Baptism

There are two ways of presenting this topic. One is to correct those who view baptism as irrelevant or optional. The other is to correct those who hold baptism as a legal requirement for salvation.

1. For those who view baptism as irrelevant or optional

Baptism is a application of faith, as is repentance from sin. Thus after preaching the gospel, when Peter was asked, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ ..." Acts 2:37,38 And this is what the Lord has ordained and authorized and this is what is to be taught as Jesus commanded, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Mt 28:19,20

Now it is not that the ritual of Baptism which saves a person. For that simply puts baptism in the place of circumcision as a legalistic mechanism of salvation. Salvation is by faith and not by works. Old Testament legalistic righteousness was not replaced with some kind of New Testament legalistic righteousness. It was replace with grace through faith.There is nothing which can be done to the flesh which would save a person. But Baptism is a sign of saving faith, as is repentance from sin. And there may such "things that accompany salvation." Heb 6:9b, signs of ones allegiance to Christ.

And in particular it is believer's baptism the Bible is talking about. I myself had been baptized as a baby, baptized into the Catholic church. But I later became a Christian when I went to college. And yes I was likewise taught to pray the sinners prayer and reckon myself saved. There was no exhortation for me to get baptized. But as I read the Bible I saw that water baptism was clearly to accompany acceptance of Christ. Consider the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8 From his hearing of the gospel he proclaimed, "Behold, here is water. What is keeping me from being baptized?" Acts 8:36. Thus Philip must have incorporated that concept in his presentation of the gospel. So I found a church and got baptized. In fact later in my ministry I baptized a couple of people I had led to Christ.

So if a person hears the gospel and wants to be reckoned a Christian, the first things they must do is repent from sin and get baptized. That is, "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." Acts 26:20, baptism being one of the first deeds. But if they refuse, then what kind of faith is that? For there is "seed sown on rocky places, being those that hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away." Mr 4:16,17 Such people, who won't even get wet for Christ, do not have the kind of faith that saves.


2. For those who view baptism as a legal requirement for salvation

Jesus instituted Christian Baptism as part of the great commission commanding "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matt 28:19,20 Thus if you've come to believe in Christ - GET BAPTIZED. However there is a particular ATTITUDE and PERSPECTIVE concerning baptism one must have if they are to be baptized in the sense in which Jesus spoke. Else such baptism is not real Christian baptism.

Is water baptism to be viewed like the Judaizers viewed circumcision as a ritualistic prerequisite for salvation? Or is it to be viewed more as a revealing of one's faith that one's sins have been forgiven through faith in Christ? It's important to make this distinction given the strong rhetoric Paul used in Galatians against those who viewed the necessity of going through some ritual to obtain righteousness - like circumcision. So if one views water baptism as the Judiazers viewed circumcision, it appears the same could be said of such people they are not  justified by faith, but are trying to be justified by the works of the law.



 
A. Do you have to get water baptized in order to be save?
B. What is the purpose of water baptism
C. What if we treat water baptism as necessary for salvation?
D. Verses often misinterpreted
E. Should you get Baptized?
F. Infant Baptism
G. Modes of Baptism
 

A. Do you have to get water baptized in order to be save?

1. Do you have to get wet to receive the Holy Spirit?

The thief on the cross (of whom Jesus said:"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."Luke 23:43) hadn't gotten water baptized, yet was saved. But let's consider an example from the early church. Let's consider an example from the book of Acts. In Acts 10:45, there were Gentiles who, having heard the gospel and believed, received the Holy Spirit BEFORE THEY WERE WATER BAPTIZED. They were baptized in the Spirit, just as John the Baptist said. And furthermore, Peter himself says about them:

"They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." Acts 10:47
referring back to the Pentecost which Jesus referred to as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4,5), which is also affirmed in the next chapter when Peter went on to explain himself to the church in Jerusalem.

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.  Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" Acts 11:15,16

So according to Jesus and Peter, they had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, yet they hadn't gotten wet at this point!


2. And if you have the Holy Spirit, aren't you saved?

And if they received the Holy Spirit, then they belonged to Christ and were controlled by the Holy Spirit as it is written:

"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Romans 8:9

They were guaranteed eternal life as it is written:

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory."Eph 1:13,14

Furthermore Paul says:

"Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts" Gal 4:6

"He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit."Gal 3:14

The Adoption of sons and the receiving of the Spirit comes AFTER being redeemed. Having been saved through faith, we then receive the adoption as children of God and receive the Holy Spirit.

So, concerning the Gentile believers in Acts 10: Having heard the gospel and believed, having obtained the Spirit, adoption as sons of God and eternal life, having passed from death to life, having been baptized into Christ, they then got water baptized.


3. Is Baptism only associated with water?
Do you have to get wet to get baptized?

Paul tells us that baptism is necessary for salvation, but what kind of baptism was he referring to?

"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Romans 6:3,4

Much confusion about "baptism" is that it simply means to immerse one thing into another. It is not necessarily associated with "water". Is it "water" that Paul has in mind as the thing we were "baptized" into? No, rather in this case, we were baptized into Christ.

Consider, for examples other places where the word "baptize" is used:

"They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." 1Cor 10:2

Did the people of Israel get wet when they were "baptized"? No.
They went across on dry land. Furthermore, it is said they were also baptized "in the cloud".

Or consider what John the Baptist himself says:

Lu 3:16 "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

And example of this is the following:

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:4,5

So you can get baptized into water, but then again there are other things you can get baptized into. You can get baptized with the Holy Spirit, for example. Paul writes that you can get baptized into Christ. You can get baptized into his death. (Romans 6:3) Lots of things you can get baptized into. Jesus himself, referring to his death said:

Lu 12:50 "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!"

So when we read in Colossians:

"In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead."Col 2:11,12

It is clear that he is not speaking of a "Circumcision" of the flesh (for in the next verse Col 2:13 he says that they had not been physically circumcised), so also he is not referring to a physical baptism here, but rather a baptism not into water, but into Christ's death.


B. What is the purpose of water baptism

Abraham was declared righteous by faith. But afterwards received the sign of circumcision:

"And he received the sign of circumcision,
a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised."Rom 4:11

So also water baptism also a sign of the righteousness that we already have by faith before we are baptized.


C. What if we treat water baptism as necessary for salvation?

Treating any ritual as necessary for salvation, though it be ordained by God, like baptism or communion, may indicate that such a person has yet to grasp the concept of salvation by faith.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph 2:8,9

"You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." Galatians 5:4

But wait a minute, wasn't Paul referring to the Mosaic Law, not the commandments of Christ?

There are many who call themselves "Christian", but think that Christ came simply to replace the Law of Moses with His own commandments. And to obtain salvation, one must do so by living up to the commandments of Christ. Such is a righteousness which is by law, not the law of Moses, but a law nonetheless. But Paul writes:

"If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe." Gal 3:21,22

And he says:

"No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:20-23

Is it by our works, like getting baptised, that we are saved? Paul writes:

"Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:4,5

We rely on belief in the promise of God, and do not look to our own performance to justify us.

"For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise." Galatian 3:18

However, though faith saves, it is an application oriented faith. If we say Jesus is Lord then such should be evident in our lives. The Lord has commanded us to get baptized, remember Him in communion, love other Christians,  make disciples of all nations, and many other things. If we're not doing these things then do we really believe in Jesus as Lord? Saving faith is an obedience faith. But it is incorrect to view particular acts of obedience as prerequisite to salvation.

Is it FAITH + WORKS => SALVATION?
Or is it FAITH => WORKS + SALVATION
This subtle difference can save one from falling into legalism

The Group of the Baptism

Reckoning water baptism as a mechanism for salvation is contrary to the spirit of the gospel of grace and is likened to reckoning circumcision as a mechanism for salvation, of which Paul greatly objected in Galatians. It is a fleshly theology, not of the Spirit.

Galatians 3:3  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

If a person like Cornelius of Acts 10 was baptized in the Holy Spirit, was he made perfect by getting wet? Certainly not! If after he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit he died before he got wet, would he end up in hell? That's the conclusion that some logically come to who hold to a fleshly interpretation of water baptism doctrine who say that you have to get wet to get saved. They are caught up in rituals and ceremonies and miss the spirit. They are like the group of the circumcision who says that men have to cut off the foreskin of their penis to be saved.

Paul says: "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate (castrate) themselves!" Galatians 5:12  What he means is that if they think doing something in the flesh like cutting off a little piece of skin is necessary for their salvation, then why don't they just cut off their whole penis! For the group of the baptism this would be equivalent to saying "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and drown themselves!"

Consider this application of Romans 2 if water baptism is likened to circumcision.

Rom 2:
25  Baptism has value if you believe in Jesus, but if you disbelieve,
you have become as though you had not been baptized.
26  If those who are not baptized believe in Jesus, will they not be regarded as though they were baptized?
27  The one who is not baptized physically and yet believes in Jesus will condemn you who,
even though you have the written code and baptism, are an unbeliever.
28  A man is not a Christian if he is only one outwardly, nor is baptism merely outward and physical.
29  No, a man is a Christian if he is one inwardly; and baptism is baptism of the heart, by the Spirit,
not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

Yes there are places for ceremonies like Communion and Baptism, But the "kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". It's not a matter getting wet or not getting wet. These are external shadows symbolic of what is already reckoned true in the heart.

But a strong argument can be made that those who treat water baptism as necessary for salvation, in the same spirit as the circumcision treated circumcision, that such people themselves may indeed be likened to the group of the circumcision whom Paul opposed. Let's consider how some passages in Galatians would sound if we replace the ceremony of circumcision with baptism as a necessary means of justification.

Galatians 5:
2  Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive baptism, Christ will profit you nothing.
3  Yes, I testify again to every man who receives baptism, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4  You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.
5  For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.
6  For in Christ Jesus neither baptism amounts to anything, nor unbaptism, but faith working through love.

Galatians 6:
12  As many as desire to look good in the flesh, they compel you to be baptized;
only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
13  For even they who receive baptism don’t keep the law themselves,
but they desire to have you baptized, that they may boast in your flesh.
14  But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
15  For in Christ Jesus neither is baptism anything, norunbaptism, but a new creation.

This is the spirit of what Paul is saying if baptism is viewed in a legalistic sense as is the case with those who hold the idea that you have to get wet to get saved. Realize also that despite Paul's apparent hostility to circumcision, he himself circumcised Timothy. (Acts 16:3) And he calls Jewish Christians to continue living as Jews and not as Gentile Christians."Was anyone called having been circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised." 1Cor 7:18 But this simply involves one's role in the society as would distinctions even between Gentiles of wife, husband, slave, master, and so forth would involve different particular roles. But all who believe are in Christ, even though playing different particular roles in the body. In these latter passages Paul is treating circumcision as simply symbolic as it should be treated. But his objection in Galatians is against those who treat circumcision as having a substantive role in the obtaining of righteousness. So also water baptism should be accepted as having a symbolic role in conversion. But just as Paul takes a zealously hostile stand against who treat circumcision as necessary for salvation, so also we should have such a view towards those who view water baptism as necessary for salvation.


D. Verses often misinterpreted

John 3:3-6 "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."  "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."

By "born of water" Jesus is referring to physical birth as is evident in his contrasting of "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Water is associated with physical birth as we are all born in water and when the water breaks we are born. Thus the second birth is one of spirit by the Holy Spirit, which is also know as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which for example was accomplished without getting wet in the case of Cornelius in Acts 10 as I pointed out above. And in John 3:8 Jesus says, "So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." making no mention of water.

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "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."

Peter is referring to water baptism here, but what does he mean by "for the forgiveness of sins"?

"For" (as used in Acts 2:38 "for the forgiveness...") could have two meanings. If you saw a poster saying "Jesse James wanted for robbery", "for" could mean Jesse is wanted so he can commit a robbery, or is wanted because he has committed a robbery. The later sense is the correct one. So too in this passage, the word "for" signifies an action in the past. Otherwise, it would violate the entire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works.

Such is also the opinion of A.T. Robertson, a well known New Testament Greek scholar, who comments,

 "{Unto the remission of your sins} (aphesin tôn hamartiôn hûmôn). This phrase is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology. In themselves the words can express aim or purpose for that use of  does exist as in #1Co 2:7 doxan hêmôn (for our glory). But then another usage exists which is just as good Greek as the use of  for aim or purpose. It is seen in #Mt 10:41 in three examples onoma prophêtou, dikaiou, mathêtou where it cannot be purpose or aim, but rather the basis or ground, on the basis of the name of prophet, righteous man, disciple, because one is, etc. It is seen again in #Mt 12:41 about the preaching of Jonah (to kêrugma Iôna).  They repented because of (or at) the preaching of Jonah. The illustrations of both usages are numerous in the N.T. and the _Koiné_ generally (Robertson, _Grammar_, p. 592). One will decide the use here according as he believes that baptism is essential to the remission of sins or not. My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received."
The Bible explicitly makes a distinction between Baptism in the Spirit and water baptism. We see this in the case of Cornelius of Acts 10 in which he received the Spirit before being baptized. In Acts 11 Peter explains such a receiving of the Spirit as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 11:16) Therefore when the Bible makes reference to "baptism", we have to consider which baptism it is referring to. Furthermore, the word "baptism" simply means to immerse one thing into another. Water may have nothing to do with it.

Rom 6:2-4 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 No mention of baptism into water here! Instead of being baptized into water, these are baptized into his death.
Gal 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
No mention of water here. These are baptized into Christ, not into water.
Col 2:11-12  In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
This certainly can't refer to water baptism as that is done in the flesh by hands, much as circumcision is. Again this refers to baptism into his death.
Mr 16:16 "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."
This is often misinterpret to say: "whoever is not baptized will be condemned", but it doesn't say that. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, as well he he who believes and loves other Christians, and he who believes and studies the Bible, or even he who believes and wears glasses! For it is the "belief" that saves and it is only the lack of belief that condemns. There are plenty of verses that make reference only to faith in Christ for salvation, such as John 3:16.
1Peter 3:20,21 " who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,"
The word "water" in "this water symbolizes baptism" is not there in the greek, but inserted as an interpretation by the translators as referring to the water of Noah's flood. This doesn't affect my argument, however to be accurate, it simply says "this symbolizes baptism", where "this" refers to the whole story of Noah and the flood and not just to the water in particular, as that water didn't save Noah, rather the ark saved Noah from the water. The water itself represents the judgment of God. "through the water" in verse 21 is not viewed as saying that water is the mechanism of salvation, but rather that they were saved in the midst of the water. But they were saved by the ark, not the water.

In any case, what "baptism" is Peter referring to here? Not the baptism where you get wet ("not the removal of dirt from the body") Robertson comments concerning this verse:

"No ceremonies really affect the conscience (Heb 9:13).
Peter here expressly denies baptismal remission of sin."
Rather it is the "pledge of a good conscience toward God". A person is baptized into Christ when he turns to Him for his sins to be forgiven (which is repentance) and puts his faith in Him. Water baptism symbolizes this process but does not save the person. (Else you could simply water baptized unbelievers and they would automatically be saved, if in fact, water baptism saves. But, in fact, this is what some believe when they baptize babies. For how can a baby make a pledge of a good conscience towards God?)
Acts 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'
The washing away of sins is not referring to the washing away of the guilt of sins, but of the practice of sin. The washing away of the guilt of sin is accomplished in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in which one is immersed into Christ's death.  But that of water - the removal of dirt on the surface of the flesh - symbolizes repenting from the practice of sinning. This same greek word for "wash" is used in 1Cor 6:11. Notice the context:

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1Cor 6:9-11

Here it also appears to associate the washing with a change of behavior, not simply the removal of guilt.


E. Should you get Baptized?

It is appropriate for Christians to get water baptized. Christ commanded it, so we do it. If you have been baptized, should you get rebaptized? Some, like myself, have been baptized as infants according to their church tradition. And like myself, I recommend such people get rebaptized, having believed, so as to conform their baptism more in line with what Jesus had in mind. One can hardly make "a pledge of a good conscience toward God" when one is an infant. Other than that I would say it is simply a matter of conscience. Maybe you felt you were just a nominal Christian when you got baptized and now having really believed you want to get rebaptized. OK, that's a matter of conscience.


F. Infant Baptism

Catholics, Orthodox, and those of a Reformed Theology deviate from Biblical Theology on a number of points. One point has to do with the unbelieving infants born to Christian parents. Nowhere does the Bible teach that such infants should be baptized nor are there any Biblical examples of such. In fact baptizing such infants is contrary to the spirit of what is written.  For example it is written in 1Peter 3:21 that baptism involves a pledge of a good conscience toward God. But babies make no such pledge. I would go so far to say that padeobaptism is heresy as much as the cult of the circumcision which Paul dealt with in Galatians and Acts 15 was heresy. For both view the New Covenant just like the Old, a matter of flesh rather than of faith. Both Calvin and Augustine argued that baptism was equivalent to circumcision and thus justified baptizing unbelieving infants as a sign that they were under the "Covenant" simply because they were born of Christian parents. It's a different gospel - a gospel of the flesh, not or faith - a gospel of the circumcision.

There are places in the book of Acts where whole households were baptized. But nowhere in such places does it indicate that unbelieving infants were baptized. Rather whole households come to faith in Christ and are then baptized. Acts 18:8  Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. 

Does the Bible support the concept of the baptism of unbelievers? And if a person received "unbeliever's baptism" as an infant, then after coming to faith in Christ should they then receive "believer's baptism"? The Bible associates baptism only with those of the faith.

Mark 16:16  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Matt 28:19,20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them (the disciples) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Acts 2:38  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized

Acts 2:41  Those who accepted his message were baptized

Colossians 2:11-14  In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,  having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

And very significantly is Paul's baptism of Acts 22:16 in which Ananias stated, "Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away" While it can be argued in what sense water baptism is identified with the washing away of sins, it cannot be denied that the Bible does indeed link the two, which is particularly contrary to Reformed Theology. Indeed John Calvin who zealously supports unbelieving infant baptism contradicts himself in his interpretation of this passage saying of Ananias, "he would not have baptized him if he had been void of true faith." So why baptize infants who are devoid of true faith?

Baptism, Circumcision and the Abrahamic Covenant

Catholics, Orthodox, and reformed Christians all justify their particular version of unbeliever's baptism and an imagined covenant relationship between God and the unbelieving infants born to Christian parents by inference. They would argue by analogy that the Bible at times associates baptism with circumcision, both of which are seals of a covenant relationship with God. Then since circumcision was primarily performed upon unbelieving infants, therefore water baptism should also be performed upon unbelieving infants.

But such an interpretation and application is not in accordance with the spirit of what is written. Romans chapter 4 associates the Christian faith with the faith of Abraham and it brings in circumcision as well. So such a passage gives us insight into how God views these concepts. It teaches that Abraham believed God's promise and as such was justified at that point. Much later "he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised."Rom 4:11 Then it goes on to say that he is the father of all those who believed regardless of whether they've been circumcised or not.
ABRAHAM IS NOT THE FATHER OF UNBELIEVING JEWS. Though they are genetically related to him and thus he may be spoken of as their father in a genealogical sense, but not in a spiritual sense. Regardless of whether unbelievers have been circumcised or baptized, they are not under this Abrahamic covenant. This Abrahamic covenant only involves believers.

"It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." Rom 4:13
This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness— for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. Rom 4:22-24

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:6-9

These concepts are contrary to the those who advocate the idea that unbelieving infants born to Christians are automatically under the Abrahamic covenant. They are not! That's what the Bible teaches. This Abrahamic covenant involves justification by faith, not justification by circumcision or baptism. However the covenant of circumcision was also given to Abraham. Yes it generally involved circumcision of infants, but it only involved males and not females. Well then for those who think that God's intention was only to replace circumcision with baptism in a literal sense and thus justify the baptism of unbelieving infants, why then do they not limit baptism to male only? They're application is not even consistent with their own misinterpretation.

This is the Abrahamic Covenant of circumcision:

"This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.  You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.  For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner— those who are not your offspring.  Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.  Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." Genesis 17:10-14
Therefore if you haven't had the foreskin of your penis cut off, you don't qualify to be under this covenant. This is a Jewish covenant, not a Christian covenant. It established and defined the Jewish nation. But that covenant was not the covenant of which Paul referenced in dealing with justification by faith. The covenant of circumcision was given in Genesis 17, but his covenant that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." was already given to Abraham decades prior to this in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15.

So which covenant was Paul referring to in Galatians when he said, "What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise." Gal 3:17,18

The Abrahamic covenant that Paul was referring to here was not the covenant of circumcision. For that was a covenant of Law. The covenant of promise was that of Genesis 15:6 in which Abraham believed God's promise and was justified. But concerning the covenant of circumcision, consider what the whole of Galatians has to say about circumcision.

Galatians 5:2  Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Galatians 5:3  Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.
Galatians 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 6:15  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.
Now if we literally replace "circumcision" with "baptism" and thus view water baptism in the exact same light as circumcision as some have proposed, what does Galatians then have to say to Catholics, Orthodox and those of a Reformed Theology? Paul was not against Jews getting circumcised. In fact he circumcised Timothy. But that was a Jewish covenant given to Abraham, and not a Christian covenant. Paul was furious when false teachers imposed the Jewish Abrahamic covenant of circumcision upon Gentile Christians. And just as those false teachers opposed Paul, so also many "unbelieving infant baptism" theologians such as John Calvin have acted with hostility against those who advocated and practiced "believer's baptism".

The Westminister Confession on Baptism

Reformed Theology speaks of infant salvation in the following way: "The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved." The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. The Westminister confession reflects the beliefs of those of a Reformed Theology, such as Calvinists. It deviates from Biblical theology on a number of points including its stand on the baptism of infants. Here are a couple of its statements on Baptism:
BAPTISM is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life; which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.

The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

What this means is that unbelieving infants of Christians are baptized because it is assumed that they will inevitably exhibit characteristics of the regenerate. It's just a matter of time, as John Calvin writes, "infants are baptized into future repentance and faith, and even though these have not yet been formed in them." For the Calvinist regeneration occurs prior to faith in Christ, which is also contrary to the Bible. (See Faith and Regeneration) And they presume infants are regenerate at their baptism as you can see above. They are reckoned ingrafted into Christ and yet they are not reckoned "saved"! How can that be? Calvinists have simply invented an imaginary state in which unbelievers are born of God. Even as these children grow up they may not believe, and yet are reckoned born of God! The Bible teaches contrary to these ideas. The Bible also teaches that "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10 And indeed John Calvin comments on this passage saying, "those in whom sin reigns cannot be reckoned among the members of Christ, and that they can by no means belong to his body" And yet he includes the unbelieving children born to Christian parents as regenerate and part of the body of Christ!  What about such children who never come to faith in Christ or who go on to live a lifestyle of sin? The idea that unbelieving children are ingrafted into Christ, having regeneration and remission of their sins simply because of genetics is a unBiblical theological fabrication.

Furthermore baptizing them as infants presumes that they will inevitably come to faith in Christ in the future, as Calvin says above. If that's the case then why not baptize all unbelievers? Why presume one will come to faith in Christ and not the other? Thus, though they may deny it, it cannot be denied that this logically presumes that children of Christians are automatically elect and will inevitably be saved.  But all this presumption is invalidated not only by scripture but by experience. For not all children of Christians come to faith in Christ.

See also A Critical Evaluation of Paedobaptism

If you have been baptized as an unbelieving infant, whether as a Catholic or Protestant, then you have not been baptized in accordance with the Bible. I suggest that you be baptized as a believer.

G. Modes of Baptism

Then there's also the issue as to which is the most Biblical form of baptism - sprinkling or immersion? The word "baptized" literally means to immerse one thing into another. Also consider what things the Bible likens baptism to: In 1Peter 3:20,21 it was likened to the story of Noah and the ark, which hardly can be associated with a mere sprinkling of water. And in Romans 6:3,4 it is likened to being buried with Christ, not simply sprinkled with a little dirt.

So where did the sprinkling idea come from? I think it comes from Hebrews 9:13,14 and related verses in which the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice was part of the priestly duty under the Law of Moses and is likened to the sprinkling of Christ's blood cleansing our conscience. It's likewise mentioned in Hebrews 10:22  "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." But the word "baptism" is never used in these sections of Hebrews. I would say that given the weight of evidence, immersion wins out as the Biblical mode of water baptism. But some may conclude otherwise.


The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The receiving of the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the baptism "en" the Holy Spirit. But first with regards to the conjuction. The six times it which it does use a conjunction, in every case the Greek conjuction "en" is used. Most literally this means "in". Thus Jesus said,  "I indeed baptized you in <1722> water, but He will baptize you in <1722> the Holy Spirit." Mark 1:8 <1722>  is the strong's number associate with the actual Greek word. The lexicon indicates this word is translated in the KJV as "in" 1902 times out of 2801 times. And indeed the word "in" is most appropriate as it enhances the meaning as in the case of Mark 1:8 where he is contrasting being baptized in different things - water and the Holy Spirit.

Now as for being baptized in the Holy Spirit, this term is only mentioned once in the New Testament letters to the churches, namely 1Cor 12:13  "For in <1722> one Spirit we were all baptized into one body——whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free——and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." Now while one might infer doctrine from the book of Acts which tells of historical events, the letters to the churches teach us doctrine explicitly, and as such should first be consulted with regards to matters of doctrine. What it teaches here is that all the saints have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. In fact much of the purpose of the letter to the Corinthians was to dispel any notions advocating schisms and elitist divisions among the Christian community (Such as is the case today with regards to the elitist Charismatic view of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit) Likewise Paul makes sure to note that not all have the same giftedness. Contrary to many Charismatics today, Paul teaches that it is most appropriate that all do not speak in tongues, despite the fact that all have been baptized by one Spirit into one body. "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" 1Cor 12:30 Yet today Charismatics have taken just the opposite view as scripture teaches and have develop a schizm in the body such as now they view there being two bodies - one having been baptized in the Holy Spirit and those Christians who have not. They are the very kind of Corinthian Christian Paul is trying to correct. If this doctrine of theirs is significant, if Christians are missing out on something important, than why is it not found in any of the New Testament letters to the churches but for one place, and that one place teaches it's universal among the body of Christ, contrary to the teaches of Charismatism? This reminds me much of the Mariology of Catholicsm whereby Catholics make a big deal about Mary while she is not even mentioned in any of the letters to the churches.

But getting on to what the scripture actually teaches concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as I said it equates the baptism with the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This is why it's universal. Because everyone born of God has received the Holy Spirit. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 If a person does not have the Holy Spirit, he does not yet belong to Christ. Concerning Acts chapter 2 Peter says, ""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." Acts 2:38 He doesn't say you might receive the Holy Spirit. He does say pray that you receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is automatically given to all believers. That's what he says.

The apostles themselves hadn't received the Holy Spirit until Acts 2. It says in John 7:39 "Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." So when was the Holy Spirit given? Peter says in Acts 2 "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." So upon his ascension, upon his being exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus received from the Father the right to give out the Holy Spirit. And in Acts 2 the apostles received the Spirit. Now there are those who will point out John 20:22 in which Jesus breathed on them and commanded them to receive the Holy Spirit. But that was simply symbolic, predictive of what was to come, much as the last supper was symbolic and predictive of what was to come. In fact what the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2 it came as a wind and as tongues of fire. That's when they actually received the Holy Spirit.

Likewise there are those who will point out Acts 8 concerning the Samaritans. But it says, "When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 8:15,16 But this is contrary to the Charismatic teaching of there being a difference between receiving the Holy Spirit and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Rather the Samaritans hadn't yet received the Holy Spirit. Now they had been promised the Holy Spirit, and Peter was given the keys to the kingdom. (Mt 16:19) In Acts 2 he opened the gates of the kingdom to the Jews. In Acts 8 to the Samaritans, and then in Acts 10 to the Gentiles. This is why up to Acts chapter 10 the receiving of the Holy Spirit was contingent upon Peter's presence. But after that, the gates having been opened to all categories of people, the keys were no longer needed and thus since that point a person receives the Holy Spirit upon believing in Christ. That's why we don't find the Charismatic view in the New Testament letters to the churches. They falsely infer their doctrine from the book of Acts.

But let's consider the case of Cornelius - the first Gentile Christian. Peter preached the gospel to him in Acts 10, "while Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message." Acts 10:44 Notice they received the Holy Spirit despite the fact they had not been baptized, nor did anyone lay hands on them, which are often additional requirements advocated by the who misconceive what the Bible teaches. And the others with him said,."Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" Acts 10:47 They refer to this as receiving the Holy Spirit.

Now in describing this event to the church at Jerusalem Peter told what the angel said to Cornelius, namely, "Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved." Acts 11:13,14 Cornelius and his household were not saved until they heard and believed the gospel, despite the fact he was apparently a god-fearing generous man. Such is the case today. People need to hear and believe the gospel to be saved. Now concerning the Holy Spirit coming on them Peter said, "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 11:14,15 Thus Peter is saying that what Cornelius and his household experience was the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Notice, contrary to Charismatism, Peter makes no distinction between receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in the Holy Spirit. These are the same.

Everywhere in the New Testament letters to the churches it is assumed that the saints have received the Holy Spirit. If you are a believer, you have received the Holy Spirit. Don't be misled by Charismatic dogma.

A Response to a Baptism Question

On March 10, 2018 at 6:17 AM frantrimby <frantrimby@gmail.com> wrote:

 Many people say that baptism is not necessary for salvation.  Often they point to the thief on the cross. But it says that John the Baptist baptized everybody in Judea.  Is it possible that this thief just had a lapse in his Christian walk but was baptized previously?

BCBSR Response:

Whether or not the man had been baptized by John is speculative and irrelevant. What you should look at is the situation with Cornelius and Acts 10 and 11, in which Cornelius and his household were saved simply by believing the message, prior to getting water baptized. And thereby proving that one doesn't have to get wet to get saved.

The angel told Cornelius, "Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." Acts 11:13,14 People are saved by faith in words, not by religious rituals, not by getting wet. Just as is expressed in Eph 1:13,14 "You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance" Thus a person is saved by faith apart from works (such as water baptism). "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" Rom 4:4-6

Cornelius heard the gospel message and believed it, and then he was baptized in the Holy Spirit, being included in Christ at that point, all prior to him being water baptized. Peter speaks of this baptism in the Holy Spirit in describing the event saying, "as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’" Acts 11:15,16

This proves not only that water baptism in not necessary for one to be saved, but also that there are two baptisms: Baptism in the Holy Spirit is when one is included in Christ. And with that, one is guaranteed eternal life, as indicated in Eph 1:14; 2Cor 1:22; 2Cor 5:5 and elsewhere. It is done without the intervention of human hands. Water baptism is performed upon those who have been saved by faith in Christ to outwardly identify themselves as "Christians".  Thus where it comes to interpreting verses which use the word "baptism", one has to interpret which of these two baptisms it's referring to.

Let's take examples of this:

Col 2:11,12  "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."

Which of the two baptisms is done "without hands"?

Rom 6:3  "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"

Which of the two is when you're included in Christ?

1Co 12:13  "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body——whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free——and have all been made to drink into one Spirit."

Which of the two is associated with receiving the Holy Spirit?

But much as in New Testament times there were apostate Christians whose gospel was salvation by works, including the performance of religious rituals, so also today there are apostate churches, like "The Church of Christ", for example, who say that you have to get wet to get saved. Back then they were the group of the Circumcision. Today that are the group of the Baptism. They have rejected the grace of God inherent in the message of the gospel whereby salvation is by faith apart from works, and as such they are not only not saved, but they are worse than unbelievers, promoting a false gospel.

And frankly it baffles me how anyone could fall for such a hoax they advocate, much like Paul was baffled by the gullibility of the Galatians. "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" Gal 3:1-3 No mention of salvation being conditioned upon water baptism. They received the Spirit simply by believing what they heard, not by any religious ritual. Trying to attain eternal life by human effort, such as getting water baptized to get saved, indicates the person has not come to faith in Christ and are mere fools.

steve


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Mar 10,2018