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Baptism of Conversion (24)
Christopher B. Harbin
We tend to think of baptism as a sacrament or a special rite with some mystical importance. We find texts in the Bible that address baptism, we see Jesus commanding baptism, and we see churches who give lots of attention and importance to baptism for membership, salvation, or both. Denominations have been built over issues concerning the role, importance, and form of baptism with interpretations that distinguish them from others. With all that importance and even hype given to the topic, we might need to reassess baptism's role in the life of the church, but more importantly in the life and practice of the early church.
When we look at Paul in today's passage, he does not seem to give baptism the same importance our various traditions have given it. Paul does not ignore baptism, Paul does not discourage baptism, but neither does Paul bring up baptism in the text.
Paul and Silas had become imprisoned after freeing a slave girl from an evil spirit. Her owners had used her for profit as a fortune teller. Her owners were enraged at their loss of profit and brought charges against Paul and Silas. They were beaten and thrown in prison. As they sang hymns and prayed that night, an earthquake released the doors to the prison, as well as their shackles. The jailer feared their escape until Paul and Silas cried out to him not to harm himself, as they were still there. As jailer, his life would have been taken by Rome in exchange for the loss of any prisoner under his charge.
Overcome by their testimony and witness, this jailer asked them what he needed to do in order to be redeemed by God. They told him to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation. They then proceeded to tell him and his household about Jesus. The jailer tended to their wounds, washing and anointing their cuts and bruises. He was then baptized along with the entirety of his household.
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