What Comes After Baptism
by Jacob Hudgins
“Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed”(Acts 8:13).
Philip continues to work with Simon. “Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed”(Acts 8:13). He follows Philip around, fascinated at the miracles he is performing and presumably learning from the teaching he is giving.
The apostles also act. “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit”(Acts 8:14-15). Baptisms are not the end of work, but the beginning. Peter and John come to establish and teach (Acts 8:25). It is notable that this is the same John who previously wanted to call fire down to consume some Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56). They also come to impart the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on the new disciples (Acts 8:17). All of these steps ensure that the new Christians are taught, connected to other disciples, and connected to God.
There is also correction here. When Simon sees that the Holy spirit can be passed on through the apostles’ hands, he offers them money. Peter is sharp with him: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you”(Acts 8:20-22). Peter is concerned that Simon is not properly respecting God and is thinking only about money. This cannot be tolerated. To his credit, Simon receives the rebuke well and acts to correct his wrong.
What comes after baptism? Instruction and guidance. New disciples must learn more about Jesus—both his story and his character. But they also must be educated in the practical parts of a Christian lifestyle. Jesus tells his disciples to make disciples, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”(Matt 28:20).
What comes after baptism? Life changes. New disciples must evaluate their lives to discover what “repent” will mean practically for them. Luke notes that Simon “previously practiced magic”(Acts 8:9), meaning that he changed upon conversion.Are there sexual relationships that must be abandoned? Words to stop saying? Forgiveness to be extended? Often this process will need some help from other disciples who can see areas of concern—like Peter, who corrects Simon about a further change he needs to make.
What comes after baptism? Establishing a relationship with God. While we cannot today receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, we still each need that personal connection to God. My faith and salvation do not rest in the person who taught me, but in the God I now serve through Jesus.
For new disciples, this passage teaches that baptism is a beginning, not an end. For those teaching others, it reminds us that new converts demand our attention as we establish them in a new life in Christ.