BEFORE leaving this earth our Lord commissioned His disciples, " 'Go 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 that I have commanded you; and lo, I I am with you always, to the close of the age' " (Matt. 28:19, 20, R.S.V.).
The gospel commission involves more than an oral preaching of the Word. It is to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them.. .." The disciples Christ "made," "forsook all, and followed him" (Luke 5: 11). They in turn were to teach the truth as it is in Jesus. Those who responded, and professed to believe, were to demonstrate their conversion by observing all that was commanded.
To the ministers of the Advent Movement is given the same commission. It is our solemn responsibility to see that those who profess discipleship are converted and are observing all the teachings of the Saviour.
It is correct that Christ did say, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). This believing assumes more than mere assent to Biblical truth.
We are told that "the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Genuine belief is expressed in following the Lord all the way as well as observing all He has taught.
In many countries where the writer has labored a common manifestation of politeness is to agree. It is not unheard of for individuals to attend a series of meetings and even request baptism merely because they have developed a love and respect for the evangelist. Others may request baptism because of the added prestige it might bring. Still others may feel that baptism is a cure-all for physical ailments or a rite that brings good luck as well as strength to overcome evil habits. Not a few are willing to be baptized in order to qualify for educational discounts and certain material benefits within the church.
For the above reasons, and others not enumerated, it is imperative for the gospel worker to discover the motive in requesting baptism. It may be difficult for pastors of large churches or evangelists conducting campaigns to become intimately acquainted with every candidate. Therefore the one who desires baptism should be recommended by at least one member in good standing. Inasmuch as most persons joining the church have made their decision as the result of personal exhortation it is logical that the personal worker, be he layman, Bible instructor, or pastor, introduce the candidate to the baptismal examining committee.
During my years of labor in the Orient I have observed that our staunchest members in the Far East are the ones who were led into the message through personal Bible studies aside from taking a Bible correspondence course or attending a public effort. The individual Bible study gives opportunity for questions as well as a chance to determine the genuineness and depth of the learner's Christian experience.
Aside from determining the motive of a person's request for baptism, the minister should make sure of two other things: (1) That the candidate is thoroughly indoctrinated in the fundamentals of Bible doctrine, and (2) that the candidate is already living the truth in his personal life. In the matter of thorough indoctrination the following suggestions are made:
- The candidate should have completed a series of studies on Bible doctrines, either during a public campaign, in a Bible class, or with a personal worker.
- The candidate should own a Bible and be able to turn readily to scriptural passages. (There are, of course, exceptional cases where the individual is mentally retarded or completely illiterate.)
- The candidate should be able to repeat from memory such passages as John 3:16, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments (at least in abbreviated form), and a few other important Bible verses.
- The candidate should be able to explain clearly why he wishes to join God's remnant people. (The reason given should reveal deep conviction that this church is God's true church for this last age.)
- The candidate should be able to explain why we keep Sabbath instead of Sunday. If he is Chinese he should know how to prove that Saturday is the seventh day instead of the sixth. (NOTE: For our readers in the West it might interest you to know that the Chinese have given numbers to the days of the week instead of names. And Saturday is called literally "star period 6" in their language. Hence many call us liu jih chiao, or "six day religionists.")
- The candidate should know the full name of our church and its meaningSeventh-day Adventist Church. I have been surprised to discover when examining candidates that many do not understand the word "Adventist."
- The candidate should give evidence of understanding thoroughly the denominational view on all testing truths.
- The candidate should have accepted the Spirit of Prophecy. (It is well for each candidate to read Steps to Christ before baptism.)
With regard to living the truth the following reminders are listed:
1. Make sure that the candidate has been converted, not to an individual or an organization, but to Christ.
a. If he was an idol worshiper he will have destroyed all false gods.
b. If he was a believer in one of the non-Christian religions he will have substituted the Holy Bible for the other so-called sacred scrip tures. There are many people in the East who see no inconsistencies in being members of several religious sects at once. Therefore, care must be taken to determine that the candidate has rejected his former religious background in favor of Christianity.
2. Make certain that the candidate is enjoying a satisfying personal fellowship with his Saviour through daily prayer and Bible reading. If a candidate has not yet learned to pray, he should wait a bit before being baptized. It is that intimate connection with Jesus that enables many newborn members to survive the initial shock of discovering that not all members in the church are saints.
3. Attempt to have candidate's family problems solved.
a. The candidate, if married, should be living with only one companion to whom he or she is legally wedded.
b. If the candidate is unmarried, stress importance of marrying person of same faith.
c. If two parents are candidates, they should agree to refrain from sending their children to non-Adventist schools where they cannot keep the Sabbath. Moreover, they should be instructed to teach their children the importance of marrying within the faith.
d. If the candidate is a child of non-Adventist parents, he should already have proved to himself that he can stand firm to his convictions in spite of parental opposition.
4. Be certain that the candidate has the victory over all evil habits. Never baptize a person on the promise of giving up wine, tobacco, gambling, et cetera. The candidate should have the mastery over these former vices to the extent that he is no longer tempted by them. With some this may take a period of weeks or months.
5. Know without doubt that the candidate is keeping the Sabbath—the entire twenty-four hours. The examiner should know where the candidate is working and that he has been granted all of his Sabbaths off.
6. Be convinced that the candidate is now abstaining from unclean meats. This can be discovered by detailed questions as to what arrangements have been made at home for the reform in diet.
- Discover whether the candidate still attends places of worldly amusement.
- Get a commitment on willingness to put off all jewelry before baptism.
- Make sure that the candidate is not a member of some secret society or active in some political organization.
- See that the candidate, if a former member of another Christian denomination, has severed all connections with that organization.
- Find out if the candidate is a willing tithepayer.
The impression should not be given that we are trying to keep people out of the church. The door is open to all who repent. However, the church has suffered much because of the unconverted. As ministers, God has made us keepers of the gateway to church fellowship and it is our duty to know more about the experience of those who pass within our gates through baptism. Let us work diligently to help the believers prepare for this fellowship so that they will treasure it, and be loyal to it, all the days of their lives. Let us lead these dear ones into the new-birth experience before we lead them into the fold through baptism.