The New Testament Church: Who Was Doing All the Baptising?

In 1992, Sherri and I made our first trip together to Malaysia. While on the East Coast, we visited a small church that coincidentally also bore the name ‘Grace’. When the brothers and sisters realised we were missionaries, there was an immediate flurry of activity. Little plastic cups and wafers suddenly ‘appeared’ and I was asked to administer the Lord’s Supper. Immediately after the service, we all went down to the beach for baptism. It had been a year and eight months since this church had celebrated either ordinance of the church because they had been taught that such ordinances required an ordained, full-time pastor.

All of us have traditions that we have been taught and that we have confidently practised. We assume these traditions can be traced back to the New Testament, and we follow them confidently because, “we are a New Testament church!” It would never occur to us that our traditions may limit or hinder the growth of the gospel.

As we at Grace continue to walk through the record of Jesus’ work in the book of Acts, we are increasingly going to realise that—even without seminaries or ordination services—the gospel nevertheless dramatically grew through the passionate ministry of ordinary lay people who were equipped and empowered to accomplish the assignment Christ gave His Church (Matthew 21:18-20). Two weeks ago, we discovered (in Acts 8:1) that while the Apostles remained in Jerusalem, the believers were scattered…and that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” God used ordinary believers without seminary degrees or ordination papers to saturate Asia Minor with Good News!

But who was doing all the baptising?

In the second half of our ‘Not Ashamed’ series, we are going to discover that it was students and disciples; deacons and Apostles…but curiously, there seems to be absolutely no record of people being baptised by an ordained ‘senior’ pastor.

In fact, in the letter of 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul writes to a church he had actually planted and pastored. He was disturbed that some in the church had begun to believe that their baptism had more (or less) sufficiency, depending on the status of the one who baptised them. Because of this he declares in 1:13-14, “…were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptised none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptised in my name.”

So one question remains for us to ask ourselves: is it possible that my traditions are obstructing or limiting discipleship and growth in the church? If our church is serious about disciple-making (and we are), each one of us must ourselves be disciple-makers. Not just full-time pastors.

This coming Resurrection Sunday, five young adults will model their commitment to Christ through their baptism. Standing with them in the water will be an ordinary disciple-maker who has walked with them in this decision and who is committed to growing them deeper in Christ. Let’s celebrate together God’s moving among us, working in our church as these five are baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Pastor Ian