The following is and article with a picture that appeared in the Edmond Church of Christ bulletin several years ago by Stephen Okoronkwo.
The example of the 145 year-old man being baptized into Christ here last April continues to make an impact on us. He had been an idolator all his life. His name is Mbaraonye and his influence in the community was great. He ordered that his idols of his former gods be burned, and the shock of this ancient man turning to Christ caused two others from the same congregation to be baptized that same day. His first son was also restored to the Lord. Brother Mbaraonye was carried as baby into the water where I baptized him. I knew there was great joy in heaven for this one coming to Christ.
During the Bible College Lectureship on Sunday, July, I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. by the old man's son, Eze Mbaraonye. He had brought nine people from the Hungwa Church of Christ wishing to be baptized. I took them to riverside and studied Acts 8:36-39 with them and proceeded to baptize each one. The saving of these nine souls was the direct influence of the 145 year-old man who had given himself to Christ on April 18. His hands and his feet were feeble and weak, and he could not go about preaching or speaking to the lost, but his beautiful example continues to draw many to Christ each Lord's Day. How wonderful that the Lord is gracious and willing to accept anyone when he is ready to "throw away" years of vanity!
We rejoice that one who has lived so many years could still be touched by the power of the gospel. Let us be encouraged to sow the seed and know that God will give the increase.
This event took place in a country and culture far removed from our own but when we read it, it teaches us many lessons we can apply to our present lives here and now. I'd like to share three lessons we learn from the baptism of the 145 year-old man.
The Wonderful Grace of God
When I see this old, old man the first thing I notice is not just his age but what his age represents the patience and kindness and grace of God.
The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
- II Peter 3:8-9
...who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge to the truth.
- I Timothy 2:4
In the end, God's will is that everyone be saved and He is patient about it as this story confirms. God waited 145 years (providing food, shelter, as well as the blessings of family) --- He was patient for 145 yrs. waiting for this man to let go his idols and turn to Him in faith.
- God waited until the last moment for the thief to let go his pride and turn to Christ.
- God waited until Paul committed his worst sins and still accepted him when Paul submitted to the truth.
This teaches me something, that it's never too late to change, to repent, to go back:
- We're never so far that God cannot reach us.
- That as long as we have breath to confess Christ, God waits for us.
- That as long as we can think and say, "I'm sorry, take me back" He will!
God hopes for our salvation until the very end of our lives (Like the Prodigal Son's dad waited for him to return, never giving up hope). God is patient, gracious and ever hopes for our repentance.
The Demands of the Gospel are the Same in Every Age and Every Culture
The old man was an idolater, as was his father and his father before him. He lived in the African village, multi-god lifestyle with a different language, different tradition, different history and view of the world. But when he heard the gospel, which is always the same:
- That God is creator and Supreme.
- That He sent His Divine Son, Jesus, to die as a sacrifice for sin.
- That He rose from the dead in order to prove that He was indeed divine and true.
- That those who believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and are baptized will be forgiven and go to heaven eternally.
He was required to respond in exactly the same way that every other person who had heard this message was required to respond. When the 145 year-old man heard this gospel he repented (burned his idols) and he was baptized (immersed in water).
The gospel makes the same demands in every age (belief, repentance, baptism) and it makes the same promise in every age (forgiveness and eternal life). Cultures are different, traditions are different but in every place and time all people struggle with guilt and the fear of death and the good news of Jesus is always understood at the primal level throughout history. The gospel is always the same and the response is always the same and we should always guard against those who try to change the message or the response. You can be sure that in each generation someone tries.
The Power of Example
Example is a powerful teacher and motivator. Although he could not do anything (evangelize, teach, serve etc.) this man's simple example of obedience led 11 other people to conversion. We never realize what power our example can have for good or for bad.
This man's example not only affected his family and his village but is a source of inspiration to others as the story of his conversion is told and re-told by others --- including myself here this morning. This man brought 11 souls to Christ through example alone, how many of us can say we've done as much with all of our efforts? What we do is how people judge the validity of what we say. Example has power!
The things I learn in this story are a great encouragement to me because I learn certain things about God that comfort and sustain me:
1. I learn that God is good and patient with me the sinner.
If I'm not reaching all of my spiritual goals I shouldn't be afraid or worried. I should just keep trying because God is patient and gracious with me and you. Instead of worry and fear, I should put my hope and trust in His patience and kindness. Will I be disappointed for leaning to heavily on God's kindness? Will God run out of grace for me?
2. I learn that God never changes.
He never changes, His word never changes, and His promise never changes.
- Those who believe and are baptized will be saved! (Mark )
- There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1)
- Jesus will rise up the believers on the last day. (John 6:40)
I learn that there is nothing as comforting as the sureness of God's word to those who obey it.
3. I learn that everything I do is important because I am a Christian.
My influence may not create kings or presidents but my impact as a Christian may save someone's soul. I learn that it does matter what others think about what I do because they decide to believe or not to believe based largely on what I do, not just what I say.
I have only one regret in life and that is that I did not know the Lord until I was thirty years old. He was patient with my sinfulness and disbelief for a long time.
I hope no one here, knowing the gospel, will wait one minute longer than you have to in order to obey Christ in repentance and baptism or being restored to Him through prayer.
And, finally, I also hope that we won't wait until we're too old and tired in order to serve Him.
Always putting off until tomorrow or another more convenient time your service to God and His Church. The opportunities to serve Him are all around you, each week He calls you to serve Him in one way or another --- even today as we look for people to help preach the gospel to the children of our community.
God will wait for you, but you don't even know how long. Please answer Him if He calls you today.