Who Should Be Baptized
It is the Lord's desire that everybody come to know Him as personal Savior and respond to Him in obedience. But let's change the question slightly. Who must be baptized? The answer is that every one must be baptized who knows Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, who has come to a point where they have received the Lord into their lives, asked for and received forgiveness from sin, and are made part of the family of God. The immediate next step after receiving Christ as Savior is to follow the Lord in the waters of baptism.
In the Book of Acts, the history book of the early Church, there is no record that anybody ever came to know the Lord without being baptized immediately. The concept that someone would receive Christ as his or her personal Savior and not be baptized is manifestly unscriptural! There is no such account.
Let's examine some biblical accounts of people who received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Let's see what happened to them. The eighth chapter of Acts records the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. As they travel along in a chariot, the Ethiopian eunuch asks, "Tell me, what do I have to do to be saved?" He finds out and he finds the Lord. Watch what happens! Verses 36 to 38 record the following:
"As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?' And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him."
The ninth chapter of Acts records the story of Saul of Tarsus. Remember that Saul was brutally persecuting Christians. He was on the road to the city of Damascus to do the same. A blinding light stopped him, he came into contact with Jesus Christ, and it changed his life.
"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized and after taking some food, he regained his strength" (Acts 9:17-19).
That's when he was born again! And he was then immediately baptized.
Now go to Acts chapter 10. This is the incident of Peter's preaching at Cornelius' home and as a result many people came to know the Lord. In verse 47 Peter says: "'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.'" It's a rhetorical question. They had found the Lord so he is saying with tongue in cheek, "OK, who's going to keep these people from being baptized!" Of course they're going to be baptized! They just found the Lord. That's the Great Commission. Go and be baptized! Verse 48 concludes: "So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ."
Next let's look at Acts chapter 16 to examine an incident involving a woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira. Let's pick up the narrative in verse 14:
"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us."
Notice that her immediate baptism after responding to the preaching of Paul is not even emphasized in the sentence. Baptism was an assumed act of obedience to the Lord following salvation.
Now the last illustration is found later in the same chapter. This is the story of Paul and Silas, who are in prison in Philippi, and a jailer who is in charge of the prison. An earthquake occurs at midnight and through it God releases Paul and Silas by opening the gates of the prison. In the confusion of the night, the jailer thinks they have escaped. Since the Roman penalty for a jailer who allows his prisoners to escape is the forfeiture of his own life, the jailer is going to kill himself.
But Paul and Silas do not attempt to escape and they say to the jailer, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here." The jailer responds with great curiosity about these people who are so different from any he has met before. Paul and Silas tell him about the Lord Jesus, and he receives the Lord in the middle of the night. Watch what happens! The narrative begins in verse 30:
"He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized."
The purpose of this brief review of Acts is to point out that the Great Commission was being fulfilled and followed by the early Church. When people accepted Christ as their personal Savior, they were immediately baptized.