What Do the Scriptures Teach About Baptism?

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1 What Do the Scriptures Teach About Baptism? David Sain The church of our Lord is the grandest, most glorious institution on this earth. Yet, in my personal judgment, she is also the most misunderstood and maligned institution on the earth. One of the most common misunderstandings about the Church of Christ is what we teach and believe about the relationship of baptism to salvation. For example, many are the people who think that the Church of Christ believes in water salvation, and that we do not believe in salvation by grace. Most religious groups, that teach and believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior, teach and practice baptism. Consequently, most people in these groups believe that being baptized is something that they ought to do. However, as a careful examination of their faith will show, most people in those religious groups do not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Their conclusion is that baptism is important, but not essential to salvation. They believe that one is saved by grace when he accepts Jesus as his personal savior, and that the act of baptism is an outward expression of inward regeneration. Such conclusions are indicative of two things. First, they indicate that many people draw conclusions from hearsay rather than from direct information. Second, they indicate a misunderstanding of what the scriptures teach about baptism. My personal experiences convince me that many people who misunderstand the truth about baptism are honest and sincere in their beliefs. However, an honest heart and sincere belief do not, within themselves, mean that one is right. As Solomon stated, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12). Saul of Tarsus was an example of this truth. He stated that he acted in good conscience in all that he did (Acts 23:1), even when he was a persecutor of Christians (Acts 22:4). The purpose of this writing is to simply and carefully examine what the Bible teaches about baptism. The writer has no agenda in this effort other than to know the truth about this important subject, and to help the reader achieve the same knowledge. What the Scriptures Teach About Baptism The Bible Teaches That Baptism Is Immersion In Water. The person who is Biblically baptized is immersed in water, as indicated by the Greek word, baptizo, of which baptism is a transliteration. Sprinkling or pouring water does not constitute immersion in water, and is, therefore, not baptism. In teaching the saints in Rome, the apostle Paul taught that the action that one takes in being baptized is in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In that context, he wrote, 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 (Romans 6:4). Also, in harmony with that, in his epistle to the Colossians, Paul said that we are buried with him in baptism (Col. 2:12).

2 From these definitive statements that baptism is a burial, we must conclude that the practice of sprinkling or pouring water upon the head of the baptismal candidate is not in harmony with what the Bible clearly teaches. In spite of the fact that sprinkling water upon the head of someone as an act of baptism is quite popular among many religious groups, it is done without Biblical authority or divine approval. A Biblical example of baptism (i.e., immersion) in water is recorded in Acts 8: There, it is written that the Ethiopian, after being taught about Jesus, saw water and requested that he be baptized. And Philip, the evangelist, who had taught him about Jesus, went down into the water with him and baptized him. The Bible Teaches That Baptism Is An Action Taken By A Penitent Believer. According to the Scriptures, the proper candidate for baptism is one who believes the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16), who has repented from his sins (Acts 2:36,38), and who has confessed that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:35-39). These truths require that the candidate be mentally capable, and mature enough, to understand and wilfully embrace the Gospel. These truths also require that repentance precede Biblical baptism. Furthermore, like the eunuch of Acts 8, the candidate for baptism must first confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:9-10). Obviously, these divinely imposed requirements mean that the practice of baptizing infants is without Biblical authority or divine approval. Infants do not have the mental capability to comprehend and believe the gospel, which, in turn, also means that they are incapable of confessing faith in Jesus Christ, from the heart. Furthermore, infants are not subject to the command to repent from sin, because infants are not guilty of sin, as Jesus taught in Matthew 18:3 and Matthew 19:14. Infants are not subject to the Biblical command to repent... for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). They have no sins from which to repent. They have no sins that need to be forgiven. The Bible teaches that baptism is an action to be taken by one who has heard the gospel, believed the gospel, repented from sins, and confessed faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible Teaches That Baptism Is To Be Done In The Name Of Jesus. The apostle Peter proclaimed, 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 (Acts 2:38). Therefore, the candidate for baptism is instructed to have himself baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to do something in the name of Jesus? To do something in the name of Jesus is to do that which he has authorized, in the manner, and for the reasons, that are stipulated. And a careful study of the teaching of Jesus about baptism reveals two very important matters: (1) He ordained that baptism be done into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mat. 28:19). Biblical baptism puts one into a state of union and communion with all three members of the godhead: God, the Father, Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

3 (2) He taught that baptism is a prerequisite of salvation (Mk. 16:16). Therefore, one is to be baptized because Jesus declared it to be essential to salvation, a matter that shall be discussed in a later point. The Bible Teaches That Baptism Puts One Into Christ and the Church. That baptism is a requirement for salvation is further understood by recognizing that salvation is in Christ (II Tim. 2:10), and that baptism is the act that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). When one, by faith in Jesus, is baptized, he is saved (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38), and the Bible informs us that the Lord adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:47). So, baptism is also that act that puts one into the church. Paul wrote to the Corinthian saints, For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body (I Cor. 12:13), which is the church (I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:22-23). The Bible Teaches That the Purpose of Baptism is to Obtain the Forgiveness of Sins. At this time, the reader is reminded of a point made in the beginning of this writing that most people do not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Most religious people believe that baptism is important, but not essential to salvation. They contend that one must be baptized to obey God, but they believe that one is saved before one is baptized. In light of these things so commonly believed, this point that Biblical baptism is for the forgiveness of sins cannot be overemphasized. The Biblical truth is that baptism is not something one does after he is saved. Instead, as the apostle Peter declared, it is something that one is to do in order to be saved.... 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 (Acts 2:38). The prepositional phrase for the remission of sins in this verse is identical (in the Greek and English) to the words that Jesus used when he said that he shed his blood for the remission of sins (Mat. 26:28). In other words, the purpose for which Jesus shed his blood and the purpose for which man is to be baptized are one and the same. Jesus shed his blood so that man could obtain the remission of sins, and, likewise, the purpose of baptism is so that man can obtain the remission of sins. From these scriptures the following conclusion is logically inescapable baptism is a command of God that one must obey in order to be saved, and one is not saved until he is baptized for that purpose! And a study of four related scriptures verifies this conclusion. 1. In Acts 22:16, the instruction from Ananias to Saul of Tarsus was, be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. No honest reader of this divine record can ignore the connection of baptism to the washing away of sins. 2. Twice in Romans, chapter six, the inspired words of Paul, the apostle, illustrate the importance of baptism. First, he told the Roman Christians that, when they were raised from the waters of baptism, they were to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-5). Second, later in the chapter, he thanked God that they had obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, adding that it was then, i.e., when they obeyed that form of doctrine, that they were made free from sin (Rom. 6:17-18). When they heard and believed the gospel, and were baptized in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:3-5), their sins were forgiven.

4 These two texts from the epistle to the Romans clearly show that one is free from the guilt of sin and walks in newness of life at the moment that one is baptized, 3. In I Peter 3:21, Peter declared that Noah and his family were saved by water, referring to the fact that the waters of the flood saved those in the ark from the destruction that came upon those who were outside of the ark. Then he added that baptism, in a true likeness, doth also now save us. The meaning of that last phrase is obvious: the waters of baptism save us from the eternal destruction that is sure to come upon those who are outside of Christ and the church, at the end of time (II Thes. 1:7-9). 4. Another significant scripture that verifies the conclusion that baptism is a command of God that one must obey in order to be saved is Mark 16: In this text, Jesus decreed, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15-16). Considering the words of this text without any preconceived ideas, let us ask, where did Jesus place being baptized before or after salvation? It is undeniable that, according to Mark 16:16, Jesus placed being baptized before salvation, which means that being baptized is required in order for the believer to be saved. In order to say that one can be saved without being baptized or before being baptized, one would have to change the words of Jesus. And surely no one would contend that a doctrine is correct when it changes what Jesus taught. Indeed, a careful examination of these texts solidifies the conclusion that baptism is essential to salvation! Does This Mean That, In Baptism, We Earn Our Salvation? When we contend that baptism is essential to salvation, a common objection to such teaching is that it means that we earn our salvation. The objection might be worded like this, Baptism is a work. If we are saved by baptism, then we are saved by works, but the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace, not works! Indeed, the Bible teaches that 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 (Eph. 2:8-9). Make no mistake about it. We do not, and cannot, earn our salvation. God owes us nothing! Salvation is by grace. However, that does not mean that our salvation is unconditional. Instead, the Scriptures clearly teach that obedience is essential to salvation. Note three examples of such teaching. (1) Jesus taught that the one who shall enter the kingdom of heaven is the one who does the will of the Father which is in heaven (Mat. 7:21). (2) The author of Hebrews identified the one whom Jesus saves as the one who obeys him (Heb. 5:8-9). (3) The apostle Paul gave the sobering warning that the Lord will take vengeance upon all who do not obey the gospel (II Thes. 1:7-9). However, when we obey the gospel, including our obedience to the command to be baptized, we do not earn our salvation! The work that we do in response to a promise or command of God is a work of righteousness, not a work of merit. The merit is in the Lord who commanded the work, and in whom we place our trust as we obey him! To illustrate, repentance is an act of faith, relying on the Lord to save (Acts 17:30), and confession is an act of faith, relying on the Lord to save (Romans 10:10). Likewise, baptism is an act of faith, relying on the Lord to save (Acts 2:38).

5 The truth is that the grace of God is appropriated to us when we, by trust in the Lord, do the works that God has commanded! Conclusion An objective consideration of what the New Testament teaches about baptism leads one to the conclusion that the penitent believer in Jesus Christ, must be immersed in water, in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to be saved!

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