Are you "ready" for baptism?3
Many times people say to me, “Sam, I’m just not ready for baptism.” The obvious implication in their words is that they believe they must do something to prepare themselves for baptism. They must rid their lives of some bad habit or recurring sin. Continue reading . . .
Many times people say to me, “Sam, I’m just not ready for baptism.” The obvious implication in their words is that they believe they must do something to prepare themselves for baptism. They must rid their lives of some bad habit or recurring sin. They must seek the forgiveness of those they’ve sinned against. They think that before they can be baptized they have to make considerable more progress in the Christian life. They have an idea of baptism that God intended it only for people who would stand up under the most rigorous scrutiny. In other words, they think of baptism as an ordinance designed for people who have it all together, or at least sufficiently “together” that they are now qualified. The qualification, so they reason, is their responsibility.
It’s a bit like a minor league baseball player who is told by the team manager that he’s not “ready” for the big leagues. He still needs to work on his hitting. And his defensive skills could use some work. And once he gets those things functioning at a higher and more effective level, he still has to grow up emotionally and be certain that he’s mentally prepared for the pressure of playing in the major leagues.
Such is how many think of baptism. But it is bad thinking, unbiblical thinking, and we need to rid ourselves of it once and for all.
I’m not saying that anyone, regardless of their spiritual loyalties, should be baptized. What I am saying is that when it comes to the person who is born again and believes in Jesus as Savior, only God can make you “ready” for baptism. And he’s already done it! The moment you trusted Christ as Savior God “readied” you or “qualified” you to signify your union with Christ in water baptism. Whatever moral preparation you think is needed before you get baptized has already been achieved by Jesus. Whatever obedience to God’s law that you think must be achieved before you get baptized has already been accomplished by Jesus on your behalf.
The apostle Paul put it this way in his prayer for the Colossian church: “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:11-12).
The point is this: you can’t do anything to get yourself “ready” for baptism; you can’t do anything to “qualify” for baptism. Jesus Christ has already done it all. Your “readiness” is not your righteousness, but his righteousness imputed or reckoned to you by God through faith in Jesus. Your “qualification” to baptized in water is that you are trusting Jesus as the only truly “qualified” person who ever lived.
So, if you are holding back or delaying your baptism because you think you have to improve your life first or you have to do something to make God proud of you or at least stop doing the things that make God ashamed of you, you have failed to understand the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God has already done everything to qualify you and make you ready through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When you were united to Jesus by faith, you were instantly and fully qualified and made ready for baptism.
Now, in saying that I don’t intend to suggest that you are to do nothing in preparation for baptism. It’s important that you understand what baptism means. It’s important that you aren’t trusting in baptism but in Jesus’ death and resurrection on your behalf. So, yes, it’s crucial that you are instructed sufficiently in the meaning of baptism that it becomes a significant event both for you and everyone who bears witness to it.
But if you are trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are as ready and qualified as you will ever be. Waiting five years or ten years will do nothing to improve your readiness or increase your qualifications. Christ has already done that for you and nothing you do can improve upon it.