Fundamentals of Baptism
People are often baptized for various reasons. Some because the very real threat of a serious sickness. Others because of expectation to die soon. And there are many traditions of men associated with baptism in our world today. As a result, there is much confusion regarding this biblical command. So, we are left with no trustworthy help outside the word of God. But we can turn to scripture and learn God’s standard for baptism.
I think it will be beneficial for us to establish an understanding of what the Bible says regarding baptism. The Great Commission as it is recorded in the records of Matthew 28:18-20 & Mark 16:15-16 and it specify the necessity of baptism. In his sermon on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 the Apostle Peter forever tied baptism to the concept of the remission or forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:38 was Peter’s inspired response to the inquiry of people who had had their conscience pricked because they murdered the Son of God.
Peter did not tell them to simply believe, he did not tell them to pray, he told them to repent and to be baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.
There are at least five different baptisms spoken of in the NT. ONLY ONE IS COMMANDED TODAY.
• John’s baptism – was commanded – Luke 7:29-30, the authority for this baptism ended at the cross Acts 19:3-5.
• Baptism of Suffering – Happened and happens by suffering/experience.
• Baptism of the Holy Spirit – promised never commanded - Acts 1:4-5 this was limited to the Apostles time.
• Baptism of fire – This is an immersion in fire as punishment for unrepented evil deeds it is performed by Jesus Christ on wicked unrepentant men, and it is everlasting – Matthew 25:45-46,
• Baptism of the Great Commission – Commanded and effective today – Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38, it accomplishes the forgiveness of sins- Acts 2:38. This baptism is the one that saves us 1 Peter 3:21, it is administered by the disciples of Jesus - Matthew 28:19, it is for penitent believers Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, In water Acts 8:36-39, by immersion Romans 6:3-6, and is effective until the end of this age – Matthew 28:19-20.
The BAPTISM OF THE GREAT COMMISSION is the one we are concerned with today. Because it is the only one commanded. AND it is the only one which has the remission of sins attached to it. It is the one spoken of most often in the New Testament. If we are or want to be faithful servants of the KING we want to understand it the best, and obey it completely.
This baptism relates to becoming a part of God’s Kingdom.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
In these two verses Jesus connects baptism with discipleship, and salvation. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus clearly establishes the terms for entrance into the Kingdom of God.
The apostle Peter forever tied baptism to the concept of the remission, or forgiveness of sins on the day of Pentecost. His gospel preaching on that day was centered on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The message did then what it does now and pricked the hearts of his audience. The hearers that day asked what they were to do, and Peter (who was filled with the Holy Spirit) issued an imperative two-fold command;
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Our culture has a way of redefining things we don’t like. We have done that too often and almost always to our detriment.
Christianity has redefined modesty, church organization, congregational leadership, faith, sin, salvation, until these terms are barely recognizable in Bible patterns. Let’s examine these words and ideas and return to the old paths wherein is the good way (Jeremiah 6:16). Baptism has suffered just as much as the other terms.
We should shun man’s doctrines and man’s ideas and hold fast to the Word of God. So, what then is Baptism? In mode: is it pouring, sprinkling, partial immersion, or full immersion? Is it one sprinkle or immersion for each member of the Godhead? If it is immersion only, is it to be done forward or backward, or maybe even strait down?
We want to know and apply what is recorded in scripture.
1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Baptism is an antitype – for this to be so there must be a type. The type or the foreshadow of baptism that Peter has in mind here is the flood of Noah’s day.
1 Peter 3:20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
Eight people were saved by water at that time. This same type saves us now. The meaning here is, that baptism corresponds or resembles the water by which Noah was saved from the flood.
Taken more pointedly, the use of water in one case is like the use of water in the other case. Not all aspects need to apply equally for the type to be true. The amount of water or the way the water was applied do not have to be equal. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience. This coincides with the purpose for which baptism was commanded.
The Remission of sins - Acts 2:38
To have sins washed away - Acts 22:16
IN THE NT PEOPLE WHO REALIZED THEIR SINFUL CONDITION WERE ANXIOUS TO BE BAPTIZED.
What did this baptism look like? Was a priest dressed in fine silk robes and neck encircled with gold and emerald clothes and chains sprinkling water on them? The obvious answer is NO! It seems that John the Baptists physical descriptions are recorded for a reason. At least one to show that this is a common man’s action.
Matthew 3:4-6 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. (5) Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, (6) and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
No priest praying here, no choirs singing here, a plain man clothed in simple clothing, preaching a clear message, and baptizing people in water.
Reading a little further we get a glimpse of the action of baptism.
Mat 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
After John preached his clear message and then had a discussion with Jesus, John baptized Jesus. The verbiage here indicates that Jesus and John were both in the water.
Word-for Word versions of the New Testament nearly always translate the word “baptizo” as “immerse”. Consider the Modern Literal Version. Here is their explanation:
“Immerse or dipping is a translation of the Greek verb “baptizo” and its variations, which all mean to submerge completely. Baptize is a transliterated word which has been retained by most translations. … The Greek word was common the Greeks and was used to describe a bath, washing dishes, ceremonial washing, and Christian baptism. The word never meant shower. There is a Greek word for sprinkling, and it is also used in the NT.” (MLT, pg 11,)
But “baptizo” is not the word for baptism, nor is it associated with baptism. The Greek Baptismal Terminology defines “baptizo” as “dip, plunge, immerse,” and says by the time of Plato it was often used figuratively as in soaking a sponge. It was used in the NT in reference to the baptism of John, or Christian Baptism.
No evidence can be found that baptism/immersion in the NT was anything less than full immersion in water. But today people are baptized in many ways reasons that are very different from biblical instruction. Sprinkling or pouring rather than immersion, as a symbol rather than an act of faith. Out of self-interest or preservation rather than an act of repentance toward a new life of loyalty to King Jesus.
So, the question arises when should one be “rebaptized”? See Acts 19:1
The baptism given by John the Baptist was temporary it served to prepare the people for Christ. Paul found some disciples in Ephesus who had not been baptized properly.
Mode – in water, the direction, the immerser and the clothes are irrelevant. The fact that Paul “laid hands on them” does not serve as an authoritative example, for we do not see that happening elsewhere immediately after baptism in the NT. The “one baptism” of Ephesians 4 is in water. Not with water.
As we pointed out earlier there is a Greek word for sprinkling, and it is not baptizo. It is according to Strong’s Concordance, “rhaino”, and its derivatives are used in Hebrews 9, 12, and 1 Peter 1. Here it refers to the act of aspersion and is pictured in the act of Moses sprinkling blood on the assembly, the sanctuary, and the furnishings of the Tabernacle. With this reference in 1 Peter and in Hebrews the New Testament writers point the Jews to Jesus, as the sacrificial lamb, whose blood takes away sin.
Sprinkling is not, and never has been a replacement for immersion. But men look for exceptions to the rule. They say, what about the individual who is too sick to get out of bed and make his way to the baptismal pool? Men point to freezing temperatures and to especially dry (like a desert) places where water is difficult to obtain. There is no exception in the scripture. Baptism cannot be anything less than full immersion, any other mode is simply getting wet. If one will study the many examples of baptism in the New Testament, he/she can arrive at the proper understand of what the baptism of the great commission is and apply that understanding to their own. Then act accordingly.
When one examines his baptism, these are important considerations. Was it in water? Was it immersion? Was in by the authority of King Jesus? Many people today still get hung up on this final concept, was it for the remission of sins?
Let us examine scripture. The Word of God is our final authority today. So, it is necessary to know and understand what it says.
Acts chapter two records the birth of the church. The Apostle Peter preached the first ever gospel sermon in the LORD’s church. And the good news of Jesus Christ did then what it does now, it pricked the hearts of the people who heard it.
Upon their conviction they interrupted Peter’s sermon and cried out “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They understood their guilt. They knew they were a guilty distance from God and wanted to right their wrong. They also knew there was something to do.
We need to understand God is just, He will not require something that is impossible to do. He will not require more of me than of you, than of a person in the jungles of Africa. Therefore, when He requires baptism/immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, one’s sins are not remitted until he or she has been immersed.
So, when should a person be baptized? Believe it or not, there are those who are not eligible for baptism. These would of course include infants, or children too small to understand what they are doing. Remember, Baptism is the answer of a good conscience to God (1Peter 3:21).
The mere motions are meaningless. Baptism is not the answer of a good conscience toward Mom and Dad. Or our friends, or spouse (or hope to be spouse). Or even to a powerful message. One must be fully convinced of His/her sin. And of the fact that Jesus is the son of God.