RECEIVING PEOPLE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
Believing and Being Baptized
When we receive people by baptizing them, we must do it not according to the practices in traditional Christianity but according to the Bible. First of all let us see what kind of person can be baptized. The Bible says, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). What then is the basis for baptism? Obviously, baptism is based upon believing. There are many such cases in Acts. Chapter eight, for example, tells us about Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch. As Philip and the eunuch were going along the road, they came upon water, and the eunuch said, “Look, water. What prevents me from being baptized?” (v. 36). Philip answered, “If you believe from all your heart, you will be saved” (v. 37). Besides this, there was no other requirement. In chapters eighteen and nineteen there are also examples of many who believed and were baptized.
On the day of Pentecost Peter told the people, “Repent and each one of you be baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (2:38). The phrase upon the name of Jesus Christ indicates that the people had believed in the Lord Jesus, because without believing they could not have been baptized upon the name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the unique basis for baptism is our faith.
Faith Being Not an Acknowledging in the Mind but a Receiving in the Spirit
However, faith is not so simple. First, we must know what faith is, and then we must know how to discern whether or not a person has this faith. Faith is not a mental understanding or acknowledgement. Mental understanding, consent, or acknowledgment is not faith. Faith is not a matter of the mind. Faith is a receiving in the spirit. The faith spoken of in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, refers to our relationship with the Lord—our union with Him—through faith. For example, John 3:15 says, “That every one who believes into Him may have eternal life.” The preposition used here is into, not upon or besides, indicating that we enter into the Lord by believing.
Romans 6:3 says, “Or are you ignorant that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” In Chinese into seems to be a verb, but actually it is a preposition. We may use the turning on of a switch as an illustration. When we turn on the switch of a lamp, electricity flows into the lamp, joining the lamp to the power plant. The lamp has been installed in our house, but the electricity for the lamp is in the power plant. When we believe in the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus immediately enters into us as the Spirit and as life. As a result, we have a life relationship, an organic union, with Christ. To believe into Christ is not to understand something in the mind, to mentally agree with or acknowledge a doctrine. Rather, it is the spirit within man touching Christ. When a person contacts Christ in his spirit, by faith he enters into Christ. This is the faith referred to in the Bible. This faith is the basis for our baptizing people.
Repenting before Believing and Calling after Believing
A person has to repent before he believes. No one can believe without repenting. After repenting, a person naturally sees that the Lord Jesus is the Savior and that the Lord died for him on the cross. When he receives the Lord in this way, that is, when he believes, the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ enter into him. Thus, this person is born again. Therefore, before believing, there is repentance. Of course, after believing there surely will be calling. Everyone who repents and believes uses his mouth to call on the Lord. Acts 2:21 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” However, those who merely use their minds to understand and acknowledge do not call.
When I first believed in the Lord, people asked me if I was sinful, and I said that I was. When people said that there was God, I agreed that there was God. This God, however, had no effect or impact within me because I understood Him and agreed with Him only in my mind. Therefore, when I was baptized, although I agreed with the doctrine of man’s sinfulness, I had no consciousness of sin within me. I had never grieved or felt sorry for my sins. Although I acknowledged the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, I was not moved by that death; I only acknowledged it mentally. A year later, after being enlightened through the work of the Holy Spirit within me, I not only admitted that I was sinful, but I also felt that I was sinful. Being exceedingly sorrowful in my heart, I did not cease repenting for my sins and confessing them. I remember that the day I was enlightened, I prayed on a mountain while beating myself and confessing my sins. I went to God, no longer understanding a doctrine just in my mind but truly being conscious of my wrongdoings. That was my real believing into the Lord. This kind of believing gives us an inner sense and causes us to call on the Lord. Therefore, before believing, there must be repentance, and after believing, there must be calling.
Whenever we baptize and receive someone, instead of asking him how much he understands, we should ask him whether or not he has believed. If a person has not touched the Lord in his spirit, then even if he has memorized the entire Bible, he is still unsaved. The chief priests and scribes were thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures. Therefore, when King Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born, immediately they replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea” (Matt. 2:4-5). To know the Bible in the mind is one matter, but to contact Christ in the spirit is another matter. The magi who sought the Lord did not understand even one verse of the Scriptures, yet they were able to find the child Jesus and to offer gifts to Him (v. 11). Therefore, when we intend to baptize someone, we should not focus on examining him to find out how much doctrine he understands. Rather, we must touch him to determine whether or not he has believed.
(Being Apt to Teach and Holding the Mystery of the Faith, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)