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Baptism in Water

aymon de albatrus 


“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know you not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.” (Rom 6:1-6)


What is Water Baptism?:

Water Baptism is a symbolic burial and a covenant through which the new Christian convert declares publicly to be "dead" to his former heathen life and to begin a new life in Christ by the grace of God. It is a formal declaration, once for all, that now he is a slave/servant of Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as His Saviour, Lord and Master of his soul.

Baptism is an affirmation of faith: "my old life is behind me - I am now a new creation with a new life" 2Co 5:17. It is a declaration of repentance, a sign of deep changes within, up to the point of being buried with Christ.

Baptism helps us to understand the spiritual truth that our old status is now dead to the world, it is a confession and a public commitment to follow Christ. Such person is truly convinced to be dead to his old nature, otherwise there is no need to be buried. It is something that the new convert does not do to impress God, but for his own benefit, not for God's.

Baptism does not makes us more acceptable to God, for He has already made us acceptable in the Beloved. It has no value as "work" but rather as obedience to the command of the Lord, Yes (Mat 28:19). Baptism testifies the inner changes of the newly converted; it is a clear sign of commitment to leave the old way for the new. Indeed baptism make us unacceptable to the world, for example in the faiths such as Buddhism and Hinduism and others, if one of them declares to be now a Christian he is still barely accepted, but as soon as one gets baptised he is immediately thrown out of home and ostracised from that society, truly baptism does divide.

Baptism is a declaration and testimony to the world that baptism in Jesus Christ has these meanings:

Baptism in itself does not save, Jesus does:

In Luk 22:39-43 we read of one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus that recognised Him as the Lord to which Jesus responded that that same day he would be with Him in Paradise. The malefactor did not received water baptism for he died on the cross, but was saved nevertheless: “And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, To day shall you be with me in paradise.” (Luk 23:43 )

In the Bible, NT, for over 150 times salvation is based only on Faith in our Lord Jesu Christ as our personal Saviour, some such references: Joh 1:12; 3:15-18,36; 5:24; 6:35,47; Act 16:31; Eph 2:8-9; 2Ti 1:12. These verses teach the water baptism is not "a condition to be saved" or an "act of obedience for those who are lost" but these remove any human endeavour or attempts to deserve a favour from God. It is true that Baptism is an act of Obedience of the believers to the Lord's command, but Baptism alone does not save, you got to be born again for that (Joh 3:3).

Who has instituted Baptism?:

It was our Lord Jesus Christ that has commanded water Baptism: “Go you 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 whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.” (Mat 28:19-20)

Our Lord began His earthy ministry by being baptised by John and He terminated it by commanding His Apostles to baptise His disciples that would come. If the Lord counted Baptism so important to submit Himself to it (He certainly was in no need of it) therefore how can we not follow His footstep when we are truly sinners? “Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptised of him. But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptised of you, and come you to me? And Jesus answering said to him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (Mat 3:13-15)

After His baptism Jesus declared that His first alliance will not be to His close relatives but with those that do the will of God: “There came then his brothers and his mother, and, standing without, sent to him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said to him, Behold, your mother and your brothers without seek for you. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brothers? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brothers! For whoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mar 3:31-35).  With this Jesus stated that He was dead to any human or wordily self-seeking, but that He would only live to do His Father's will.

Baptism is a command of the Lord and a new convert cannot avoid it if he is in the position to be able to receive it, otherwise if he refuses, then his conversion is in doubt and certainly his sins are not remitted, for he is no Christian at all and has not received the forgiving Grace of God as demonstrated by his actions.

Does Baptism take away sin?

How can a physical action cancel a spiritual situation? Every sin is against God, as David states that he had sinned only against the Lord, and yet David had sinned against many people, but he reckoned that every sin is against God: Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.” (Psa 51:4). It is a spiritual thing: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (Joh 4:24)

Moreover water baptism is to be performed only once for every individual believer, if baptism were to remove sins it would be only good for sins before that action for baptism is to be taken only once; well what about the sins following baptism?  It is true that Peter says: “Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Act 2:38), but pay attention to the fact that Peter premises his statement with REPENT and only those that have received the Lord's Grace of being born again can repent, so baptism is intended for them, and them alone and indeed their sins have been atoned, not by baptism but by Christ on the cross: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance to life.” (Act 11:18) Those who have received the grace of Repentance from the Lord are His elect, and only those have an inner desire (compulsion) to be Baptised, because a unbeliever could not care less for baptism, because for him it would be total madness to take it: “But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Co 2:14). Even though Peter makes a general calling (for he does not know who is who) this is specifically directed to those that actually are the people of Jesus. “And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Mat 1:21) and these are those that Jesus prays and intercedes for , not the world: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are yours.” (Joh 17:9) (Heb 7:25)

It is true that Baptism represents remission of sins, though not the act itself, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for His people is what atones for every sin of His elect, past, present and future. Baptism is the external evidence and testimony that those taking it are now children of God and that their sins have been remitted by Christ's atonement in Whom they believe. In that sense baptism remits sins, but not the physical act for if an unbeliever were to take baptism he would be going in the water dry and come out wet, and nothing else: - he will still be in his sins.

Baptism and Communion are very similar for they are meant as a testimony of what has happened to the believers who are now children of God, they are witnesses to the world and to the believers, but they are not magical manifestations.  It is true that Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Host are present with the believers when these ceremonies are performed, but the elements are always elements as they were before, nothing magical in them. Whilst, for example the Catholic believe that baptism in itself removes the sins (that is actually exorcism), and that the elements of communion (wine and bread) become actually the physical body of Christ, this is clearly a fanciful notion if not an abomination.

Water Baptism is a command of the Lord to be taken at conversion only once, and we must obey the Lord, but remembering that only He takes away sin, nothing else does (no Madonnas, nor saints nor ceremonial actions): “The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” (Joh 1:29) and by world it is intended the world of believers only, for the world does not repent, (John 1:29; 3:16; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47 1Co 4:9; 2Co 5:19).

When is the right time to Baptise?:

The Philippi jailer was terrified by the angelic manifestation and asked Paul and his companions: “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house. And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” (Act 16:30-33) and in the same hour of night he and all his family got baptised without hesitation.

The Ethiopian eunuch got baptised after Philip's testimony as soon they saw enough water along the way: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what does hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Act 8:35-37)

Paul was baptised soon after his conversion: “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight immediately, and arose, and was baptized.” (Act 9:17-18 AKJV)

The right time to be baptised is immediately after conversion as the occasion arises, any delay means uncertainty in one's conversion..

What pattern of Baptism are used?:

In the Greek the word used for baptism is: baptizo or baptizein that is translated "immerse" that is 'bury under water'.

There are 3 main practice of baptism in Christendom used by different denominations:

1. Sprinkle or aspersion,

2. Pour water over head,

3. Total Immersion.

Of course like all the doctrines, baptism is one of the great controversies of all times in the varied churches of Christ and basically it is between Immersionists and non-Immersionists.

The Immersionists arguments are:

1. Immersion is the primary meaning of the word Baptizo,

2. In various verses the prepositions "IN" and "OUT OF" (from water) are normally intended as pertaining to full immersion,

3. Baptism practiced by the Judaic proselytes was total immersion (carried out by oneself) this would indicate that Christian baptism would follow the same pattern, but performed by another than self,

4. Full immersion gives the better rendering of baptism as burial of the former life and resurrection to the new life as explained in Rom 6:1-6,

5. Immersion in water was universally practised in the NT, every reference requires it or permits it,

6. In the Greek language there are specific words for pour and sprinkle but are never referred to baptism.

The non-Immersionists arguments are:

1. The Greek word baptizo has a secondary meaning of 'carry under the influence' and sprinkle or pour which better represent "to bring under the influence" than immerse,

2. Indeed baptism as in Sprinkle or Pour better illustrates the Spirit descending over the person,

3. Immersion would have bee highly improbable in situations such as: Act 2:41; 8:38; 10:47; 16:33,

4. In Hebrews 9:10 the word baptism includes all sorts of rituals, even that of Sprinkle, therefore that word does not always signifies immerse exclusively, 

5. The Greek has specific words for "dip in", why then that word is not used if that method was the correct one for baptism.

It is conceivable to understand baptism (as pouring) made in the river Jordan by John the Baptist and after by the disciples of Christ, given the large number of bartizans it would have been more practical for the people to enter the waters up to the hips and have water poured over the head with a small container. But for this there are no conclusive proofs, however  it is perfectly possible.

Moreover, the phrase "went up straightway out of the water" (Mat 3:16), can very well signify to ascend up from the river and not necessarily "went up from Immersion". For example as we understand "went down in the water" as in Philip and the eunuch case: “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.” (Act 8:38), surely not both of them immersed fully in the water.

Nevertheless, taking into account the all the points above we consider that full Immersion removes all doubts on the validity of that baptism, without negating the other. Moreover, full Immersion identifies very closely with the principle of burial in Rom 6:1-6 and thus we reckon full immersion is the method to be implemented in all possible occasions.

Notwithstanding that, if anyone has received the baptism through Aspersion or Pouring and for him this is valid, the recommendation would still be to take the Baptism by immersion, to be sure, but if he considers what he has received is good enough, then so be it, it is his own conscience.

Only believer Baptism?

Another strong controversy is if baptism applies only to believers or it is also for infants that cannot make a decision, as yet.

The arguments for believers' baptism ONLY are:

1. In Israel the natural birth in a Jewish family was sufficient to be members of the their covenant, but in the NT to be members of the family of God the New Birth is required (Joh 3:3). Therefore only those who who are conscious of the Faith received can be baptised, infants are not conscious of that,

2. The baptisms of whole households in the NT do not specifically state that babies were also baptised, although it does not exclude such happening (Act 10:47; 16:15; 16:33),

3. There is no decisive evidence of infant baptism in Jews or Christians in Apostolic times.  If Baptism is the sign of belonging to Christ, then it is logical that baptism should be applied to those that are aware of being associated with Christ, babies are not. Given that the only way to be associated with Christ is through personal Faith (given by God Eph 2:8), then it is obvious that baptism is only for those who believe in Christ, babies do not believe as yet. It is clear in the example oh the jailer in Philippi that in his household only those of a certain age understood what Paolo and friends were preaching (Act 16:32). Perhaps even the children may have understood Paul, but surely not the infants.

The arguments for infants' baptism ALSO are:

1. The analogy between circumcision as an initiatory rite in the OT and the baptism as a initiatory rite in the NT supports infant baptism.  However to be noted that circumcision in the OT was only for boys,

2. The baptism for the entry household would have certainly included infants, for it says that all were baptised,

3. The NT gives promises to homes where there is at least one believer parent (1Co 7:14), therefore to baptise the infants of these home would be appropriate.

We consider that to baptise who is aware of being born spiritually (even children, but not infants) is the correct thing to do immediately.

Regarding infants, we can understand that, for example in the household of the jailer of Philippi, all received the baptism (presumably even  infants, if there were any) because it was a mass baptism of a close family that looked at the father as the leader of the home (indeed when missionaries converted the leader of a black African tribe all his people baptised with him, how valid that baptism was only God knows) and so it is reasonably to assume that every one in the jailer's home received the baptism, even infants, but there is no assurance of this being so.

Regarding the circumcision as belonging to the family of God in the OT, there is the problem of the females for they could not be circumcised and technically could not be part of it, unless through the males.

Truly on this issue there is a belonging problem for the infants to the Kingdom of God. Those who baptises infants (paedobaptism) rightly considers that now the newborn participates to the benefits of the Kingdom, but this is not due to his conscious decision, it was imposed on him. Whilst those that do not baptise their infants leave them out of the benefits till they decide for themselves, in other words they are no fish or meat. For this reason those who do not officially baptise their newborn have introduced a ceremony of "presentation" where the parents undertake in front of the church to bring up their infants in the admonition of the Lord till they decides for themselves. On the other hand those who baptise infants (like Roman Catholics) have introduced a ceremony post baptism called "Confirmation" to be performed around 12 years for the child to allegedly confirm the baptism received as a baby.

Who can Baptise?:

For sure who baptises has to be a godly man of long standing. Biblically it is not specified, but clearly those who baptised were always converted men well mature in the faith. As a godly rule it is best to be baptised by the Pastor, or Elder or even a mature man in the Lord.

What formula to use in Baptism?:

In Mat 28:19 the Lord commands Baptism with this formula: “Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Mat 28:19) In other passages it is used the name of the Lord "Lord Jesus Christ" and variations thereof. For completeness this formula should be used: "(name of person) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I baptise you even in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit even so that you also should walk in newness of life"

Conclusion:

  1. Baptism in water does not make one Christian, one is already so (born again) before baptism which is a public demonstration that one is now in Christ,

  2. The baptism is a command of the Lord (one of His 2 sacraments) to be exercised publicly as a definitive sign of belonging to the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the family of God,

  3. Baptism is to be taken by a person conscious to have received the Lord Jesus Christ in his heart,

  4. To remove any doubt baptism has to be performed by full immersion,

  5. Baptism should be performed by a mature man in the Faith with a certain spirituality,

  6. The formula for baptising must al least include:  "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit",

  7. Scripture shows that baptism has to be takes soon after conversion, it is not an option, but a clear command of the Lord.