No matter what wrongs we have committed, we can put them behind us and begin to live a life dedicated to God and His way of life. The only requirements are faith and repentance, which involves being genuinely sorry for your sins and firmly determining to live a godly life. This is one of the most important decisions of our life and should not be put off.
The apostle Paul did not grow up as a Christian. In fact, as an adult he violently persecuted Jesus Christ’s true followers (Acts 22:4-5; 26:9-11). He later stated he had been forgiven and “obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).
When Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there God mercifully intervened, stopping him in his tracks. At that time God not only granted Paul repentance, but also sent Ananias to instruct the future apostle in the truths of the Bible. Once Paul realized the grievous errors of his previous way of life and repented of his sins, Ananias asked: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins…” (Acts 22:16).
In order to be granted salvation we are required to do “works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). This means giving up habits the Bible teaches are wrong and committing to a life of obeying God’s law. Yet some hesitate to take the next biblically required step of baptism.
The book of Acts is a window into the life of the early Church. One of its most prominent themes is repentance and baptism. After the historic day of Pentecost, when the Church was founded, Peter’s first sermon convicted members of his audience of their sins and then urged them: “... ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). The Bible tells us about three thousand souls repented and were baptized on that day. Other passages show that God gives His Spirit to the repentant person after baptism by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17).
Later Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch (the treasury minister in the Ethiopian queen’s government) reading the book of Isaiah. After Philip had thoroughly explained the truth of God, this official asked him, “What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Philip replied, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch responded, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (verse 37). Then, without delay: “... both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (verse 38).
Since baptism pictures the death of the old sinful man (Romans 6:3-6), the biblical example of baptism is one of total immersion in water. If we consider the symbolism of baptism—death and burial of the old man in a watery grave—the practice of merely sprinkling and that of baptizing those too young to understand baptism’s significance are not in keeping with the biblical example and teaching.
When we are baptized we enter into a covenant with God, promising to strive to obey His law for the rest of our lives. This is repentance—turning our lives around to obey God. But we must first understand what God requires of us before we commit to it. We need to study God’s commandments and foundational truths before making an informed decision on commitment to God.
Baptism is a command of God and part of His plan of salvation. Remember what Ananias told Paul nearly 2,000 years ago: “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized.”
Beyond Today Magazine (Mar-Apr 2016)