Repent Before Baptism
New converts often ask the question: do we need to be perfect before baptism? The apostle Peter gives the answer: ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Repentance includes more than just the confession of sin. It means not only a change of mind but a new direction of the will, an altered purpose and attitude.
The Bible teaches, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Conversion is the foundation of a true Christian experience. It is differentiated from the new birth (John 3:3, 5) only in that it may be regarded as the act of a person forsaking his old life of sin, while the new birth, is done by the Holy Spirit working in the heart of a person simultaneously with his forsaking sin. Neither experience can be a reality without the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit cannot perform His transforming work until a man is willing to let the Lord work in his life (Revelation 3:20).
The Jews emphasized repentance as a necessary prerequisite to salvation. The rabbis had a saying that “if the Israelites would repent for one day, the Messiah son of David would come immediately.” According to their teachings, repentance included sorrow for sin, restitution wherever possible, and the decision not to repeat the sin.
Should a Person Be Perfect Before Baptism?
The sinner needs not wait till he is perfect before baptism. It is the Lord who will help him grow through the life-long process of sanctification. Baptism is similar to marriage. When a man decides to unite with his bride, he disconnects himself from other love relationships and vows to be faithful to his wife. But that does not mean that every man has to be perfect before marriage. The perfect relationship between the husband and the wife will be realized as they grow day by day in understanding and love.
Likewise, a believer disconnects himself from his sinful ways and unites with the Lord by baptism. He will daily grow and learn of His Master through the study of the word and prayer. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As the believer abides in Christ, the Lord dwells in him and he becomes partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). His mind will reflect God’s will and He will live in harmony with His word (1 John 5:14).
God gives the victory
Baptism by itself doesn’t bring perfection. It is the daily walk with the Lord through study of His Word, prayer and witnessing that brings the transformation (John 15:7). And the believer after baptism may still have the need to repent from time to time. The apostle John writes, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
It is the grace of God that will bring the fruits of the Spirit to blossom in the believer’s life. Paul writes, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6). God gives the victory over sin (1 Corinthians 15:57). For this triumph over the power of the devil, the saved will offer praises to God throughout eternity (Revelation 5:11–13; 15:3, 4; 19:5, 6).
In His service,