Baptism is a uniquely Christian act. While Jesus did not command Holy Spirit or fire baptism, He did command water Baptism, Mt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15,16. There is no disputing that Jesus was baptized by John. There is no disputing that John with his disciples and Jesus’ disciples were baptizing people in the Jordan River as well as other places, John 3:22,23. And from the same chapter in John, Jesus said that water Baptism is necessary for entering the kingdom of God, John 3:3-5.
Since Jesus commanded it, what can we learn about the purpose, mode, and subject of Baptism?
PURPOSE: When asked why they were Baptized, some give no other reason but that Christ commanded it. I suppose this is a good starting place, but it is not a complete answer. First of all, the Bible doesn’t ever say to be Baptized because Jesus was Baptized. And there isn’t a place in the Bible where someone is told to be Baptized because Jesus commanded it. No, the reason or purpose of being Baptized is more specific than that. Here are some passages that give the purpose of Baptism:
- Acts 2:38, “for” (a preposition meaning “with a view to”, and not the retrospective meaning “because”) the remission of sins.
- Acts 22:16, to wash away thy sins, calling on His name.
- Romans 6:3-5, to be baptized into His death, being buried with Christ in order to walk in newness of life.
- Galatians 3:26,27, as a matter of faith, to “put on” Christ.
- Colossians 2:12, to be buried with Christ and from which one is raised by faith in the working of God.
- 1 Peter 3:21, The antecedent “that”, corresponds with the “water” that Noah was brought safely through. Baptism therefore “saves you” through the resurrection of Jesus because in Baptism the sinner appeals to God for a clean conscience. Again, Baptism is a matter of faith.
Those who say that Baptism is not necessary are wrong because they contradict a command of Jesus. How can a command by Jesus not be necessary? They are also wrong because the purpose of Baptism is salvation through faith and the working of God, Col. 2:12. How can something related to salvation not be necessary? The purpose of Baptism is remission of sins.
MODE: What is the mode of Baptism? Is the Baptism of the Bible a sprinkling of water on the sinner? Is the Baptism of the Bible a pouring of water on the sinner? Or is Baptism the submerging of the sinner into a watery grave? Some denominations do one, or the other, and some do both. What does the Scriptures say? The action of the verb gives us the answer. Robertson’s Word Pictures says it is “an old verb to bury together with”. Thayer’s says, “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)” The word relates to a specific action by or on the subject, not the water! Jesus did not command for the water to be sprinkled. He did not commanded for the water to be poured. He did command for the person to be immersed or buried. Only that action fits the verb. It is human wisdom, sophistry, to make Baptism mean anything but a full immersion into the water. So that is the proper mode of Baptism. It is why the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 “went down into the water”. It is why Paul describes Baptism as a burial in Romans 6 and Colossians 2.
SUBJECT: Who is the proper subject of Baptism? Is the proper subject an infant or an adult? If you believe that infants are depraved and lost, then you will likely side with the first. But if you believe that Jesus saved adults (because children were innocent) then you believe the latter. Acts 8:12 says that “men and women were being Baptized”. In Mark 16:16, Jesus said “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” A little infant cannot believe: not in the virgin birth, not in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, not in so many other things that are related to believing in Christ. John 3:16 says “God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Without belief there can be no salvation. Baptizing an infant is unnecessary because the infant is innocent (Matthew 18:1ff), but even if a child had sin, it would be ineffective to Baptize them since they don’t yet have faith. We know that James says that “faith without works is dead.” Well, “works without faith” is vain, pointless, and meaningless. So the proper subject of Christian Baptism is an adult sinner who believes and is repentant of his sins.
If you believe in Jesus, please turn from sin and be willing to confess the name of Jesus as Lord. And then find someone, a church, that will Baptize you for the remission of your sins. To find a church of Christ in your area, go Here.