John, known as John the Baptist came, as Isaiah had foretold, to prepare the way of the Lord. He preached and practiced the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Our Lord, during His ministry, also baptized, though not Himself, but His disciples did so-see John 4:1-2.
Both of these, as we shall mention shortly, were meant to cease and did so. This pamphlet, deals with the truth of "Christian" baptism. In regard to this baptism, there are at least four schools of thought, as follows:
1. Those who believe and teach that the baptism of infants actually makes of each baby a child of God, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, and a member of the Church. We shall waste no time on that idea, for Scripture neither says nor intimates anything of that sort. It is a human invention.
2. Those who maintain that. baptism has no place at all in this day of, grace; that it was meant only for the early Messianic church.
3. Those who teach that one cannot be saved unless baptized, which makes baptism a necessary, integral part of salvation. - We believe this to be a most serious error.
4. Those who believe that baptism in water is the believer's confession of his faith in and identification with Christ. It is his public acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ, and a sign of his allegiance to Christ. He believes that baptism does not save him, any more than partaking of the Lord's supper saves. In fact, he sees in Scripture that he has no business to be baptized at all until he is saved. I belong to this group, and will prove this belief by the clear, infallible Word of God. We admit, of course, that there are difficulties; there are verses that may be used out of their context, and made to seem to teach salvation by baptism. For this reason we shall first look at the errors taught in regard to baptism, and end by showing what the Bible actually does teach.
A. First, those who say there is no water baptism at all for this age! The simple reply to that claim is that when our Lord instituted the ordinance of baptism after His death and resurrection, and just before His ascension to heaven, He spoke these words: "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 always, even unto the end of the age", (Matthew 28:19-20.) Since the Lord promised to be with them till the end, this proves that their baptizing was to be carried on to the end, as indeed it has.
These people argue that the Spirit's baptism superseded water baptism; but as we read the closing verses of Acts 10, we find the exact reverse to be the truth. In verses 44, 47-48 of that chapter we read: "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word . . and Peter said: "Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." These people had received the Holy Spirit, and thus were saved at that time, but they were still baptized with water.
The contention has also been made that all carnal ordinances were abolished at the Cross, including baptism. However, baptism was not instituted by our Lord till some weeks after His resurrection, as we see in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. This surely proves that baptism was not done away with at the Cross.
Much has been made also of the fact that Paul said he had not been sent to baptize, as the twelve had been as indicated in Matthew 28. Yet the peculiar thing is that Paul did baptize and that it was done, (as found in Acts 18:8) in regard to the Corinthians who were saved under his preaching. Of the twelve apostles who were sent to baptize, we do not read of them ever doing it (no doubt they did, but the Bible leaves it unsaid). Peter saw to it that it was done, as in Acts 2 and Acts 10, but of Paul alone do we read that he did it himself. So Paul both believed in and practiced water baptism.
Before we consider the serious error of making baptism a part of salvation, I believe it advisable first of all, to note the distinctions between the three water baptisms we have mentioned before. Consideration of these will show again and again that baptism has nothing to do with the salvation of a soul, but that baptism follows upon conversion. We know of course that many unbelievers make a sham profession of Christ, or no confession at all, and still are baptized. Baptism neither makes one a believer, nor proves necessarily that he is one. It is an outward act of confession which ought to be real, and it is with the reality that we shall concern ourselves.
John's baptism. This is NOT Christian baptism, and when used as proof for baptismal regeneration; as it so often is by the advocates of that error, it is taken out of its setting. It has nothing to do with Christian baptism. One needs but to read Acts 19:1-6. Paul found disciples at Ephesus who had been baptized with John's baptism. Paul told them that John had baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him that should come after him, that is on, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is a plain proof that Christian baptism is not the same as John's baptism. John's baptism was unto repentance; Christian baptism is upon faith. John's baptism was meant to lead to repentance; Christian baptism today flows from faith and is an outward expression of the faith already known and possessed.
Of the three water baptisms mentioned, two no longer exist. They were prior to the Cross, for that time only, and in relation to the Jewish people. John preached: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"-(Matthew 3:2). "And when the people came, they were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins"-(Matthew 3:56). It does not say they were forgiven, and there is a reason for this. That forgiveness waited for the day of Pentecost, when the apostle Peter preached to those same Jews the same message "repent" and, in addition, promised the gift of the Holy Ghost. Note the gradual progress of truth: John preached repentance only; Peter preached repentance and forgiveness; and after that, Paul, and even Peter. preached faith alone. There is no more the "repent and be baptized" message (such as Peter sounded out at Pentecost) found in the rest of the New Testament. Baptism is never again mentioned as connected with forgiveness. The Christian message is: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," and thin baptism follows properly and consistently for those who have been saved. Even in Acts 2, where Peter preached repentance and baptism to his hearers, it was only those who repented and accepted his message who were baptized. We read that: "they which gladly received his word were baptized'!-(Acts 2:41). That these were true believers is evident from the fact that in the very next verse we read (v. 42) that "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, in fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers."
The baptism which the Lord Jesus practiced (or rather which His disciples did) is the same as that of John the Baptist, Both preached the same message; "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"-(Matthew 3:2; 4:17.) One might ask why the Lord did not do the baptizing himself. I believe the answer is evident, and very similar to that given by Paul in I Cor. 1: 15 where he says: "lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name." Paul tells us he did not baptize much, because at Corinth they were already fomenting divisions and following human leaders. Thus Paul decided to avoid anything that would foster that attitude of the worship of man. He asks them: "Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" There was only one Name that counted with Paul, as it should with us. That is why baptism is in the name of Jesus, or it may be with the complete formula in Matthew 28:40 "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Baptism was not done in the name of the Lord Jesus until after His death and resurrection for the time for the exaltation of the Name had not yet arrived. He was on earth, there He took the place of the rejected One-. Men are so apt to magnify man. This is seen in the fact that when John baptized those who repented toward God those who were thus baptized were known as John's disciples. Now, in baptism, the Lord's name is to be owned, and He Himself worshipped and obeyed.
Now we come to Christian baptism. It was ordained by our Lord in that great passage in Matt. 28. Its first application took place on the day of Pentecost. This was a special occasion, never repeated since and, as we have said before, only in relation to the Jews. Pentecost was marked by the descent of the Holy Spirit to abide here upon earth, indwelling the saints. Peter, directed by the Holy Spirit, used the occasion to preach to the Jewish people who, by the providence of God, were gathered at Jerusalem out of every nation under heaven-(Acts 2:5). John the Baptist had urged the nation to repent, but largely in vain. Some, mostly the publicans and harlots, had come to his baptism-(Matt. 21:32); but the leaders and the nation as a whole had refused to now, and had eventually crucified Him. And now, once again, the nation is urged to repent and to show its repentance by baptism. But there is no general response, and Peter began to urge individuals to listen to God's voice and, as he puts it, "to save themselves from that untoward generation"-(Acts 2:40). Their baptism was a token of their repentance of the treatment they had meted out to their Messiah in crucifying Him, it was therefore unique for that moment. Some gladly received the Word and were baptized and then gathered together, forming the nucleus of the Church of God.
Thus this was all a very special occasion in Israel's history. It was, at the same time, the first occasion of baptism for those who were clearly saved. Peter tells them it was "in the name of Jesus" that they were to receive the remission of sins, and were to be baptized. We have already seen that these were true believers in Jesus, and on that basis were baptized. This is ever the case throughout Acts and in the Epistles: faith first, then baptism. Let us now take a look at this false theory which says that Salvation is by baptism. First we shall examine some passages often quoted to "prove?" that one cannot be saved, unless baptized.
1. Mark 16:16-"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned." Let me quote a statement made by one advocate of salvation by baptism: "If Christ did not mean in this verse that a man must believe and be baptized to be saved, then language has no meaning".
The simple answer to this statement is that it says nothing about "must" believe. The verse is not a command; it is a statement, a statement, of course, which is perfectly true, but it does not teach that salvation depends on baptism. I myself was saved by the grace of God, then was baptized; I believe, was baptized and am saved. This is what Mark 16:16 says and no more. But when one adds to this that if you are not baptized, you will be lost, he is adding to the word of God and, in so doing, is committing a deadly sin(Rev. 22:18). Nowhere does the Bible ever say that he that is not baptized shall be lost. But there are a number of verses which say that if a person does not believe he will be damned. See John 3:18, or John 8:24, or John 3:36. But not one verse can be found where it says that he who is not baptized shall be lost. All that Mark 16:16 teaches is first faith, then baptism, in the same manner as faith and works do in a Christian's experience, Baptism is to follow faith in Christ; -that's God's order. But scripture says absolutely nothing about having to be baptized in order to be saved. There are hundreds of verses teaching that you must believe to be saved, but not one that says you must be baptized.
2. John 3:5, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." To make water here mean baptism is to take the whole passage out of its context. Scripture interprets itself, and water, when linked with the Spirit of God, always means water in a spiritual sense, typical of the Word of God, which is so frequently spoken of as "water." This is clear in the next chapter of John where Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman about living water, springing up within as a well of living water. This evidently is not physical water, neither is it in chapter 3. Ephesians 5:25 shows the spiritual meaning of water, as here in John 3, when it says that the Lord cleanses His church with the washing of water by the Word. In fact, the careful student of Scripture knows that the apostle John never deals with the subject of baptism at all. John's gospel is the truly spiritual gospel. The subject of baptism with water is left with the synoptic gospels, (Matthew, Mark and Luke) because then baptism had chiefly to do with the Jews, but John's gospel is the Christian gospel.
3. Matt. 28:19: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." (By the way, this is the formula God has given us to use when baptizing converts.)
The contention has been made that, according to this verse, disciples were made by means of baptism. These people say it says they were to teach (the Greek word literally says "to make disciples of") all nations. They affirm that this is done, as the next phrase is supposed to say, "by baptizing them." Here again, we have the serious error of adding to the word of God. It does not say, nor does it mean, that disciples are made by baptism. Let us prove that they are ma e by the preaching of the gospel, not by baptism. Acts 18:27 says the disciples were exhorted to receive Apollos who, when he was come, helped them much who had believed through grace. it does not say these had become disciples by baptism, but by faith,,through the grace of God. Acts 14:21 reads: When Paul and Barnabas had preached the gospel to that city and had taught many"- (this verb teach is exactly the same verbs in Matt. 28:19, and means "had made disciples"). Thus these men were made disciples, not by baptism, but by hearing the gospel preached. The next verse, Acts 14:22, shows these disciples were true believers, for they were exhorted to continue in the faith. These Scriptures clearly indicate that it was faith in the gospel message that made these disciples, and not baptism.
The form of construction in Matt. 28 where it says "teach" or "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them," does not mean this is done by baptism. The same participle form is found repeatedly in the New Testament, and does not suggest that it explains how a thing is being done. For instance, take I Cor. 10:27: "eat, asking no question for conscience's sake." How foolish it would be if this were interpreted: "Eat, by asking no questions." Or Eph. 5:18-21: Filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves, etc." One is not filled by speaking (one is emptied by speaking),but one speaks because he is filled, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Do not allow anyone to tell you that Matt. 28:19 teaches that converts are made by baptism; the assertion is false.
4. Acts 22:16: "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." Much has been made of this verse as if it taught that baptism is essential to salvation.
One could well ask the proponents of this error a few questions:
Since when does water wash away sins?
Why should Paul have to have his sins washed away, since three days before he had already acknowledged Jesus as his Lord-(Acts 9:6), and Romans 10:9 says that when with your mouth you confess Jesus as Lord you are saved) Saul had been saved three days, and yet, according to water baptism salvationists, he was still a sinner, if this salvation depended on baptism! The simple truth of the matter, of course, is that Saul's sins in God's sight had been put away already. And it is blood, and not water, that does that, for we read "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin"-(I John 1:7). And, by the way, since the blood cleanses all sin, please tell me where there are any sins left for water to wash away!
It is of course in the sight of men that Saul was to wash his sins away. In his case there was a special reason, the very same that existed at Pentecost. The people there were told to "save themselves from that untoward generation!-to show they had no part or lot in the hatred, rejection and murder of Christ. The same is true here with Saul. He had been an outstanding hater and persecutor of Christ, and he is now told to show the reality of his repentance in baptism, and thus to wash away his sins before men. We do the same in our baptism, though Saul was a special case that needed very special treatment. That expression, "wash away thy sins", was unique with this zealous Jew, and is never found again. But the fact remains, as Heb. 10:22 shows, that a believer comes to God with his heart sprinkled and his body washed with pure water. The heart is on the inside, where man cannot see (God can, for He looks on the heart). People cannot see that a person's heart is right with God and has been cleansed by the sprinkled blood. But they can and should see his body is clean by pure water. In baptism the believer shows that his heart within is right with God, and that henceforth the outside shall be pure and clean, too. The blood and the water in their spiritual force cleanse away the guilt and the defilement of sin; baptism with water simply lets men see that this is true of the Christian. No one can wash his sins away in relation to God; it is God alone who saves. "Salvation is of the Lord."
5. Gal. 3:26-27: "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." Here again salvation has nothing to do with baptism. Because it says, "ye have been baptized into Christ", it is contended one is saved by baptism, for "if any man be in Christ he is a new creature" (or creation), (II Cor. 5:17). It is true that we are created in Christ Jesus-(Eph. 2: 10); but it is Christ who is the Creator, not man. When He made the original physical creation He did it all alone; and when He creates a man a new creature (a Christian) He does that all alone too. (II Cor. 5:17) Eph. 2:10 speaks of one put in Christ by God-it is His work, while Gal. 3:27 speaks of the believer putting himself in Christ-it is man's work. These two are not speaking of the same thing at all. The believer who is baptized puts on Christ. This can have nothing to do with salvation, for the verse before plainly states that we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, not by baptism. The believer, in the act of baptism, puts on Christ, and a thing that is put on is on the outside. Again, we have the same thought as we did in Acts 22:16. In water baptism, people can see the claim to be a Christian. Only God can see to be true on the inside. Christ is in us by faith; He is on by baptism.
There are three ways in which "being in Christ" is presented in the Bible. 1. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ -(Eph. 1:3). It is God who does this when a soul believes in Jesus. 2. But while the believer may know he is in Christ, others can only see this first of all in his baptism, for then, as Gal. 3:27 states, he puts on Christ. This is something like putting on a uniform. When I look at an audience to which I am speaking, I can't tell what each man does for a living; but should one wear a Soldier's uniform and another that of a mail carrier, etc., I would know then his occupation. So, when someone takes his place in baptism, people can see he is a Christian, (at least that he professes to be one). 3. There is a third sense of a person being put in Christ, and we read of this in Rom. 13:14. Here the Spirit of God, speaks to those who had been believers for years, yet tells them to put on the Lord Jesus Christ." These Romans had already been saved by faith-(Ch. 5:1 ). They had already been baptized-(Rom. 6:3). Thus their putting on Christ can have nothing to do with salvation, nor with baptism. It simply means to let Christ be seen in the life we live, so that people can know we are real Christians. Neither Gal. 3:27, nor Rom. 13:14 have anything to do with salvation, for men do this; God creates us anew and puts us into Christ for salvation. Baptism has nothing to do with it, as we have seen. Having Christ within by new birth, we put him on initially in baptism, and keep on putting Him on during the rest of our lives practically as we seek to live Christ. In other words, we put on the uniform in baptism; needless to say, a soldier does not become a soldier by putting on his uniform, but he puts on his uniform because he is a soldier. Even so, one is not baptized in order to become a Christian, but he is baptized because he is a Christian.
6. 1 Pet. 3:20-21 "The long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water, the like figure whereunto 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." This passage is a favorite with the Mormons, though one wonders why. To make sure that no one would get the idea of baptismal regeneration out of this, the Spirit is careful to say that this water baptism had nothing to do with the putting away of sin's defilement (the filth of the flesh). Alas, some folks are slow to learn I'll never forget many years ago seeing a couple of young fellows in one of my services. At the close of the meeting they reminded me that salvation was impossible without baptism and triumphantly turned me to this passage. "You see," they said, "these people were saved by water, and that's what baptism does for us now, as it states here." So I asked them if they would please tell me who were saved in Noah's day, the baptized or the unbaptized? It was really amusing to see their faces. All the baptized ones in that day were drowned and lost, and I am afraid millions more today who have been baptized but have never come to Christ for pardon will be eternally lost, in spite of (yea alas, often because of) their water baptism.
What does this verse mean? Just what it says. It does not say that baptism saves; it does say it was a like figure of salvation, as was Noah's being in the ark. Not a drop of water touched Noah or his family: 'hey were saved by being in the ark. All the violence of the stormy waves poured over the ark, as did those waves and billows over our blessed Lord when He hung upon the Cross. Both Noah's ark and baptism are simply figures of Christ's death and resurrection.
No, baptism does not save, nor does it have any part whatsoever in the salvation of a soul. Neither in the book of Acts after chapter 2, which was a special occasion, as we have shown, is baptism ever mentioned in the preaching of the gospel. It was practiced of course, for believers should be baptized. If it had been a part of salvation, it would have had to be preached too; to have left it out would have been criminal, for it would have left the hearers unsaved. But it is never preached as a part of the gospel.
If baptism were necessary to Salvation, then Paul never could have said, as he does in I Cor. 1: 14; that he thanked God "he had baptized none but Crispus and Gaius." If baptism was needed before one can be saved, then Paul would have thanked God that he had baptized many, instead of thanking Him for just a few.
And now, briefly, for we have covered a good deal of ground regarding the true place of baptism already, let us look at the subject of baptism as Scripture presents it. We shall ask a few questions to pinpoint the subject:
How many baptisms are there? Answer: Just one. Eph. 4:5 cannot refer to the baptism of the Spirit, for that did not exist any more when Paul penned those words. According to Acts 1:5, the baptism of the Spirit was to take place on the day of Pentecost (a few days hence, Jesus said). It did, and on that day the Holy Spirit came down and baptized the believers, mostly Jews, into one body, the Church. A similar, smaller scale event took place in Cornelius' home-(See Acts 11:16) -bringing the Gentiles into the Church, for I Cor. 12:13 declares that by "one Spirit are we all (Jew and Gentile) baptized into one body." There is never any mention of the baptism of the Spirit afterwards. So there is one baptism now the baptism in water of those who are saved, or profess to be, for only God knows the heart. (John's baptism ended long ago, so also Christ's baptism while He was on earth, as also that of Pentecost as related to the Jews) inasmuch as infant baptism is unknown in Scripture, this leaves just one baptism, the baptism of believers in Jesus, or Christian baptism. There is a lot of confusion and perversion on this matter,. but there is still only one baptism, even as there is but one Church, though men have split it into hundreds of fragments, as denominationalism can testify.
What does the word "baptism" mean? It is an untranslated Greek word meaning to "dip" or "immerse." It is translated "dip" in John 13:26 where Jesus dipped the sop or in Rev. 19:13 where our Lord is seen with a vesture dipped in blood. That is why the Spirit of God, in Romans 6, so well employs the figure of burial as a picture of baptism. It cannot be the baptism of the Spirit in Romans 6, as some take it, because it says we are buried with Christ by baptism into death, and the Spirit of God is not mentioned in connection with leading to death. The Spirit is mentioned in connection with the resurrection of Christ; He was quickened by the Spirit, (I Peter 3:18). We are said to be buried in baptism with Christ. We bury a dead person, but the Spirit is the "spirit of life." The new life is connected with resurrection; our burial is connected with death.
What does water baptism signify?
1. It is a testimony, in symbol, to the facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and our identification with Him in these. In baptism the believer says, as it were, ,Since Christ died for me, I die with Him now. Rom. 6 and Col. 2:12 speak of this burial with Christ in baptism. Both these letters are addressed directly to believers, proving that believers are subjects for baptism and no others.
2. In baptism the believer owns Christ as his Lord outwardly, as he did by faith when with his mouth he confessed Jesus as Lord and was saved (Rom. 10:9). I Cor. 12:2 illustrates this fact by saying that the children of Israel were not only baptized, but also baptized unto Moses. In baptism they acknowledged and followed Moses as their leader, as by Christian baptism we acknowledge and follow Christ as our Leader and Lord.
3. Baptism also signifies the eternal security of the believer for, by symbolic passing through death and burial into resurrection, he expresses the fact that he has already passed through death into life, as in John 5:24. Baptism does not do this, but it pictures the truth of it.
4. Baptism is the seal of the believer's faith in Christ. This is illustrated in Rom. 4:11 where it is said of Abraham that he received the sign of circumcision, a seat of the righteousness of the faith he had, being yet uncircumcised. We are definitely told that Abraham was a believer already, and that circumcision did not save him, but was only a sign of the reality of his faith. Baptism is similar to circumcision in its spiritual significance, for it means the cutting off of self. The same is true of baptism, which also tells the story that self is done away with, for our old man (what we once were) is crucified with Christ and therefore buried, in symbol, in baptism. In Col. 2-11 circumcision is spoken of as typifying the death of Christ, and verse 12 states that this is seen in the baptism of the believer, who is thus buried with Christ in baptism, henceforth to walk in newness of life.
5. Who are the subjects of water baptism? Believers only, as we have seen again and again in these pages. There is not a hint in the New Testament of sinners being baptized in order to be saved, but baptism always refers to those who already had believed, and who thus expressed their faith by means of their baptisms.
The command to baptize was given by the Lord to His servants. Those who preach Christ should see to it that converts are baptized. There is no evidence in the Bible that any of the twelve did so personally. We know that Peter, for instance, saw to it that it was done, as shown in Acts 2:41 and Acts 10:48. Each saved soul should, of course, be glad to submit to baptism, thus identifying himself or herself with his Lord.
Having been baptized, the believer should thereafter seek to walk in newness of life. He has buried the past, as it were. Neither faith in Christ, nor baptism, however, eradicates his old nature. The believer is still capable of sinning, but he should remember his baptism and never forget it was then that he said good-bye to sin and to self and determined by the grace of God, he would henceforth live for and unto Him. How often in times of severe temptation has the thought that I was baptized into Christ kept me from sin and failure! This is the great and important value of baptism to the believer in Jesus.
When a young girl came up from the water after her baptism, she asked the gentle old servant of Christ, "Will I ever sin any more now?" to which he replied, "My dear young sister, I should have kept you under the water five minutes longer to make sure of that."
Baptism is only for once, while the Lord's supper should be celebrated every first day of the week(Acts 20:17). The Lord's supper is a reminder that Christ died for us, baptism that we died with Him. What Christ did for us is so much more important that we do well to recall this each week. What I did for His glory in baptism needs only to be done once.
It is a precious privilege, as well as a solemn responsibility, to show that the fearful baptism of judgment that the Savior bore for us in those awful hours on the Cross demands our momentary burial in the water of baptism, henceforth to honor Him in all our ways.
August Van Ryn