Oikos and Baptism

Matthew 28:18–20 is a fundamental text to the Oikos project we’re undertaking at 8&H. Here, Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship and commissions us to invite others into that life. That is why we exist, and Oikos is one of the major ways we are working to put that commission into action.

As we seek to make disciples (of ourselves and others), Jesus draws our attention to three things — going, baptizing, teaching. We looked at the first of these in the last post of this series. Today, let’s look at the second.

Normally, in the Churches of Christ baptism carries strong connotations of forgiveness. I think that is good and right, but there is more to baptism, and I suspect that more is what Jesus is getting at here.

Baptism is about the forgiveness of sins, but that is not what it is most fundamentally about. Baptism is a way of marking the end of one thing and the beginning of another, and we might say it carries a particular emphasis on the new thing. For instance, in Romans 6, Paul declares our old, sinful life is put to death in baptism, but the real emphasis of the text is on the new life that begins in baptism. Baptism is where you enter into Jesus’ story, sharing in his death, burial, and resurrection. It is also where God promises to do for you as he did for Jesus. With baptism, everything changes. The Father becomes your God, and you become his child.

We might say baptism is most fundamentally about committing ourselves to God.

I think this is what Jesus has in mind here. The life of discipleship is about living out the commitments we have made to God and drawing others into a deeper commitment to their Creator.

Some of us have already been baptized. We’ve already made that commitment. For us, oikos is a place where we can learn to honor those commitments, renew them, and draw closer to our Father. As with anyone we love and are committed to, you can never be close enough!

For others there is no commitment to God, or it is marginal. In these cases, oikos is a space where were deeper commitment can be modeled and fostered.

Either way, wherever you find yourself or the person next to you, God desires for you to be closer. Baptism is an expression of that desire, and oikos is a place where we long to nurture it.