I can’t think of anything that equates to the joy that ripples through the heart of a Christian who witnesses the baptism of someone who is special to him or her. There is unspeakable joy when, after hours of religious discussions and Bible study, a person that you longed to see saved finally obeys the gospel. Truly, we should keep our fire, zeal, and joy when it comes to reaching and teaching the lost. However, it is equally important to bear in mind that when a person gets baptized, they enter a personal relationship with the Savior that cannot be experienced by anyone else.
According to the myriad of examples of New Testament conversions, people came to Christ because they willingly accepted what was taught. They understood what was taught and they were willing to be obedient to the gospel they received. There were no high-pressure tactics or enticing gimmicks, just the gospel. If the gospel doesn’t work then what else can save man from sin? The Bible says in Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized…” Implicit here is that some did not accept Peter’s preaching, some did accept what he was preaching, and there were some who accepted what he said, but not with the right attitude. Those who were baptized were those who not just received his word but who gladly received his word. There was no coercion; Peter did not beg, bash, force, or frighten anyone. He just preached the gospel and their response was to the gospel. They were baptized as a result of what they heard, not who they heard. This is implied in Acts 2:37 when the text says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked to their heart…”
In our quest to bring men to obedience to the gospel of Christ, it might be good to keep Jesus as the motivation lest our quest turn into manipulation. There is a fine line between motivation and manipulation and that fine line is intention. Baptism is not for everyone. It is for those who have been taught (Matt. 28:18, 19) and for those who believe (Mark 16:16). We push people into the pool if these are not the motivators for their baptism.
Reasons for the Push
The following are reasons why some feel the strong urge to “push” prospects into the baptismal pool:
- Feeling that people have been adequately taught and that they “should have done it by now”
- Having a phobia that people might die and go to hell before they get a chance to get baptized
- Wanting to marry someone who is a member of the church so as not to be “unequally yoked”
- Desiring success in preaching since success is sometimes equated to having a large number of baptisms
All of these reasons have some amount of legitimacy; however, when it comes to the souls of men and bringing men to Christ, the end does not justify the means. We must not forget that baptism’s cleansing is made possible through the blood of Christ. Baptism is too sacred and significant to be reduced to a favor for someone who has been pressuring you. If you have to hear for yourself, believe for yourself, repent in your own mind, and confess with your own mouth, then you must certainly be baptized because of your own conviction.
Persuade, Don’t Pressure
How can we keep from pushing people into the pool, yet maintain a strong evangelistic approach? The key is to keep it about God and not about us. We must not allow our zeal to overwhelm us into taking the prospect’s response personally. We should not gauge our success by their response.
Remember that only God can open the hearts of men. When the seed of the gospel is planted, only He knows what’s going on under the soil. Christ doesn’t want pushed folks, but rather persuaded people; Christ doesn’t want coerced folks, but rather convicted people. We don’t need to push people into the pool when Jesus says, “…I’ll draw all men unto me…” (John 12:32). Let us plant the seed, let Christ draw the person, and let God give the increase.