“Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”
The photo above was taken at Pisa, Italy, sight of the famous leaning tower. You can see the tower at the far right of the picture just behind the cathedral. The tower, however, is only one structure in this large complex. It is actually the bell tower for the cathedral. And in front of the cathedral, in the foreground of the picture, is the baptistery. If there was ever an unapologetic statement about the importance of baptism, this might be it!
In Matthew 28 our Lord Jesus issued his final command and promise to his disciples. These words represent the “marching orders” of the Church. Sometimes they are called the “Great Commission”. Significantly, baptism has a prominent place in our Lord’s command.
The first thing to note about our Lord’s words is that they are a command. Baptism, therefore, is not an option the church or the Christian can take or leave. We are not to despise baptism or treat it lightly. Neither are we to speculate on what happens to those who are not baptized. As followers of Jesus, our job is to carry out His command. He will deal with the exceptions. After all, Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Although this text is often quoted as a condition that people must meet to be saved, that is not what the text actually says. The text says that Christ will decide who has access to the Father. How Christ will handle those who do not receive baptism is His business. Our business is to baptize, as He has commanded.
The most important words in Jesus command, however, are these; “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We baptize with water together with God’s name. It is not our word (our decision to repent and follow Christ) that is added to the water (as in what some call believer’s baptism). In baptism God adds His word to the water. That is why the Lord includes the Triune name of God along with His command to baptize. He wants the Christian to know and trust that in baptism God promises to give you His name. This is the central promise God gives you in baptism. This is the promise that we are called to trust, in which we place faith. It is a promise designed to comfort and encourage sinners.
Though some may challenge it, you don’t have to apologize for your baptism. God has promised in baptism to be your God, to identify you with everything he has done for your salvation in Jesus Christ, to give you the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In baptism, God has made a decision for you.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”