THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISM
The Bible commands us to faithfully observe only two sacraments until the time of Jesus’ return: the communion of the Lord’s supper and the water baptism of believers.
This week I’d like to cover the doctrine of baptism.
But I’d like to begin with a story from early American history.
The year is 1638.
A man named John Clarke organizes one of the very first Baptist churches in early America.
One of his church members has fallen sick and John Clark, along with a visiting preacher named John Crandall, and a church member by the name of Obediah Holmes visit the sick family.
While they hold a prayer service for the sick, officers of the colony arrest them. They are hauled off into a state-sanctioned church building, while services are being held.
Later, they are imprisoned and tried for “not taking off their hats in a religious service”.
Governor John Endicott, the first governor of the Massuchusets Bay Colony was present during the trial.
It is recorded that during the proceedings the governor yellowed in a rage to John Clarke: “You have denied infants baptism. You deserve death!”
The three were found guilty & Clarke & his friends had the option of paying a steep fine or receiving lashes.
Friends came to the rescue and offered to pay their fine.
But John Clark refused & asked for the lashes instead, standing firm on the belief that he had done no wrong.
John Clarke was whipped until the blood ran down his body and his shoes overflowed with his own blood.
His body was so badly gashed that he couldn’t lie down for two weeks, but had to sleep on his hands, elbows or knees so that his marred body would not touch his bed.
This was not in England. This was not the Dark Ages. This was the Massachusetts Bay Colony in early America. And all this over infant baptism.
In another nearby colony where Presbyterianism was the established civil religion, another Baptist church was started by settlers in the colony.
While the Baptists were by far the majority of settlers (there were only 5 non-Baptist families in the entire settlement), the civil government decided to build a Presbyterian church and fund its building by taxing the Baptist settlement.
The Baptists made this plea to their government:
“We have just started our settlement. Our little cabins have just been built, and little gardens and patches just been opened. Our fields are not cleared. We have just been taxed to the limit to build a fort for protection against the Indians. We cannot possibly pay another tax now.”
Yet the tax was levied.
And since they could not possibly pay it at that time, an auction was called! Their cabins and gardens and properties were all sold.
& they received only 10 cents to the dollar & the settlement was destroyed.
So here’s a summary of what I’d like to cover today.
(1) What is the purpose of water baptism and what does it represent?
(2) According to the Bible, who has the authority to baptize another believer?
(3) I’d like to also look at some of the false teachings about baptism, including: infant baptism, baptismal regeneration (the concept that baptism is a necessary component of salvation), & sprinkling v. full immersion.
The command to baptize is most clearly noted in Matthew 28:19, in ‘The Great Commission’.
Jesus gives us this command: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
In Jesus’ final words in the Gospel, we see that the commission to baptize is linked with the charge of evangelism: “Go ye therefore … “
& Besides baptism and the Lord’s communion, we are not commanded to follow any other sacraments, holydays, new moons, or festivals.
Colossians 2:16-17 states: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days] Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
And the first time baptism is mentioned in the Bible is associated with John the baptism, who was baptizing believing Jews in the Jordan river.
Matthew 3:5-6 says:
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
Notice they weren’t turning from sins but confessing their sins.
There’s a false teaching out there today that says you have to TURN FROM YOUR SINS to be saved.
But we are not repenting of sins (as in to turn from sins), we are admitting we are sinners in need of a Savior and turning to Jesus by faith alone.
• SO WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS OF BAPTISM?
1. The first step is that you have to be saved & have faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation comes before baptism, at the moment of belief.
Acts 2:38,41 states:
38 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.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
So we must:
(1) 1st repent. To repent is to understand your sinful condition & to turn from unbelief or any false system of religious belief & turn to God through Christ alone by faith alone.
(2) The Bible says we must receive the Word … then believe, & then be baptized. That’s the order & the progression.
(3) We first believe & we’re saved, and then we get baptized.
& while baptism is not a requirement for salvation, baptism is commanded by the Bible.
So believers should get baptized right away, after salvation.
There’s no reason to wait.
When you look at examples of Baptism from the Scriptures, there is almost never a gap between the moment of salvation & water baptism.
It was always happening very close together, but faith must always preceded baptism, otherwise you’re just getting wet and it has no meaning or purpose.
Let’s turn to Acts 8:36-38 as an example:
36 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?
37 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.
38 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.
So first, we see that a condition of salvation and baptism is believing with “all thine heart” that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And here is an example where the modern versions corrupt this key passage.
The NIV and other modern corruptions remove verse 37 completely.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”  [a] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
So after the Eunuch believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Philip baptizes him.
Notice, baptism comes after salvation.
Notice also that there was no waiting period.
Philip didn’t make an appointment with the Eunuch to come back to church and have his pastor baptize him or to go to the church’s foundations of the faith class.
The eunuch was baptized right away.
Notice also there wasn’t any discussion of what kinds of sins the eunuch was involved in.
It was simply a matter of genuine belief in the Lord Jesus, followed by water baptism.
Look also at Acts, chapter 22, the story of Paul’s baptism which also communicates the great sense of urgency around a believer’s baptism.
In Acts 22, a devout man, a disciple, named Ananias comes to Paul and says, “Brother Saul, receive thy sight” after he had been struck blind by the glory of Jesus on his Damascus Road conversion.
And Ananias says to Paul, starting in verse 15:
“For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou has seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Why tarriest thou? Says Ananias.
To tarry is to delay … Ananias tells him not to tarry, to arise & be baptized.
We shouldn’t wait between true salvation & baptism.
Baptism generally falls under two categories: pedobaptism which is “child baptism” and “credobaptism” or “believers baptism”.
Now, we practice “believers baptism” in this church.
This means that in order to be baptized, you have to be at an age where you are intellectually capable of understanding at least the basics of the Gospel.
There is absolutely no record of infant baptism in the Bible.
Now history is just history, and cannot be trusted as we would trust the Bible; Winston Churchill said: “History is written by the victors”, and with that in mind, we read history with a grain of salt. But history shows us that:
… the first written indication of infant baptism that we have comes from a so-called early church father named Irenaeus.
Sometime just before the year 200, Irenaeus writes of children and infants being “born again to God”. But even that reference is obscure because it doesn’t specifically mention water baptism.
Then we get to another so-called early church father, named Origen.
Now if you want to find the source of most of today’s heresies, the best place to start is usually with Origen.
Origin lived to approx. the year 254. And he specifically mentions infant baptism in three of his writings.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. If you trace back the history of the Catholic church, it really comes down to a man, an emperor of Rome, a man named Constantine.
In the year 312, Constantine claimed to have a vision in which he saw a fiery cross in the sky with the inscription: “By this symbol you will conquer”.
After his vision, he was able to unite both Christians and Roman pagan soldiers into fighting a war against the enemies of the Roman state.
In 312, Constantine allegedly converted to Christianity after his vision and called an ecumenical council of churches, where they began to co-operate and form together under his leadership.
Of course, the majority of churches joined him, but some independent churches and bishops refused – and maintained their autonomy.
Constantine combined his enormous political power with the churches who joined him and created a centralized church government or hierarchy, which he himself ruled.
Christ was dethroned as head of the church and a man was put in His place.
The hierarchy began to set down doctrines and a church government which would lay the groundwork for the eventual rise of the Roman Catholic church.
Ecumenical council after ecumenical council established false teachings such as baptismal regeneration, which in turn led to the need for infant baptism.
They reasoned that if baptism saves souls then infants should also be baptized as soon as possible, preferably around the 8th day, like in circumcision.
Through the centuries, other false doctrines were set through the ecumenical councils such as Mariolatry, the doctrine of purgatory, Saints and image worship, infant communion, and transubstantiation.
In AD 416, infant baptism became compulsory as a matter of Roman law and it was now illegal not to baptize your baby; and those who refused this edict, were severely punished and persecuted through the centuries.
Much martyr blood was spilled; some estimates claim as high as fifty million Christian were killed during the Dark Ages who refused the edicts of the Roman Catholic church.
Among the persecuted were groups of believers that the new state-sponsored Hierarchy called “Ana-Baptists”, meaning “re-baptizers”, because “AnaBaptists” did not recognize infant baptism and “re-baptized” believers as adults.
Eventually, the prefix “ana” was dropped in the 16th century and the believers became known simply as “Baptists”.
• Now, I’m not for denominationalism, and like I said, take this w/ a grain of salt, because it’s history, not Scripture, but that is the historical narrative of the Baptist church.
So to summarize:
The conditions of baptism include:
Knowing you’re a sinner and turning to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior for the forgiveness of your sins.
You cannot separate this essential condition from baptism.
In Acts 10:47-48, after a Roman gentile named Cornelius was saved, Peter said:
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
It is a prerequisite and there’s no point in being baptized until you understand that it’s the work of grace through Jesus Christ that saves, and not our own works.
There is nothing that we can add to or subtract from His finished work of redemption.
Jesus said: “It is finished” in John 19:30.
Water baptism is a picture of joining together with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
It is a picture of putting to death our old nature and our flesh & being born again by the Spirit unto the resurrection to follow …
… with Christ being the firstfruit of the resurrection.
That is why we don’t “sprinkle”, but do full body immersions in water. “Sprinkling” is not a picture of baptism!
Romans 6:3-6 is why we immerse believers & not sprinkle:
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
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.
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 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
So, now We Come to the Question of Who Can Baptize believers?
Who has the authority to do water baptisms? Is it the pastor and deacons only, committed disciples, or can any Spirit-filled Christian baptize a new believer?
Let’s first begin with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:
In this passage, Paul was thankful that he did not baptize that many people or that often, but left this task to his disciples, because factions within the body were occurring between those who had placed too much loyalty in Paul and those who had given their allegiance to Apollos.
And if he had been the main apostle to baptize, that would have put too much weight on who has the authority to baptize believers and given too much weight to the clergy, rather than to the Spirit of God and the body of believers.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17:
10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
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 Paul?
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.
Paul specifically lists the only people he ever baptized: Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanus. And that’s it!
Paul had not baptized many believers, but this task was left up to his disciples and other members of the church.
The leaders of the church dedicated their time to the more important task of preaching the Gospel.
So who has the authority to baptize?
The short answer is that any genuine born-again believer as a priest of the Most High has the authority to baptize a new believer into the body of Christ.
The best example of water baptism in the Bible, is a picture of the SOUL WINNER (the one preaching the Gospel) baptizing the believer, immediately upon salvation!
I know there are some who don’t like this simple answer, but it’s because they’re being overly religious and placing too much emphasis on the leadership of the church and on the bishops and deacons.
In Revelation 1:5-6, John the Apostle writing to the churches says:
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
If you are a king and a priest unto God and his Father, do you think you have the authority to do something as simple as water baptism?
You will find nowhere in Scripture that gives the specific qualifications of who can baptize!
There’s a reason for that!
1 Peter 2:5 & 9:
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
& the fact is we’re not baptized into the local church or into the leader of the church, but into the body of Christ:
1 Corinthians 12:13 states: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
Galatians 3:26-28 also says:
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus …
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.
Within the macrocosm of the One body of Christ, there is the microcosm of the local congregations operating under the authority of The Bible.
We’re not baptized into the local church.
That’s another mistake that some churches make.
We’re baptized into the body of Christ.
The moment we become believers, we become a part of His church.
I’d like to end with a few Scriptures that those who support baptismal regeneration use to prop up their false doctrine.
Let’s begin w/ Mark 16:16, because it is the #1 verse that people who believe in baptismal regeneration use, to support their claim that baptism saves.
Back up just 1 verse to verse Mark 16:15 for the context:
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
At first, it sounds like Mark 16:16 is saying that you have to believe and be baptized to be saved.
But if you read the rest, on the other side of the same sentence are the words: “but he that believeth not shall be damned”.
It does not say: “he who does not believe and is not baptized will be damned.” It just says, “but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
So Mark 16:16 is teaching that when you get saved, you’ll be baptized. And those who don’t believe will be damned.
You have to read both sides of the sentence and not stop halfway through.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, 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.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Look also at Colossians 2:12-15:
12 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.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 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;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Even Jesus was baptized by John, as an example to us.
How much more should we be baptized, if God Himself, who is without sin, saw fit to fulfill all righteousness by being baptized by water.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 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:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Jesus was perfectly obedient to God the Father and was baptized, setting forth the example for every believer today.
There are groups out there like, dispensationalists or hyper-dispensationalists, for example, who teach that water baptism has been done away with …
…. that that was only for the Jews or the early church, or that it was during the interim period between the establishing of the church.
They make these artificial divisions in the Scripture and divide it in error.
But Scripture is clear. We are to be water baptized the moment we believe, as quickly as possible, the moment you can find a believer to baptize you.