Ask the Preacher
I really enjoy your website and I have two questions:
1. I know that before a person is baptized into Christ, they must believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. Does a person have to know the exact meaning of the word Christ before they can be baptized? I know that when I was baptized, I understood that Jesus was God in the flesh and that He died on the cross for the sins of the world but I didn't know what the word Christ meant. I now understand it to mean anointed one or chosen one of God. Is my baptism valid?
2. I believe like David Lipscomb that the terms of pardon for salvation are belief in Christ, repentance, and baptism, period! Why do most preachers in the Church of Christ today include the additional step of public confession? I believe that the Bible teaches that Christians should confess their faith in Christ on a regular basis and not be ashamed of Him (Matt. 10:32) but I don't see where it is commanded as part of the terms of pardon. Romans 10:9-10 almost sounds like confession is a requirement but that isn't consistent with the examples of conversion in the book of Acts and Jesus never mentioned confession in His great commission.
Thank you very much.
What must you believe in order to be baptized? Let's look at what scripture says.
"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.' (Mark 16:15-16)"
It says that one needs to believe and be baptized. But what does one need to believe? The previous verse gives a hint. They were to preach "the gospel" to all creation. So, we need to believe the gospel. So, in Mark, Jesus ends his ministry with a call to believe the Gospel. But he also begins his ministry with the same messsage in Mark.
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15)."
But what is the Gospel? The word itself is a transliteration from Greek, "euangelia" which simply means "good news." But what is the good news. The answer is in the following passage.
"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...(1 Cor 15:1-4)"
So, the good news is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised from the grave. It is imperative that a person believe this in order to be baptized into Christ. There are examples of this kind of preaching in Acts.
" '...this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified ... Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls (Acts 2:23-41)."
In Peter's first gospel sermon, he stresses that Jesus was crucified according to God's plan, and that God raised him from the dead. Later, we have the words to another sermon, where he essentially preaches the same message.
"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:38)."
So, Peter preaches the Gospel, and later Cornelius and his whole household were baptized. From the account of both of these gospel sermons, we see the evangelists preach Jesus, him crucifixion for, and his resurrection.
Paul reminds Christians of how they were saved. In his reminder, he also reminds them of what they placed their faith in when they were saved.
"... and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Col 2:11-12)."
Those who were saved were raised up through faith in the working of God who raised Jesus from the dead. Baptism, then, is a response of faith to the Gospel. There are many things about Christ, God, the church, Christian living, the Holy Spirit, worship, and other things that Christians need to know. However, the examples and passages above show that in order to be baptized, one needs to hear and believe the Gospel. The gospel is the death of Christ for our sins, his burial, and his resurrection. Accepting Christ and believing the gospel means accepting Christ as risen savior and Lord.
So, in answer to your question, there is no indication that ones needs to know the definition of the word, "Christ" in order to be baptized.
As for your second question, Mt 10:32; Lk 12:8; Rom 10:9; Heb 10:23 all deal with confession. None of them are speaking specifically of the conversion process. Everything you do leading up to baptism, faith, repentance, and confession are not one time acts. They will be repeated throughout the Christian life. Only baptism is a one time event (Eph 4:5).
Why do ministers include the step of public confession? We have an example of this in scripture.
"As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him (Acts 8:36-38)."
Since we are clearly saved by faith, and baptism is an expression of that obedient faith, then a confession is the only way to establish that the one being baptized is acting out of obedient faith. That is why Phillip asked the Eunuch for his confession. The passage from Romans says that our faith needs to move us to confess Jesus not merely as savior, but as Lord. So I ask candidates for baptism if they are accepting Jesus as both their risen savior and Lord. Essentially, that is what confessing Jesus as the "Son of God" means. "Son of God" is a royal title, one that acknowledges him as ruler.
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