I once had an agonizing problem: I was saved, but not baptized. I spent a significant period of time hesitating, though I knew it was what I should do after I was saved. Excuses, uncertainties, fears or apathy can hold us back. The purpose of this article is to address a few common hang-ups and encourage the reader to obey the Lord in baptism.
(“I don’t know all that baptism means.”)
Learning as a new believer includes learning about God, our Bibles and obedience, while saying no to sin. If being baptized interests you, the best thing you can do to learn more is ask a trustworthy spiritual person. Whether they let on or not, they will be very encouraged that you asked and point you in the right direction. You can ask for baptism indirectly by mentioning to an overseer that you’d like to be baptized but want them to help you know more about what it means. You can also check out the Truth and Tidings article from April 2022, “Baptism Basics: The Meaning.”
As you learn more about God and your Bible, you will be glad you didn’t let a lack of knowledge hold you back as you come across this verse: “If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know” (1Co 8:2 NET). That being said, the Lord wants you to begin to know about baptism!
(“I have a fear of deep water”; or, “I’m afraid to ask”; or, “I don’t want to be the only one”; or,“I’m embarrassed to get wet in clothes in front of others”; or, “I’m afraid of being in front of a crowd or my friends.”)
Fears can grip our heart and overwhelm us. They can lead us to irrational and strange behaviour in the eyes of others. Yet, would the Lord ask us to do something He cannot bring us through? Faith does not stop at salvation. Habakkuk wrote, “The just shall live by his faith” (2:4b). At salvation, God justified you; He declared you righteous; God says you are “just.” The Hebrew word “live” here means “survives and thrives.” Baptism teaches us to continue to trust God for all things in life so we can live and thrive. Often, simply expressing your fears to someone you trust will bring you some advice and confidence. Ultimately, you will need to decide before God whether He will give you the confidence you need.
Lack of Fruit
(“I have no interest in being baptized”; or, “I can do things while unbaptized that I can’t do when I’m baptized”; or, “I’m not spiritual enough.”)
Praying, reading your Bible and obeying will produce fruit in a believer’s life. Living to please God is what it means to be spiritual. You will demonstrate fruitfulness through Christ-like behaviour. A desire to please God and obey Him is “spiritual enough.”
What if you have no interest in being baptized? You know you should, based on the Lord’s commandment to evangelists to baptize believers, and on Peter’s commandment that believers in the New Testament be baptized (Mat 28:20; Act 10:48). If you know these things and still have no desire to live a life that is pleasing to God, you need to ask yourself a tough question and test whether you are actually saved (1Jn 1:6-7). You will never find an unbaptized believer in the NT. Thus, you must get back to Calvary to determine whether the mercies of God through the death of Christ are motivation for you to “present your body a living sacrifice,” or whether you need to receive these mercies by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (Rom 12:1).
(“My parents won’t let me be baptized”; or, “The overseers said no.”)
These are separate difficult issues. If you are still under your parents’ care and they forbid you from being baptized, you should honour them. In honouring them, you are honouring the Lord. The Lord promises to honour those that honour Him and tells us to honour our parents (1Sa 2:30; Mat 19:19). The Lord will honour your decision and not allow this to hinder your growth. When you are old enough to legally make your own choices, you can obey the Lord and perhaps even win over hostile family members to the gospel.
When overseers say “no,” this can be a real blow to someone desiring to be baptized. Overseers should always have good biblical justification for refusing to baptize, and therefore they won’t say “no” without some cause. Search out their requirements and your shortcomings, and seek to meet the requirements. You should honour their reasons, as difficult as this might be. Rebellion and bad-mouthing those whom God has put in authority is not right, even if you disagree with their biblical convictions. God will honour your sincerity as you strive to meet their standards.
Overcoming and Assembly Fellowship
(“I’m baptized; now what?”)
Each example above has been a real hang-up from a believer who is now baptized. Though one of these might not be your issue, the author’s prayer is that you will see that others have had difficulties also. The Lord will lead you through baptism’s waters. When you overcome your hang-up, your baptism can be a wonderfully joyful reflection on your past salvation and your Christian life ahead. But then what?
God desires you to continue to obey Him in your life and say no to sin when it attempts to stir up your flesh – just as your baptism symbolized you died with Christ when you were saved. The Word of God will teach you that the next important step of obedience is to join yourself to a company of believers, a local assembly gathering to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though baptism is linked with salvation in the NT, baptism is also a requirement for reception into the fellowship of a local assembly (Act 2:41). Just as you obeyed in baptism, obedience to the Word of God should mark your new local assembly (1Ti 3:15). Being part of an assembly will teach you to be a worshipper and help you find a place to spiritually serve God by building others up within the guidelines of gender roles. It will also give opportunity to build relationships with young and old Christians while making you accountable for your growth in your walk with the Lord.
 Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, Volume 2: Prophets (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), 1334.