The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27
A preacher was in his office one afternoon when the phone rang. He picked it up and said, "Hello." A man’s voice on the other end asked, "Preacher, do you baptize at your church?" The preacher suspected either a prank call or a phone salesman. But he said politely, "Yes, in fact we do baptize." "Okay, well," the man continued, "do you have a problem with pond scum in your baptistery?" "Oh no," the preacher said, "we will baptize anybody."
He was a good preacher. I don’t necessarily mean by the way he handled the phone call. I mean by the theology of his answer. "We will baptize anybody."
This story appears in a popular e-mail. Even though it is meant to be a joke, it prompts the question, "Who may be baptized?"
People often have a sense that they have to be a certain kind of person to be baptized. They have to have a certain level of Bible knowledge, go to church so many years, and be "good" before they are worthy. Those individuals think they have to have the Bible, church, God, and everything else figured out. If they have all these ducks in a row, then they are ready.
I am glad to say that anybody who thinks that is wrong. Anybody who thinks they need to have all these things figured out is putting too much pressure on themselves. Preachers and teachers of the Bible don’t have all these things completely figured out! We are still studying and learning.
Baptism is for anybody at any point in his or her life who realize their need for God. They are ready when they realize the way they have been living is not the right way to live. When they believe Jesus Christ as the only one who has the complex answers to life and confess him as Lord of their life, they are ready to be baptized as an act of obedience to God’s rule over their lives.
Baptism really is for anybody and everybody. Even, as the caller asked the preacher, pond scum? I don’t like designating anybody by that kind of denigrating term. But I do need to tell you that anybody, no matter how badly they have lived their lives, can come to Christ for new life. That new life includes baptism. Romans 6:1–4 says that anyone who has been baptized has left their old life behind and is now living a new life.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul writes that the sexually immoral, the idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and cheaters would not inherit the kingdom of God. They would not see God, and they would not be with Jesus. However, Paul says that this does not have to be the final statement for their lives! They can leave those lifestyles, seek God, and be baptized, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus. Yes, baptism is for anybody. It is for anybody who realizes they are sinners, they are lost, and they need Jesus Christ.
I feel badly for people who get trapped in lifestyles that diminish their self-worth and leave them feeling used and broken. Drugs can do that. Crime. Sexual misbehavior. Disruptions in the family. Lying. These sins diminish us, makes us question our value, and can even make us despair of life. But I have a message for anyone who feels this way: those feelings do not have to be the final statement of your life. God promises you a new life in Jesus, and you can have it today, with God’s fountain of life.