Ask the Pastor: Am I Ready for Baptism?
Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – firstname.lastname@example.org or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)
One question submitted this week by a young person in our congregation:
How will I know when I am ready for baptism?
Great question! Let’s first talk about the Gospel.
The Gospel is everything. The Gospel is our singular message.
Pastor Tim Keller said, “The Gospel is not just the ABC’s but the A to Z of Christianity in life. The Gospel, biblically and richly understood, ought to shape everything we do in the local church.”
What is the Gospel?
The just and gracious God of the universe looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that all who turn and trust in Him will be reconciled to God forever.
A biblical presentation and a biblical response to the Gospel includes four key elements. These four key biblical elements are:
All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23) and by choice (Rom. 2:4-6, Rev. 20:12). As a result, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law Himself and taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
God now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).
Do you believe?
Salvation is by faith, and faith alone in Jesus Christ, and faith alone in Jesus Christ is led and followed by repentance—a turning away from sin— a hatred of the things that God hates, and a love for the things that God loves.
How do we truly know we are saved? Because someone told us? Because we prayed a prayer? Because we believe? Many people say they believe. How do we know we really believe?
The Bible teaches that we know we have been saved because our life is in a process of being changed. Our style of life ought to be one of walking on God’s path, and when we step off the path, as we all do, God comes for us and puts us back on the path.
One of the greatest evidences of being truly saved is that God will not allow us to talk like our flesh wants to talk, or dress the way the world wants us to dress, act like the world, smell like the world, speak like the world, and listen to what the world listens to.
Whenever answering this question, I quickly take people to the book of 1 John. We are going to be going over this in the summer in our morning service. This little letter is full of help to help you know whether you are truly a Christian or not. The book helps answer the question:
Do I have confidence or condemnation that I know Jesus? Is my confidence reliance on myself, someone or something else? Or, is it on Christ alone?
Three quick tests from 1 John on whether you are a Christian:
The first sign is biblical. If you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you should have all biblical confidence you know Christ (5:11-13). John didn’t want his readers to doubt this. Our amazing, triune God wants you have full assurance that you have eternal life. The first test and sign is that you truly believe in Jesus. You believe He is the Christ, the only way to heaven, and the Messiah (2:22). You believe he is the Son of God (5:10). And you believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh—what we celebrate at Christmas (4:2). If you get what the Bible says about Jesus wrong, then you aren’t a Christian. But one of the sure signs that should give you confidence before this God is that you believe Jesus Christ our Lord is the only Savior. (4:14-16; 5:1, 5).
The second sign is moral. You should have confidence if you live a righteous life (3:6-9). You aren’t saved by your good works, but good works are an evidence you are saved (James 2). Those who claim Christ as Savior and continue to practice wickedness with no sorrow shouldn’t be confident. Jesus tells us in John 15 that a good tree can’t bear bad fruit and a bad tree can’t bear good fruit. An apple tree won’t have oranges and vice versa. So, if you live a morally righteous life for Christ, you should have confidence (3:24). Don’t give up, however. Remember that part of living a righteous life is doesn’t mean you are without sin (1:9-10). But it means you take it to Christ each time (1 John 1:9).
The third sign is social. You should have confidence if you love other Christians (3:14). If you hate like Cain hated Abel, you do not have eternal life. But if your love, heart, and wallet are open to your fellow Christians, eternal life abides in you. One essential sign of true spiritual life is that we love one another (4:7-12, 21).
1 John has numerous signs of whether a person is a Christian. Again, you these aren’t three things to work, earn, or sincerely plead your way to heaven or salvation. These are tests that are necessary to pass to show you truly are a Christian.
- Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
- By God’s Spirit and power, are you seeking to live a Gospel-centered, righteous life?
- Do you love, care for, pray, serve, and show forth generosity to other Christians?
Simply put, we know we have eternal life if we love Jesus, we love His commands, and we love His people. You can’t take any of these out. They aren’t optional. All must be present in a person who is truly a Christian. They are signs meant to be for our assurance of salvation in Christ (2:4-6; 4:20; 5:2)
Again, let me ask you:
- Do you love God?
- Do you love his commands?
- Do you love His Word?
- Do you love his people?
If you don’t, it’s a sign you have death; if you truly do, it’s sign that you have life. And that means confidence instead of condemnation.
AM I READY FOR BAPTISM?
I have had many people in my young ministry come to me at different churches and say, “Darin, I am just not ready for baptism.”
They seem to believe they must do something to get ready for baptism. Maybe they think it is to stop sinning completely. Maybe they must completely seek forgiveness of all those they have wronged in life. Maybe they feel like they don’t know enough or aren’t “far enough along” to know Christ. It seems they believe baptism is only for those who “have it all together,” or are qualified.
Yet, this is not good, unbiblical thinking and reasoning.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying just anyone, regardless of their beliefs, should be baptized by a biblical local church. This doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t seek, by God’s Holy Spirit and grace, to fight sin, grow in their faith, etc. Those are all commands and expectations of holy living.
But when it comes to a person who is truly a Christian—repented of their sins and believed the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-19)—only God Himself can make them “ready” for baptism. And, praise His name, this has already been accomplished!
You see, the moment you repent by faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone and believe the Gospel (Rom. 10:9-10), God has already “qualified” you to show His union with you in water baptism. It has all been accomplished by Jesus on your behalf—finally, completely, sufficiently, and totally!
In short, you can’t do anything in and of yourself to get yourself “ready” to be baptized. Likewise, you can’t do anything in and of yourself to get yourself to “qualify” for baptism. Jesus has done it all!
Being “ready” isn’t your righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness given to you by God through faith alone in Christ alone. Your “being qualified” to be baptized in water is that you have and are trusting Jesus as the only really and truly “qualified” One who has or will ever live.
Are you ready for baptism?
If you are not getting baptized because you believe you have to “get it all together” or “do something” to make God smile on you or stop doing things He hates, you have misunderstood the Gospel. The Gospel is the wonderfully good news that God has already done everything necessary to qualify you and make you ready through the perfect life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ. When you are saved by faith in Christ, you were fully and instantly qualified and ready to be baptized.
This doesn’t mean you don’t anything to prepare for baptism. Of course, you and me both do. You need to get what baptism is all about and what it means. It is important that you realize baptism doesn’t save you—only the risen Savior can do that. You need to know why it is important for you and your church.
Again, if you have truly come to Jesus Christ, you’re as ready and qualified as you will ever be. Waiting 2, 4, or 6 years won’t do anything to improve your readiness or qualification. Christ has already done that for you and nothing you do can improve upon it.
What about our church?
At TVBC, we want to take time to get to know you and talk to you about the above. We’re always thrilled to meet with anyone to speak to them about the state of their soul. When you expresses a desire to be baptized, it presents us with a wonderful opportunity to spend time with you, clarify where you are with the Gospel, to hear how the Lord has been working in your life, and to encourage you to continue to seek the Lord.