In the conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius (a Roman centurion), and his household, the apostle Peter doesn’t say to them, “I’m going to baptize you all now.” No, he “commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” See Acts 10:48.
Just before Peter had preached his sermon to them, Cornelius had said: “We are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” Acts 10:33. To hear what the Lord commanded. A great attitude. Why would Peter command Cornelius to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and why would Cornelius be expecting to hear commands from the Lord ?
1. Jesus had commanded the apostles to preach the gospel and baptize believers. Mark 16:15-16. Lords command!! That’s what they do. Peter had received his assignment from Jesus to preach the gospel to all nations, and baptize, and Peter must carry out precisely what Jesus wanted done. Anything less would be dereliction of duty.
2. Cornelius was a soldier who would give commands and receive commands. He understood what a command meant. It was meant to be obeyed! Compare the other centurion’s appreciation of the Lordship and authority of Jesus in Matthew 8:5-10, and Jesus’ appreciation of this faith.
3. Baptism is not an optional practice; it is commanded “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
4. Just as the teacher is right to command the baptism of the believer because Jesus so commanded him, the command to be baptized in Jesus’ name is to be obeyed wholeheartedly by the disciple.
Do you remember Colonel Nathan Jessup (in the movie, A Few Good Men), when stressing the importance of obeying orders, saying: “We follow orders or people die!”
Since baptism is essential to receiving salvation and eternal life (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:18-22), it must be taught, commanded and obeyed – or souls will die in their sins. Faith without the obedience of baptism won’t save. Later in the Book of Acts we read of Ananias urging Paul:
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ Acts 22:16
Both words ‘rise’ and ‘be baptized’ are imperatives, implying a command. Since baptism is essential to salvation, why dilly dally around or procrastinate? Do it and do it now! Every example of baptism in the book of Acts shows that it was done as soon as possible after the person hearing the gospel had believed. See Acts 2:37-41; 8:12,35-39; 9:17-18; 16:13-15,30-34; 18:8.
Romans 6:16-18, speaking of baptism, says “you obeyed from the heart the form of teaching to which you were committed, and being freed from sin you became slaves of righteousness.” See Luke 6:46; John 14:15; Hebrews 5:8-9. Obedience in baptism results in freedom from sin. This means that baptism saves sinners from their sin.
Why do so many denominational groups not insist on baptism as essential to being saved, as Jesus so commanded?
Have you been baptized as a believer in the gospel? Were you baptized to have your sins washed away, or for some other purpose? If for another purpose, your baptism was invalid.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 behold, I am with you always, to the end of the
age.” Matthew 28:18-20. Let us be sure to do all that Jesus commanded.