...Why is baptism such a big deal? Simply stated, it’s because it’s not about the person being baptized -- it’s about Jesus.
It was an experiment. Apex rescheduled Baptism Sunday from Easter weekend to the Sunday following Easter this year.
The idea was to see if the new schedule would increase the opportunity to serve people interested in being baptized. Ben Riggs, the staff member organizing the event, held four informational classes throughout the week leading up to Baptism Sunday for those who had expressed interest. He said Apex wanted to help folks consider their interest in baptism, the Bible’s teaching, and whether those two things connected in a less rushed context.
Kristin Eilerman was one of the 24 interested members. She found the hour-long class convenient and easy to get to. “I have been interested in getting baptized for the last several months, but was a little nervous to take the first step,” she admitted. “I felt convicted by God through different services I attended, sermons I listened to, and prayed about it. I knew it was a big sign when Apex announced the baptism weekend and classes. Knowing that I could learn more prior to being baptized and that there was a special event planned definitely helped me feel more confident in taking that step!”
What exactly is Baptism and why is it a big deal?
According to the Apex Community Church’s official position paper on baptism, baptism is “an ordinance given to the Church to obey as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior.” What’s an ordinance? An ordinance is “an action that Jesus has ordered his church to observe in obedience. Baptism is a means of reminding Christians what Christ has done for them.”
In order for a believer to ultimately grasp the biblical meaning of baptism, he or she must begin with a clear understanding of the gospel.
Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:18-20
During his class Ben clarified that “baptism is a sign that the gospel has become good news for the person being baptized. The disciples’ job was to Go and make this good news known. Baptism was a symbolic expression; a display that this person involved here now knows God. Saying to the world, I was once living in idolatry, I have repented, and I now know the one true God.”
Okay, but why is baptism such a big deal? Simply stated, it’s because it’s not about the person being baptized -- it’s about Jesus.
“When you are baptized and brought under the water, you are putting on display that you have died to sin -- that you have died with Christ and have been buried with him. When you come out of that water, you are putting on display that you have a new life in Christ and that you too will be raised from the dead. God has the final say on everything; God has anything but given up. God in his sovereign plan through Christ is going to bring this world back to the fullness of life,” Ben said.
“Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4
Ben reminded the class there are many countries today that would never tolerate people holding a class on baptism. “During the time of the early church, baptism was considered an act of treason. Essentially saying to the Roman government, ‘You are not the highest authority in our lives any longer, Caesar. It is Jesus.’ Baptism essentially put a target on your back.”
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20
Ben would say to everyone that baptism is appropriate when Jesus becomes good news to you. “Jesus is more than a teacher who’s given us advice. He’s the King who’s brought us the Kingdom by grace. If that’s not good news, baptism is only you getting wet. We celebrate baptism with others publicly because Jesus is public truth. You can’t privatize Jesus. Faith in the gospel is personal, but it’s not private. By God’s grace every baptism will continue to be a foretaste of what’s coming our way: a new creation to celebrate Jesus with our whole lives, in a whole community, in a whole world.”
“Apex desires to faithfully present Christ and His command for baptism to allow each person to make an informed decision on whether baptism is appropriate or not.” Ben Riggs communicates to everyone interested in being baptized that prior to baptism, they must give honest consideration that to what baptism means: “I’ve died with Him, was buried with Him, now alive with Him, to live for Him.”
Did the new schedule experiment work? Can you really measure success based on numbers when it comes to baptism? I doubt it; it’s about Jesus changing hearts and lives. Will Apex keep the same schedule next year? I guess we will just have to wait and see.
Kristin Eilerman listened intently to Ben’s teaching. When I asked her what she gleaned from the class, she felt she better understood “the importance of baptism, some Scripture-based teaching about it, and why it’s an important step for us to take in our faith. It’s a public declaration and commitment to Christ.”
Kristin was one of the believers baptized in front of the Apex community at the 11:00 service on Sunday morning. And who wouldn’t consider that an extraordinary success? Praise God! Amen!
Author: Carrie Kempisty
Photographer: Hilary Tebo