This is a common question that I come across from many people. Is there a minimum requirement of knowledge? Do I need to know the full doctrine of Christ? What must I know? Let us examine the events that we have just looked at to see what they knew. What did the Philippian jailor know in Acts 16? The text tells us that they spoke “the word of the Lord.” We are not given details about exactly what was taught. But we can make some clear assumptions. Paul did not preach for the next 2 weeks on the whole doctrine of Christ and then he was baptized. What did he tell him? Obviously about repentance and baptism and that is what the jailor and his household did.
Acts 2 may help us the most since we are given the text of Peter’s sermon. What did he teach them? Did they need to know that instrumental music was not the authority of God? What was taught to convict their hearts? (1) The events they had witnessed were prophesied by God. (2) Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. (3) Jesus is not dead, but has resurrected and now sits at the right hand of God ruling. (4) They had crucified the Messiah. (5) They needed to do something for forgiveness. It is with this message that we convict the hearts of men today just as it was done 2000 years ago. What did Philip preach to the eunuch in Acts 8:35? The good news of Jesus from the scriptures. That is what the gospel means “good news.” What did Philip preach to the Samaritans in Acts 8:12? The good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. Look at Acts 10:38 43 where Peter preaches to Cornelius. What did Peter teach? The life of Jesus, that he was crucified and raised up on the third day and that everyone who obeys his words will be saved. These are the things that are needed to be known. They were convicted of sin, they needed to repent and be baptized.
Our higher standard
I am afraid that many have made a higher standard for salvation than what God has left for us. I believe sometimes we think that we must teach them everything we know about God before they can be baptized. But we see no example of this in the scriptures. Salvation is very simple. One must be ready to submit their lives to God in every thing and obey the words of Lord for salvation. Perfect knowledge is not required. If it was, then who among us could be baptized? Will anyone say that they have perfect knowledge of the scriptures? That is something that we are striving toward, that we grow up into all things which is Christ. Christ does not tell us to be full grown before salvation is offered. Can we prove this from the scriptures? Absolutely. Consider Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8. He was baptized with the other Samaritans. Did Simon have perfect knowledge about the Holy Spirit? Obviously not, for he thought he could purchase the gift of God. Did that nullify his previous baptism? No, he just needed to repent. What about the Jewish Christians? Did they have perfect knowledge about the scriptures and the will of God? No, otherwise there would have never been any problems about circumcision, meat sacrificed to idols, the keeping of new moons and sabbaths, even the allowing of Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Was their salvation negated? No. Did they need to learn the truth and grow in the Lord? Yes.
Not simply belief
On the other hand, it is not simply the reciting of these things to show that one is ready to be baptized. Anyone can say that I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Anyone can say that Jesus died and then was raised by God three days later. In fact, our five year old children can say those very words. But we see these men understood what sin is and why they needed Jesus. They knew they needed Christ, otherwise they would not have asked the question, “what must I do to be saved?” They understood what Christ had done for them and they were submitting their lives to the Lord by repenting and being baptized. Obedience from recognition of sin and love for the Lord. It is not simply belief. It is love for the Lord, submission, obedience, and faith in God that leads someone to these acts as we have seen in numerous examples in the book of Acts.
Does it matter where you are baptized?
What do the scriptures teach? In Acts 2 when three thousand souls were baptized, where were they baptized? We do not know? We are not given that information. Did they go find a baptistry? Did they find the nearest church building to baptize? Obviously not. This is an area that we have general authority. We are told that we must be baptized and that we are to go and make disciples by baptizing them. General authority. Do we have a specific command for a location. No. Therefore, any body of water that is large enough to immerse can be used for baptism. Thus, we can baptize people in the river, which was very common years ago when local congregations did not have baptistries. Could we go to the ocean and baptize? Can we go use someone’s swimming pool? Of course. Let us go a little further. Can we baptize someone in their bathroom jacuzzi tub? Yes, as long as it is enough water to be immersed in. Suppose our baptistry goes on the fritz and we need to baptize someone. Could we call up the baptist church or some other church building that has a body of water and baptize there? Does it matter what body of water we use? No. The point is that we do not need to baptize only in this building or only with our baptistry. We have been given general authority to baptize in water and that gives us the discretion to find any body of water that we would like to use.