The Acts of the Apostles 16.22-34
Interesting historical note: according to F.F. Bruce, the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles was originally one work titled "Historical Origins of Christianity". I knew that Luke was the author of the two works, and that they fit together, but I didn't realize they were originally one work. Interesting. After the second century, the four gospels were clustered together, thus the Acts were separated and put with Paul's letters. I've often wondered why modern day Bibles don't just switch Luke and John, so that in reading the gospels, you can have a reconnected story from Luke's Gospel to His Account of the Apostles.
Sunday is Baptism Day! Always a special day. And usually the occasion for a sermon on being baptized. Fortunately there is plenty of material to use in the NT. Like the story of the Philippian jailer who was saved and baptized by Paul. Fascinating story.
My point is simple: we get baptized because of what we believe. Simple enough. But to clarify - the use of the word "belief" is qualified amply enough by James and even Paul in his letters to Rome, Corinth, and others. We don't get baptized to help us believe, to indicate that we want to believe, or that we want to be seen as one who believes. We get baptized because of what we believe about Jesus - is he Lord or not?
As Rob Bell and other preachers have pointed out: the cry of the Roman citizen and slave was "Caesar is Lord". Caesar is the Savior, he is to be worshipped, he requires primary allegiance. For the jailer to announce that Jesus is Lord, and that he believes/puts primary allegiance in Christ, not Caesar - well this is a monumental step...like crossing the Rubicon. Baptism would be like physically crossing the Rubicon - for baptisms were normally done in "living water" or water that is moving - thus a river or stream and not a lake or pond.
In our century - it is still radical to publicly make known that you believe Jesus is Lord. It is even more radical to make life choices that clearly reflect this allegiance. And I don't mean going to church, reading your Bible and avoiding swear words. Because of what he believed about the Lord Jesus, and about Caesar, the jailer was going to have to make changes in his eating habits, his sexual habits, his spending habits, his recreation habits, his family habits. Not because of adopting a long list of rules to live by, but because he was gripped by the saving grace of Jesus - the forgiveness of sins. To be forgiven, and then to live as one willing to give grace, to forgive, to love as God loves us - well that is going to change a lot of habits.
The jailer was confronted with death, and received a second chance at life. He took his second chance as a gift from God and started over again - was baptized into a new way of life. Have you been given a second chance at life? What are you doing with that gift? With your life? Be baptized because you have chosen to believe in the Lord Jesus, in his Way of Life - his way of grace, forgiveness, truth, goodness, strength, and power. The baptism matters to the degree that you live what you believe. Belief with out life is dead, baptism with living belief is powerful.