BAPTISM SUNDAY: ‘Joyful celebration in the life of the church’

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP) -- The first time I had the privilege of baptizing someone, I was a young seminary grad serving on a church staff in Florida. Dave stood 6' 4" tall and weighed considerably more than my 5' 11" 160-pound frame. All I could think was this: "Lord, please don't let me drop him, and Lord, don't let me leave him under!"


To my unforgettable joy, Dave went under, came up, stood and raised his hands as we celebrated God's work of grace in his life. Dave gave witness to the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ just as his wife had done several months earlier. What a moment!


Since then, I have had many occasions to baptize people of all shapes and sizes, and in all seasons of life. Like many pastors, I've been blessed to baptize children and families. I've stood with students resolved to follow Jesus. I've seen couples trusting Christ to be the firm foundation of their marriage as they devoted their lives and futures to Him. Married adults, single, divorced and widowed have stood in the place of decision and declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus." And those once far from God, now through repentance and faith have risen up out of the water, eyes filled with tears as they began to walk in newness of life.

On one occasion, I had the overwhelming joy of baptizing a 99-year-old man and his 98-year-old wife of over 70 years. They came from a church background that only baptized infants and they told me they did not want to meet Jesus until they had honored every clear command in His Word. Within less than two years, I did funeral services for both, but oh the joy that lingered from the obedience and testimony of their baptism.

Few moments can compare, though, with what I experienced a few years ago. I was blessed to step into the water with Ethan Ballard, his father Jeff and a pastor on staff chosen to assist. Ethan is an amazing young man battling endless physical hardships due to cerebral palsy, yet he was fearless and free in his public profession of faith as a follower of Jesus.

Ethan is now 17 and recently sent an email to simply say, "I want to work with pastor." I think his testimony in this article allows him to preach the Gospel as it reflects my response to his request.

I'm convinced baptism tops the list of the greatest privileges and deepest blessings of my nearly four decades of pastoral ministry.

Baptism is the ultimate cause for joyful celebration in the life of the church and the amazing grace of God observed when people proclaim, "Jesus Christ is Lord."

Baptism is the public witness and confession of faith in Jesus Christ for all who follow Him. Though we often call for a public response to an invitation or action in a service of worship, baptism is the biblical expression of one's personal surrender to and declaration of faith in Christ alone for salvation.

Baptism is the first step of obedience seen throughout Scripture in the lives of those who begin the journey of discipleship.

Baptism links our personal faith with a living hope of resurrection in Christ and life forever with Him in heaven

Baptism expresses our union and identification with Christ and His church throughout all generations.

Baptism is a convergence of Christian history in a moment in time when new believers stand, confess and surrender, as apostles and martyrs, pastors and missionaries, Christ-followers and believers of every generation have done before them.

Baptism is the mark of biblical integrity in the Gospel mission of the church. Clearly and concisely, Jesus gave this charge: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Baptism glorifies God through identification with Christ as the Son glorified the Father through His baptism and subsequent substitutionary death, burial and triumphant resurrection for us.

Baptism is so much more than a "Baptist" practice. We're often seen as the "dunking" variety of believers. Yet we are proclaimers and practitioners of the Gospel message and mission declaring our worship and allegiance to the One who saves and keeps us forever.

To this end, I for one, never want to minimize what Jesus emphasized to His church. And I cannot, must not, neglect the priority and primacy of this activity in the life of the local church in which I am privileged to lead and serve.

For this reason, I am praying, preparing and planning by God's grace to take part in Baptism Sunday, Sept. 8. I don't know how many will come or share in baptism on that day in my church, but I want to join brothers and sisters in churches across the nation and around the world as we celebrate and declare that "Jesus is Lord" in the stirring waters of believer's baptism together. And I am praying this for you and your church too!


To see Ethan Ballard's baptism, go to https://warrenbaptist.org/ethan-ballard. David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.

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