A couple days ago, I participated in a lengthy discussion with other ministry leaders about whether a person who has not yet decided to be baptized should be brought in as a teacher of young children. I see two issues here. First, what are the qualifications for teacher? Second, how does baptism relate to those qualifications? As to the first issue, there is one basic qualification and three specific qualifications. Discipleship is the basic qualification. The specific qualifications are calling, skill, and content. Even if a person has the three specific qualifications, that person disqualifies himself if he is not a disciple. So, what is a disciple?

Jesus included two specific activities as components of his command to go make disciples of all peoples: immersing and teaching obedience. Being immersed (water baptism) into the Name identifies one with God and his people. It is a testimony before the gathered body, declaring what has already occurred in the life of the person being baptized. While immersion does not save, Jesus places it as a necessary component of discipleship. So, if an individual has chosen to delay baptism, for whatever reason, that person has chosen to delay being a disciple. Since discipleship is the basic qualification for teaching, such a person is disqualified from that position.

I do not see a way to get around the command of Jesus in the Great Commission and the testimony in the book of Acts. While we treat such a person with grace and walk with him on this portion of his journey, he is not yet qualified to be a teacher.

Teaching is a high calling. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Because it is a high calling, the requirements should be high. I see no other way.


Matthew 28:16-20 (my translation)

16Then the eleven follower-learners traveled to the Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus directed them, 17and seeing him they bowed in worship but they were double-minded 18and Jesus came to them speaking to them, saying, “All decision-making authority was given to me, in heaven and upon the earth. 19Therefore go make follower-learners of all the peoples immersing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to keep all I commanded to you; and look! I, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.”

Excerpts from a search on “baptz…” in the ESV

Acts 2:38 …Repent and be baptized …

Acts 2:41 …those who received his word were baptized…

Acts 8:12 …when they believed …they were baptized…

Acts 8:13 …believed, and after being …

Acts 8:34-40 [The eunuch hears and is immediately baptized]

Acts 9:18… he rose and was baptized

Acts 10:47 "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

Acts 10:48…[Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…

Acts 16:33… he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Acts 18:8… believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in [Or into] the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 22:16… Rise and be baptized …

1 comment:

  1. Those of us from a more sacramental perspective would say that it is in baptism that believers receive their primary ordination to ministry. If you are not ordained (in the broad baptismal sense -- priesthood of all believers) how can you participate in the priestly ministry of the church? Baptism is not just an act of obedience ("ordinance") but it is the means of grace that the Spirit uses to equip us for ministry. IOW, baptism isn't just a discipleship hurdle or a qualification to demonstrate serious faith but a necessity for functioning "in Christ". I would be open in some settings to having non-baptized folk -- even non-believers -- as assistants or aides -- perhaps even to help THEM get a sense of what ministry is about before they commit. Many find that they have to "belong before they believe."