In a culture where science claims an answer to most mysteries it is refreshing to take a look at a people who really did believe in, and made a big deal out of, the mysterious gifts that God gives his Church. The teachings of the ministries of God of the early Church is profoundly interesting, that one would need to go through the experience of being baptized to understand what is indeed happening in baptism.
I see this very clearly reflecting the experience of the disciples. They did not understand. The Gospels make several things clear, and one thing that is abundantly clear, is that the disciples were in a state of almost constant confusion. Even after Christ was clearly presented to them as resurrected we hear, “But some doubted.” The thing that motivated, clarified and empowered the disciples was Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit was given to them they transitioned from timid men who had gone back to fishing to evangelists. The Holy Spirit made the difference in the disciples understanding of their role. This seems why it is better to teach about mysteries of the faith after the gift of faith is given in baptism.
One of my bosses taught me that, <em>“There are principles and there are practices, practices are many and they change, but principles are few and stay the same.” </em>
I think that this applies to both teaching and baptism.
Christ’s mandate in Matthew 28 is a principle, Peters call to repent and be baptized is a principle.
The Church must always be about teaching and baptism. They are not up for debate as some may claim, they are foundational. The culture context must inform the way that teaching and baptism are done, as it has been doing throughout the life of the Church. The worrisome thing about the cultural context of today is that church is being lead to believe and teach, that teaching and baptism are not all that important, that the church should first be about social action and justice. While these are important, if social action and justice are the foundation of a church, and not teaching and baptism based on a resurrected Christ, that church will not do the things of justice and social action for long because the foundation for doing these has been taken away. Through it all we can have the absolute certainty that it is Christ that builds and sustains His church on earth and that he will continue to send Christians that will bring the wayward bride back to the principles of His holy word.