Published On: Fri, Sep 30th, 2016

Article: Believer’s Baptism

believers-baptismBELIEVER’S BAPTISM

[ written by Dr K.C. Johnson ] [ PDF Link (to share with others)]

The English word “baptism” is derived from the Greek words baptizo or baptisma. The verb baptizo means to dip or to immerse. Believer’s baptism is one of the important basic biblical doctrines that created much controversy and confusion in Christendom. The reason being that there is a great deal of emotion filled and traditional values attached to it. Therefore, let us examine what is the biblical teaching on Believers’ baptism.

A. Baptism Is an Ordinance and not a ‘Sacrament’

     Baptism is one of the ordinances given to the church of God. Most Christians think that the word ‘sacrament’ is a synonym for the word ‘ordinance.’ It is not. An ordinance is a visual rite commanded in the Bible and to be practised by all the members of the assembly. It is symbolic in nature. It sets forth a significant and precious historical event of great significance. The word sacrament means “means of grace.” The concept of the sacrament itself is not Biblical. It is contrary to the biblical teaching on grace. God’s grace is the manifestation of the love of God in which God gives us what we do not really deserve. It is the unmerited favour from God. The outcome of one’s labour or activities can be the wages or reward and cannot be called ‘grace’. An ordinance, therefore, differs from a sacrament in that it is performed not to obtain grace, but because the one observing it has already obtained that grace freely from God.

If we want to consider one rite an ordinance, there should be three criteria:

1. Exhortation of Jesus Christ
2. Examples of the early church
3. Explanations of the biblical writers.

If we apply these criteria, there are only two ordinances for the local church to keep, namely baptism and Lord’s Supper.

B. Baptism Was Exhorted by Jesus Christ

    Baptism is the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the ascension of Christ, He had given Great Commission to the Apostles: “. . . All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-20; also read Mark.16:15-16). Bible makes it clear that it is a command from the Lord who has received all authority in heaven and on earth.

C. Baptism Was Exemplified by the Early Church

    Apostles and other believers had obeyed the Great Commission given by the Lord. They went out to the world with the gospel. Whenever people believed in the Lord, they obeyed Him in the waters of baptism. The history of early Christianity recorded in the Acts of the Apostles clearly affirms this fact. Following examples will make this very clear:

  1. “They then that received his word were baptised; and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
  2. “But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings ……….they were baptised,both men and women” (Acts. 8:12).
  3. “……they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptised? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. …..and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptised him” ( Acts:36-38).
  4. “Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptised, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts.10:47-48).
  5. “And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptised” (Acts.18:8).

    After the origin of the church on the day of Pentecost, all those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ were baptised. All the above verses clearly say, those who believed were baptised. Hence it is called Believer’s Baptism.

D. Baptism Was Explained in the Epistles

    Doctrinal explanations regarding the believer’s baptism are given by the apostles in the epistles. Baptism is symbolic of our death, burial and resurrection with Christ (Rom. 6:1-6).

    When a person is saved, he is baptised or placed into Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:3) in the sense that he is identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. The baptism into Christ means that in the reckoning of God, the believer has died and buried with Christ and had risen with Him. When Paul speaks of baptism in Romans 6, he is thinking both of our spiritual identification with Christ and of its portrayal in water baptism.

E. Who Should Be Baptised?

     There is no scriptural basis for infant baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is very clearly taught as something to be administered only to believers (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:16-18; Acts 8:26-39). There is no scriptural basis for even adult baptism. Age is not the criterion for baptism. The basis for baptism is the faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only water baptism that the New Testament sanctions for a present day believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is believer’s baptism. This fact is very clear in Acts. 18:8 “. . . and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptised.”

     It is important to include baptism in our preaching just as Philip did when he preached to the eunuch (Acts 8) and Peter did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38).

F. When should a Believer Be Baptised?

     Acts of the Apostles makes it clear that baptism should take place immediately after a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many churches advocate a period of time for series of Bible classes on baptism. Few other churches want to see some evidence of genuine faith in the believer’s life. But this is not taught in the Bible. A baptism service that was conducted very very late was the baptism of Apostle Paul. It was given to him after a long period of 3 days! (See Acts 9:9 & 9:18) When a person trusts in Christ, he or she should be baptised as soon as it can be arranged (Acts 8:35-39).

G. Administrators of Baptism

     Normally it should be the gifted servants of God (Evangelist or elder or teacher – Eph. 4:11) of the local assembly should administer baptism. The preacher himself does it as in the case of Philip (Acts. 8:36-38). Any born-again, baptised male believer who maintains good testimony and good health can administer baptism.

H. Baptismal Regeneration

1. Baptismal Regeneration Is not Biblical
Baptismal regeneration is the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. The proponents of this wrong doctrine believe that regeneration does not occur until a person is baptised in water. Churches that teach baptismal regeneration mistakenly regard Peter’s words, “Repent and be baptised” (Acts 2:38) as evidence that faith plus baptism results in salvation. Scripture, however, does not support this view.

     Salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12; 3:16,36;6:47; Rom. 10:9, etc.). The book of Acts of the Apostles itself describes that baptism is the sign of conversion, and not the means of conversion. Acts.10:47, for example, states that believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit (and therefore saved; see Rom. 8:9) prior to being baptised.

     Moreover, the Bible clearly communicates that we were saved by faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9). As Paul pointed out in Romans, our righteous standing before God is “by faith from first to last” (Rom. 1:17). When the jailer asked Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

2. Verses Quoted by the Adherents of Baptismal Regeneration

     a. Mark 16:16: “ He that believes and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.” Here, the basis for condemnation is not baptism, but unbelief.

     b. Acts. 2:38: “ Peter said, ..Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” We can consider this verse grammatically. Instead of “be baptised for the remission of sins,” Acts 2:38 can be rightly translated as “be baptised on the basis of/because of the remission of sins.” The Greek preposition ’eis’ is used for “for.” Any Greek concordance would show that ‘eis’ is translated as “against, among, at, concerning, for, towards, unto, upon, on the basis of, because of,” etc.

     William MacDonald has given an explanation for this passage. It is important to notice that only Jews were ever told to be baptised for the forgiveness of sins (Acts22:16). The nation of Israel had crucified the Lord of glory. The Jewish people cried out, “His blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:25). The guilt of the Messiah’s death was thus claimed by the people of Israel. Now, some of these Jews had come to realise their mistake. By repentance, they acknowledged their sin to God. By trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, they were regenerated and received eternal forgiveness of sins. By public water baptism, they dissociated themselves from the nation that crucified the Lord and identified themselves with Him. Baptism thus became the outward sign that their sin in connection with the rejection of Christ (as well as all their sins) had been washed away. It took them off Jewish ground and placed them on Christian ground. But baptism cannot save them. Only faith in Christ would do that.

     c. Acts 22:16: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.”

     We need to understand the fact about the conversion of Paul. Paul makes it very clear that he did not receive the message of the gospel from Ananias or any other men, but rather he heard it directly from Christ. In Galatians 1:11-12, Paul said: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” So, Paul heard and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts. 9) .

     The Greek aorist participle, epikalesamenos, translated “calling on” refers to an action that is before that of the main verb, “be baptised.” Here Paul’s calling on Christ’s name for salvation preceded his water baptism. The participle may be translated “having called on His name” which makes more sense, as it would clearly indicate the order of the events. A literal translation would be “having called on His name wash away your sins and be baptised.”

     d. 1 Pet. 3:18-21: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; . . . while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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.” Many think that verse 20 supports baptismal regeneration. We should clearly note that water is not the saviour here, but the ark.

     Actually, there is a baptism which saves us; not our baptism in water, but a baptism which took place at Calvary almost 1900 years ago. Christ’s death is referred as baptism. He was baptised in the waters of judgement. This is what He meant when He said: “I have a baptism to be baptised with and how distressed I am till it is accomplished” (Luke 12:50). The psalmist prophetically stated, “deep calls unto deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your waves and billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). In this death, Christ was baptised in the waves and billows of God’s wrath, and it is this baptism that is the basis for our salvation.

I. Importance of Baptism

1. When a sinner believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he becomes a member of the universal assembly. But believer’s baptism is essential for him/her to be a member of the local assembly (Acts 2:41).
2. Baptism is a public confession of one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A person who publicly takes baptism is testifying to the world that he is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. It talks about our need to follow Him, Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. . . . For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34, 38). Believer’s baptism is the initial way of confessing the Lord Jesus Christ publicly.
3. Baptism is done in obedience to the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Please note the words of Apostle John: “And hereby we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whosoever keepeth His word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. Hereby we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:3-5).

Conclusion

     For a Christian to lead a healthy spiritual life, he/she must be grounded on solid biblical truth . The majority of the so-called Christians go after man-made traditions rather than knowing what God’s word has to say. If you are a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and but not baptised after believing in the Lord, you have the responsibility to obey the command of the Lord in the waters of baptism.Those who refuse to receive Baptism are rejecting the ‘counsel of God’ (Luke 7:30)

Originally published in “Harvest Times for Your Family” September 2015 issue. – Link to download

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