Concerning One’s Knowledge Before Baptism . . .
How Much Is Enough?
by Jim King
How much should a person know before being baptized into Christ? It’s a good question, and one we need to consider as we teach people the gospel. On the one hand, some accounts of conversions in Acts seem to imply a very introductory understanding of the facts about Jesus. Cornelius (Acts 10) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16) were baptized at their first hearing of the good news, apparently without any in-depth discussion of all that discipleship requires. At least, no such discussion is recorded. On the other hand, biblical teaching about repentance and the costs of discipleship needs to be made clear to the prospective Christian before they make an ill-informed commitment which they may not be inclined to keep. Obviously, they cannot be fully advised of every difficult spot in the road to heaven that they will encounter. But they need to be aware that “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), and that anything less than total devotion to Christ is useless.
This seems to be the point of some of our Lord’s teaching. Please read Luke 9:57-62 and 14:25-35, where Jesus bluntly insists that one must be prepared to give up everything to follow Him. Repentance itself involves change — something that many people are simply not intending to do. Unfaithful Christians are sometimes Christians who didn’t make this fundamental commitment at the start, only to find somewhere down the road that Christ demands more than they are willing to give.
The rich young ruler (Mark 10) might have made a ‘good” lukewarm Christian. But Jesus saved him the trouble. We do no one a favor by watering down a message that will face them, undiluted, in judgment.