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CHAPTER 1 – BAPTISM WITH WATER – ITS IMPORTANCE AND MEANING
There have been too many sermons on baptism as a part of the doctrines of some denomination. There is too much talk about “Baptist doctrine” or “Methodist doctrine” or “the doctrine of our church.” In this Bible study, we are interested solely in what the Bible teaches about baptism. Nothing else matters. God’s people should be baptized because God commanded it, not because some church requires it. They should be baptized a certain way, because that is the way the Bible teaches, and it should have a certain meaning, the meaning which God gave to baptism. People need to remember what the Lord says about baptism, and then do what He says, because He said so.
BAPTISM IN THE BIBLE ALWAYS MEANS WITH WATER, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED
We use the term baptism, not water baptism, since that is the way it is used in the Bible. The word baptism used in the Bible always means baptism with water, unless otherwise plainly indicated in that particular passage. There is a baptism of the Holy Ghost, but everywhere it is mentioned in the Bible it is plainly called that. The term baptism, used without a plain mention of the Holy Spirit, in the Bible, never means baptism of the Holy Spirit. But the term baptism without the mention of water, in the Bible, nearly always means baptism with water. Of the verses in the Bible which specially mention baptism, baptizing, baptized, etc., there are sixty-nine verses which refer to baptism in water, but only eight say baptism with water. In those eight cases, the term water is used because in each case the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also mentioned in the same passage. The simple word baptism, in the Bible, refers to baptism with water, unless clearly indicated otherwise.
Remember that Christian baptism was instituted by John the Baptist, and that under his ministry and that of Jesus and His disciples, thousands of people had been baptized in the three or four years before the disciples were baptized with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. The term baptism had a clearly recognized meaning referring to baptism in water long before that time. We may say that literal baptism is with water, but the term is used symbolically about the Holy Spirit, or about the sufferings of Christ, or the burial of Israel under the cloud, surrounded by the Red Sea.
The coming of the Holy Spirit upon a Christian is sometimes called a “baptism,” sometimes a “filling,” sometimes an “anointing,” and sometimes “the gift of the Holy ghost.” On the other hand, the ceremony of Christian baptism in water has no other name in the Bible. The primary and literal meaning of the word baptism in the Bible is water baptism. When the word baptism is used in the Bible, always take it to refer to water baptism unless that passage of the Scripture plainly shows that the Lord speaks of something else.
For instance, in Ephesians 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” the Lord clearly refers to water baptism as He does everywhere else in the New Testament when the simple term is used without explanation or modification. It is a very foolish mistake, then, to use that verse as an excuse for leaving off water baptism when Jesus Himself submitted to it as an act of righteousness which He said is becoming for us to fulfill. Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize the converts among “all nations” and the preachers in New Testament times followed that plain command, whether with Jews or Gentiles, everywhere they went. Ephesians 4:5 simply says that there is only one Lord, one kind of faith, and one kind of water baptism. So in this study when we say baptism, we mean what the Lord meant by baptism, that is, the burial of the believer in water, as the first ceremony of his Christian life.
IMPORTANCE OF BAPTISM
There have been two great errors in regard to baptism. Some people teach that one cannot be saved without baptism. That is a great mistake as we will show. But another very great error is to teach that baptism is a matter of no importance and that we should not insist upon any particular manner or teaching about baptism. How foolish that is, you will see.
There are only two ceremonies which Jesus ever gave for every New Testament Christian to observe: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Of these, baptism was given first and is mentioned about ten times as often in the New Testament as is the Lord’s Supper. In the ministry of John the Baptist it is repeatedly mentioned that multitudes were baptized. When Jesus began His ministry, the large number baptized by His direction overshadowed even the baptizing of the converts by John the Baptist, as you see from John 3:22-26 and John 4:1-2.
It is especially mentioned of the converts at Pentecost in Acts 2:41 that:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Concerning Philip’s great revival in Samaria, we are told in Acts 8:12:
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
The book of Acts especially mentions again and again that the converts were baptized, as:
The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38, Paul, the apostle, Acts 9:18, Cornelius and his household, Acts 10:47-48. Lydia, the quiet convert. Acts 16:15, The Philippian jailer, Acts 16:33, and Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, Acts 18:8.
Paul even baptized again some converts who had believed on Christ and had been baptized by Apollos, simply because they had missed some of the joyful meaning and blessing of the Holy Spirit in connection with their first baptism (Acts 19:1-7). The New Testament puts baptism in the limelight everywhere people were saved.
BAPTISM PLAINLY COMMANDED
The Lord Jesus commanded baptism, and nothing is unimportant when Jesus commanded it. Jesus Himself chose to be baptized, and that publicly (Matthew 3:13-17). God the Father was pleased with it and spoke aloud from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit came in visible form like a dove to rest on Jesus, so that all could see that the filling of the Holy Spirit comes from obeying the Father, as Jesus obeyed Him then.
There are only three commands in the Great Commission, and baptism is one of them. Jesus reminded the disciples of His authority and then said in Matthew 28:19, 20:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The apostles were to get people saved, baptize them, and teach them to observe all things Jesus commanded. The only thing that should come before baptism is salvation. Everything else should follow it. Unfortunately baptism is a matter of controversy, and so preachers do not usually give it the prominence which Jesus commanded, and which New Testament preachers gave it, but we ought to. The Bible makes baptism important.
The Great Commission, commanding baptism, applies to “all nations” (Matt. 28:19) ; to “all the world” and more than that, “to every creature,” who hears the gospel and believes in Christ (Mark 16:15). Wherever men hear the gospel and believe, there they ought to be baptized, whether Jew or Gentile, black or white, old or young, in Bible times or now.
NEW TESTAMENT PREACHERS BAPTIZED AS JESUS COMMANDED
Apostles and preachers in the New Testament followed this command of Jesus. In their first great revival, at Pentecost, when men asked, “What shall we do?” Peter told them to “repent and be baptized.” Peter did not mean that salvation depended on baptism, they were to repent and then be baptized to declare and confess the remission of their sins. He was simply putting stress, where Jesus placed it, on immediately following Christ in baptism after conversion. We are led to believe from Acts 2:41 that three thousand of the converts were baptized the day of Pentecost. Philip taught the eunuch to be baptized, and as soon as he was convinced that the eunuch believed with all his heart, according to Acts 8:38:
“He commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Peter, with the authority of an apostle, “commanded” Cornelius and his household “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). In fact, New Testament preachers took the command of Jesus about baptizing converts so literally that they almost invariably baptized the converts the same day they professed faith in Christ, often the same hour. Paul and Silas baptized the Philippian jailer and his family “the same hour of the night,” even though it was past midnight when they were converted! Our modern custom of waiting until once a year, or at best until the close of a revival meeting to baptize people, is unscriptural and must displease the Saviour. People ought to be baptized as soon as possible after they are converted. Baptism is important.
THE MEANING OF BAPTISM
It becomes apparent in reading the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, that baptism was a public and open profession of faith in Christ as Saviour. There is not a single Bible instance where any one was baptized without claiming to have a change of heart. Sometimes the word repentance is used, sometimes belief, etc., referring to the same penitent turning of a heart to Christ in saving faith, as coming before baptism. But in no case recorded in the Scriptures was one baptized who did not already claim salvation. John the Baptist demanded evidence of repentance before he would baptize the Pharisees and Sadduces who came to him (Matt. 3: 7-8). Philip would not baptize the eunuch until he was convinced that he believed in Christ, even “with all thine heart,” according to Acts 8:37. In the Great Commission, in Acts 2:38, and everywhere else, repentance and faith in Christ are put ahead of baptism.
BAPTISM, A PUBLIC PROFESSION OF FAITH
New Testament Christians understood that when they were baptized, they were publicly putting on Christ before the world. Paul said to the Galatians, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27). Concerning the meaning of baptism, Paul said in Romans 6:3-5:
“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 was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also 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.”
The new convert goes down into a watery grave, picturing the burial of Christ and picturing his own death to sin, the crucifixion of the natural man. When he rises, he should know that as he was “planted in the likeness” of the death of Christ, he should also be “in the likeness of His resurrection.” At baptism, then, one professes that he believes in that old, old story that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again! He professes that he has had a change in his heart, that he now belongs to Christ, that he means henceforth to live for Christ.
CHAPTER 2 – BAPTISM IS CHRISTIAN, NOT JEWISH; NEW TESTAMENT, NOT OLD TESTAMENT; GRACE, NOT LAW
Down through the centuries till modern times all Bible students and theologians agreed that baptism was a New Testament practice exclusively, that it went with the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ, and was not a part of the Old Testament ceremonial law. However, those who sprinkled unconverted babies tried to find some excuse for family baptizings, and so sought to show a similarity, at least, between circumcision and baptism as an argument for the sprinkling of babies which they got from Rome. That was the first time anyone used Old Testament texts as if they applied to baptism, or in any way connected baptism with the Old Testament.
Then in recent years a new cult of ultra-dispensationalists appeared taking up that argument and expanding it as an excuse for omitting baptism and breaking the command of Christ that converts were to be baptized “even unto the end of the world.” Such faddists say that baptism was simply ceremonial law, that John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing on legal ground, that that was in a Jewish dispensation, like circumcision, that now Christians should not be baptized. That is simply one of the false isms of these last days, of which Christians should beware.
BAPTISM NOT LIKE CIRCUMCISION
However, the Bible is as plain as daylight on this matter. Baptism is never mentioned as connected with ceremonial law or as applying to Jews any more than to others. In fact, baptism is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Any man who puts baptism on a basis with circumcision surely never studied the matter with an unbiased mind. Circumcision was given to Abraham in the book of Genesis, (Gen. 17:9-14), separating him and his descendants from the rest of the race. It was incorporated in the Mosaic law for Israel only (Lev. 12:3). In the New Testament then we are plainly told that Gentile Christians are not subject to this law, (Acts 15:1-20, Cal. 5:2,6, and Gal. 6:15.) On the contrary, baptism was not in the Mosaic law, not commanded to Jews as a race anywhere, but commanded to Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, after conversion. Baptism began with John the Baptist, and as given in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, goes on to “the end of the world” or the end of this church age. Baptism began when circumcision ended. The Bible plainly tells when baptism began and when circumcision ended. The Bible plainly tells that circumcision now avails nothing and is not to be required of converts. The Bible says nothing like that about baptism. If the Lord had planned for baptism to stop, He would have plainly said so, but He did not say so. Christians who take the Bible, then, cannot throw away baptism.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN THE BAPTIST EXACTLY THE SAME AS THAT OF CHRIST AND APOSTLES
Laboring to find an excuse for omitting baptism and doing away with this blessed reminder of Christ’s death and burial, some people insist that John the Baptist preached a different gospel than Christ and Paul preached, and that Jews were baptized by John the Baptist because they were saved in a different way. How wrong that is! It grows out of a lack of understanding of the Bible doctrine on salvation throughout the Bible. One good man was first a Roman Catholic and believed that people were saved by baptism, and then a Presbyterian and believed that little babies were put under covenant by baptism and that baptism took the place of circumcision, and then joined the Disciples of Christ, a group who teach that people are saved only in baptism, and who often hold that the baptism must be performed by one of their own members or it is not effective. Now he is an ultra-dispensationalist; and out of that muddled background, with no sound theological training, and no broad understanding of the Bible, he teaches that baptism is now done away with entirely, that John the Baptist baptized Jews because they could not be saved without baptism, but that now an added revelation has come of “church truth,” that John’s baptism was only a part of the Law, that it was for Jews only, that it was once essential to salvation, and is now out of date! That sounds too silly to deserve attention, but some good people who do not know their Bibles and have not been well founded in the great doctrines of salvation, have been misled by it.
The simple truth is that there has never been but one kind of salvation. Peter said, in preaching to Cornelius in Acts 10:43, that “To Him (Christ) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Wait! Read that again! Every prophet in the Old Testament, as well as New Testament apostles, agree, says this Scripture, that all who trust in Christ are instantly saved! Animal sacrifices, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, good deeds, never were essential to salvation. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone. It always was the same.
But the doctrine of John the Baptist was exactly the same as that of Christ Himself and of the apostles. It is true that John the Baptist preached, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). He refused to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees without evidence of repentance. But Jesus preached exactly the same thing, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). And even when Jews were rejecting their King, and when the kingdom offered was no longer imminent, that is, at hand, still Jesus continued to preach the same doctrine, “Repent!” In Luke 13:1-5 we are told:
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Repentance was Christ’s plan of salvation. And when He gave the disciples the Great Commission, as reported in Luke, He said unto them, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). It was just another way of stating His plan of salvation “among all nations.” All who honestly repent – that is all who turn, in the heart, from sin to God – certainly trust in Christ. So repentance and faith are inseparable.
And Paul preached the same thing, namely that God “commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). It is silly, then, to say that repentance is only for Jews. Actually, repentance means a change of mind, a heart’s turning from sin toward God. And of course every person who was ever saved in the Old Testament or the New turned his heart from sin toward God, that is, he repented, as he trusted.
It is true that the Gospel of John stresses faith, trusting in Christ for salvation, but so too did John the Baptist! We are accustomed to quoting John 3:16 and John 3:18, saying that one who trusted in Christ should never perish but have everlasting life and is not condemned. But often people forget that in the same chapter, from verse 27 on, John the Baptist is talking, and he says in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” So then John the Baptist taught that the only way to be saved was by faith in Christ, personal dependence and trust in Him. Repentance and faith are simply different ways of referring to the heart’s turning to God, the surrender to and trust in Christ as Saviour. John the Baptist preached exactly the same gospel as did Christ and as did Peter and as did Paul, and exactly the same gospel as we must preach today.
When John the Baptist said, in Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance,” the word unto is a translation of the Greek word eis, a preposition of reference, and actually John the Baptist simply meant that he baptized people with reference to or in remembrance of, or pointing to, their repentance. He expressly refused to baptize anybody until they had already repented, that is, had already turned to Christ, trusting Him and being saved (Matt. 3:7-8). The gospel preached by John the Baptist was exactly the same gospel as preached by the Saviour and by the apostles and taught throughout the New Testament. To say that John the Baptist was in a different dispensation, or that baptism, as administered by John, had a different meaning from that which baptism has today, shows a lack of understanding of the doctrine of salvation as taught throughout the Bible.
THE BAPTISM OF JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS ALL THAT JESUS HAD OR THE TWELVE APOSTLES; WAS CHRISTIAN BAPTISM.
The baptism administered by John the Baptist was not distinctly Jewish, was not a part of ceremonial law, and did not belong to an Old Testament dispensation at all. In fact, the word baptism or baptizing is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Nor is there a single reference in the Old Testament to any ceremony like the baptism of John.
It is true, as these ultra-dispensationalists point out, that the washings mentioned in Hebrews 9:10, referring to the Old Testament worship, is a translation of baptismos, a Greek word with the same root as baptism, simply a form of the same word. But the context shows that it was not the immersion of new converts who have just been saved which is referred to, but the washing or dipping of the priests’ hands, and of cups and pots and brazen vessels in the big laver in connection with the bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament period. And exactly the same word in the Greek, baptismos, is used in Mark 7:4. There the Pharisees were complaining at Christ and the disciples because they ate with unwashen hands. Verses 3 and 4 say, “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.” In that passage the washing of Mark 7:4 is baptismos. When the Scripture says in that verse, “Except they wash, they eat not,” the word wash is the very word for baptize, baptizo. So the only kind of baptism known in the Old Testament was the ceremonial dipping and washing of hands, or pots and cups and vessels of brass. Again I say there was nothing like John’s baptism in Old Testament times. In Old Testament times there was the washing of pots and pans, ceremonial washings and dippings of the hands every day before eating. There was never, in the ceremonial law, the immersion of the whole body following repentance, picturing regeneration, a death to sin and a resurrection to new life, as New Testament baptism pictured. In the Old Testament there is not a single case of immersion of a person as a rite similar either in form or purpose to the baptism preached and administered, according to the New Testament, by John, Jesus, and the apostles.
Anyone who says, therefore, that John’s baptism was legal, or part of the ceremonial law which was for Jews only, shows that he has been getting his theology from some other book besides the Bible, and out of his ignorance misleads others who are ignorant. Again I say, baptism, in the sense that John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles baptized, is not in the Old Testament at all. The word is not even mentioned in the Old Testament, as any one who has a good concordance can verify for himself. Baptism is entirely a New Testament doctrine and practice is connected altogether with the gospel of grace, and never with ceremonial law. In the Bible it was never administered nor commanded to any but those who publicly professed that they repented of their sins and were born again when they came in penitent faith in Christ, “the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” as John preached.
It is significant that the Gospel of Mark starts out with these words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” And then follows the story of John the Baptist and his preaching and his baptizing of converts! The gospel of Jesus Christ began with John the Baptist, say ‘s this plain Scripture! So the baptism of John the Baptist was the baptism that always should go with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 19:1-7 is a passage which has been used by the ultra-dispensationalists to discredit John’s baptism. And I am sorry to say that the Scofield Bible does the same hurtful and foolish thing. But such people “do err, not knowing the Scriptures,” for the very passage itself does not reflect at all upon the baptism administered by John the Baptist and by his disciples.
Apollos had been preaching at Ephesus. The Scripture says that he was “an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures” . . . “instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18 :24,25). That Apollos “knew only the baptism of John” does not indicate that Apollos was wrong in doctrine, for the Scriptures had already plainly said that he was “mighty in the Scriptures” and was “instructed in the way of the Lord” and that he was “fervent in the spirit” that is, that he had the fervor of the Holy Spirit. It simply means that Apollos had been at Alexandria and elsewhere and had not been at Jerusalem when the mighty events of Pentecost transpired. Aquila and Priscilla “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (literally, more completely) (Acts 18:26). That is, they told him the marvelous teaching of the fullness of the Holy Spirit which Jesus had given after His resurrection, and the wonderful experiences which the disciples had had through being empowered by the Spirit. Then in Acts 18:27, 28 we are told that Apollos was greatly commended by the disciples, and that when he came to Achaia he “helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”
Then comes the passage in question, Acts 19:1-7, which says:
“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve.”
We simply find above that Paul, coming to Ephesus, found some saved people who did not have upon them the power of the Holy Spirit which New Testament Christians had to win souls and which we ought to have.
Note that at Ephesus these men, about twelve, were “disciples” (Acts 19:1). They had “believed” (verse 2). And we know that all who have believed in Christ have everlasting life. On profession of their faith, they had been baptized (verse 3). To call such people, instructed by Apollos, unsaved, is foolish. If they were disciples who had believed and had confessed Christ openly in baptism, under the teaching of Apollos a man “mighty in the Scriptures” and “instructed in the way of the Lord” and fervent with the power of the Holy Spirit, then these people were saved. But they did not understand that they, too, could have the power of the Holy Spirit! Apollos had not taught them, just as many preachers do not teach today, that Christians can have the abundant power of the Holy Spirit coming on them for soul winning.
Paul told them that they should have received this power when they were baptized. Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit when he was baptized. And believers at Pentecost and following were taught that they should receive the power of the Holy Spirit when they were baptized (Acts 2:38). And it was expressly stated that this promise was to all that are afar off, all that God should ever call (Acts 2:39). So, these new converts at Ephesus should have had the power of the Holy Spirit upon them, too, but they did not. They had not understood fully the meaning of baptism. And so Paul baptized them again, baptizing them exactly the way that Apollos (we suppose it was Apollos) had baptized them before. Only this time they understood the sweet meaning of baptism, that the old man was dead to sin and that now they reckoned themselves dead and were raised up to live new lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. And then Paul laid his hands upon them and “the Holy Ghost came on them.”
And if Paul were to come in our churches today, he could find as many as twelve men in every church of any size who do not know anything about the power of the Holy Spirit, though they may have been baptized scripturally.
I am simply saying that John’s baptism was Christian baptism.
Consider that John’s baptizing was all that Jesus ever had. Consider that all the disciples were baptized the same way by John the Baptist. In fact, this was the very requirement one must fulfill to be an apostle, he must be selected “of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John” said Peter in Acts 1:21,22. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist He said, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15), and so set an example for all Christians throughout the whole age.
John’s kind of baptizing is not out of date, but is to last like the gospel he preached. Wherever John’s gospel that “behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” is preached, and wherever it is preached that “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” as John preached it (John 3:36), there new converts should be baptized the Bible way, as John the Baptist baptized them, as Jesus was baptized, as all the apostles were baptized by John, as Paul baptized his converts, and as we are commanded to baptize converts, “even unto the end of the world.”
CHAPTER 3 – BAPTISM FOR US IN THIS DISPENSATION; HAS NEVER BEEN DONE AWAY WITH
Sometimes when people do not want to keep some command of the Lord Jesus they say, “That was for the Jews,” or “That was done away with at the closing of the apostolic age.” So some people, having been accustomed to a form of baptism or a teaching about it which they could not reconcile to the Scriptures, think they can promote Christian unity by leaving off the command of Christ. Some preachers hope by leaving off baptism and letting down the bars they can attract to their churches people of all faiths. That was particularly true of a group of modernists who do not believe the Bible is authoritative and do not pretend to follow it, led by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick in Riverside Church, New York, and the late Dr. Shailer Mathews of the radical University of Chicago. Others call themselves fundamentalists, but hope to get away from the divisions of denominationalism by throwing away baptism. Naturally then, since they do not obey Christ’s command, they try to defend themselves by quoting Scriptures. These usually teach that baptism was commanded for Jews only, or during a separate dispensation which lasted only during the age of the apostles.
That teaching, however kindly and sincere men may be who are guilty of it, is not true to the Bible. It takes away from us, for all practical use, much of the Bible, and in its effect joins with modernism and rebellion in getting people to disregard the plain commands of Christ. I believe if you will, with an open heart, study this chapter, along with the preceding one, and check the Scriptures here given with your Bible, you will see that baptism is still commanded for us, has never been done away with, and that to omit baptism is still to disobey Christ. With the exception of a few false teachers who have risen in recent years to accuse their brethren, cause divisions and teach people to disobey the Bible’s plain commands, the teachers and preachers and theologians of all the centuries since Christ have agreed on this matter, that baptism is for this age of grace. You will agree, too, that baptism is for you, for all Christians in this age, I feel sure, if you will with a teachable, humble heart, search the Scriptures with us here.
BAPTISM, AS COMMANDED IN THE GREAT COMMISSION, IS TO “ALL NATIONS,” AND “TO THE END OF THE WORLD”
Study this Great Commission as given in Matthew 28:18-20:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
This Commission was given on the authority of Jesus Christ over Heaven and earth. Then certainly it was not merely local. This Great Commission, including baptism, was commanded to ALL NATIONS. That included others besides Jews. Jesus closed the command with a promise. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” which shows that the command was not given merely to those apostles, but to other Christians lasting down to the end of the world. It is clear that Jesus spoke to these men, not as to Jews, but as to apostles responsible for setting up churches and giving the doctrines for this Christian dispensation. It is foolish to teach that this was for Jews only.
In Acts 2:38-39, Peter, speaking to the Jews at Pentecost, commanded them to repent and be baptized, telling them that they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. But in verse 39 he plainly taught them that the same promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who repented and were baptized is for all people everywhere. His words are:
“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call”
Baptism is for all that are afar off, as many as God calls.
GENTILES WERE BAPTIZED AS WELL AS JEWS
Remember that the ministry to the Gentiles began immediately after Pentecost, and we have full detailed record of that in the New Testament. In fact, every book in the New Testament was written after the gospel was being preached regularly, far and wide, to the Gentiles. That particular ministry to the Gentiles was begun by Peter under direct command of God in the tenth chapter of Acts. The Lord especially taught and prepared Peter for that ministry and showed him that the ceremonial law concerning Gentiles was now done away and that what God had cleansed, he was not to call common as Jews had done heretofore. Peter went and preached to the house of Cornelius the gospel of salvation by faith (Acts 10:34-48). Peter began his sermon with the statement that in God’s sight there is no difference between Jew and Gentile (vss. 34, 35). When Cornelius and his household were converted, Peter spoke to the six brethren who were with him, showing that these Gentiles should be baptized, just as the Jews were, since they had the same Holy Spirit. Then we are told:
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (vs. 48).
There is no difference there between Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles were baptized as well as Jews, when they were saved.
PAUL CAME NOT TO BAPTIZE BUT HE BAPTIZED AND TAUGHT BAPTISM
Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles. That was true from the very first as you see from Acts 9:15 where at the conversion of Paul the Lord told Ananias, “For he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles.” In Galatians 2:7 Paul says, “The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.” Paul tells us that when he first came back to Jerusalem after his conversion the Lord told him in Acts 22:21:
“And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.”
But Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, everywhere preached and practiced baptism, of Gentiles as well as Jews! Either Paul or Silas, or both, baptized the jailer and his family, the same hour of the night, when they were converted at Philippi (Acts 16:33). Lydia was likewise baptized (Acts16:l5), and Crispus (Acts18:8). Paul taught the people everywhere he went to be baptized, and even in some cases baptized the converts himself, though he did not want people to think that it was any better to be baptized with his own hands than by anybody else.
Baptism was never the principal matter with Paul, as it ought not to be with any preacher. In I Corinthians 1:17 Paul said:
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.”
Some opponents of baptism try to prove by this Scripture that Paul did not believe in baptism. The very opposite is true, as you see when you read the entire passage, (I Corinthians 1:11-17) :
11. “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Pau1? 14. I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15. Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
The church of Corinth had contentions among them as you see in verses 11 and 12. Some people boasted that they were following Paul, that Paul baptized them. Others favored Apollos. Others claimed to follow Peter. Paul replied that he baptized only a few of them with his own hands, and was glad that he did not baptize others, but had others do the baptizing, since people would make it a matter of contention. That is, evidently, the same reason that Jesus did not baptize anybody with His own hands but had His disciples baptize many, as you see in John 4:1,2. In verse 13 Paul reminds them that it was Christ who was crucified for them, and that they were baptized in the name of Christ, not in the name of Paul. Then Paul told these quarreling Christians that it was not his business to baptize somebody to be a follower of himself, but that he came to preach the gospel. Paul did not mean that God did not intend for him to baptize people, or to write letters to Christians, or to teach young preachers who went with him. He did all of these things and taught others to do them, but his mission was to preach the gospel and get people saved! John the Baptist “came for a witness, to bear witness of the LIGHT” (John 1:6-8). Yet John baptized, as God had commanded him to do. Jesus Himself “came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15), but we are plainly told that through His disciples He baptized multitudes (John 3:23, and John 4:1). Jesus gave the commission to his disciples “to preach the gospel to every creature”; but, in the same command, He plainly told them to baptize the converts! Baptism does not save people and is not as important as getting people saved; but it is important enough that every Christian ought to receive it, because Jesus commanded it.
When you study the inspired statement of Paul, as quoted above in I Corinthians 1:11-17, you will see several clear facts concerning baptism :
- (1) Paul had taught the people at Corinth to be baptized. He referred to baptism several times in this letter.
- (2) They had been baptized in the name of Christ, not in the name of Paul (verse 13).
- (3) Paul had baptized some of them with his own hands.
- (4) The only reason Paul would not have gladly baptized all of them was “lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name” (verse l5).
PAUL PREACHED AND PRACTICED BAPTISM EVERYWHERE
In his letters to the Christians at Corinth, at Rome, at Colosse, at Ephesus, and to the churches of Galatia, Paul discussed baptism in every case, and the converts at those places were baptized. In fact, Paul went into detail to remind them again of the meaning of baptism in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3-5. It is foolish to pretend that baptism meant in those cases anything different from what it meant in the Great Commission, and in the teaching and example of Jesus Himself. Remember also that the word baptism in the Bible always means baptism with water unless the passage plainly teaches otherwise. The word baptism never refers to the baptism of the Holy Ghost in the Bible unless it says so. The literal meaning of baptism is with water, and that is true throughout the New Testament as you will immediately see when you look through the concordance and read every passage which mentions baptism. All these Gentiles, then, converted through Paul’s ministry were taught baptism and were baptized with water. Paul referred freely to baptism when he wrote to them in Colossians 2:12, Romans 6:3-5, I Corinthians 1:13, Galations 3:27 and Ephesians 4:5.
Peter, also, in his epistles “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” who were converted, reminded them of their baptism and gives the meaning of baptism as “the answer of a good conscience toward God,” and says that it is a figure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read the following passage in I Peter 3:20, 21:
“. . . the ark . . . 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.”
This passage clearly refers to water baptism, a figure of the resurrection of Jesus, and was addressed to converts in many nations, and this was written long after Pentecost. Honest people who believe the Bible must conclude that baptism was for Gentiles as well as Jews, and that the command is given to every Christian to the end of this age.
BAPTISM NOT ONE OF THE “ORDINANCES” NAILED TO THE CROSS
Some people quote Colossians 2:14 as a command against baptism. That verse says:
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
Because baptism and the Lord’s Supper are commonly called “ordinances,” then ignorant people say that these were done away with at the death of Christ. However, when you read that chapter, it becomes obvious that the ordinances mentioned are the Old Testament ceremonial laws which verse 17 says “are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” The death of Christ on the cross certainly did not blot out His instruction about baptism, for the Great Commission, commanding the disciples to baptize, was given after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ! All the books of the New Testament, mentioning baptism scores of times, were written after the resurrection of Jesus! In fact, just two verses above Colossians 2:14, in verse 12, Paul has just stated that baptism was a picture of the new life which Christians, being free from the ceremonial law, had by faith in Christ.
Acts 28:28 where Paul said to the Jews in Rome, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it,” is sometimes used as an argument that after that time the order of things changed and that baptism was done away with. How foolish! In the first place, that Scripture says nothing about changing baptism, and in the second place, the same thing had happened a number of other times with Jews in other places. For instance in Acts 13:46, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia. When these Jews rejected the gospel, as did the Jews at Rome in Acts 28:25-28, Paul said to them the same thing that he later said to the Jews at Rome: “But seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” In fact, when you compare Acts 28:25-28 with Matthew 13:10-17, you will see that Jesus said the same thing as Paul did, and quoted identically the same Old Testament Scripture about the Jews, even before His crucifixion! The Jews as a nation had rejected Christ before His crucifixion. When Paul carried the gospel to the various towns, the same thing happened everywhere he went. But he went on preaching the same gospel to Jews and Gentiles, and the converts were baptized just as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission.
It is clear to all who are willing to take God’s Word for it that baptism is for this generation the same as in Bible times and is commanded for Gentiles the same as for Jews.
NO NEW DISPENSATION AFTER CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
The ultra-dispensationalists, the followers of Dr. Bullinger of England and of lesser men in America, say that through the book of Acts until Acts 28:28 there was what they call “the Jewish church”. Then they say that in Acts 28:28 Paul turned to the Gentiles and “the Gentile church” began, that “church truth” was revealed, and that at Acts 28:28 a new dispensation began. So, they say that, in this dispensation, baptism is out of order. That teaching is foolish, illogical and unscriptural. But lest some should be deceived by it we answer it briefly here.
I can show you that no new dispensation started in Acts 28:28. When you read the passage beginning with verse 17, you will see that when Paul got to Rome, he called the Jews together and out of the Scriptures he taught them concerning the Saviour. Verse 24 says, “And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.” Then Paul quoted the words of Isaiah 6:9,10 to those that did not believe, and said in verse 28, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
Note that not a single hint is given of a new dispensation. Paul preached: some were saved and some were not. Those who were hardened in heart were specially warned. Then following his attempt to win Jews, Paul began to preach to the Gentiles. But that is an old story to anybody who has carefully read through the book of Acts, for that is exactly what Paul did everywhere he went! Look briefly, with me, at his record in Acts.
When Paul was first saved he preached in the synagogue at Damascus until “the Jews took counsel to kill him” (Acts 9:22-23).
In Antioch of Pisidia Paul and Barnabas went into the synagogue and Paul preached a great sermon (Acts 13:14-41). Then Gentiles wanted to hear the gospel, and some Jews and Gentiles were saved. But the mass of the Jews “were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45). Then note what Paul and Barnabas did. Verses 46 and 47 say, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
Note that plain statement, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Does that mean a new dispensation started in Acts 13:46? No, it does not. If it did mean that, then a new dispensation would start everywhere Paul preached! For always he preached first to the Jews, and later to the Gentiles when the Jews ceased to hear him.
In Acts 14 the same story is repeated; Paul and Barnabas first preached in the synagogue of the Jews, and then when “unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.” (vs. 2) Paul and Barnabas preached to Gentiles. In the nearby town of Lystra, Paul was worshipped by the Gentiles, and later stoned! Paul and Silas went into the synagogue at Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-5) and Berea (Acts 17:10-14), and in each of these places he first preached to the Jews and was hated and driven out by the Jews, and then he preached to anybody he could. That was Paul’s regular plan. He did there “as his manner was” (Acts 17:2) always. “To the Jew first” in every community, then to Gentiles.
In Acts 18:1-11 we learn how Paul preached at Corinth. He was first in the synagogue, but when chased out of the synagogue, he began preaching to Gentiles, Acts 18:6 says, “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Note that plain statement, “From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” But Paul meant the Gentiles in that particular area; he did not mean to begin a new dispensation, neither here nor elsewhere. The succeeding verses tell how he stayed there a year and six months, in the home of Justus, and how many were saved and baptized (Acts 18:8).
Now compare three statements of Paul:
At Antioch of Pisidia – “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).
At Corinth – “From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6).
At Rome – “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28).
These verses show that Paul, in every town into which he entered, followed the plan which he mentioned in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
And it was nothing new or unexpected that Paul should, everywhere he went, turn to the Gentiles, for the very day Paul was saved and called to be an apostle God promised to deliver him “from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee” (Acts 26:17). And later when he tried to go back to Jerusalem to preach, God said to him sharply, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).
There is not a shadow of evidence that God meant any new dispensation to begin in Acts 28:28. Paul did not change his preaching nor his practice. And even the Scripture from Isaiah 6:9-10, which Paul quoted to the stubborn Jews at Rome (Acts 28:25-27), was exactly the same Scripture that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees in His day, as given in Matthew 13:14,15.
And yet on such a slender argument, without a single Scripture saying that a new dispensation was begun, some people, eager for a change, throw away baptism and some throw away even the Lord’s Supper and even the Great Commission!
It is true that Paul preached to Gentiles, as he had been doing for some time before Acts 28:28; but he preached to them the same gospel, and he baptized them the same way Jesus commanded us to see that new converts were baptized, as we go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” and continue “even unto the end of the world.”
EPHESIANS 4:5 DOES NOT ELIMINATE BAPTISM
Short-sighted people who are not familiar with the context of Ephesians 4:5 which says, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” foolishly say that it does away with baptism in water. Now it will simplify your understanding of that verse if you will read the whole short passage, Ephesians 4:1-7:
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit. even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
Notice that Paul is beseeching the Christians at Ephesus to be lowly, meek, longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, trying to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” He is trying to get Christians to get along one with the other. And then he tells, them that all Christians have much in common.
- 1. They are parts of the same body.
- 2. They are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit.
- 3. They have the same blessed hope.
- 4. They have the same Lord and Saviour.
- 5. They have the same body of faith and doctrine.
- 6. They have the same baptism.
- 7. They have the same God and Father.
Therefore they ought to have unity.
You will notice that there is no discussion in the passage about how many bodies there are, how many Holy Spirits, how many different hopes, how many different Lords, how many different faiths, how many different baptisms, or how many different Gods. THAT IS NOT WHAT GOD IS TALKING ABOUT! Actually there has always been only one of each of the seven blessed things that all Christians should have alike. Some people would have you think that there were once two baptisms but that now baptism with water is done away with and that there remains only baptism in the Holy Spirit.
But if you will read very carefully, I am sure this matter will be clear in your mind.
There is only one literal, physical baptism mentioned for New Testament Christians, that is, baptism in water. Usually it is simply called “baptism.” We say “water baptism,” but the Bible never does, because “baptism” always means baptism in water unless the Scripture expressly describes some other kind of baptism. The truth is that for three or four years before Pentecost, John the Baptist was baptizing thousands and thousands of new converts in Judea, and Jesus and his disciples baptized other thousands, and everybody knew the term baptism and used it about the immersion of a new convert in water after repentance. So baptism was simply the literal, physical act of immersing a new convert in water, picturing the coming death and burial of Christ.
Later the word baptism was used figuratively of several other things. For example Jesus, in Matthew 20:22, asked John and James, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Jesus referred to His sufferings, meaning that He would be immersed, covered, overwhelmed with sorrow and suffering. But note that that was a figurative, symbolical use of the word baptized, and that it was not a literal, physical baptism. Literal baptism is in water, the burial or immersion of a new convert, on profession of his faith.
Likewise in Acts 1:5 Jesus said, “For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” John baptized with water, that is, literally immersed litera1, physical people in water. But Jesus said, using that as a figure of speech, that at Pentecost the apostles should “be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” In a figure of speech, He said that they would be immersed, covered, with the Holy Spirit. But actually the Holy Spirit is not physical, is not visible, and to say that one would be buried, immersed or baptized with Him is a figure of speech. Remember that that figure of speech was not often used about the Holy Spirit, and in Acts 2:4 when Pentecost came we are simply told that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” It is permissible to use the term “baptized with the Holy Ghost,” if we remember that it was not a physical immersion, and that that is simply a figurative use of a term that was well understood referring to baptism in water.
So Paul was inspired to use the same figure of speech in I Corinthians 12:13 when he said, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” In a figurative sense, when one is converted, he becomes a part of the mystical, unseen body of Christians who will be called out at the rapture and assembled in Heaven. So as a figure of speech, one may say that he is buried into that body, immersed in it, becoming a part of that body. The picture is the same used in I Peter 2:5 where Christians are said to be living stones, built into a wall, and the wall is a spiritual house for God. In that fanciful and beautiful figure of speech the word baptism or immersion is used. But actually, of course, that is not in a physical baptism. It is only in a figurative sense that a Christian is built into a wall and covered or buried in the wall of a house. It is all right to say that we are baptized into the body of Christ, if you realize that that is only a figure of speech and not a literal, physical immersion of the believer into anything.
So you see that real, actual, physical, literal baptism means the immersion of a believer’s body in literal water, symbolizing the burial and resurrection of Christ and the believer’s portion in the salvation so purchased by Christ.
So when Ephesians 4:5 says there is “one Lord, one faith and one baptism,” it refers to water baptism. And of this literal, physical baptism, there never has been but one kind taught in the Scriptures.
Of course that does not mean that no one will ever be overwhelmed with suffering, as Jesus said in Matthew 20:22, “baptized” with suffering. But that is not a physical and literal baptism. Of course it does not mean that new converts no longer become a part of Christ’s body, the church. But that is not a physical, literal baptism. Of course it does not mean that no Christian will ever any more be filled, covered, surrounded and overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Spirit as the disciples were at Pentecost. But that is only a figurative use of the word baptism.
God is simply saying that Christians have the same body, the same hope, the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, the same God and Father and therefore they ought to be united. Ephesians 4:5 does not mean that water baptism is done away. It certainly does not indicate any change. There never was but one literal, physical baptism commanded for New Testament Christians and that one is still commanded.
HE WHO THROWS AWAY BAPTISM, THROWS AWAY THE BIBLE
If baptism is not for us, then we have no part in much of the New Testament. We would have to lay aside Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, since all of them give examples of people being baptized on the authority of Jesus. All of them tell about the baptism of Jesus Himself as our example. If baptism is not for us, then the Sermon on the Mount is not for us, for it is given in the same books. If baptism is not for us, then the plan of salvation as given throughout the book of John is not for us. Those who despise this blessed command of Jesus, that Christians should be baptized, and who say it is not for us, would have to do away with the Acts of the Apostles, since that is a book of revivals and baptisms. Romans, Colossians, First Peter, Ephesians, and First Corinthians must all be laid aside as not for this generation if baptism is not for us, for in all of these, the divinely inspired writers taught and referred to baptism as a duty of Christians.
Baptism is connected with every great doctrine in the Bible. If baptism is not for us, then of course the Great Commission is not for us. Jesus commanded soul winning in the same Great Commission where He commanded baptism. The one was given as positively as the other. If it is not right for us to baptize the converts after we win them, it is not right to win them. The Lord Jesus put both commands in the same sentence (Matt. 28:19,20). So did the inspired Apostle Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was inspired to connect baptism with the death of Christ and with His bodily resurrection. If one is not for us, then the other is not for us. The command to baptize, or be baptized, is not repealed or taken back anywhere in the Bible. So if I lay it aside, I must lay aside all the promises of God in the New Testament in the same books.
You can see that that is a foolish and wicked scheme of the Devil to get people to disregard the Word of God. Any man who throws away part of the Bible is a kind of modernist and is not to be trusted. If one man has a right to disregard the command of Jesus about baptism, other men have a right to disregard the teaching of Jesus on any other matter. As for me, I will have a whole Bible, inspired of God, all of it authoritative and reliable, or I will have no Bible at all.
CHAPTER 4 – BAPTISM DOES NOT SAVE – DOES NOT HELP SAVE
A favorite device of the Devil is to have men look to their works for their salvation instead of looking to Christ. He leads some to trust in their morality, some to depend upon lodge membership, some to depend upon confessions to priests; some he leads to trust in baptism. That is a fatal mistake. The unanimous voice of all the Scriptures is that people are saved by simple faith in Christ, without any act of righteousness, and baptism is never mentioned as a part of the plan of salvation. Baptism is an act of righteousness, for Jesus said in Matthew 3:15, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Titus 3:5 says that such acts of righteousness do not save us:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
Baptism is certainly a good work, but Ephesians 2:8,9 likewise says plainly that salvation is altogether a matter of God’s mercy and not of our works :
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.”
Salvation is a gift of God which is not deserved, is not bought, and cannot be paid for. No church nor preacher nor the individual saved has any right to claim credit when a soul is saved.
In fact, we are told again and again in the Bible that the man who trusts in Christ has everlasting life immediately. John 3:36 says:
“He that believeth on the Son HATH everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
“Hath” means has, present tense, in modern English. Likewise, John 5:24 says:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: but IS PASSED from death unto life.”
The same teaching is given in John 6:47:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me HATH everlasting life.”
In the Bible, we find it clear that people believed first and then were baptized. According to these statements from God’s Word, they were already saved before they were baptized and any other man who trusts in Christ is saved that second, before he could possibly get to the baptismal waters. It does not take baptism to save one.
WHAT DOES “BAPTIZED FOR REMISSION OF SINS” MEAN?
In Acts 2:38, the term “for the remission of sins” is used as follows :
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Some people think that this passage contradicts the dozens of other plain statements in the Bible that a man is saved by faith and saved immediately when he believes. But when you use the word for in this passage just as it is used so many times in every-day conversation, you will see what Peter said. A man is arrested for stealing; one is grateful for a favor; one is blamed for carelessness; one is commended for bravery. The word for here does not mean in order to or to secure remission of sins, and it is not rendered that way in any translation of the Bible we know of anywhere. The Greek word eis here translated for is sometimes translated in the Bible against, among, at, unto, upon, etc. It might properly be translated here “baptized upon the remission of your sins” or “baptized referring to, or pointing toward the remission of your sins,” or “baptized in the remission of your sins.” When one repents, he receives the remission of his sins. Then the obedient heart, following Christ in baptism, is promised the gift of the Holy Ghost, an entirely separate mutter from salvation. What Peter said was that people ought to repent and then, after their sins are forgiven, they should be baptized as evidence of that. That is exactly what people ought to be baptized for, that is, to show the remission of their sins. That Scripture, then, does not mean that people ought to be baptized in order to be saved.
“HE THAT BELIEVETH AND IS BAPTIZED”
In Mark 16:16, believing and baptized are used together:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Christians are supposed to be baptized as soon as possible after they are saved. In Bible times they were usually baptized the same day, oftentimes the same hour of their conversion, even if it were midnight as in the case of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:33. In fact, baptism is a public profession of faith. One can see baptism; one cannot see faith in the heart. It is natural to think of baptism following salvation, and Jesus said that those who believed and were baptized should be saved. He did not mean to contradict the rest of the Bible though, as you will see from the following words in the same verse, for He added. “But he that believeth not shall be damned.” That makes it clear that the matter which settles it is believing just the same as is taught in John 3:18:
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The above verse, John 3:18, settles it that the man who believes in Christ is not condemned, whether or not he has been baptized. It also settles that the reason a man is condemned is “because he hath not believed.” Salvation is settled by belief in Christ, and only by that.
BELIEVING DOES NOT INCLUDE BAPTISM
There are so many Scriptures which plainly state again and again that the man who believes in Christ is saved, that those who teach baptism is essential to salvation cannot deny that. They try to get around these many Scriptures, however, by saying that faith includes baptism, that is, if one believes in Christ, he will be baptized, and that faith is not complete until one is baptized. However, in Mark 16:16 Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized,” showing that believing and being baptized are two different things. If believing includes baptism, then Jesus would not have added the word about baptism. If repenting includes baptism, Peter would not have said in Acts 2:38. “Repent and be baptized.” No, they are not the same and are nowhere spoken of as the same in the Bible, nor is it ever stated in the Bible that believing includes baptism, nor that if one trusts Christ, he will be baptized. “He that believeth on the Son bath everlasting life” before he is baptized. Baptism does not save.
“BORN OF WATER” DOES NOT MEAN BAPTISM
“Born of water and of the Spirit” in John 3:5 is often quoted as if it referred to baptism. It most certainly does NOT, however. That passage says nothing about baptism, and in the same conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus repeatedly told just what it took to get this new birth. Read verses 14 to 18 and you will see that it is simply believing in Christ. “Born of water and of the Spirit” in John 3:5, is the same as “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost” in Titus 3:5. That verse plainly says that this is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,” by this birth of water and the Spirit, or cleansing of regeneration and being made alive by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:26 tells us how Christ gave Himself for the church “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” But this washing takes place inside. James 1:18 tells us that “of his own will begat he us with the word … ,” and I Peter 1:23 says that we are “born again … by the word of God.” These Scriptures seem to mean that when one is saved, he is inwardly washed, cleansed, led to repentance and faith, by the Word of God, and made alive, spiritually, by the Holy Spirit. That, I believe, is the plain meaning of John 3:5, “born of water and the Spirit.”
All of that happens on the inside of every sinner who is born of God. It is not on the outside, and is not baptism.
Notice the words again in John 3:5, “born of water and of the Spirit.” The second “of” is in italics, which shows that it was not in the original Greek. Jesus said one must be “born of water and the Spirit,” one birth. Jesus was only talking about one new birth, which happens on the inside. He did not say one needed to be born of the Spirit inside and of baptism outside, and did not mean so. John 3:5 does not refer to baptism.
“BAPTISM DOTH ALSO NOW SAVE US”
I Peter 3:21 is used as an argument that baptism saves people. Speaking of the ark “wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water,” that passage continues:
“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.”
All difficulty about this passage disappears when you take the first plain statement in the verse that this is a “figure.” The ark was a figure and picture of salvation, and the ark was certainly a type of Christ. Baptism is a “like figure” and Roman 6:5 states that it is a “likeness” of the death, and a “likeness” of the resurrection of Christ. Peter then continues that baptism does not put away the filth of the flesh, and says that it is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Baptism, then, is only a picture, or figure, of salvation, and the man who is baptized should already have a “good conscience.” In Hebrews 9:14 we are told how the conscience is to be purged by the blood of Christ. Then, after that conscience is purged “from dead works to serve the living God” and one has a “good conscience,” he has a right to be baptized.
One who is baptized professes to have a good conscience toward God, with his sins forgiven. If that is not true, he has no right to be baptized and baptism is a lie and an empty pretense. Baptism is only for saved people, the answer of a conscience cleansed and forgiven.
“BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST”
Some people have been troubled by the phrase “baptized into Christ” in Galatians 3:27, which reads:
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
However, that is very clear if you read the verse before it and the rest of the context. Verse 26 says plainly, “For ye are all the children of God BY FAITH in Christ Jesus.” The whole book of Galatians is written to prove that people are saved not by works, but by faith.
“Baptized into Christ” should read “baptized unto Christ” and is often so translated. The same Greek word, eis, translated in our King James Version into in this particular verse, is translated in verses 23 and 24 of the same chapter, unto. It is translated unto in scores of cases, to in many others, and for in many cases.
Compare “baptized into Christ” in Galatians 3:27 and “baptized into Jesus Christ” in Romans 6:3 with a phrase just like them in I Corinthians 10:2 – “baptized unto Moses.” The word unto is a translation of the same Greek word eis as into in the other passages. If the covering of Israel in the cloud and Red Sea did not put Israel into Moses, then baptism does not, of course, put one into Christ. Rather baptism points “unto” Christ, of course.
What the Lord says here is that as many as have been baptized for Christ, or pointing toward Christ, or picturing Christ, have publicly claimed Him before the world as their Saviour. I Peter 3:21 plainly states that baptism is a figure or picture. Romans 6:5 says twice that baptism is a “likeness” of the death and resurrection of Christ and also pictures the new life which the Christians plan to live. Colossians 2:12 tells us the same thing. A person then should be baptized unto Christ, that is, for Christ and to picture the change of heart which he already has by faith in Christ. This Scripture simply bears out the many, many plain statements of the Scripture that one is saved by faith, and puts on in figure and likeness, before the world, what already God has put in the heart. God puts the light in us, we should let it shine. God works in us our salvation, and we are commanded to work it out. (Phil. 2:12,13).
“ARISE AND BE BAPTIZED AND WASH AWAY THY SINS”
Our friends who claim that baptism saves, or that one cannot be saved without baptism, sometimes quote Acts 22:16 as evidence that baptism saves :
“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Compare this with the Lord’s account of what happened, as given in Acts 9:17. Ananias said:
“Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Remember that baptism is a figure, or picture, according to I Peter 3:21 and Romans 6:5. When Paul quoted, “Wash away thy sins,” he certainly meant to use figurative language. Baptism is a figure as the Lord has told us. Compare this language with Matthew 26:26,28 where Jesus said, “This is my body” … and “This is my blood.” Jesus certainly meant, “This represents my body and my blood.” “Be baptized, and wash away thy sins,” certainly means, be baptized to picture the washing away of your sins. That is what baptism always does picture. Paul did not mean in Acts 22:16 to teach a different plan of salvation from that one he gave the jailer in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Nor did he mean Acts 22:16 to contradict Acts 13:39 where he told the people at Antioch, “And by him all that BELIEVE are justified from all things.” (Already saved without baptism!)
The man who depends on baptism to save him will go down in the water a dry sinner and will come up a wet sinner, but he need expect no change of heart in that water. Baptism is to picture a change of heart which happens when one trusts in Christ.
OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS SAVED BY FAITH, WITHOUT BAPTISM
We have the record of many people in the Bible who were saved without baptism. I remind you that God has never had but one plan of salvation. In the Old Testament it was “not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). In fact, the eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells us of case after case of people in the Old Testament times who were saved by faith. Acts 10:43 makes clear that the only plan of salvation taught in the Old Testament was by faith in Christ, just as it was preached in the New Testament. There, Peter said:
“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Remember, there never was any plan of salvation but by faith. Every Old Testament sacrifice and ceremony was a picture and shadow and type of the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!”
Now, all of these Old Testament saints were saved without baptism, for there is not a word in the Old Testament about baptism and no record of a single person’s ever being baptized before John the Baptist began it. Baptism, then, is not a part of God’s plan of salvation.
PEOPLE SAVED WITHOUT BAPTISM IN NEW TESTAMENT
Since the same plan of salvation was preached in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and people were saved in the Old Testament without baptism, you would expect them to be saved in the New Testament without baptism, and they were. In Luke 7:37-50 is the story of a woman, a notorious sinner. Verses 47 to 50 in that seventh chapter of Luke tell us plainly that her sins were forgiven her and that her faith had saved her. Read carefully these Scriptures :
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, ARE FORGIVEN; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
“And he said unto her, THY SINS ARE FORGIVEN”
“And he said to the woman, THY FAITH HATH SAVED THEE; go in peace.”
Jesus plainly stated that the woman was already forgiven and was already saved by faith. She knelt at the feet of Jesus, trusted Him, and went away a saved woman. She was saved without baptism.
In Luke 18:35-43 we are told about the healing and conversion of a blind man. Verse 42 tells plainly, in the words of Jesus Himself, just how he was saved :
“And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: THY FAITH HATH SAVED THEE.”
Notice that salvation was received right there before he was baptized.
That is the same plan of salvation given throughout the book of John; in John 1:12, John 3:14-18, John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:37, and many other places. It is the same plan taught by Peter after Pentecost (Acts 10:43). It was the same plan taught by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, (Acts 13:38,39; Acts 16:30,31; Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:5-8). People were saved in the Old Testament by faith without baptism, were saved during the life of Jesus by faith without baptism, and were saved after Pentecost by faith without baptism.
That publican, about whom the Saviour has told us in Luke 18:13,14 was saved without baptism. Standing there in the temple, he prayed, saying. “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus tells us about him then, that, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified”! He was saved, then, without baptism.
THIEF ON THE CROSS SAVED WITHOUT BAPTISM
The most remarkable case of this kind is the thief converted on the cross as told in Luke 23:39-43. When that poor man turned to the Lord Jesus and asked to be in His kingdom, the Lord Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise”! He died that day on the cross as we are told in the Scriptures and so could not have been baptized. But that day, according to the express statement of the Saviour, he went with Jesus to paradise. And some happy day, all who trust in Christ will see him there.
No, baptism is not essential to salvation.
TRUST JESUS FOR SALVATION
God has just one plan of salvation. It is not a process. It is not a series of steps. People are saved by faith in Christ, that way and no other way. Everything else that God asks of a sinner in order to be saved: repentance, prayer, coming to Christ, etc., is summed up and settled when one depends upon Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. One could not turn his mind or heart toward God (repentance), without faith in Christ. You cannot come to Christ without believing on Him. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ?,” (Rom. 10:14). Confession by the mouth simply proves faith in the heart which has already secured salvation. God has no other plan of salvation except that promised in John 3:16,18,36; John 5:24; John 6:47; Acts 16:30-31. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Baptism follows, should follow immediately, but is not a part of God’s plan of salvation. When you are baptized, be sure that fact is made clear to those who look on. If you have this salvation, this change of heart by faith in Jesus Christ, then I beg you, follow Jesus in baptism as soon as possible.
CHAPTER 5 – NO BABIES BAPTIZED IN THE BIBLE
Since salvation must come, according to the Bible, before there can be Bible baptism, it is obvious that there is no reason for baptizing babies, unaccountable infants. There is not one New Testament record of the baptism of an infant. Jesus did lay His hands on little children and bless them, but certainly He did not baptize them or the Scripture would somewhere have said so.
In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, there are two cases where households were baptized. The first was the household of Lydia of whom the Scripture says in Acts 16:14,15:
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”
We do not know who was included in her household. Nothing was said about children, and it is not even intimated that she was married. Certainly there is no teaching of “infant baptism” here. In the case of the jailer, in the same chapter, the Scripture makes it certain that there were no unaccountable babies. That passage in verses 29 to 34 says:
“Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house, And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
Verse 33 does say “and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” But notice that verse 32 states that Paul and Silas preached the word “to all that were in his house” and verse 34 says that he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” Certainly everybody who was baptized in that household heard the word and believed in Christ.
BABIES CIRCUMCISED, WHY NOT BABIES BAPTIZED?
It is true that boy babies were circumcised in Israel when eight days old (Gen. 17:12). But baptism and circumcision are two entirely different matters. Circumcision was for boys and men only, while baptism is for both sexes alike. Circumcision was for every boy or man of Hebrew blood, while baptism is only for saved people. Circumcision and baptism mean entirely different things. Circumcision meant that this child was an Israelite, one of the chosen race by natural birth. Baptism means that the one baptized is born again and one of God’s children by a birth from Heaven. One has no right to be baptized until he is born as God’s child. The Bible does not say one word about dedicating little children to the Lord by any kind of Christian ceremony and certainly does not mention baptism of babies anywhere in the Bible.
It is a sad and remarkable fact that many earnest Christian people have followed Roman Catholics in sprinkling unaccountable babies when there is not one verse in the Bible to even intimate that it was the will of God! In the Bible, people were baptized after they believed and were saved, as was the case with the jailer and his entire family.
THE HARM OF INFANT BAPTISM
Baptism of an unaccountable baby does untold harm. For one thing, it leaves the impression that the change of heart is not necessary. It leaves the impression that the religion of the Lord Jesus is a matter of ritual, not of personal faith. It ignores the Bible teaching that baptism represents the burial and resurrection of Jesus and the believer’s change of heart. Worst of all, the one who is thus given a ceremony which was only for Christians, often is led to believe, in after years, that since he is a member of a church, has been baptized, and is a respectable citizen, therefore he does not need the change of heart, does not need to be converted, saved by the blood of Jesus. Whatever fine argument you may make for the sprinkling of a little baby, it is answered by the plain, indisputable fact that Jesus did not command it and it is certainly unscriptural and wrong.
We begin to see, then, why the Lord Jesus puts such stress on baptism. It is the gospel, so simple that every new convert can preach it. It pictures the plan of salvation. Yea, it safeguards the plan of salvation. If I change the form of baptism, I change the meaning of baptism, I change the doctrine of salvation. If I take a little child, unaccountable, who has not trusted in Christ for salvation, and without his volition, I put water upon his head and “baptize” him, I have taught an entirely different plan of salvation. I have said to the unthinking world that people do not need a change of heart, but that with a simple rite of dedication they have a right into the fellowship of a New Testament church. When I change the form of baptism, I have lost all the picture about the death of Christ, His atonement, His resurrection, the change necessary in the believer’s heart and the change commanded in his life. When people go wrong on baptism, they go wrong on the doctrine of salvation. If people have a right to change the form of baptism, they have a right to change the form of church government, change from the New Testament program of soul winning to the modern program of education. Good, old time Methodist people who believe, as John Wesley did, in a change of heart, oftentimes wonder why that strong tendency of modern Methodism toward teaching salvation by works, by character, by education and by culture instead of salvation by the blood! One reason is, they do not have Bible baptism, a burial of the believer with Christ, to picture to the world the great teaching of the plan of salvation. Sprinkling babies teaches against the need for a change of heart.
STAY WITH BIBLE BAPTISM
Suppose we even retain the form of baptism, but still teach it as essential to salvation as do our Catholic friends and as do Churches of Christ or Disciples, Lutherans and others. When one is baptized, then, he says to the world. “I am saving my soul by my good works.” The preacher or priest is saying, perhaps unconsciously, to the world, “The church by rites and ceremonies is saving this man’s soul.” The candidate baptized, the preacher or priest, and the onlookers alike all miss the blessed, blessed teaching that Christ died for our sins, that men are saved simply by faith in His shed blood, that a deep-seated, fundamental change has been made in the heart of the believer, called the new birth. BIBLE BAPTISM IS GOD’S SAFEGUARD AROUND SOUND DOCTRINE ON THE PLAN OF SALVATION. That is the reason if baptism was not done the right way, or if it was done with the right method, but without the scriptural teaching in the minds of the people, it should be done again, as Paul baptized the second time those converts at Ephesus as told in Acts 19:1-6. Let us stay with the Bible as to the form and meaning of baptism and baptize only those who have a Bible right to baptism, that is, saved people. Certainly baptism of babies is unscriptural, dangerous and wrong.
CHAPTER 6 – THE FORM OF BAPTISM
The form of baptism is very clear from the Bible. Let us notice the plain teaching of the Scripture about this matter.
- 1. The form of baptism requires WATER. John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water” (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26,33). A Bible baptism requires water. The word translated with in the above verse is usually translated in. The meaning here is, “I baptize you in water,” though the King James version does not make that clear. But certainly, Bible baptism requires water.
- 2. New Testament baptism requires MUCH WATER. John 3:23 says, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there.”
- 3. New Testament baptism requires a GOING DOWN INTO THE W ATER. Acts 8:38 says: “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and be baptized him.” We see why much water is required, for it should be enough water for both the one baptized and the person who performs this beautiful ceremony to go together down into the water.
- 4. The Bible requires a BURIAL IN WATER. We are told in Romans 6:4:”Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; even so we also should walk in newness of life.”The following verse, Romans 6:5, says that baptism is a planting. Colossians 2:12 again specifically states that baptism is a burial:”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.”
- 5. New Testament baptism requires next a RESURRECTION FROM THE W ATER. That was taught in the above Scriptures and especially in Romans 6:5:”For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”
- 6. The last element in New Testament baptism is COMING UP STRAIGHTWAY OUT OF THE WATER to meet the smile of a heavenly Father who is pleased, and to walk in the joy of the Holy Spirit who fills the obedient Christian. So it was when Jesus was baptized, as we are told in Matthew 3:16,17:”And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, sang, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Bible baptism, then, requires (1) WATER, (2) MUCH WATER, (3) GOING DOWN INTO THE WATER, (4) A BURIAL IN THE WATER, (5) RESURRECTION FROM THE WATER, (6) COMING UP OUT OF THE WATER! If you would be baptized as Jesus was, baptized as He commanded us to be when He said about His own baptism, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:15), then plainly, dear child of God, here is the way !
SPRINKLING AND POURING ARE NOT BIBLE BAPTISM
Although the word sprinkle is used a number of times in the New Testament, it is never used about baptism. And the word which is translated baptize is never translated sprinkle in the entire New Testament. Sometimes people who use sprinkling instead of baptism, and can find no Scripture for it in the New Testament, turn to Ezekiel 36:25 as an evidence for sprinkling. That verse reads:
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”
They make a mistake, however, in not reading the rest of the same passage. Now read it again, beginning at verse 22, reading through verse 28. Notice from verse 22 that the message is to the house of Israel who are scattered out among the heathen. Notice that verse 24 promises to Israel “For I will take you from among the heathen. and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” The Lord here is promising the restoration of Israel to their own land at the second coming of Christ. Then follows God’s word that on these children of Israel He will sprinkle clean water and cleanse them from their idols. Verse 26 then tells of the conversion of Israel when God will give them new hearts. Verse 28 says:
“And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers.”
This passage is clearly addressed to the people of Israel who will be regathered at the second coming of Christ, into the land of Canaan which God gave to their fathers. It is not promised to Gentiles, nor to anybody during this church age, and is not a prophecy of baptism. This does not refer, then, to baptism, as sprinkling nowhere else does.
But what did the Lord mean when He promises to sprinkle clean water on Israel? Just this: in the Old Testament ceremonial law, God commanded water of separation to be sprinkled on people for ceremonial cleansing. It was sprinkled on the Levites to separate them from the rest of Israel, in preparing them to work in the temple, as you see in Numbers 8:6,7.
“Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.”
This water of separation, or water of cleansing, was to be sprinkled on the third and seventh day on people who became ceremonially unclean by touching a dead body. (Numbers 19:11-22). That water was also to be sprinkled upon the tent, upon all the vessels, as well as upon people, as you see from Numbers 19:18.
“Clean water” in these passages means not simply clear water, but water which is ceremonially clean. Actually it was not clear water, but as you see from Numbers 19:17, it was water and the ashes of a burnt red heifer, mixed together. God will make Israel ceremonially clean when He leads them to their own land.
The Bible foretells that many ceremonial laws will be restored among Israel when Jesus returns and sits on the throne of David at Jerusalem. The feast of tabernacles is an example (Zech. 14:16). Ezekiel, chapters 40 to 46, tells about the temple, the priesthood, and the offerings in that kingdom age. The Bible does not mention baptism in that time.
Notice from that passage in Ezekiel 36:22-28 that in any case they will be regathered first, then sprinkled with clean water (or the water of separation which all Israel understood) and then be converted, be given a new heart! That is not the order with baptism, for in the Bible, baptism always comes after conversion, not before it. Neither this Scripture, nor any other in the Bible uses sprinkling in connection with baptism. Sometimes marginal references on baptism point to this Scripture in Ezekiel. Remember that all the marginal references in the Bible are put in there by men, and are not a part of the inspired Word of God. Where those references were written by men who practice sprinkling, naturally they try to point to some verse to teach sprinkling.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAPTISM AND THE POURING OUT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter in Acts 2:16-18 said that was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel where God said, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” It is reasonable for one to ask, then, if the pouring out of God’s Spirit could bring about a baptism of the Spirit, why could not pouring water bring about baptism with water ? The answer is of course, that God poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost until they were completely covered as well as filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit completely surrounded them. (In Acts 5:15 people seem to have been healed by Peter’s simply passing by them.) So people might be baptized by pouring if enough water were poured on them to make it a burial, which baptism is, as the Lord plainly says in Romans 6:4,5 and Colossians 2:12. However, since in Bible baptism they went down into the water to be baptized, and were buried, it is clear that they did not pour water on people until they were covered up. The difference is, of course, that the Holy Spirit was in Heaven with the Father and was sent down upon the people to cover and fill them, while water is not. The Bible very clearly shows the form of baptism, and no spoonful of water nor a glassful of water on the head can picture a burial and resurrection, as the Bible says baptism does.
WAS JESUS SPRINKLED, STANDING IN THE JORDAN RIVER?
Jesus certainly went down into the water of the Jordan River when He was baptized. Mark 1:9-10 says:
“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.”
Jesus was baptized IN JORDAN and came straightway up out of the water. Sometimes Our Methodist and Presbyterian friends teach that Jesus stood in the water of the Jordan River and that John poured, or sprinkled, water on His head. However, the Bible says nothing of the kind. If preachers are really sincere in teaching that Jesus went down into the water of the Jordan River and was sprinkled, or that Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip sprinkled the eunuch, then why do they not baptize that way ? Why do not Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian and Lutheran preachers lead people down into the water before they sprinkle them? They surely know that Jesus, when He was baptized, taught us to do it the same way, for He said: “THUS” (this way) “it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” The only answer they can make is that they do not think the form matters, just so it suits the person who is to be baptized.
Another thing which shows the insincerity of those who sprinkle is that they preach against immersion, say that it is not taught in the Bible, AND YET WILL BAPTIZE BY IMMERSION ANYONE WHO INSISTS UPON IT, if they cannot get them for church membership any other way! There is only one form of baptism, as the Lord says in Ephesians 4:5. Jesus was not baptized three ways that day in the River Jordan! He said for us to be baptized “thus,” that is, as He was. Some will say, “Well, I think any form of baptism will do, just so it satisfies your own conscience.” No, dear friend, a “good conscience” will be one that wants to follow the Word of God and do exactly what Jesus said. If we do not do it as He said, it will not have the meaning which He gave. We are to please the Lord Jesus, not ourselves, nor others.
Great Bible scholars of all faiths, Protestants and Catholics, agree that baptism in Bible times was by immersion, was a burial. However, many preachers who have been content to follow the traditions of men instead of the Bible, say, “Well, the form of baptism doesn’t especially matter, anyway,” and so deceive the people. This book is not written to defend any denomination. I am simply urging people to come back to God’s way and follow the Bible instead of the traditions of men. The Scripture repeats twice that we are buried with Christ in baptism, so that we may know that the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan was a burial.
THE WORD “BAPTIZE” MEANS IMMERSE
If baptism is immersion, then why doesn’t the Bible plainly say immerse? It does! The word baptize means exactly that. The reason it was not translated immerse is that the word was not translated at all! as you will see in the next chapter. When the King James version of the Bible was translated, in 1611, to translate the word baptize, giving its literal meaning, immerse, would have caused great embarrassment and confusion to the Church of England. Remember that the Episcopalian church was then, and is now, supported and its ministry controlled, in England, by the government. So King James instructed the translators, in such cases, not to translate the word, but to simply spell it with English letters and let it go. So baptizo, the Greek word spelled with Greek letters, was simply spelled baptize in English letters. The word baptize was never heard of as an English word before it was so translated. There had been very little circulation of the Scriptures among the common people before the King James translation, since scholars read the Scriptures in Latin, or in Hebrew, or in Greek. When the Revised Version and other modern translations were made, baptism had become such an issue that no interdenominational group of translators could agree on how to translate it, so the word was left as it is, baptize.
However, the people who, even today, speak the Greek language know the meaning of the word and have always baptized by immersion. Greek or Orthodox Catholics have never used anything but immersion. How could they when the word, in everyday use, means immersion?
SCRIPTURES UNANIMOUS ON IMMERSION FOR BAPTISM
Everywhere I go, I find many earnest Christians who are amazed to see how they have been misled on the matter of baptism. In a Louisiana town a young woman, a bank clerk, a devout Methodist girl, came to me and said: “Brother Rice, will you give me some of the Scriptures which teach sprinkling for baptism? It is strange, but all the Scriptures I happen to know about baptism seem to teach immersion. Methodists baptize either way but I do not happen to remember the Scriptures which teach sprinkling.”
I was somewhat embarrassed, and I feared she would not believe me if I told her there were no Scriptures teaching sprinkling for baptism. So I said instead, “Suppose we get my big concordance and look up every verse in the Bible which mentions baptizing, baptism, or baptized.” So we got the book before us and began. She was amazed that there was no mention of baptism in the Old Testament. We read through every verse referring to baptism, and when I looked up, her face was as white as death.
“Brother Rice,” she said, “somebody has misled me. I trusted them, I thought they knew the Bible and had Scripture for everything they did. I have been deceived.” Breaking into tears, she ran into her room and lay across her bed sobbing. I was a guest in the home and that night she did not come to supper. But that night she brought extra clothes to the service and at the close, with others, she followed her Lord in baptism. The cry of that poor, misled girl who followed tradition, who had faith in men, is with me today. People have a right to know the truth as to what God’s Word teaches about baptism.
CHAPTER 7 – HOW THE WORLD GOT WRONG ON BAPTISM
There is a strange text of Scripture in Revelation 17:5:
“And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”
By reading the rest of the chapter we find that evil woman is certainly used to represent Roman Catholicism. Rome with its worldwide spiritual adultery or false religion; Rome with its persecution of the martyrs; Rome with its riches and cathedrals, art treasures, gold, silver and pearls; Rome, a state church, riding on the beast of the Roman empire (which will be rebuilt again under the Anti-Christ); Roman Catholicism, centered in the city of the seven hills, is the great harlot, mother of harlots and abominations. Ecclesiastical Rome is this modern Babylon. Read the verse again and you will see that God has plainly foretold for us that all the false doctrines, heresies, and religious abominations which come to Christianity in this age are a product of Roman Catholicism. Many individual Catholics are not to blame for this, and I mean no unkindness when I call attention to the plain and unmistakable meaning of this passage in God’s Word. I do so to call attention to the fact that Roman Catholics officially changed from baptism to sprinkling. One fatal doctrine of our Catholic friends is that they claim the church, or council, or pope, has the authority to promulgate a doctrine, which, they believe, is as infallibly correct as if taught in the Word of God. In other words, the Bible is not the authority and guide of Roman Catholics. They do not claim that it is, and they deliberately and purposely depart from some teachings of the Bible. For instance. the Bible plainly says that a bishop or pastor should be the “husband of one wife” (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). Peter himself whom Catholics claim as their first pope, was married (Matt. 8:14). Roman Catholics knew this Bible teaching, yet they deliberately changed it, requiring priests and nuns not to marry. They insist that they had a right to change it, since they say the pope and the church have the authority of Christ on earth. When Jesus gave the Lord’s supper (Matt. 26:26-28), He gave the disciples both the bread and the grape juice, or wine. For many centuries Catholics did likewise, and THEN CHANGED IT! Now the Catholic priests drink all the wine (and it is really intoxicating wine) and the common people are given only the bread of the Lord’s supper. Catholics admit they changed it, and say they had a right to. On exactly the same basis, Catholics changed from baptism to sprinkling, as their own authorities frankly admit.
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA ADMITS CATHOLICS CHANGED BAPTISM
I have before me the official Catholic Encyclopedia, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus with the imprimatur of Cardinal Farley and given to the public library by the local council of the Knights of Columbus. On page 209, Vol. II, under the heading “BAPTISM, II, Etymology” is this statement:
“The word baptism is derived from the Greek word bapto or baptizo, to wash or to immerse.”
On page 261, Vol. II, second column, (b), begins the following passage which we quote word for word.
“The proximate matter of baptism is the ablution performed with water. The very word ‘baptizo’ as we have seen, means a washing. Three forms of ablution have prevailed among Christians, and the church holds them all to be valid because they fulfill the requisite signification of the baptismal laving. These forms are immersion, infusion and aspersion. The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is not only evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental churches, but it can also be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul, who speaks of baptism as a bath, (Eph. V, 26; Rom. VI, 4; Titus III, 5.) In the Latin Church, immersion seems to have prevailed until the twelfth century. After that time it is found in some places even as late as the sixteenth century. Infusion and aspersion, however, were growing common in the thirteenth century and gradually prevailed in the Western Church. The Oriental Churches have retained immersion, though not always in the sense of plunging the candidate’s entire body below the water.”
Notice that Catholic authorities admit that “IMMERSION SEEMS TO HAVE PREVAILED UNTIL THE TWELFTH CENTURY” IN THE LATIN OR ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND IN SOME PLACES AS LATE AS THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. Notice the words “THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES” meaning the Greek Catholics and some others, “HAVE RETAINED IMMERSION.” Roman Catholics changed from baptizing by immersion to sprinkling. Greek Catholics keep the original form, immersion.
CATHOLICS ORIGINALLY HAD LARGE BAPTISTRIES FOR IMMERSION
Visitors to ancient churches or cathedrals in Europe built before the thirteenth century, would know that this is true. But we would rather prove it by this official encyclopedia prepared by Roman Catholic authorities under the supervision of a Roman Catholic cardinal. On Page 274, Vol. II of this Catholic Encyclopedia, under the heading “Archaeology” are the following passages;
“In the apostolic age, as in Jewish times (John 3:23) baptism was administered without special fonts, at the seaside or in streams or pools of water. (Acts 8:38)” … “Indoor baptism, however. was not uncommon (Acts 9:18, 16:33) and, for the sake of both privacy and solemnity, came to be the rule: while reverence for the rite itself and for the water, which came in time to receive a special consecration, gave rise to the use of a special font or basin for the baptismal ceremony, and at a later period, for the preservation of the water. With the establishment of distinctly Christian places of worship, this font became one of their important adjuncts. In the East it took the form of a pool or cistern, similar to those of the baths, often larger, and deep enough to permit total immersion.”
NOTICE THAT THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BAPTISTRIES WERE ORIGINALLY LARGE ENOUGH AND DEEP ENOUGH TO PERMIT A TOTAL IMMERSION! Catholics changed baptism from immersion to sprinkling.
CATHOLICS ADMIT GROWTH OF “INF ANT BAPTISM” AMONG THEM
In the same Volume II, on page 275, first column, the official Catholic history of baptism, in this Catholic Encyclopedia, says:
“The passing of the period of adult conversion to Christianity, and the growing prevalence of infant baptism with the consequent frequency of administration determined a change in the structure of the fonts. Instead of a basin below the floor level, walls of masonry were built up to a height of three or four feet to facilitate the minister’s holding a child over its opening: or a font hewn from solid stone rested on the chapel floor. Immersion of children had come to be the rule, and as the practice was adopted, too, in the case of adults, the fonts were sometimes large enough to admit of their being immersed. In the thirteenth century, however, simple infusion came by degrees, to be adopted, and was generally used, the font became smaller and more shallow, and was raised from the floor on piers or columns. The older type of font continued to find favor in Italy but in the northern countries the winter chill of the waters hastened the general use of infusion, and as this rite required fur each person baptized, but a small quantity of water, the font generally took the simple form and small dimensions it has today.”
Notice the statement “in the thirteenth century, however, simple infusion (he means sprinkling) came by degrees to be adopted and was generally used.” Notice the frank statement that because of cold weather, and the “growing prevalence” of the custom of “baptizing” infants, Catholics felt free to change the Lord’s way of baptizing by immersion to sprinkling for their own convenience. This is the origin of sprinkling and pouring for baptism and of so-called “infant baptism.” All modern denominations which use these customs got them from Roman Catholics, who began them, as the Scripture so clearly prophesied in Revelation 17:5:
“And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BASYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
LUTHER, BREAKING LOOSE FROM ROMAN CATHOLICISM, KEPT SPRINKLING
Early in the sixteenth century, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther became dissatisfied with the unscriptural teachings and practices of Roman Catholicism and tried to start a reform within the church. He discovered in the Bible that marvelous doctrine that people are saved by faith, not by church membership, nor baptism, nor by confessing to a priest and doing penance. Luther was excommunicated and his movement led to the creation of a new denomination, Lutherans. Luther was a great and good man, but he did not complete his reform and carried over into the new denomination many of the customs and traditions to which he had become accustomed as a Catholic. The Lutherans clung to the idea of a state church, and to certain of the rituals such as confirmation, and continued to use sprinkling for baptism. Luther believed in baptism by immersion and understood that the Bible so taught. Dr. Philip Schaff in the History of the Christian Church, Vol.VII, on pages 218 and 219 quotes Other as saying the following:
” ‘Baptism,’ he said, ‘is that dipping into water, since it takes its name from the Greek, to baptize, signifying to dip, and baptism is a dipping. Baptism signifies two things death and resurrection: that is, full and complete justification. When the minister dips the child into the water, this signifies death; when he draws him out again, this signifies life. Thus Paul explains the matter (Romans 6:4) … I COULD WISH THAT THE BAPTIZED SHOULD BE TOTALLY IMMERSED, ACCORDING TO THE MEANING OF THE WORD AND THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE MYSTERY; not that I think it necessary to do so, but that it would be well that so complete and perfect a thing as baptism should also be completely and perfectly expressed in the sign.’ ” (Type emphasis mine, J.R.R.)
However, instead of following the Bible in practice, Luther followed Roman Catholicism on baptism. Our Lutheran friends sprinkle today because they inherited that custom from Rome.
EPISCOPALIANS, COMING FROM CATHOLICISM, KEPT SPRINKILING INSTEAD OF GOING BACK TO BIBLE BAPTISMM
About 1530-33, the fat king of England, Henry VIII, became dissatisfied with his wife, Queen Catherine. We can sympathize with him, for he had been forced, while a mere child, for reasons of state, to take as his bride Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his brother, much older. We can understand how it was never a love match. Besides that, she did not bear him an heir to the throne. And to cap it all, he fell in love with Anne Boleyn. He applied to the pope for a divorce from Catherine, his elderly, barren, and unloved wife. The pope refused, partly because of the strict Catholic teaching against divorce, and partly because that his strongest supporter in the world at that time was the Catholic monarch, Philip, King of Spain, and brother of Catherine, Henry’s wife. The pope dared not lose the friendship of the strongest king in Europe. There had been much unrest in England over corrupt practices among the Catholic clergy and dissatisfaction with Catholic rule. So Henry VIII promptly threatened to make the English branch of the Roman Catholic church independent. That was soon done and the “Anglican Church,” or the English Episcopal denomination was born. The Episcopalians retained many of the forms of Catholicism. They followed the customs of sprinkling and “infant baptism” which had originated in the Roman Catholic church, and to which they were all accustomed.
THE NEW MEDIEVAL AND MODERN HISTORY by Samuel Bannister Harding, Page 345, gives the following account of the origin of the English, or Episcopalian Church:
“The actual separation from Rome came from the desire of Henry VIII to have his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, with whom he had lived for 18 years, declared void, in order that he might marry Anne Boleyn, with whom he was infatuated; When the Pope refused to grant the annulment of his marriage, Henry obtained his divorce from a court of the English Church, presided over by Cranmer, his Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1533 he proclaimed Anne queen, in defiance of the Pope.
“In November, 1534, the separation from Rome was made complete by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament.”
Episcopalians are sprinkled today because when they came out from Roman Catholicism they retained that form which the Catholics had adopted after doing away with the Bible form of baptism by immersion. They teach the sprinkling of babies and make it a part of the plan of salvation as their Catholic forefathers did.
EPISCOPAL PRAYER BOOK REQUIRED IMMERSION, EVEN OF BABIES UNLESS WEAK
Earnest men tried to break with Roman Catholic practice and doctrine when the English church became independent, but tradition was too strong. The first Episcopalian or English church Prayer Book, adopted 1549, provided for baptism by immersion even of babies. That rubric under the heading “Public Baptism of Infants,” says:
“Then the priest shall take the child in his hands, and ask the name; and naming the child SHALL DIP IT IN THE WATER THRICE. First dipping the right side; second, the left side; the third time dipping the face toward the font; so it be discreetly and warily done, saying,
” ‘I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.’ ”
“And if the child be weak, it shall suffice to pour water upon it, saying the aforesaid words.” (Type emphasis mine, J.R.R.)
In the prayerbook as revised in 1662 the above was changed to provide for dipping babies only once, “If they shall certify him that the child may well endure it.” It was this English prayer book that John Wesley later followed, baptizing by immersion unless “certified that the child was weak.” At this time the custom was already established to do it the easier and unscriptural way, and so they do it today though the Prayer Book still stays concerning “the baptism of such as are of riper years,” as well as of babies, that the priest or minister “shall dip him in the water or pour water upon him, saying,” etc.
Methodists will see how their “Discipline” was patterned after this, though they, like the Episcopalians, follow the Catholic practice, baptizing in the Bible way only when people insist upon it.
WHY BIBLE DOES NOT USE WORD IMMERSE
When King James of England encouraged a group of scholars to translate the Bible into the English language, naturally the instructions he gave were colored by the position and teachings of the state church of England, this Episcopal church, which came out from Roman Catholicism. The translators were ordered, in the case of any word where the literal translation would cause controversy or cast reflection on the state church, to simply Anglicize the Greek word, that is, to spell it with English letters and not translate the word at all. I mention two interesting examples. The Greek word deacon, literally meaning servant, was not translated, but simply spelled with English letters and made into an English word, because in their Episcopal form of church government, one order of the ministry had been named deacons. Likewise, the word, baptizo, which has the plain primary meaning of dip, plunge, immerse or bury was not translated at all. It was simply spelled out baptize and made into an English word. That is why our English Bible says “baptize” instead of saying “immerse.”
THE BIRTH OF METHODISM
An Episcopalian clergyman on a trip to America, became acquainted with some earnest people of Moravian Brethren faith, and so learned about that blessed doctrine of the new birth and was happily converted. After his return to England, he with his brother and a group of other earnest young men, formed what was called “The Methodist Society”. This Episcopalian preacher became a flaming evangelist and started a soul winning movement which went around the world and blessed millions of people. His name was John Wesley and the people who followed him soon formed a separate denomination called “Methodists” or “Wesleyans.” In America, the Methodist Episcopal church was founded by them, later dividing into two branches, North and South. They turned away from much of the formalism of the Episcopalians and Catholics, but they retained the Episcopal form of denominational government, the doctrine that staying saved depended on one’s works, and they kept sprinkling for baptism and “infant baptism” as Episcopalians and Catholics did before them. However, Wesley plainly taught that “the ancient form” of baptism was by immersion and he used that form often, even with babies!
JOHN WESLEY BAPTIZED BY IMMERSION; SAID IT WAS “THE ANCIENT MANNER OF BAPTIZING.”
The great John Wesley first made an effort to go against the tide of tradition and custom and baptize by immersion. However, he made the mistake of following Episcopal rules, “baptizing” babies, instead of only believers, as the Bible teaches, and also using sprinkling instead of baptism if one was “certified” to be weak! But he plainly admitted that immersion was the Bible way of baptizing, and used immersion ordinarily, though he was greatly criticized for it by his Episcopalian brethren.
Once, in fact, Wesley was tried in court because he insisted on immersion. He tells about it, himself, in “John Wesley’s Journal,” something of a diary which he wrote. In the “Popular Edition, Condensed,” of this Journal, published by Charles H, Kelly, London, 1903, I read and copied his account of that incident, which happened in Georgia in 1736. Here it is.
“Wed. May 5th – I was asked to baptize a child of Mr. Parker’s, second bailiff of Savannah; but Mrs. Parker told me, ‘Neither Mr. P. nor I will consent to its being dipped.’ “I answered, ‘If you certify that your child is weak it will suffice (the rubric says) to pour water upon it.’ She replied, ‘Nay the child is not weak, but I am resolved it shall not be dipped.’ This argument I could not confute. So I went home; and the child was baptized by another person.”
September first of the same year Wesley records in his Journal the “List of grievances presented by the grand jury,” delivered to the court at Savannah, Georgia that day. Number 5 of these grievances for which Wesley was tried was, as Wesley copied it in his Journal,
“5. By refusing to baptize Mr. Parker’s child, otherwise than by dipping, except the parents would certify it was weak, and not able to bear it.”
The jury seems to have disagreed, and Wesley left the colony for England. Another entry in his journal, quoted by Robert Southey in LIFE OF WESLEY AND RISE AND PROGRESS OF METHODISM, footnote, page 58 edition of 1871), in Wesley’s own words, is as follows:
“Mary Welch, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom of the first church and the rule of the church of England, by immersion. The child was ill then but recovered from that hour.”
Robert Southey, in the book mentioned above, criticized Wesley severely on this question of baptizing by immersion. On page 498 Southey says:
“Both brothers (referring to John and Charles Wesley – J. R. R.) retained the fancy of baptizing by immersion, after they had outgrown many eccentricities; and Wesley sometimes followed the mode out of condescension to the whims of others where he had ceased to attach any importance to it, and must have perceived inconvenience of the practice. One of the charges which the virulent TopIady brought against him, was that of having immersed a certain Lydia Sheppard in a bathing tub in a cheesemonger’s cellar, in Spittafields * * * *”
Wesley frankly believed that the Scripture taught immersion. In his “Explanatory Notes Upon The New Testament,” he honestly declared himself, specially when commenting on Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4, and when he came to those Scriptures mentioned baptism as a burial. In that commentary as published by Carlton and Porter, New York, page 376, the note on Romans 6:4, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, says:
“We are buried with him – Alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion.”
WESLEY FOLLOWED EPISCOPALIANS AND CATHOLICS IN SPRINKLING AND “INFANT BAPTISM”
Wesley had been taught from childhood from the Episcopal or English church Prayer Book that babies were born again at baptism, as that Prayer Book still teaches, and he never got away from this tradition of men. In his sermon on The New Birth, part IV, point 2, as published by B. Waugh and T. Mason, 1835, Vol. I, page 405 of “The Works of the Reverend John Wesley,” Wesley says:
“It is certain our church supposes, that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again: and it is allowed that the whole office for the baptism of infants proceeds upon this supposition.”
Wesley was there discussing John 3:5, and makes it clear that the reason he “baptized” babies was that it saved them! He followed this reasoning of Catholics and of the English church of which he was still a minister and member, and gradually gave way to their custom of sprinkling or pouring instead of Bible baptism. Now, however, Methodist ministers argue against that which Wesley so stoutly defended and practiced, immersion for baptism. How sad that men should follow “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” Rome, instead of following the Word of God!
JOHN CALVIN, FOUNDER OF PRESBYTERIANISM, ADMITTED IMMERSION WAS ORIGINAL MODE OF BAPTISM
History tells a similar story concerning John Calvin and our Presbyterian friends. That great man had a part in the reformation, went back to the Bible teaching that salvation is altogether of God’s grace, not of our works, and is obtained by simple faith in Christ. However, to avoid making more enemies, he retained the forms of sprinkling and “infant baptism” as they had been established by Roman Catholics, instead of going back to the Bible way of baptizing only saved people, by burial in water.
Great scholar that he was, John Calvin could not entirely break away from his Catholic training and tradition. He knew that the word baptize in the Greek literally means immerse. and said so, admitted that New Testament practice and teaching was immersion. Yet he said it was “of no importance,” and continued the Catholic customs of sprinkling and even sprinkled babies. In that famous work of his, “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” in chapter XV on Baptism, at the close of paragraph XIX, Calvin says:
“But whether the person who is baptized be wholly immersed, and whether thrice or once, or whether water be only poured or sprinkled upon him, is of no importance: churches ought to be left at liberty in this respect, to act according to the difference of countries. THE VERY WORD BAPTIZE, HOWEVER, SIGNIFIES TO IMMERSE; AND IT IS CERTAIN THAT IMMERSION WAS THE PRACTICE OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.”!!! (Type emphasis mine, J. R. R.)
Our Presbyterian friends, saying that what Jesus did and commanded about the form of baptism “is of no importance,” have followed the Catholic example away from the Bible!
WHY GREEK CATHOLICS STILL BAPTIZE BY IMMERSION
You can very easily see that the Roman Catholic church has led most of the world away from the Bible form and doctrine of baptism. It is an interesting fact that Greek Catholics have always baptized by immersion, as they do today. Greek Catholics and Roman Catholics were the two sections in the “Great Schism” which split the Old Catholic Church, in the year 1054. Roman Catholics, you remember, did not make any essentia1 change in the form of baptism until in the 13th century, and at the time of the split, the whole of the Old Catholic Church baptized by immersion. Greek Catholics, or Orthodox Catholics have simply continued the form which they had at the time of the split. It is possible that Greek Catholics would have changed to sprinkling also, since so many of their adherents were in cold countries like Russia; but that would have been very inconvenient as the New Testament is written in Greek and the word baptizo plainly means to immerse, as Greek Catholics have always known. So Greek Catholics in this matter did not follow Roman Catholics into the modern way of sprinkling instead of the Bible way of baptizing. Today they still baptize by immersion, their priests marry, and both bread and wine are given in communion, unlike Roman Catholics who changed all these Bible teachings.
ALL DENOMINATIONS THAT SPRINKLE ADMIT THAT IMMERSION IS BAPTISM
Christians over the world are divided on many questions concerning baptism. Some say that baptism is essential to salvation; others say not. Some say that infants should be baptized as well as saved people, while some of us contend for baptism of believers only. Some people say that sprinkling is good enough, that since baptism does not save, it does not especially matter what form is used. Some modernists try to do away with baptism entirely. But people of every so-called Christian faith agree that immersion is acceptable as baptism. Catholics admit they changed to sprinkling, but will accept baptism by immersion as valid. The Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others who sprinkle yet receive immersion as valid baptism and admit that it is Bible baptism.
STUDY THE PROOF CAREFULLY: THEN AWAY FROM TRADITION, BACK TO THE BIBLE!
Sprinkling used for baptism, and so-called “infant baptism” IN EVERY CASE came from following the example and tradition of Catholics who first began them, as they themselves plainly admit. No group of people ever began sprinkling or “infant baptism” because of any Scripture on the subject, since not a single case of either, as baptism, nor a command for either is found in the entire Bible! I beg you to study the proof of every statement in this book. If you will come with an honest, humble heart, willing to follow the Bible alone, God will clearly reveal His will and teaching to you. The only safe guide is the Word of God! Put away your prejudice, leave the teachings of your childhood, cast out the traditions of men, and you will find the Scriptures absolutely unanimous in their teaching on baptism, and as clear as daylight!
CHAPTER 8 – WHAT MUST AN HONEST CHRISTIAN DO ABOUT BAPTISM?
There are three courses which a man may follow in regard to baptism.
1. FOLLOW CATHOLICS IN CHANGING BAPTISM AS TO MODE AND MEANING.
2. FOLLOW MODERNISTS IN LEAVING OFF BAPTISM.
3. FOLLOW THE BIBLE AND BE BAPTIZED THE BIBLE WAY.
If he believes, as Catholics do, that the church has a right to change what God plainly commanded, that it does not especially matter any way, then he can accept the Catholic’s substitute for baptism as many modern denominations have done. It is very likely that he will find himself accepting a lot of Catholic doctrine as well. Certainly he will miss the plain Bible meaning of baptism.
If a man seeks to please people instead of God, he may ignore the repeated commands of the Saviour Himself, and of the Scriptures, ignore the example of New Testament Christians, and do away with baptism as has Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick and Dr. Shailer Mathews and other modernists and so many so-ca11ed “community churches.” Such a person will be counted very broad-minded and very liberal, but he will be untrue to the Bible and disobedient to Jesus Christ.
Some people are so disgusted with denominationalism, especially those denominations patterned after Rome (and well they might be!) that they like to do away with every requirement that reminds them of their past bondage. Community churches usually commit the very foolish mistake of trying to please everybody. They sometimes offer to baptize people “any way that suits you best,” like the school teacher who proposed to the trustees of a rural school that he would teach the world was flat or round, just as they preferred! In some cases, such churches prefer not to, take a positive stand on any matter of Bible doctrine about which there is controversy.
Sometimes, after compromising on the plain command of the Scripture, they try to defend their disobedience with Scripture. Such subtle modernists may claim that baptism was for Jews only, or that it was only intended for the Apostolic Age, or otherwise pervert the Scripture, either consciously or unconsciously, to condone their sin. But the way to please the Lord Jesus, and spread His gospel, is to do exactly what He said, “teaching ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Then. we have His promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
There is only one course left for you, dear Christian, if you seek to please Jesus Christ. You must follow the Saviour down into the watery grave in the likeness of His burial, and then, raised in the likeness of His resurrection, come up out of the water, proclaiming to the world your faith in a risen Saviour and your intention of living a new life for Him.
Can it be hard to decide when His Word is so plain and when He has done so much for you?
CHRISTIAN HAPPINESS DEPENDS ON OBEDIENCE
Salvation is settled when one trusts in Christ and the believer has everlasting life, (John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:47). But a Christian’s joy and fellowship depends largely upon how he follows the Lord. This is especially true about baptism. Experience joins with Scripture to teach that baptism brings great joy and peace in the heart. We find many references to rejoicing in Bible cases of conversion, the joy coming AFTER BAPTISM, or in connection with it! In Acts 2:41, we are told:
“Then they that GLADLY received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
In verse 46, following, we are told about the same people:
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with GLADNESS and singleness of heart.”
New Testament Christians had joy when they were baptized. In Acts 8:38,39 is another case of a baptizing and rejoicing”
“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.”
The rejoicing followed the baptizing. Likewise, in the conversion of the jailer and his household in Acts 16:29-34, rejoicing followed baptism:
“Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and REJOICED, believing in God with all his house.”
HOLY SPIRIT BRINGS JOY AT BAPTISM
There is very clear teaching in the Scripture that Christians, after they obey Christ in baptism, claim Him before the world, may expect to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came on Him in visible form, as an example to those who looked on, and the voice of the Father from Heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In Acts 2:38. the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to those who repent and then are baptized for, (referring to, or pointing toward) the remission of their sins. There the Apostle Peter said:
“… Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Notice in the following verse 39 that baptism, and the same promise of the Holy Spirit which goes with it, is for all of us, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
There are many other Scriptures which promise the Holy Spirit to those who obey the Lord, or keep His commandments. Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:15-17:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
Peter, preaching on the resurrection of Christ in Acts 5:32, said:
“And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
When Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples in Matthew 28:19,20, including baptism, He followed it with a promise that when we do these three things, making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey His commands, “Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world.” Part of the happiness, then, and presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit is promised to them who baptize as well as to those who are baptized.
How many times have I heard shouts of rejoicing at a baptizing! Many, many times I have seen God’s power manifested when new converts followed the Saviour’s command about baptism. I remember in 1931 in the great revival on the court house square in Sherman, Texas, when some 2,000 people gathered around that brilliantly lighted scene and 28 converts, the first fruits of that revival (for we baptized many times), followed Jesus into the watery grave and followed Him in the likeness of His resurrection. A Mr. Welsh, fifty-eight years old, a hard sinner, a gambler, a profane, drinking man, turned with deep emotion and said to his wife, “If I had extra clothes, I would have this whole thing settled tonight!” “Well,” she said, “we can have your clothes tomorrow night.” And they did and I baptized him. On Christmas Eve, he died, after winning many other souls to Christ. The Holy Spirit came upon the people and blessed the testimony of the converts as the Lord had promised, so that a soul was saved.
In this same meeting, an old man about sixty arose from the water and shouted, “Hallelujah!” seized me about the neck, kissed me on the cheek, and then weeping for joy he went to the tent nearby which was used as a dressing room.
In Decatur, Texas, in a marvelous revival which God gave us, a woman came down into the baptistery of the tabernacle, whispering to herself. “Oh! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
“Sister, say it aloud. if you like,” I said.
“Praise the Lord!” she cried, “I have been wanting to do this for nineteen years’!” When she was baptized, I heard her down in the dressing room saying over and over softly, “Oh, Prai
se the Lord!”
God meant for Christians to be happy, and you will be, dear friend, if you obey the Lord so He can fill you with the Holy Spirit. When I was baptized, a twelve-or thirteen-year-old boy, in that railroad reservoir at Dundee, Texas, the Holy Spirit came upon me with sweet assurance and joy. He was not in form like a dove so others could see, but there was no doubt in my heart that He came. The Father spoke from Heaven to me, saying, in some manner as He did to Christ at His baptism, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” The people did not hear that voice, but I did, for it was a still small voice that spoke in my heart. Rejoicing goes with baptism when we do it God’s way! If you want to be happy, dear Christian, then follow the Lord Jesus who said. “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15).