WHY BAPTISM?by Robert Brow
By Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario April 2008
The church is a school of the Holy Spirit, and every school needs to
enroll those who are going to be taught. The Pharisees heard that
"Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John" (John 4:1).
Which shows that John the Baptist and Jesus both used baptism to enroll
their disciples (see the book on this site titled Go Make Learners).
We also know from the Book of Acts that women were baptized on the
same basis as men (Acts 5:14, 8:3, 12, 9:2, 16:14-15).
As in our day, there were drop-outs : "Many of his disciples turned
back and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66). This is the point
of the parable of the Sower. Anybody was welcome to this school, so
some were enrolled and never even showed for classes. Others began
with enthusiasm, and then quit. Cares and concerns can easily choke
off the learning process. In the school of the Holy Spirit some of us
are painfully slow learners. Even Peter took two years to grasp who
Jesus really was, and when the crunch came he denied he had ever been
a pupil in that school. But that was not the end of the story. On the
Day of Pentecost he found himself preaching, and 3000 were baptized in
Some think that faith must precede the sign, which is why Baptists
call it "Believers' Baptism." Others note that the Messiah used
baptism to enroll disciples to begin learning with him, and Peter only
came to faith some months after his baptism (Matthew 16:15-17).
Baptisms in the New Testament seem to be immediate with no time to
check the previous knowledge of the candidates (Acts 2:41). The
Philippian jailor for example had an earthquake repentance at
midnight, and he had his whole household were baptized before
breakfast (Acts 16:25-33). Paul must have taught them after their
baptism, as he did the household of Lydia (16:15). As in any school
that has an open enrolment, this means that numbers will drop off
after baptism (as pictured in the parable of the Sower). So those who
baptize infants see no reason why infants should be excluded from such
a welcoming school. And as Jesus pointed out it is children who are
the best learners (Mark 10:14).
What of those who are not baptized ? We no longer believe that the
un-baptized are condemned to eternal damnation. The purpose of a school
is to enable those who are enrolled to learn what the school is about.
These days, when Bibles are readily available, there are many who
learn on their own. What they miss is what a good church congregation
has to offer (see the article "Why Church"). In the Middle East, where
Christian baptism is punishable by death, there are apparently large
numbers of "Mosque Christians" who read their Bibles at home, and
worship in the mosque where they pray to Jesus as their Lord and