we begin. Study Acts carefully. To try to persuade others to be baptized prematurely sends the wrong message. They must first realize they are lost. They must see that we are urging them to become part of the eternal kingdom of God. If we start with baptism, we have failed to follow His plan. Sometimes we hinder obedience by prematurely saying to others they should be baptized. It must be said, but not said prematurely! Pray about this. It is His work and His plan.