IN THE BIBLE
Jesus said, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26) Any subject that relates to the salvation of our most important possession - the soul - needs our careful study. Since Jesus also said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," baptism in water is such a subject.
In this lesson our aim is to determine the place that baptism filled in New Testament times rather than to examine its modern usage. We will try to answer these questions: (1) What method (immersion, sprinkling, or pouring) was employed? (2) What was the purpose of baptism?" (3) Who were baptized? (4) In whose name were they baptized? First, however, note that water baptism should not be confused with Holy Spirit baptism to be considered in another lesson. Except for the six times that Holy Spirit baptism is mentioned, almost every scripture using the words "baptize" and "baptism" applies to baptism in water.
A vital question is whether immersion, sprinkling, pouring, or all three are authorized in the Scriptures. Almost all Greek scholars agree that the word baptize as used in the New Testament means to dip, submerge, or immerse. Whether they are correct can be determined by uses of the word in the New Testament.
The first person to baptize in New Testament times was John the Baptizer. Of him it is said, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was
much water there." (John 3:23) We are certain John immersed since neither pouring nor sprinkling requires
much water. However, immersion does. When Jesus was baptized by John it is said, "And Jesus, when he was
baptized went up straightway out of the water." "And
straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened." (Mark 1:10) Had Jesus not gone into the water He could not have come up
out of it. Furthermore, He would have been foolish to have walked into the River Jordan up to His waist only to have John sprinkle some water on Him when such could have been done on the shore. Every indication is that Jesus was immersed.
We are told of the conversion of the Ethiopian, "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." (Acts 8:38, 39) This clearly shows that the eunuch was immersed.
Paul calls water baptism a burial. "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death." (Rom. 6:4) "Buried with him in baptism . . ." (Col. 2:12) Only immersion can truly be called a burial. But were sprinkling and pouring ever used in apostolic days? A careful study of the New Testament reveals not a single passage mentioning either sprinkling or pouring of water. We must conclude that neither was employed or authorized by the apostles.
Those baptized in apostolic times were immersed for the remission, or forgiveness, or sin. "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) "Arise, and be baptized, and
wash away thy sins." (Acts 22:16) Since we cannot be saved without forgiveness it follows that baptism is necessary for salvation. Thus we read, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved." (Mark 16:16) "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now
save us." (I Peter 3:21)
But why does baptism save? It saves because it puts us
into Christ where we may obtain forgiveness through His blood. Paul speaks of "the redemption that is
in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:24) He also teaches, "for as many of you as have been
baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27) "Know ye not, that so many of us as were
baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" (Rom. 6:3) Therefore we cannot be saved unless we are
in Christ where we reach His redeeming blood, and we cannot get
into Christ without being baptized.
We must also conclude that forgiveness never preceeds baptism, but is a direct result of it. Never is baptism called "an outward sign of an inward grace". It never expresses the idea that one is already a child of God, but it is the act by which one becomes a Christian.
It is sometimes asked whether the Bible teaches infant or adult baptism. Actually, neither is taught. What is taught is believers' baptism. Jesus says, "He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) In Acts 18:8 we read, "And many of the Corinthians hearing
believed, and were baptized." We have no command to baptize those incapable of believing. Furthermore, those to be baptized must be teachable. In the Great Commission Jesus says, "Go ye therefore, and
teach all nations, baptizing them . . ." (Matt. 28:19) Again, repentance is a prerequisite of baptism.
"Repent, and be baptized . . ." (Acts 2:38) The one who has not sinned has nothing of which to repent and is not told to be baptized.
An infant which cannot believe, be taught, nor repent is not a subject of baptism. Furthermore, it has no need to be baptized "for the remission of sins" because it has no sins to be remitted. There is not a command or example in the Scriptures that even hints at infant baptism. Advocates of infant baptism cite Matthew 19:14 as authority. This says, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." But Jesus was not here discussing baptism. Furthermore, those mentioned were able to "come" to Him. He certainly does not say, "Bring little children to me to be baptized." The little child who has not sinned is as sure of heaven as any adult until he becomes old enough to sin.
IN WHOSE NAME
In the Great Commission Jesus says, "Baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19 and following) Since these are the words of the Savior, we cannot go wrong when we baptize into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ". The expression "in the name of . . ." often means "by the authority of . . ." A policeman who shouts to a fleeing criminal, "Stop, in the name of the law!" means, "Stop, by the authority of the law!" When one is baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he is baptized in the name of Jesus or by His authority since Jesus gave the command Himself.
When changes are made on such subjects as baptism it is extremely dangerous. If we wish to reach the heavenly home we will find it is much safer to comply with the Lord's command on baptism than to risk our eternal salvation by altering it in some way.