I. What inspiration says baptism is.
To prepare people to enter a spiritual kingdom, give up the world, experience a new birth, and behave according to the standard of God's law requires skill, tact, love, patience, and near-perfect timing—all of this, plus the power of the Holy Spirit.
II. The problem.
"The test of discipleship is not brought to bear as closely as it should be upon those who present themselves for baptism."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 95.
"There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates."—Ibid., p. 91.
III. The process of preparing candidates for baptism.
A. Vital points of doctrine must be taught.
1. "The minister of Christ is not to present to the people only those truths that are most pleasing, while he withholds others that may cause them pain."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 304.
2. Some subjects should be taught and understood before baptism. "Let the truths that are the foundation of our faith be kept before the people."—Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 29.
"No line of truth that has made Seventh-day Adventist people what they are is to be we akened. "—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 17.
3. The following are subjects that cannot wait: Repentance and conversion, the second coming of Christ, the Sabbath and related studies, health reform and dress reform, systematic giving, the gift of prophecy, church organization and discipline.
4. The following are examples of subjects important but not imperative—before baptism: the early and the latter rain, the ministry of the glory cloud, the fanaticism of 1844, the paradox of divine purpose, the sinister coalition, and the work of the little horn.
B. The time factor.
1. There is danger in delay (Matt. 25:10; 2 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 22:11). What is the effect of baptism on the rest of the family (Rom. 14: 7, 12).
2. Life is uncertain.—"Take no thought . . ."
Every person is already partly dead.
Mortality tables of insurance companies do not support extended time for studies.
Death is as close as the nearest button in an enemy rocket system.
C. Time needed for preparation.1. These are the A. B. C.'s before baptism: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"; "Behold the Lamb of God"; "Come unto me."
Time is needed for prospects both to learn and to unlearn. Time is needed, not just for group meetings involving candidates, but for personal contact, to allow direct attention to individual problems. Time is needed to arrest improper dress trends and teach dress standards.2. Dress—"One of the points on which those newly come to the faith will need instruction is the subject of dress. Let the new converts be faithfully dealt with... The idolatry of dress is a moral disease. It must not be taken over into the new life. In most cases, submission to the gospel requirements will demand a decided change in dress."— Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 96.
"Some have had a burden in regard to the wearing of the marriage ring.. .. We need not wear the sign, for we are not untrue to our marriage vow, and the wearing of the ring would be no evidence that we were true."—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 180, 181.
4. Conversion—"It is not a small matter to transform an earthly, sin-loving mind and bring it to understand the unspeakable love of Christ. . . . When he understands these things, his former life appears disgusting and hateful. . . . He renounces his former pleasures. He has a new mind, new affections, new interest, new will; his sorrows, and desires, and love are all new."—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 294.
Time is needed for prospects not just to learn but unlearn. Classes enjoy the advantage of group dynamics—but there are no substitutes for individual attention to personal problems involved in the life of the prospect.
Birth, even among triplets, is an individual experience. Time must be allowed for the study of each individual. "To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Eccl. 3:1).E. Be anxious to baptize them, but don't rush it.
Know the satisfaction that springs from a well deeper than the pool of statistics—the satisfaction of sharing Paul's conviction: "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." It takes time to declare it all, but that time represents one of the best investments of SDA pastors and evangelists.
Someone has said, "The minister's conscience must always be clearer than the baptismal water."
There is never a poor time to instruct human beings along the lines of truth—the finest time is before baptism. Because before baptism propects are: (a) eager and motivated by the divine passion of the first love; (b) making spiritual and social adjustments; (c) in the most practical position to study the privileges and responsibilities of church membership.F. Undue haste in baptism produces church babies prematurely born. This haste necessitates incubator facilities lacking in most churches. The prematurely born are not able to endure the drafts occasioned by fast-moving financial programs, to say nothing of the winds agitated by the jet speed of gossiper's tongues.
G. Children's baptism.
Parents should do two things: (a) examine the children, and (b) instruct them.
"If you are satisfied that your children understand the meaning of conversion and baptism, and are fully converted, let them be baptized."—Evangelism, pp. 309-311.
IV. The follow up.
B. Each new believer must be steadied by his own roots.
"It is not in God's purpose that the church should be sustained by life drawn from the minister. They are to have root in themselves. . . God holds each soul responsible for following, for himself, the pattern given in the life of Christ and for having a character that is cleansed and sanctified."—Evangelism, p. 343.C. Points that require frequent review are: health reform, spiritual gifts, systematic benevolence, soul winning, the brevity of time, the second coming of Christ.