Written Word

Why Be Baptised? – Part 3: Responding to the Gospel

Acts 16 provides us with several illustrations of God’s involvement in evangelism and in conversions. Paul and his companions were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” Later “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them” to enter Bithynia. Finally in a vision Paul saw a man from Macedonia calling him to come and preach the word and concluded “that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:6-10)

Responding to the Gospel

Not only was the Lord involved in getting Paul to Philippi, the Lord was also involved in the conversion of those who would become disciples. The first converts to Jesus in the city of Philippi were Lydia and her family. This is how Luke records the event:

“From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 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 baptised, 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.” (Acts 16:12-15)

Paul proclaimed the gospel, Lydia was attentive to the message, God opened her heart to respond to what she had heard, and she was baptised. Her conversion can be attributed entirely to the work of God. She believed and was baptised. She believed and responded to the gospel by being baptised because of what God had done in her heart. The same is true of the Corinthians and the Ephesians:

  • “Many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptised” (Acts 18:8)
  • “He told them to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus. On hearing this, they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:4-5)

Baptism is faith responding to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Without the work of God in our hearts, none of us would ever believe and be baptised.

Baptism: The Beginning of a New Life

The body of Christ in Corinth was infected with problems. One problem was division among the members who had lined themselves up with Paul, Peter, Apollos and others. In resolving the problem, Paul takes them back to when they were baptised. He shows them that they belong not to men, but to the one into whose name they were baptised – the Lord Jesus Christ. Their baptism marked their entry into the body of Christ.

William Barclay’s comments on this section of Scripture are most enlightening:

The point is this – baptism was into the name of Jesus. That phase in Greek implies the closest possible connection. To give money into a man’s name was to pay it into his account, into his personal possession. To sell a slave into a man’s name was to give that slave into his absolute and undisputed possession. A soldier swore loyalty into the name of Caesar: he belonged absolutely to the Emperor. The phrase into the name of implied absolute and utter possession. In Christianity it implied even more; it implied that the Christian was not only possessed by Christ but was in some strange way identified with Him, was literally in Him. 1

Paul’s teaching on the graciousness of God had been misunderstood. Some were saying, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1) In refuting this error, Paul goes back to when they were baptised because that is when their old sinful life ceased and their new life with Jesus started. Paul reminds the Romans that when they were “baptised into his death…[they were] buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)


In summary, the Bible teaches that:

  • Baptism is a command of the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Baptism is an immersion in water
  • The candidate for baptism is one who believes that Jesus’ death secured our forgiveness
  • Baptism is a faith response to the atoning death of God’s Lamb

1 William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland, Second Edition 1956), page 18