Since Baptism is not considered a meritorious work that justifies and reconciles a man or woman to God, it’s possible that someone, either intentionally or inadvertently, can make too little of it. So while there are those whose view of baptism is so ‘high’, so much so that they trade in the true Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone for a false gospel of faith plus works, there are those whose view of baptism is so low that they don’t really see any urgent need for a new believer to do it and they don’t think it’s too much of a problem if a professing believer indefinitely puts it off. So then, to be sure that our minds are properly aligned with our God, we will consider the primary why of Baptism.
The Great Baptismal Commission
The closing verses of Matthew 28 are often referred to as ‘The Great Commission.’ It is a fitting title given the instructions that comprise it, instructions that Jesus gave His disciples not too long before His ascension. Let’s read the entire commission and then we’ll hone in on the great baptismal commission.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mt. 28:18-20)
Jesus began by telling His disciples that all authority in Heaven and Earth was His (vs.18). That’s comprehensive. He had all authority and He had it in all realms. Thus, when you and I pursue making disciples we are not doing so because it’s our own idea or because it’s our own plan of action, we are doing it because the One who said, “All authority on Heaven and Earth has been given to Me” (vs.18b) also said, “Go therefore and make disciples…” (vs.19a).
And that’s not all He said. He followed the disciple-making commission with the baptismal-commission: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (vs.19b). Interestingly, the baptismal-commission even preceded the great teaching-commission – “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (vs.20a).
So while these responsibilities began with the eleven (vs.16), the church of the Lord Jesus Christ still bears the privilege and responsibility of baptizing those who come to faith in Christ, along with unbaptized believers, primarily because the One who has all authority on heaven and earth has commanded it.