Some topics are considered controversial. When approaching these topics we need to look at God’s complete Word to see what He says, as He is the final authority on all matters. It is both foolish and dangerous to pluck a verse to make a point, while ignoring all the other verses on the matter. I have found that many of these controversial topics result in very heated, almost-hateful, debate and cause a division that should not be among the brethren. Most of these topics, when viewed in the light of God’s Word, should not even be up for debate because the Scriptures are very clear on them.
One such subject is baptism by water. This is a topic which does not receive the proper teaching in most Christian circles. Since opinions do not matter, we are simply going to look at what God says about baptism. Be a good Berean and decide for yourself. His Word on the matter seems obvious and plain.
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 1 Peter 3
Now that we see God has instructed us to study His word, so we may rightly divide the truth, let us begin. From my experience, baptism is generally seen in one (sometimes more) of the following ways: as necessary for salvation, as a rite of membership of a particular congregation, and as a sacrament or type of observance-such as Communion (The Lord’s Supper) and some have said it is a way to identify with Jesus. Let’s take a look at the Scriptures.
We are first introduced to baptism by John the Baptist.
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Mark 1:4
Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:4-6
But so what? Why does it matter what John the Baptist taught and did? Simple. We look at his God-given purpose:
2 As it is written in the Prophets:“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;Make His paths straight.’”4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Mark 1:2-5
Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”28 These things were done in Bethabara[h] beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:24-34
So, the purpose of John’s life was to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus. Interesting how that preparation revolved around repentance and baptism.
Jesus, Himself, was baptized-though sinless. Why?
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3: 13-17
Notice the italics. Jesus said the purpose of His baptism was to fulfill all righteousness.
Apart from His own, Jesus also said a thing or two in the gospels regarding baptism.
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16
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, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28: 19-20
But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Matthew 21:25-27
The book of Acts, and scatterings throughout the epistles, also mention baptism.
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38
“Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ Acts 22:12-16
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 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. 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, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3: 18-22
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4
So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”37 Then 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.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Acts 8:34-38
You get the point, I hope. No mention of baptism being an act of observance, as is the Lord’s Supper when Jesus explicitly said “Do this in remembrance of Me”. The Word also makes it clear it is not just a “do as I do” type of thing, though obviously since Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, we should do the same.
It cannot get any plainer. Baptism is a necessary step in the plan of salvation. Jesus said it, Peter said it. It is obvious that it was understood by the early church and its converts because we read about people believing and being baptized left and right.
Before you have your conniption fit, read on.
No, I am not saying that baptism in and of itself saves you. Taking a dip or getting wet does not save you. There absolutely must be belief/faith in Jesus Christ and His shedding of blood for our sins on the cross.
Again, no. We cannot earn our salvation. We will never be good enough, never give enough, never serve enough etc. We cannot save ourselves. That comes through Christ. However, baptism is no more a “work” than confession or repentance. They all make up a believer’s faith/belief. Look at it this way, you have that light bulb moment that Jesus is Who the Bible says He is. You confess that you are a sinner and need a Savior. You acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior. You repent and turn away from your sins. Your sins are buried in baptism. You arise a new creation, one over whom Jesus is Lord.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:18-24
Living a life in obedience to Christ is not working for salvation; it is the expression of one’s faith. They go hand in hand.
John the apostle explained it best in his first epistle:
This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. 1 John 5:6-8
Ever noticed how God loves the number three? Yeah, me too. We have the Father, Son (Word) and Holy Spirit. Grace is made manifest by the Spirit, water and the blood. As John said (through inspiration of the Holy Spirit), these three agree as one. Just as the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are One, salvation’s trio is one: the Spirit, blood and water. They give witness to God’s children.
Honestly, folks, I do not see how the Word can be any plainer. It also breaks my heart that SO many dismiss baptism as something that comes after one is saved(if even performed at all) instead of as an integral part of God’s grace. Read the verses over again.
But it is the Grace of God that saves us! We can’t do anything to save ourselves! People are always saying that Paul wrote that we are saved by faith. That is true. Getting wet doesn’t save us; We must have faith in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. James also points out that faith without an action to back it up is dead (in other words, no faith at all). If you’ll refer to the above Scripture from Acts 22, you’ll see that even Paul was told to be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’. This is Scripture, folks, I am not pulling this out of thin air. The Word is plain. To take it any other way is allowing man’s interpretation to take authority over what is PLAINLY said. It amazes me how so many ignore this! I can only chalk it up to being another angle of deception used by satan to deceive the masses. How else can one explain the distorting of God’s Word; taking something so obvious and tossing it aside like it doesn’t matter? It does matter. Perhaps Jesus was talking about those who dismiss baptism as among those He speaks to in Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Oh, how dreadful!
If you still aren’t convinced, don’t leave me nasty, vitriolic comments. Pray, ask for wisdom and take it up with God. I wouldn’t have written this if I hadn’t already done so. Remember, it is imperative we study the complete Word of God instead of pulling verses here and there and disregarding the rest. Furthermore, God never contradicts Himself.