Memory Verse: Romans 6:3-6
Prayer: That all believers would have the faith to follow the Lord in scriptural Baptism.
Key Verses: Matt. 3:13-15; 1Peter 3:21; Acts 2:41; 8:12; 18:8.
Baptism is perhaps the most controversial subject in the Bible, relative to the church. For centuries it has been a theological battleground, and on it many noble soldiers of the cross have fought, bled and died. From the study of church history we can see that more martyr blood has been shed over baptism than over any other thing. It was in the second and third centuries after Christ, that irregular churches gradually changed:
1. “regeneration through Christ” to “baptismal regeneration,”
2. “believer’s baptism” to “infant baptism”.
As the false churches grew in power, through the state, they persecuted the true believers and followers of the Bible. Over 50,000,000 Christians died martyr deaths from that time on through the dark ages, mainly because of their rejection of these two errors alone.
Baptism is one of the two, and only two, Baptist church ordinances. The word “ordinance” comes from two Latin words which in their final meaning signify “that which is ordered or commanded (by Christ).” The erroneous view of the Romanists and others need to be refuted. They conceive that in some way the mere performance of this act itself brings a blessing or confers grace. In other words, they view baptism as a divinely appointed rite by which a permanent change is effected that can never be undone, even though the baptized individual might die in mortal sin. Thus baptism, which in Roman Catholicism is equated with regeneration, is not unlike a kind of potential security for the believer. Without this mystical change in the soul brought about by baptism, the destiny of the individual is dark and hopeless indeed. Baptism being essential to salvation has never been a Baptist doctrine. The exact opposite is true - Salvation is essential to baptism. The Greek church and the Baptists both practice immersion, but their doctrine of baptism is widely different from ours. Subject, Purpose, Authority all enter as much into the validity of this ordinance as the Mode (immersion in water) of the act itself. Our practice is distinctive from all other supposed churches. Baptists alone follow all the criteria laid down in the N.T. by our Lord, who is the Head of the church.
The true view of the ordinances seems to embrace a threefold significance:
1. They are symbolized Christian truths.
2. They are memorials unto Christ, observed in obedience to Him, expressive of love and devotion.
3. They are Christian rites, which designate those who properly observe them as Christ’s disciples.
Baptism is the immersion in water, by a proper administrator, of a believer in Christ, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in order to show obedience to Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:16; Gal. 3:27; Acts 8:36-38; Rom. 6:3-6). Baptism guards the door to the church. The right observance of this ordinance will separate the saved from the lost, the church from the world. The act of baptism implies that the one making the profession has, in that one’s own experience, died to the world in all its connections and has risen to walk in newness of life. From there on, his citizenship is in heaven, and his association in this world is with pilgrims and strangers who likewise are on the journey home.
Baptism is a New Testament ordinance that began with a man who had his credentials from on high, who was sent from God, whose name was John (Matt. 3:1-17). Was the man who baptized you immersed or sprinkled? John the Baptist baptized by immersion because he had his credentials from God. There is where it began. We get our authority from John through Christ. Why was he called John the Baptist? Because he was John the baptizer (John 1:28-31). Therefore Baptists baptize or immerse their converts in water. Faith and baptism go together. One is the outward symbol, the other an inward action (Acts 2:38-41, 8:35-39). So you have the preaching of Christ, the preaching of baptism, regeneration, and the immersion of the believers.
The four tenets, or aspects, of scriptural baptism are:
1. The proper Subject
2. The proper Purpose
3. The proper Authority
4. The proper Mode
The Subject - Personal saving faith is a prerequisite to baptism. There is no indication in the scripture that any person was ever baptized without saving faith in Christ (Acts 2:41, 8:37, 19:4). John preached repentance and demanded fruits meet for repentance of those he baptized. The symbolism of baptism demands faith upon the part of the subject (Rom. 6:2-7; Col. 2:12). It signifies our death to sin and resurrection to walk in newness of life. If the faith demanded as a prerequisite of baptism is saving faith, then only saved people are to be baptized (Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8-10; John 5:24). Infant baptism, therefore, is forbidden because there is no authority or ground for such in scripture. Those religious bodies that practice infant baptism have a very shaky ground on which to stand and actually keep many souls out of heaven (humanly speaking) because those baptized as infants find it difficult when they become adults to make any further commitment to God.
The Purpose, or design - It is for the purpose of manifesting salvation, showing forth the believer’s death to sin and his resurrection to righteousness. All scriptures show that salvation is not of works (Rom. 4:1-6, 11:6; Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:5). All passages that condition salvation on repentance and faith alone show that baptism has no saving efficacy (Jn. 3:16,18, 5:24; Lu. 13:3; Acts 16:31). There are some passages which some take as giving saving efficacy to baptism but when properly studied and understood mean otherwise (Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5; Eph. 5:25-26; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1Peter 3:20-21).
The Administrator - Does it make any difference who the administrator of baptism is? As we have already stated God had a divinely appointed administrator in the N.T. day. Our Lord walked over 60 miles to receive baptism at the hand of John the Baptist (Jn. 1:28-34). And our authority comes from the same place and person that Jesus used. To whom was Christ speaking when He uttered His last commission (Mat. 28:18-20)? He was addressing the apostles in official or corporate capacity and not as individuals. This was His body (church) that would continue until His return (Matt. 28:20). The church as the body of Christ, is also the pillar and ground of the truth (Tim. 3:15). Baptism then, can be administered only by those whom the church authorizes.
The Mode - Most of the lexicons giving the meaning of the Greek say that - “baptizo” means to dip, to immerse under water, etc. (Luke 11:38; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Our English word “baptize” is simply the Greek with the final “o” changed to an “e”. The word always requires immersion to fulfill its meaning, and scholars of every denomination admit this. Indeed, until about 1400 AD all baptisms except in rare cases were performed by immersion. The present practice of Greek Christians is still to immerse for baptism. Baptism and immersion are therefore identical. The Greek church maintains that the Latin church, instead of a “baptismos,” practice a mere “rantismos” (sprinkling), instead of baptism. The symbolism of baptism demands immersion (Rom. 5:4; Col. 2:12). A burial requires immersion. You do not lay a dead body on the ground and sprinkle a little dirt on their face and call that a burial. John was baptizing in Enon, “because there was much water there” (Jn. 3:23). As a physical burial is a palpable separation of the dead from the living, so baptism is a symbolic separation of those dead to sin from those living in sin. Lastly, Peter defines baptism as an outward picture of the inward work of regeneration and to be “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1Peter 3:21 ).