When God saved us, He rescued our souls from eternal punishment and guaranteed us a place in heaven with Christ. But His plans for us go even beyond this. We have become the "children of God" and can call Him "Father" (Romans 8:15-16). As our Father, He delights to see us grow spiritually. As His children we seek to know His will for our lives as revealed in His word.
We can see this growth in action when it says of the early believer: "Then they that gladly received His Word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:41-42)
"Then they that gladly received His Word were baptized." (Acts 2:41)
In the New Testament, as you read from the book of The Acts on, you can’t help but see a definite pattern. Once a person has received Christ as Saviour, they are soon baptized. This follows from the command given by our Lord Jesus to His disciples: "go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things…" (Matthew 28:19)
For your interest, you may want to look at the following passages that tell of baptism. You will notice in all of these that the individuals first trust Christ as Saviour and then are baptized.
- Men and women in Acts 8:12-13.
- The eunuch from Ethiopia in Acts 8:27-39.
- Saul who became the apostle Paul in Acts 9:18.
- Cornelius’ household and friends in Acts 10:47-48.
- Lydia and her household in Acts 16:15.
- The prison guard in Acts 16:23-33.
- The chief ruler of the synagogue in Acts 18:8.
The word "baptism" literally means "to immerse." Why is it God’s will for believers to be immersed in water, then brought out again? To understand this we look at the significance God’s word places on this act.
"Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4)
For a believer, baptism is identification with Christ. He died, was buried, and rose again the third day. In baptism the believer is lowered under the water and brought back up again. It’s a public display of their association with the work of Christ: his death, burial and resurrection. Coming out of the water, we are stating publicly that when we were saved, we received new life in Christ. After our baptism, we look back on it as reminder to us of the "newness of life" that should characterize a child of God.
If you’re saved but not baptized in the way scripture describes, I hope the Bible passages referred to in this article will encourage you. It’s an important step of obedience to God’s will for the believer’s life.
Which Local Church?
Of all the decisions we make following salvation, this is perhaps the most significant. You are joining with others Christians to worship God and to be a testimony of His grace in your community. How should you decide which believers to join?
Each person who accepts Christ as Saviour becomes a part of "the church which is His body" (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) of which Christ is the Head. However, the New Testament also describes the features of a "local church." Just as the "body of Christ" is made up of believers, the "local church" is not a building, but a gathering of Christians in fellowship together. The following are some of the principles found in the New Testament that should characterize such an assembly of believers.
Their only guidebook and pattern is the Bible, and they seek to understand and follow it in every matter.
- "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them…" (John 17:8)
- "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…" (Acts 2:42)
Christ is Head, and they gather to His name
- "…and gave Him (Christ) to be head over all things to the church," (Ephesians 1:22)
- "But Christ as a son over His own house; whose house are we…" (Hebrews 3:6)
- "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)
There is a place for individuals to sit and observe.
- "…how shall he that occupieth the room (or place) of the unlearned say "Amen" at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not…" (I Corinthians 14:16)
Salvation and believers’ baptism are among their scriptural requirements for being received into fellowship with the assembly.
- "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them…" (Acts 2:41)
The Holy Spirit direction is seen as public gift in exercised and worship is given.
- "…the Spirit, dividing to each severally as He will" (1 Corinthians 12:11)
- "And He gave some,… evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-12)
- "…which worship God in the Spirit…" (Philippians 3:3)
Every believer is able to carry on their "priestly work" of praise and worship within the God given roles for men and women.
- "But ye are… a royal priesthood… that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)
- "Let your women keep silence in the churches…" (I Corinthians 14:34, chapter 11) [Note: In the meetings of the local church, women are not given the responsibility of leading in a public way. However, their non-public responsibilities are equally important and essencial in the function of a local church.]
There are several elders that care for the assembly. They, with the assembly, are responsible directly to God.
- "The elders which are among you I exhort…feed the flock of God…" (I Peter 5:1-4)
- "And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…" (Revelation 1:12-3:22)
The believers meet regularly for the seven scriptural types of gatherings
- The Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:23-34)
- Prayer Meetings (Acts 2:42, Acts 12:5)
- Gatherings where God’s word is ministered (1 Corinthians 14:1-5; 29-40)
- Meetings for the preaching of the Gospel message (Acts 13:42-49, I Thessalonians 1:8)
- The Elders meet regularly together (Acts 20:17-38)
- Gatherings for reports to be given by missionaries and evangelists (Acts 14:26-28)
- A meeting for discipline if necessary (I Corinthians 5:3-5)
This is just an overview of some important characteristics to look for in a "local church." If you are seeking God’s will as far as where to gather, this has hopefully been encouragement for you to continue searching the scriptures. There is a God given pattern, and no gathering on earth compares to an assembly of believers meeting in this way with the Lord "in the midst." (Matthew 18:20)