Water Baptism

baptism

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. (Matthew 28: 18-20)

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

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.
(Acts 2:38)

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.
(Acts 8:12)

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
(Acts 10:47-48)

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. (Acts 19: 2-5)

From the above verses we see that Water Baptism was required by Christ and the Apostles. Christ commanded His disciples to baptize, and the disciples preached that people were to be baptized.

Who was baptized?

This may seem a strange question to ask, after all baptisms are carried out on a regular basis. Like many people I was baptized as a baby by a minister of the Presbyterian Church, others are baptized as infants in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Lutheran and the Methodist Churches. It is believed by some that infant baptism (or christening as it is sometimes called) is an essential ritual for babies. In fact hospital staff will ask the patents of premature babies if they want their baby to be baptised. This is because if the child should die without being baptized then their soul would not be received into heaven.

 In the past Catholics were taught that the souls of those babies that died without being baptized would end up in a place called the Limbo of Infants. Though these babies were too young to have sinned, without baptism they were not freed from Original Sin and so did not enter heaven, but neither did they end up in Hell either, so they were kept in some place between to two. This is where we derive the term, “Hanging in Limbo” to describe the state of waiting and being unable to continue until instructions arrive.

This teaching has never been defined as an official dogma of the Catholic Church it has, nevertheless, been a teaching that has kept many Catholic parents fearful for the souls of their infants. The Magisterium of the Church simply holds that it may, or may not, be true so it is permissible to believe it, or not, and that it “remains a possible theological opinion”. (INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION: THE HOPE OF SALVATION FOR INFANTS WHO DIE WITHOUT BEING BAPTISED, April 22nd 2007)

Yet others declare that Baptism should only be carried out upon those that are of sufficient age that they are able to decide for themselves if they want to be baptized as a response to their wanting to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

In order to find the answer to this we must look to the practice of the Apostles as revealed in the Book of Acts.

The first instance of Baptism in the Book of Acts occurs right at the very inception of the Church. We read that on the day of the Jewish feast of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (Aka Pentecost), we read that Peter preaches to the crowds who are convicted by his message. They ask him what they should do; to which he replies, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!

Throughout the Book of Acts we read that Baptism followed conversion, and those that were baptized did so in response to the preaching of the Gospel. There is no clear evidence of infants being baptized. Although mention is made of people’s households being baptized (Acts 16:15) it is clear from the Book of Acts that these did not include infants—only converts.

What is the significance of Baptism?

Under Levitical Law baptisms were a familiar practice. These were called Mikvahs and were for the purpose of ritual cleansing. Every month after menstruation, or several weeks after giving birth, women had to go through ritual cleansing in a Mikvah. Both men and women were to go through cleansing in a mikvah as part of what is called “Taharat Hamishpachah” (Family Purity). Modern Mikvahs resemble small swimming pools and the proper method of purification is via complete immersion in the pool. Part of the cleansing is for Teshuvah (repentance). This was what John the Baptist was doing in the River Jordan. He preached repentance and used the River Jordan as his Mikvah:

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. (Acts 19:4)

There is a difference between the Baptism of John and that of the believer:

And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. (Acts 19:3)

As we can see after this the people were baptized in name of the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul explains the significance of the believer’s baptism:

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. (Romans 6:3-4)

Paul likens baptism to a burial. Paul was speaking of how, as believers, we should no longer continue to live lives of sin. Baptism, thus, signified the death and burial of our old life. Just as Christ died and was buried, we are also buried with Him through baptism; and just as Christ rose from the dead and came out of the tomb, we also, in a similar way, come out of the water to live a new life.

When was baptism administered?

We read in the Book of Acts that people were always baptized on the day of conversion. The only reason for any form of delay was that there was no water. As we can read from the exchange between Phillip and the Eunuch:

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)

From Peter’s preaching we see that Baptism was the first step of obedience to Christ’s commands, the first act of a believer:

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.
(Acts 2:38)

There was not one person, who came to faith in Christ that did not first submit to Water Baptism. There are people who have not been baptised when they became believers, they believe that it isn’t necessary, yet we see from scripture that Christ commanded His disciples to baptize and the Apostles commanded the people to BE baptized.

Is Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost or is Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ only?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28: 19)

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5)

Christ instructs His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and people were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ alone. Why is this?

Some teach that the Godhead consists of one—Jesus Christ– and that the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost is Jesus. This doctrine is known as Sabellianism after the person who was the main teacher of this doctrine. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are seen as different aspects of the one God or different modes of the one God. This doctrine is also known as Modalism. For this reason, it is argued that, baptism should only be done in the name of Jesus Christ only and not in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Others hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, that the Godhead consists of the Father, the Son AND the Holy Ghost. These three are distinct personalities yet together they constitute ONE God. So for this reason it is argued that baptism should be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

So how should baptism be done?

Well, this author believes in the triune nature of the Godhead. Throughout the New Testament we see the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as being distinct persons yet all three are declared to be God. But this still does not answer the question as to why Jesus instructed His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and yet when people were baptized it was in the name of Jesus Christ alone.

The most common manner of baptism is for the baptiser to pronounce the words, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and the Son, etc.” Or, in the case of the Jesus only party, “I baptize thee in the name of Jesus Christ.” But is this what Christ meant? Was He stating what words to pronounce as a person is baptized? Or was He teaching something different altogether?

When we pray we are told to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, when we preach we are to preach in the name of Jesus Christ, whatever we do it is to be done in the name of Jesus Christ. This is more than words to be tagged on to the end of a prayer, more than words to be tagged on at the beginning when people receive the laying on of hands. “In the name of” refers to in whose authority we speak or act. We baptise in the authority of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, or the authority of Jesus Christ because Christ has granted us the authority to make disciples and baptize them.

It is interesting that we do not read in the New Testament what form of words were used when people were baptized into Christ.

Is baptism essential to salvation?

Mark records:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

Many people quote this verse in support of the idea that baptism is essential for salvation.

Peter also states:

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: (1 Peter 3:21)

Jesus also said:

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
(John 3:5)

Are Mark, Peter and Jesus saying that baptism is essential to salvation and that unless a person is baptized they will not be saved?

If we read what Mark wrote correctly we see that what he is saying is that in order to be baptized a person must be a believer. If a person believes and is baptized they will be saved, but if they don’t believe (even though they are baptized) they will be damned. Mark is simply addressing the issue of what is called “Baptismal Regeneration, the idea that it is by baptism that we are saved!

Peter declares that it is “not the putting off of the filth of the flesh”, in other words not the physical waters of baptism. As I explained before, Baptism represented a ritual cleansing in the mind of the Jews. What now saves is faith. To be baptized is an act of faith in obeying what Christ taught or, as Peter puts it, “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Baptism is, then, the means by which we show our initial commitment to Christ.

Jesus explains what He means by being born of water and of the spirit in the next verse:

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:6)

To be born of water is not water baptism, it is to be born of the flesh.

Conclusion

Even though baptism of itself does not save a person it is commanded. It is the first step of obedience to Christ. How can we not obey? How can we say to the one who commanded us to be baptized, “Oh I don’t need to be baptized!”?

What does it say about a person who claims to be a believer yet is disobedient to this most basic of Christ’s commands?

Rites cannot change the heart by William Maclardie Bunting (1805-1866)

Rites cannot change the heart,
Undo the evil done,
Or with the uttered name impart
The nature of Thy Son.

To meet our desperate want,
There gushed a crimson flood;
O from His heart’s o’erflowing font
Baptize this soul with blood!

Be grace from Christ our Lord,
And love from God supreme,
By the communing Spirit poured
In a perpetual stream!

Advertisements

Feedback - Message

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s