It was the first baptism of my first pastoral district, and I was both happy and nervous all at once. I had been studying with Steven for months, carefully reviewing the Bible truths in which he had been raised, calling him on to deeper faith in Christ.
Now we stood waist-deep in the cool water of a summer lake, looking back at the shore. Almost all the members of our small congregation had turned out to witness Steven’s baptism that Sabbath afternoon. Standing slightly forward of the rest was his mother, who had herself been baptized when she was expecting Steven. (We smiled that this was actually his “rebaptism”—13 years later.) Next to her were the young man’s brother and sisters, followed closely by all the “aunts” and “uncles” in the faith who had watched him grow up in their midst. Some 30 saints had gathered on the sand to sing and pray and bear witness to this most important moment in his young life.
And though on some official record I would be counted as the one who led Steven to Christ, I knew better. There stood his mother, who had told and read him countless Bible stories. There stood his siblings, who had themselves made the same choice, modeling maturity in Christ. Smiling at me from the shoreline were the dear men and women who had taught him lessons during 600 Sabbath schools. Others there had prayed with him and listened to him and built him into the fine young man he was.
This was, in every sense, the church’s celebration, not the pastor’s. I was just the fortunate one standing beside Steven in the water on a brilliant summer day, saying the same words under which millions of God’s saints have been baptized through the centuries.
So it is, I believe, with almost every baptism and every candidate. We think we can trace the one or ones responsible for a decision to follow Jesus, but only Heaven really knows the multitude of the righteous who stand behind each choice to join God’s remnant church. Their prayers and songs, their love and counsel, have formed a heart now eager to be given to the Master.
I salute you—all of you—who stand on the shore with tears and smiles, waiting to enfold the newly baptized one with your embrace. You have done exceedingly well. Enter into the joy of your Lord.