We went over to Acts eight, where that Ethiopian officer of the queen Candace, was riding along in the chariot and reading from the prophetic book of Isaiah, when Philip, at the Lord’s bidding, joined him. There is little of the Bible study revealed, but at the end of that study, the man saw water on the roadside and asked Philip if he could be baptized. Whatever it is that Philip said when he preached (literally “announced the good tidings”) to him, it made him want to be baptized. We talked here about how that baptism is a burial, indicated by the fact that they both went down into the water. But we need more than an indication to be sure we are getting baptism right, so we went over to Romans 6:1-5 and clearly read where the mode of baptism is distinctly portrayed as a re-enactment of the burial of our Lord—a burial from which we are resurrected, just as he was, to walk in a new life. I told her the truth about the Greek word that’s translated baptism in our versions today. It literally means “burial”. Translators were reluctant to use the word “burial” because it so plainly contradicted the mode used by religionists of the day. But it was the word chosen by the Holy Spirit. No matter where you look, you see that the very word “baptizo” means “burial” or “immersion”. Maria did not even want to argue about the mode of baptism, though. She could see that people in the New Testament were immersed in water to be saved.
We looked at how Paul, in reviewing his conversion story in Acts 22:16, related that Ananias, who came to him with the gospel said these words: “And now, why do you tarry? Arise and be baptized, washing away your sins.” Maria had no trouble seeing that Saul was IN sin and had need of the washing until he was baptized. We talked about how he had definitely believed out there on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), but that he still needed the washing in baptism before forgiveness could occur. Maria was reading and nodding and becoming very seriously contemplative. She was not taking this conversation lightly.
We continued to read in chapters ten and eleven about the good man Cornelius. We talked about the fact that even though he was devout and God-fearing, prayerful and benevolent (10:2), he was still in need of being saved (11:14). So Peter taught him about the Christ and baptized him.
We saw Lydia in Acts 16, at the place of prayer by the river, learn the gospel and submit to baptism. We looked at that jailer in Philippi, also in Acts 16 and how he went out of the prison in the middle of the night at the obvious risk of his own life for the purpose of being baptized. Maria was already convinced about her own need. But still, we went to the very plain words of Jesus as he commissioned his apostles to teach the gospel to the whole world:
“He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
Very plain and simple. You just have to have help to misunderstand the clarity there (Mark 16:16).
And then there’s that I Peter 3:21 language that is so plain….You would think God was expecting the devil to come and do crazy things in our world with the concept of baptism. So he just came out and said it:
“Baptism does also now save us.”
I frankly told Maria that the devil has done a good job of mixing up the world about this very plain teaching. He has people make fun of “water baptism” people.The devil wants people to die in hell forever. He knows that it doesn’t matter how many medical mission trips you do, how many wells you dig in Africa, how many pies you bake for your grieving neighbors, even how many times each week you go to worship….If he can keep you outside of Jesus Christ, you will still belong to him. And it is baptism that puts people into the body of Christ (Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:27) So, in spite of the ridicule, we have to keep saying it if we love souls. Throughout history, those who have spoken the truths of God have been ridiculed.
On that note, we talked about how that the whole picture of Maria’s obedience would not be easy. She would have a “hard row to plow” upon going back to Mexico. We would first have to search out a group of God’s people, if they even existed, in her hometown. I told her I would try and network a bit and see if I could find them. “The people of God, if they truly are His, will be good to you and help you with transportation to worship, if you need it, and they will encourage you as you start this difficult, but blessed lifestyle.”
It was time for the big question. “Maria, have you been baptized for the remission of your sins?”
Maria’s simple answer: “I have not been baptized with the baptism you have talked about today.”
I then asked Maria if she was ready to be baptized. Maria’s sweet answer? “I am ready now.”
After speaking with her a bit more about the magnitude of her commitment in a world of wickedness, I went to get Glenn. He was still listening to Jerry. My patient husband had given Jerry a bottle of water and let him talk while we had offered Maria the living water. She was ready to quench the thirst that can only be satisfied by the Water of Life.