Go, and Baptize
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
The great commission is one of the most fundamental commands of the Christian life. We regularly hear it preached from the pulpit, sung in our songs, and discussed among our peers. Yet, one thing we rarely acknowledge is the presence of baptism in this commission. It is absolutely central to our mission as the church. Somehow we haven’t understood this. When we see the Great Commission, we subconsciously hear it saying, “go into the whole world and convert people.”
In 1 Corinthians 12, God tell us that it is Him that works in us, and in Ezekiel 36, He promises to give us new hearts so that we can walk with Him. With this truth in mind, we can’t confuse our responsibility to bear witness to God with a requirement that we are supposed to change people’s hearts. That is God’s work, and is impossible for us to accomplish. As we move forward from this, we look back at the Great Commission and see 2 things we are called to.
The first is to make Disciples. This is to challenge, to labor alongside, or to mentor brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to encourage and edify one another. This is one of the beautiful benefits of being in the same Body. Because we are not the ones who move into people’s hearts, but instead, stand beside them, inhabited by the same Spirit that inhabits them, our challenge is not to convert, but to make disciples. Live alongside those who know Jesus, challenging them through our own words and actions to be not just believers who are in Christ, but followers of Christ and all that He is.
Secondly, we see baptism as a clear and unequivocal central point to what we are called to as the Church. Baptism is not something that is supposed to be separated from being in Christ. As Christians, we have been given the honor and privilege of baptizing people (and for that matter, being baptized) into the Body of Christ, which consummates our union with Him through immersion in the water. Baptism was central to the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and as followers of Him, it should be to ours as well. It is not something that is simply a preference. It is a part of the Great Commission to which we’ve been called.