I write this because many will ask questions as to why I had to take this drastic decision, for many perhaps unprecedented, but as I should hope to show, this type of decision is neither outside the parameters of Holy scripture, nor indeed alien to the history of the people of God through the ages.
This is a matter of personal obedience, and I stand in the tradition of the Apostle Paul when he testified before the Kings and Lords of his day “I was not disobedient to the heavenly calling”.
WHY GO PUBLIC! WHY CAN’T THIS BE A PRIVATE THING?
The first reason lies in the very purpose of baptism; it is a public testimony of the death to life experience which happened to my soul. There is nothing secret or private about the matter of baptism. It is a public identification with Christ, proclaiming my union with Him in His death and consequently in the new life from and in Him. If I believe that I was lost and now am found, I am only too happy to share that wonderful news with all who would care to listen, read or even watch.
Secondly, by this act I intend to draw a line on the sand. I intend to show the radical nature of death to sin and life in Christ. This cannot be a subtle thing for which we are ashamed. As the reformers sought to draw a red line on some issues after being delivered from apostate Rome, I am also compelled to draw a line between that false, deadly, soul destroying gospel which I had believed and on which I had staked my eternal future, and the life giving Gospel of the Grace of God in Christ. That was no mere addition of information for me, it was to borrow Luther’s words “the opening of the gates of paradise”. To let the two opposing propositions of the way of life overlap, as if one was as good as the other, or a matter inconsequential; is to my conscience, a betrayal of the nature of saving Grace and the bloody history of the faithful who underlined the death and life issues at play with the very ink of their blood.
I MUST LIVE THE DOCTRINE I PROFESS
This I must do whether it is expedient or unflattering. I have many times been deeply convicted not only by my sanctified conscience ,but I believe also by the witness of God’s spirit who lives within me. That I cannot believe a doctrine taught expressly and by implication in scripture without following through with its consequential claims on my unqualified obedience. Iam not my own, my religion comes from above, it is of God. I cannot have it on my terms or on the expediency of what flatters my ego and supposed standing in society .If I believe as I do that a false Gospel cannot save, then it is Incumbent on me to analyse the Gospel I received. Fear and trepidation at what answer I was likely to find kept me from considering this most critical matter. The call to examine myself and see whether I be in the faith was for so long too high for me.It was was a biblical proposition which threatened my very reputation or what I thought was a reputation. Taking up the biblical proposition would open up ‘pandoras box’ and the ugly skeletons of my previous false assurance would be exposed. I feared having to confront that ugly reality. However the bliss of agnosticism threatened my very soul with eternal consequences. So the box was opened and I saw my life, and my confessions through the clear mirror of God’s word My profession of faith crumbled before the searching light of the Gospel of Grace,applied effectually and indelibly upon my heart,conscience and my life.I remained naked under the spotlight of the almighty, that I may go to him for dress and helpless I may then look to Him for Grace.
So it is when I ascertained the spurious nature of my earlier profession and was persuaded that the Lord had done a new work in my heart, that I now sought to obey that which all new creatures in Christchurch would seek to obey -SUBMIT TO WATER BAPTISM
SUCH AS HAVE RECEIVED THE WORD QUALIFY TO BE BAPTIZED
This is the express statement laid forth by Luke In Acts 2:41.The evangelical stand, In contradiction to Roman Catholicism, and to some extend Anglicanism stood opposed to the Baptism of infants as well as those who have not expressed conscious saving faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus’s Christ. The one common denominator between the child denied the blessings of baptism and the unbeliever is the one fact that they both have not been converted. It seems abundantly clear that those who were conscripted into the privilege of baptism were such men and women who had heard the word of Truth, preached with the essentials (I Corinthians 15:1-3) of saving Gospel present in the word which birthed faith (Romans 10:17).That the new birth, the resurrection from the dead, or what Paul elsewhere calls new creation, comes with, in, by or perhaps through the preaching of the “word of Christ”, seems to me a matter beyond all disputation.
I ELLY ACHOK OLARE DID NOT QUALIFY TO BE BAPTIZED
Iam persuaded beyond any reasonable doubt that at the time of my initial baptism, I was no different from a mindless child who had little if any awareness of the sacred rite to which I was being initiated. Knowing later that I retained a heart of stone while I rose through religious ranks to be a preacher ,and that I had no reasonable grasp of my own perilous standing before a holy God, the severe claims which the law held against me and consequently the Gracious offer of saving Gospel, I know now that when I said the so called sinners prayer, I remained every bit a rebellious unconverted sinner that I had been before this self-deceiving act of outward obedience. This is my testimony; this is my assessment of what I was, even 17 years into active preaching and later pastoral ministry
I can distinctly recall sitting on the sides of my high-school bed, with all my future ahead of me, apprehensions of high school life. I had had a deeply religious family which served to lay sufficient awareness of ‘holy things’ and the guilt which comes by it. So when I heard that Jesus loved me and that he could give me a wonderful life (for this in summary constituted the ‘gospel’ I heard ),I joined the train which many had boarded towards a good life. I say there was no Gospel, I cannot recall conviction of sin other than skin-deep awareness of how sin was the hindrance to my good. Jesus was presented emotively, and scarcely objectively. I can recall the fleeting emotions of guilt for not letting such a ‘sweet’ Jesus down. That which Paul describes as a coming of the holy spirit in power and with full conviction (I Thessalonians 1:4),did not happen to me. I understand that assurance may be a gradual process, yet I, even I, know that years into my decision to be a Christian I did not feel that the Holy Spirit was testifying with my heart that I am a child of God (Romans 8:15).The assurance I had was shaky. It was often ‘strengthened’ when the preachers stirred it up in some revival meeting or other. How many times I went forward to rededicate my life to ‘Jesus ‘?, I labored to drown that emptiness in the business of church, overnights, mission trips, tried to sing louder,pray louder and deny the emptiness by rebuking it as ‘a spirit of doubt’ assaulting my faith. How could I have that assurance which comes from heaven if the powerful heavenly wind had not blown upon my wicked soul and brought the dry bones together? How could I seek God genuinely when a mere man taught me to insist against my inner convictions that I was saved because I said the prayer?
A work of God? No, my initial faith was a work of man, myself and the preacher who no doubt unknowingly himself misrepresented the gospel to me. It can never be salvation based on the amount of knowledge, that is not what am saying. I struggled though to see how I could be saved by such a wrong, lethally deficient message, and message am owed persuaded is not only sub-Christian, but in fact anti-Christian .I struggle to see that I was saved because when I said the prayers, it was my future and solutions to my problems that were in my mind, not my sins. My sins which stunk to the high heavens and severed union with my maker, sins which threatened me with eternal torment in the flames of hell. I had made a decision to accept Jesus, and I made decisions every day to stay with him. How could this be the salvation which is the Lord’s from start to finish? I was blind to the amazing Grace of that sound which could save a wretch like me. From what then could I be saved if my sins were not laid bare before me?
So with a wrong gospel message, and a faith propped along by aggressive follow ups and organized meetings to boost that faith like a drug and bury the doubts in the multiplicity of church activities, I trudged along. I cannot for sure say when exactly the lie became fact but I know the new fact produced it’s own false assurance .
BORN AGAIN, EXPERIENCED THE HOLY GHOST, I WAS CONVERTED
And this time I knew that an eternal work was going on within me. No wind blew violently, nor white doves flew by. But there was no mistaking that afternoon in 2008 that I came to fearful grips with the impossible claims of the Gospel. The Lord Christ by His Holy Spirit applied the Truth of human depravity to my troubled, yet now awakened conscience, locking me into a horrible conundrum of an unyielding broken law and the absolute absence of power on my part to make amends. I know that my soul anguished within me in the face of the divine threats of eternal perdition. So it is true that when the sweet whispers of sovereign Grace offering an escape from this conundrum by the deeds of Jesus Christ my substitute ,echoed above the thundering sentence of my guilt, I knew he had finally decide called my name. The Lord Christ had invited me into His kingdom for sure. Now I did not need a preacher to assure me, but the internal preacher the Holy Spirit left no lingering doubt that I was a child of God. Oh! The joy of full salvation!!! That I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine?
His bride, I now stand in His resplendent righteousness, as holy as he is, made so not by my deeds but His own dress, that wonderful record of achievement rendered to God in my place. How then can I not walk down the Aisle with my beloved, and outwardly celebrate this my wedding to my prince? How can I stand assured by a false marriage held before?
A MATTER OF ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS
I Do not intent to suggest any saving efficacy on the rite of baptism. It is incumbent upon me to fulfill all righteousness entailed in the faith of my Lord. My Lord submitted to this rite as an example to me, as one of the men who counseled me on this matter said, it is for me, by this conviction a duty of obedience, a duty laid on me by knowing the right thing to do.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
I Have been privileged since my own conversion to lead a reform work in my own church and outside in other churches. I have preached that if one was baptized without a credible confession of faith, then such a person was no different from the Roman Catholic who was baptized as a child. Many have come to saving faith in Jesus, attested by true assurance and vindicated by a commensurate conduct of life. These have struggled with their initial baptism and some asked me if They may submit to another baptism, a true baptism. It is unseemly and not right, that I being as all of them should not so set an example of the radicalness of the heavenly blessing.
THIS HAS BEEN THE PATH OF THE FAITHFUL IN CHRIST
If historical precedence did not hold out a pattern to follow, I should still have submitted to this blessed ordinance on the strength of the testimony I have shared. But may God be blessed who has so dealt with His people in history, as to leave us indelible footprints upon the Sands of time, footprints into which we may walk.
Peter masters has well argued that it is upon a related matter of baptizing children that the reformation was stunted and hot pressed as far as it could have been (contrast of the covenants -a Baptist explanation-school of theology 2009).
A casual perusal of the heady days shortly after the protestant reformation of the 16th century will reveal reluctance on the part of the magisterial reformers to make a clean break from Roman Catholicism. Children were still to be baptized, ‘national church’ concept carried over to the reform movement. No wonder the Anabaptists were persecuted by both the protestant wing as well as the Romanists. No less a person than Luther in protestant Germany and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland bear the ugly stain of visiting harm on the Faithfull who dared to follow the reformation to its natural implication.
The Protestants under Zwingli were the first to persecute the Anabaptists, with Felix Manz becoming the first martyr in 1527. On May 20, 1527, Roman Catholic authorities executed Michael Sattler. King Ferdinand declared drowning (called the third baptism) “the best antidote to Anabaptism”.-Wikipedia
I appeal to the Anabaptist forbearers who unlike their peers understood how radical the reform movement was. They saw that the Gospel Truths which had been recovered during the reformation were not merely intellectual and political emancipation from the Roman yoke. It was first and foremost a deliverance from the slavery of sin, masquerading as religion and then a call to come out from among them and be separate. While their peers were content to continue more or less with ‘reformed Romanism’, the Anabaptist saw a need for a clean break, testified to by an outward sign given to God’s people (not false converts ),but truly regenerate people of God.
It may be argued that no single Christian group has suffered such persecution from within Christendom than the faithful Anabaptists. The cause of their cruel persecution was their high view of the radical nature of God’s saving Grace. Sample this from one of their earliest leaders Menno Simons;
“Do you think, beloved, that the new birth is nothing else but that which the poor world hitherto has thought it to consist in: namely immersion in the water or the saying of the words, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost?” No, dear brethren, no!
The new birth consists verily not in water nor in words, but it is the heavenly, quickening power of God in our hearts which comes from God and through the preaching of the divine word, if we accept the same by faith, touches, pierces, renews and changes our hearts, so that we are converted from unbelief to faith, from unrighteousness to righteousness, from evil to good, from carnality to spirituality, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the evil nature of Adam to the good nature of Jesus Christ.
God does not seek words nor appearance but power and deed:Do you think it sufficient if you know Christ only according to the flesh? Or if you but say that you believe on Him, that you are baptized and are Christians, and that you are purchased by the blood and death of Christ? Ah no! I have told you often and tell you again, you must be born of God and your life changed and converted in such a manner that you are new men in Christ, that Christ be in you and you in Christ, or you can never be Christians, for, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”. Here I would call on all the high and mighty lords, princes, and rulers under all the canopy of heaven, also on all the popes, cardinals, bishops, all the learned and scholars who from the beginning have broken and obscured the Scriptures, to show us one single word in the whole Bible (I say in the Bible, for human fables and lies we do not regard) that an unbelieving, refractory, carnal man, without true repentance and regeneration, ever was or ever will be saved, simply because he boasts of faith and the death of Christ, or attends the mass and services of the priests, as the whole world does. If so, they would have gained the point. But from the beginning this never has been, nor will be to the end of time”
By this act they stood as radical as that work of Grace which had seized them, and yanked them from a false religion of apostate Rome. They have been captured in history by that term certainly aimed at disparaging them “radical reformers’. In today’s parlance they would have been branded religious fanatics. But by this act of their obedience they condemned the Pelagian Romanist gospel and repudiated a false confession together with its comforting rite, intended to mimic the blessed ordinance prescribed for God’s children.
By this act of my second baptism’ (which is really my first one ), I like my Anabaptist forerunners repudiate the false Arminian gospel with all its relics and pantomimes, and affirm the radical nature of the new birth in Christ. That this is more than an outward change or character reformation.It is far deeper than a mere discovery of additional truths hitherto not known. At the core level,it is nothing less than a new creation,a new birth.It is a death to life experience, a coming into the kingdom of God, being made a child of heaven from a child of hell.
By this article, in this defense, I cast no aspersions on such as would find my position extreme or too drastic. I however plead only that everyman should examine whether they be truly in the faith of Jesus Christ. In this plea, I can do no better than quote the man who preached with no equivocation the believers’ only baptism, the great Anabaptist preacher Menno Simons;
“I can neither teach nor live by the faith of others. I must live by my own faith as the Spirit of the Lord has taught me through His Word”.
May the voice of salvation, the sounds of true reformation echo from the blazing past of our forbears, to the simmering present of our times and in the will of God our savior; to the future of revival of hearts and salvation of many.
To the Glory of the Lord our God and the rejoicing of His chosen ones. Amen