After Baptism, What Then?

While I was in India the last time a man reported that in his area there had been more than 1000 baptized. After I came home I had a letter from another man telling of more than 1000 baptisms. If these people were properly taught, and if they believed what they were taught, they were saved from their sins.

There is no better way to understand what ought to happen than to read Acts 2:36-41.

"'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.' Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.' And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.' Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them."

When these people heard, they believed in the resurrected Lord. Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Those who received his word were baptized and the Lord added them to His church (Acts 2:47).

In one hour men and women of normal intelligence can learn enough to be saved, unless they have been deceived by false doctrine. If, however, they have been taught some false doctrine, for example, that men can be saved by faith alone, it usually takes longer because they first must unlearn error.

Assuming that these two-thousand in India were properly taught, that their sins were forgiven, that they were added to the Lord's church, we ask the question: What then?

Let the Holy Spirit describe what they have become: "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9,10).

Read those verses again, so you can remember what you have become.

To be God's special people we must follow the instructions of the Holy Spirit. "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).

We have been baptized: What then? "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). To be saved eternally we must follow this example.

Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed for those who would believe through the apostles: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20,21).

You followed the teaching of the apostles and were baptized (Acts 2:38)? Continue in their teaching (Acts 2:42)!

As I write this, it is 73 years since I was baptized (I am now 83), but it is still needful for me to follow the teaching of the apostles. We have been warned: "Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10:30).

When we truly believe, we obey. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The word says: "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9).

The believers baptized on the Day of Pentecost continued in the apostles' teaching. They also continued in fellowship.

With other members of the body of Christ, the church, we share our faith and our obedience. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:6,7).

We are to have fellowship with the brethren, and we are to have fellowship with God and with Christ. The apostle John wrote: "That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

We are to have fellowship in giving as well as in receiving. "Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared [had fellowship - ASV] with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities" (Philippians 4:15,16).

God so loved that He gave (John 3:16); He gave His Son to die for us. We also must have fellowship in giving. Paul complimented the churches of Macedonia because, even though they were poor, they were willing to give. "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

Giving is a part of fellowship. Each Christian should be an asset, not a liability. We must realize that every baptized believer is to have fellowship in giving as well as in getting.

Each member must contribute to the building up of the body of Christ. Speaking the truth in love we are to "grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:15,16).

They who are outside of Christ are "alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them" (Ephesians 4:18). We, however, are built up in Christ "till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:13). We help each other grow in the knowledge of Christ as we continue steadfastly in the apostles' teaching.

So when we think of fellowship we should not think, "What can I get?" for God has already given to each of us, but we should ask, "What can I give?"

"And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

We cannot excuse ourselves by saying that we are poor. God gave His work to poor people. "Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" (James 2:5).

Let every preacher do his duty in teaching. Let each believer realize his duty in learning. With Paul, this is my prayer to God, "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19).

Let every preacher learn these wonderful lessons. Let him teach them. And let every Christian realize that these lessons are for him. If we really imbibe the teaching then we will have much to give to one another. There will be true fellowship and we can reach out to the world around us and let them see what Christ has done for us.

After baptism, what then? We are to grow to maturity, till we come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

Every member of the body should be an asset. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. We are to be rooted and grounded in love. We are to love God. We are to love the brethren. We are to love the truth. As each of us realizes our inheritance in Christ, each one will become an asset. No longer will we ask, "What can I get?" but we shall want to give.

The church will grow to the extent that we realize that we are all living members of the body of Christ, and that Christ lives in us by faith. We will grow by the love of Christ that passes knowledge.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20,21).

J. C. Bailey

Published in The Old Paths Archive (