How many of us have heard folks say, “They just won’t be baptized. What can we do to persuade them to be baptized?”
These statements seem to overlook the greatest challenge of salvation for most folks.
Have you ever seen one who believed in the Lord (John 8:24), was not ashamed, but willing to confess Him before others, (Matt. 10:32; John 12:42-43) had repented of their sins, (Luke 13:3, Acts 26:20, II Cor. 7:10), and not be baptized?
Repentance is a change which begins in the mind which changes lives. In Acts 19 the city of Ephesus, the home of the Temple of Diana and capitol of worship to this goddess, was presented with the Gospel of Jesus.
For the pagans to become Christians, what changes did “repentance” demand? In verse 19 they brought their books of magic into one pile and burned them. The value was 50,000 pieces of silver. This was a considerably large sum of money. Books were valuable possessions and very expensive in those days. Remember Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 2:15), which brings their sacrifice of burning their books into perspective.
Instead of selling them and advocating false doctrine, the repentance of the Ephesians led them to suffer financial loss.
A second sign of their repentance was the fear their actions brought upon Demetrius the silversmith. He was in the business of selling shrines of the goddess Diana. He realized penitent Christians changed their behavior. Their change in behavior would mean they would no longer buy his shrines.
The more Christianity spread (the more people repented) the less business he would have! He started a riot, hoping to defeat Christianity. Some are never willing to repent, others give up all!
Jonathan Winchester is a fine young missionary we worked with in El Salvador. He wrote me this note: “We had some good and sad results. The area where we worked was one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in Lea, Peru. One woman had decided to be baptized, and had changed into the baptismal robe, but then decided she could not. She knew that repentance was necessary. She told us that her only way of providing for her children was to go out and steal people’s wallets, and she knew that she was not going to stop.”
Should she have been advised to be baptized anyway? What would God say — repent or perish (Luke 13:3).
Folks do not need to be “talked into baptism.” What folks need is to be taught the doctrine of Christ and see if they are ready to repent!
Penitent believers have always responded by saying, “What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)