Letting God Do His Thing
Years before Facebook made such silliness all too easy, I was on a Bible discussion board that debated religious subjects. The board was hosted by one of our colleges, but it was populated by people from all different Christian tribes. One of the topics that we often thrashed around was baptism. I guess since it was on a Church of Christ server, the terms of service required that we debate baptism several times a year. Those of us from the Church of Christ argued that baptism is always mentioned in the cases of conversion in Acts and given great theological significance in the epistles. Those from other tribes argued that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by our own religious acts… like baptism. A couple of things stand out from some of those knock-down-drag-out discussions.
I remember someone bringing up the (hopefully apocryphal) story about a group of people being baptized by an African missionary. While several were standing in the water waiting their turn, one man was attacked and eaten by a crocodile. The question, was “Was this man lost because he never was baptized?” It seems overly cruel to suggest that he was lost, but either baptism is necessary, or it is not, right? Then someone had a bright idea, “Well, did the crocodile pull the man all the way in the water?” So in defending the place of baptism, we were willing to say it was OK for a crocodile to do the baptizing.
Another questioner (this time one of ours) asked one of the Baptists, “Do you invite people to do something in order to receive Jesus and show they are saved?” Several said they invite people each week to say the sinner’s prayer and invite Jesus into their heart. The person responded, “Why is saying a prayer not a work but submitting to someone baptizing you is a work?” He pointed out that the Bible never refers to a sinner’s prayer at all. “If you are going to invite people to do anything to respond to their faith, why not ask them to be baptized?” I liked that line of discussion much better than the whole crocodile thread.
My contribution to the discussion was to make some witty comeback to something posted by a Baptist preacher. But I clicked the wrong button and sent it as a direct email to him rather than a post to the whole group. He took it personally, and we started a direct email debate on baptism. The longer it went, the more we found that we agreed on most things, and our debate turned into a friendly discussion. At one point he said, “OK, you teach people that once they believe, are willing to repent and confess Jesus, they need to be baptized and that’s when God saves them. I teach people that once they believe and are willing to repent and confess Jesus, God has saved them, and they must now be baptized.” His church practiced immediate baptism; they didn’t wait to have a bunch of people baptized at the same time on a “Baptism Sunday.” So then he said, “It seems like the only thing we disagree on is exactly WHEN God does His salvation thing; why don’t we just teach people and baptize them and trust God to do His thing!”
Amen, brother! Isn’t it silly to think that God depends on us to understand and explain exactly how He does His thing. Let’s teach people and baptize them, and let’s trust God do His thing. And let’s also stay out of rivers that have crocodiles!