by Doug Hawkins
|Baptism - Part 1|
|Baptism - Part 2|
|Baptism - Part 3|
In religion, there is not a Bible subject more misunderstood or distorted than the one we presently have under consideration. Generally speaking, modern pulpits completely ignore the role of baptism in man's salvation, forcing those who understand it to place more emphasis on it than actually necessary. Baptism actually plays no greater part in man's redemption than faith and repentance, but because denominations minimize and "push aside" the command to be baptized, we, who understand the necessity of it, are often compelled to exalt and overemphasize it. In three separate articles over the course of several months, I would like to note the following things: in this piece, the five assorted baptisms recorded in the New Testament with an explanation as to why one now applies to us; in part two, how this One baptism is accomplished; and finally, in part three, baptism's design and purpose in God's eternal scheme of redemption. Let's begin with part one.
FIVE BAPTISMS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament, we read of at least five different baptisms: Moses' baptism (I Cor. 10:1-3), John's baptism (Mk. 1:4), the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (Mt. 3:11), and finally of Christ commanding his apostles to teach and baptize believers among all nations (Mt. 28:19,20). With so many baptisms mentioned in the scriptures, someone may initially be confused and uncertain as to which one the Bible refers to at any given instance.
NOW ONLY ONE BAPTISM
Fortunately, this dilemma is unlikely if a person understands that of the five baptisms just listed only one now applies to us. The apostle Paul concisely states in Ephesians 4:5 "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." This refers to the "one baptism" that applies to all believers, of all ages, of every nation alike. The question is then: to which baptism does the apostle refer?
Which baptism is the one in Ephesians 4:5, and if there is only one, which is or was the purpose of the others? Let's quickly observe them all: 1) First of all, the baptism of Moses was a shadow of something to come in the New Testament. Today, we cannot be baptized "unto Moses in the cloud and the sea." (Read I Corinthians 10:1 -3) Based on that passage, I know this cannot be the "one baptism" to which Paul referred. 2) Secondly, the baptism of John prepared the Jews for the coming Christ. Too, like unto Moses, we cannot be baptized unto John for salvation. (Read Matthew 3:1-6 and Acts 19:1-8) Knowing nothing more than John's baptism from Apollos, the Ephesians in Acts 19 were rebaptized by Paul in the name of Christ. I know "John's baptism" is not the one in Ephesians 4. After it serve its preliminary purpose, the baptism of John was divinely discontinued. 3) Thirdly, the baptism of fire stated in Matthew 3:11 symbolizes eternal punishment. No one, who understands John's meaning, truly desires the baptism of "unquenchable fire." (Read Matthew 3:12) The passage portends the event of Christ separating the wheat from the chaff, which is a picture of the future judgment. It cannot be the "one baptism." 4) Fourthly, the baptism of the Holy ghost was a special event in the gospel age that will forever remain unparalleled. It came upon the apostles in Acts 2 and then on the house of Cornelius in Acts 10. It was a baptism solely of promise. In other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was given by promise, limited in scope to a select group of people - namely the apostles and the house of Cornelius - and served a particular function in each case. (Read Acts 1:1-8,2:1-4; 10:44-48) As for all the generations following, "Holy Spirit" baptism is impossible because it has not been promised to any of us. Therefore, it too cannot be the "one baptism" that Paul referred to. 5) Finally, Christ commanded his apostles to preach the gospel to all nations and baptize the believers in his name. He said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Read Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:46,47) Unlike the others, this baptism applies to all men alike (every creature), regardless of race, gender, education, or social standing. This, undoubtedly, IS the "one baptism" Paul alludes to in Ephesians 4. It is salvation or baptism "in the name of Christ" or by the authority of Christ. As evidence, I want to note two examples of conversion with you in the book of Acts.
EXAMPLES IN ACTS:
To begin, I would like for you to note the words of Christ in Luke 24:47, where he says, "...repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. Underscore these words in your mind. As instructed, the apostles remained assembled in Jerusalem awaiting Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit (Ac. 1:8). As promised, the apostles received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Ac. 2:1-4), and Peter, as appointed by the Lord, stood amidst the vast assembly and proclaimed the significance of Christ's death, burial and resurrection (Ac. 2:22-36). Hearing Peter's moral indictment, the people's hearts were pierced, and they remorsefully asked what must we do (Ac. 2:37)? Recalling the great commission through divine inspiration, Peter replied (Ac. 2:38), "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." Examine the answer very closely. The apostles were ordered to preach repentance and remission of sins in the name of Christ. In complete harmony with the .Lord's sacred charge. Peter commanded the hearers to be baptized. Is that what Christ told his apostles? Yes. What baptism was Peter referring to? Moses? John? Fire? Holy Spirit? The same baptism Christ constituted when he said "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Again, the baptism to be administered upon believers is by the authority of Christ, and must be the "one baptism" Paul endorsed in Ephesians 4:5.
Furthermore, note the record of conversion found in Acts 10, the gospel's maiden voyage among the Gentiles (Gentile means "other nation") Peter was led to the House of Cornelius, after seeing the vision of the unclean animals. Still puzzled by the scenes of his trance and unsure of the events to follow, he reluctantly accompanied Cornelius' couriers back to Cornelius' home. Upon his arrival, Cornelius told of the angel that appeared to him with specific instruction to call for Peter. Immediately, Peter perceived that God is not a respecter of persons, but "...in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:35) Understanding the vision, the purpose, and the occasion more clearly, Peter preached to these Gentiles the good news of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. To his surprise, the Holy Spirit came upon these Gentiles (Ac. 10:44) as a sign of God's acceptance of all men. Acts 11:15-18 says:"And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” At the conclusion of his heart-rending sermon, Peter extended the gospel invitation by saying in Acts 10:47-48:"Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days."
The only baptism relevant to our salvation today is in, the name or by the authority of Jesus Christ. Peter said in Acts 4:12 there is salvation in no other name under heaven. When you read of baptism in connection with salvation in the New Testament, you can know it refers to the "one •baptism" of Ephesians 4. Though men may say that we are to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire, the Bible irrefutably teaches that there is only "one baptism", and it is indubitably by the authority of Jesus Christ. In the next issue, we will notice how to accomplish this "one baptism."
Having laid a foundation in part I by discussing the "one baptism" of Ephesians 4:5, we are now ready to notice from New Testament examples how baptism is administered and who is a fit subject to be baptized. Hence, in this article, we propose to discuss how a person is "scripturally" baptized into Christ, in contrast to the various religious practices of our day. Paul said, "For as many of you has have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" in Galatians 3:27.
BAPTISM REQUIRES WATER
In the book of Acts we read of the apostles "commanding" men and women to be baptized in the name or by the authority of Christ By noting these examples, we learn "how" baptism is administered and the element that must be used. To begin, let's reconsider the example of Cornelius' conversion found in Acts 10. After Peter preached Christ's death, burial, and resurrection to Cornelius* entire household, he "commanded" them to all to be baptized in water. In Acts 10:46-48, the Bible says:
"For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commended them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” Honest students of the Bible easily apprehend that Peter intended for these Gentiles to be baptized in "water" in order to be saved.
Another enlightening instance is found in Acts. 8. Here, we read of the Ethiopian nobleman returning home from Jerusalem after worshipping God according to the customs of the old law. As he journeys toward his homeland, he reads from an Old Testament passage found in Isaiah S3. In the desert, Philip approaches the chariot and asks the eunuch if he understands what he has read. Puzzled by the prophecy and greatly disturbed by its meaning, the nobleman invites Phillip, the evangelist, to ride along and explain the implications of the passage to him. The Bible says Philip began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus. In Acts 8:35-39, we read:
"Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believeth with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."
Again, our sincere hearts quickly detect that baptism requires water. "See here is water," the Eunuch said. Now before we leave this point, note I Peter 3:20-21:"which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, which the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
BAPTISM REQUIRES IMMERSION
The word "baptism" in our English Bible translates the Greek word baptize which means to dip, to immerse, to submerge. Concerning the definition of the word baptism, Alexander Campbell noted, "No word indeed, in the Greek language has already been more rigidly canvassed and more accurately traced then baptize, and more satisfactorily established." (Christian Baptism pg. 95) In concert with the grammatical laws of language, every instance of the word's usage must relay the standard meaning, which is to immerse. Candidly speaking, the word baptism cannot be accurately used at any time to refer to the practice of sprinkling or pouring as performed by many religions.
Also, we see from new Testament examples that the mode of baptism requires sufficient water for immersion. For instance, we read, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized" Jn. 3:23. Again, in Acts 8:38, it says, "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." The words "much water" and "down into the water" suggests that the essential act of baptism is immersion. Besides the definition and the action of baptism that we have just noticed, we draw the distinct conclusion from other passages that baptism means to completely immerse. Paul's treatise in Romans 6 reveals that baptism symbol- izes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3-5). Paul said once more in Colossians 2:12."Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
Practically speaking, a burial implies a complete immersion or covering. Suppose your pet were to die and unfortunately, you were forced to bury it. How would you do it? No rational mind would think of burying the pet by sprinkling a little dirt over it, leaving the majority of its body exposed. To bury means to completely cover. Yet, there are people who will contend that a scriptural method of baptism is to sprinkle or pour. The bible plainly leaches that baptism is a burial.
BAPTISM REQUIRES FAITH AND REPENTANCE
A common argument by those who discountenance the necessity of baptism is that men are saved by faith and not by "works." Citing Ephesians 2:8,9 as proof, these advocates identify the action of baptism with a work of man's righteousness, as though men devised the whole scheme. Thus, they teach that people are saved in spite of baptism. Incidentally though, no where does the Bible say that baptism is a work of man's righteousness, nor that it is associated with the law of Moses. Howbeit, when Jesus was asked what to do to "work the works of God" he said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" John 6:28,29. Obviously, there are works that save and works that don't Am I to conclude that we are not required to believe because we are not saved by works? Of course this is a ridiculous notion and a plain contradiction of what the Scriptures actually teach. Jesus emphatically says that we are to believe or "die in our sins" (Jn. 8:24). If I were to reason that belief is irrelevant because we are not saved by works, then I have misunderstood and misinterpreted the scriptures. Due to such fallacious reasoning regarding the subject of baptism, men irreparably harm the sacred volume and cause souls to be lost in the process. Like belief, baptism is an act of faith or a work of faith (James 2), which has nothing to do with the "works" Paul discussed in Ephesians 2. Consequently, it is reasonable to conclude that a person is baptized or immersed in water "BY FAITH". Baptism in water was designed by God, commanded by Christ, and is to be obeyed by all who want to be saved (Heb. 5:8,9). Reading the examples in the book of Acts, demonstrates mat conversion always begins with preaching the gospel or the news of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection a Corinthian* 15:1-4). A man opts either to believe or dismiss the gospel message. If he chooses to believe, faith causes him to repent or turn from his former life (Lk. 13:3, Act 17:30,31), confess the name of Christ before men (Mt 10:32; Rm. 10:9,10; ML 16:16), and be baptized in water (Mk. 16:16; I Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38). Are any of these commands less important than the others? No. Does any one suspend me other? No. Are all these commands required? Yes. Can a man be saved without baptism? Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved..." Men say, "He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved too..." Whom shall I believe? The point is that we are saved by faith when we are immersed in water. It is an undeniable part of God's plan of salvation.
In addition to vindicating the importance of water baptism, the preponderant evidence implicitly leads us toward two more unavoidable conclusions. First, the popular practice of "infant baptism" is unscriptural because infants and small children to not have the capacity to be taught, or believe, nor do they have any sins to repent of. And secondly, such practices as the Mormon's of being baptized on behalf of the deceased is futile because a man or woman must work out their own salvation (Ac. 2:40; Phi. 2:12), which includes being baptized for their own sins. In our next article, we will conclude the subject of BAPTISM by discussing God's design of it in His eternal scheme of redemption.
The audience sat quietly in anticipation of witnessing the baptismal rile. The ripples rolled along the top of the water as two men stepped down into the baptistry and waded toward the center. Steadying both him and the other man, the preacher raised his clenched fist into the air and said "Upon your faith and confession that Jesus is the son of God, I baptize you for the remission of sins into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen." As the sound of his voice faded away and the shattered silence returned, the preacher lowered the man beneath the surface of the water and lifted him up again. Why baptism? The focus of this last article centers around the design and purpose of baptism in God's eternal scheme of redemption. As such, showing how the scriptures teach that baptism is anew birth, the only means into Christ, a :form of Christ's death, burial and resurrection, and the only manner in which a person can contact Christ's saving blood is our primary concern.
In his first general epistle, Peter uses the term, "babes" (I Peter 2:2). a term not unfamiliar to the apostle Paul timer (I Col. 3:1, Heb. 5:12). Apparently, there is a time in every Christian's life when we are considered a "babe." How and when does a person became a bath in Christ? Naturally, we assume that it's after their conception and birth.
Amidst the cover of the night's shadows, Nicodemus, a Jewish ruler, went to Jesus. At some point during their conversion, Jesus stated, "...except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Jn. 3:3) Bewildered by the statement, Nicodemus responded, "How can a man be bom when he is old?" To elucidate his meaning. Jesus answered, "...except a man be bom of the water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Jn. 3:5).In an attempt to explain how one is born again, some presume that the birth of water refers to a physical birth and the "birth of the spirit" occurs when one accepts Christ as a loving savior. However, Jesus does not associate "born of the water" with the procreation of a child. To the contrary, he said, "except a man be born..." In other words, Jesus addresses what one must do to enter the kingdom of God, be born spiritually which requires both water and the Spirit Nicodemus understood Jesus to refer to a man for he asked, "How can a man be bom when he is OLD?"
In various religious circles, folks speak of "born again Christians"; however the vast majority who use this phrase misunderstand its implications, and they do not recognize that the only way for a person to be "bom again" is by baptism in water. What other purpose does water serve in God's scheme of redemption? Conception in this birth process occurs when one hears, believes, and accepts the facts and terms of the gospel. Paul states in I Corinthians 4:15 "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus 1 have begotten you through the gospel." Subsequently, after hearing the gospel, if one desires to enter the kingdom of God, he must then be bom of the water and Spirit, a metaphor referring to immersion or baptism in water. After baptism, he rise* to live in "newness of life" (Rom. 6:5), procreated for the service of God. The "new birth" is what Paul calls the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5). The term "regeneration" (PalmgenesiD in original Greek) is defined as "new birth" (palm - again: generis - birth) by W.E. Vine in his expository dictionary. To understand the meaning of the phrase "washing of regeneration", consider Ephesians 5:26 where Paul says, "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." This washing of regeneration occurs in water, which undoubtedly refers to baptism in water. As Jesus said,” YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN.”
The apostle Paul frequently uses the expression "in Christ" to establish where the blessings of redemption are found. For instance, "being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" (Rom. 3:24) "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1). "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (I Cor. 15:22) "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17) In very definitive terms, Paul states that salvation is "in Christ." How does one get "into Christ? Galatians 3:26-27 says, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized 'into Christ' have put on Christ." Furthermore, Paul says in Romans 6:3, "Know ye not that so many of us were baptized 'into Jesus Christ'..."The only scriptural method of getting into Christ is to be baptized into Christ.
“FORM OF DOCTRINE”
Baptism is the form or likeness of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, which frees us from the bondage of sin. The apostle Paul stated in Romans 6:16-18 "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience into righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." In order to represent the passage fairly, consider the following diagram.
Servant of Sin
"being then made free"
Servant of Righteousness
Obey "Form of Doctrine" delivered
In essence, Paul says you were formerly sin's servant, but you have obeyed or submitted to the form of doctrine I delivered to you. Being "then" or at that time free from sin, you became the servant of righteousness. What is the "form of doctrine" and how does a. person obey it? Paul says it is the form of doctrine that has been "delivered." What did he deliver? Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4 says "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" The essential element of the doctrine or the gospel that Paul delivered in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Notice further, Paul said, "you obeyed a form of the doctrine (DBR)." Some translators render it a "mold of the doctrine" or in other words, something similar or like it. How? In Romans 6:3-5 Paul states, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ as raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:" One should clearly see, therefore, that baptism is an obedient form of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection and that a person cannot be free from sin until he is baptized.
I don't know of anyone who disagrees with the statement, "we are saved by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14). The pertinent question is not "if but "how" are we saved by the blood of Christ? Jesus said, Tor mis is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28) The blood was shed for the remission of our sins. Bear that in mind. Likewise, John said, "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and me prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own Mood" (Rev. 1:5) It's veritably true to say the blood of Christ washes away sin. Underscore that in your mind too. However, the vast majority of people don't understand the connection between water baptism and the blood of Christ As we proceed, you should remember why the blood of Christ was shed; ie. "for the remission of sins" and "to wash away sin." With that embedded deeply in your mind, Peter says in Acts 2:38 "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission..." Again, Ananias told Saul of Tarsus in Acts 22:16 "And now why tamest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Evidently, since both baptism and the blood remit sins and wash away sins, there is a correlation between the two. The Bible tells us that we are baptized into Christ's death. It is there, then, that we come in contact with his soul saving blood. If that is not true, then I humbly challenge anyone to find a passage of scripture that describes another means into the death or the blood of Christ. Prayer, repentance, confession, belief will not bring me in contact with Christ's blood, but as shown, baptism will.
The import of the Scriptures shows that unless or except one is baptized in water, he cannot be saved. Can a man be saved without faith? No. Can he be saved without baptism? No. To be saved, one must believe in Christ, repent of his sins, confess the name of Christ as the son of God, and be baptized in water for the remission of sins. If you have not done that, do not delay for today is the day of salvation.