Welcome back to small group discussion guides! If this is your group’s first week back together be sure to spend some time reconnecting. Maybe play a round of peaks and pits, summer edition. What was the best thing that happened in your life this summer? What was the worst? You might also spend some time setting a few small group goals for the year. Who do you want to be together? Make a plan.
If your group has been meeting for a few weeks already, feel free to jump right into this week’s discussion.
This week we’re talking about baptism. Any idea where the idea of baptism came from? What did it mean originally? Who was the first person in the Bible to baptize someone? See what your group knows...
A: “Though today the word baptism generally evokes thoughts of identifying with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, baptism did not begin with Christians. For years before Christ, the Jews had used baptism in ritual cleansing ceremonies of Gentile proselytes. John the Baptist took baptism and applied it to the Jews themselves—it wasn’t just the Gentiles who needed cleansing. Many believed John’s message and were baptized by him (Matthew 3:5–6). The baptisms John performed had a specific purpose.
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist mentions the purpose of his baptisms: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Paul affirms this in Acts 19:4: “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” John’s baptism had to do with repentance—it was a symbolic representation of changing one’s mind and going a new direction. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Being baptized by John demonstrated a recognition of one’s sin, a desire for spiritual cleansing, and a commitment to follow God’s law in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival.” (gotquestions.org)
How was John’s baptism different from the Christian’s baptism?
Why would a person today need to be baptized? What does God accomplish through baptism?
This week we encourage you to go around the room sharing your personal baptism stories, answering at least these questions: When? Where? Why?
Have you ever had an especially powerful experience watching someone else be baptized?
If you have a group member who hasn’t been baptized be sure to ask if they have any questions or reservations about baptism. What might be standing between them and that decision? Be kind and helpful.
What could you do in your everyday life to better remind yourself of what happened at your own baptism? How might you intentionally celebrate what God’s still doing in you? How could you help someone else celebrate their baptism?
Justin started Sunday’s sermon with these words:
“If you’ve ever felt guilt that just won’t leave you alone, if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, if you’ve ever felt hopeless, isolated, or like you were unseen or forgotten, this is a story (and a Sunday) for you.”
So, have you ever felt guilt that wouldn’t leave you alone? Have you ever felt hopeless or isolated? Forgotten? Share an example with the group. What lifted you out of that place?
Do you currently experience any of those feelings? If so, why do you think that is? What could change that for you?
Do you have people in your life who’re feeling that way? What might you do to be a reason for them to come home? Think through a couple practical steps.
What questions do you have about baptism?
How about another baptism story? Read Acts 8:26-40 together.
What is the eunuch reading when the Spirit moves Phillip to catch up with his chariot? What does Phillip teach him?
Why does that lead the eunuch to want to be baptized? What does the good news about Jesus have to do with baptism?
What is the eunuch’s response to his baptism?
Is there anyone in your group considering baptism? Pray for him.
If not, pray for the people attending our church who need to take this step. Pray that God would convict and compel someone to come home.