By Bill Crews
In Ephesians 4:5 the New Testament teaches that there is “one baptism” (in the same context, vv. 4-6, we are also told that there is one God and Father, one Holy Spirit, one Lord, one faith (the gospel), one body (the church, the spiritual body of Christ) and one hope (the hope of eternal life). Each accountable person needs to be certain that he has received the one baptism of this passage. In Acts 19:3-5 we read of twelve men at Ephesus who were “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” by the apostle Paul. These men had already been baptized “into John’s baptism,” but John the Baptist (or baptizer) had been dead for more than thirty years, and his baptism was no longer to be practiced or received (see also Acts 18:24-26). There are many today who have been baptized, but who need to be baptized again.
If I honestly believed that Baptist baptism as identical to New Testament baptism, I would certainly say so and be willing to accept it. But I know for a surety that it is not. By New Testament baptism I mean the baptism commanded by Christ is his new covenant. I have a book of Baptist Confessions of Faith written by Baptist preachers, church history books by Baptist preachers, and tracts and articles, and a Baptist encyclopedia. I know what Baptist churches teach, and I would not knowingly misrepresent them. Baptist churches reject infant baptism because they believe that baptism is for believers and that infants are incapable of being believers. In this they are right. In the first place the New Testament neither states nor necessarily implies that any infants were ever baptized. In the second place it clearly teaches that those who are baptized must be taught and must believe that teaching. Please read Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:12,35-38; 18:8, which all show that teaching and faith precede New Testament baptism.
Baptist churches reject the practice of sprinkling or pouring water upon a person for baptism and insist that baptism is the immersion of a person in water. In this they are right. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, and all Koine Greek lexicons define the word for “baptism” (actually a transliteration of the word) as “immersion, submersion, dipping, plunging, washing, overwhelming, etc.” and never as “sprinkling” or “pouring” (other Greek verbs had those meanings). Furthermore references to baptism and actual descriptions of baptizings clearly show that New Testament baptism is immersion in water. When the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, he and Philip came unto a certain water, he and Philip both went down into the water, he was baptized by Philip, and he and Philip both came up out of the water (by faith) buried with Christ and raised with Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). Baptism involves a burial of a person in water and a resurrection of a person from water; it is to bring to mind the burial and resurrection of our Lord. Sprinkling or pouring of water upon a person is not New Testament baptism.
So far I have agreed with the teaching and practice of Baptist churches on baptism. Wherein do I disagree? In these five points:
1. Even though Baptist churches rightly teach that prospects for baptism must be capable of hearing and understanding the gospel and must be believers, in practice they baptize very young children who cannot comply with these conditions. The New Testament also shows that baptism is for people who are lost due to their own sins against God and that they must be convicted of their sins (Rom. 6:16-18,14). Baptist churches, though they will not baptize infants, teach that everyone is born lost because they come into this world with the guilt of Adam’s sin upon them. This the Bible does not teach (Ezek. 18:20; Eccl. 7:29; Lk. 18:15-17).
2. Baptist churches not only teach that one must be a believer before he can be baptized. They teach that one must believe that he is already saved before he can be baptized; they put salvation at the point of faith; they teach salvation by faith alone. They put salvation from sin before baptism; the New Testament puts it after baptism (Mk. 16:15-16; 1 Pet. 3:21). They put remission of sins before baptism; the New Testament puts it after baptism (Acts 2:38). They put discipleship before baptism; the New Testament puts it after baptism (Matt. 28:18-20). They put the washing away of sins before baptism; the New Testament puts it after baptism (Acts 22:16). They put being in Christ before baptism; the New Testament puts it after baptism (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4).
3. Baptist churches teach that one must be accepted by the members of a congregation before he can be baptized; in times past they actually had the matter put to a vote. In the New Testament no one was ever brought before a congregation for approval before he could be baptized; in the New Testament churches did not vote upon receiving anyone for baptism (please read the example in Acts 8:26-39; the Lord adds one to the church, Acts 2:47; God sets the members in the spiritual body which is the church, 1 Cor. 12:18).
4. Baptist churches teach that one can only be baptized by one who is authorized to do so, usually a “licensed” and “ordained” “minister,” who is a Baptist. Some teach that that authorization must go back in an unbroken chain all the way to Christ and his apostles before the baptism can be valid. The New Testament places no significance upon the identity of the one who does the baptizing. The important thing is whether or not the individual who is baptized has been taught and convicted and is from the heart obeying the truth (Rom. 6:17-18). When anyone at Corinth began to place significance upon who baptized him, Paul wrote that he thanked God that he did not baptize that person (1 Cor. 1:10-17).
5. Baptist churches teach that baptism puts one into a local congregation and makes him a member of that local body. In the New Testament we do not read anywhere that baptism put anyone into a local church or congregation. We rather read that baptism puts one into Christ and into the spiritual body of Christ, the church (“the church” in that sense is all the saved and not some local congregation as in Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:10,21; 5:23; now please read 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Gal. 3:26-27 and Rom. 6:3-4, which show that we are baptized into Christ and into the spiritual body of Christ, the church).
This is why I know that anyone who has received Baptist baptism has not received New Testament baptism. Please be honest; it is not all “just a matter of interpretation.” It is rather a matter of Bible teaching and the salvation of precious souls.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 20, pp. 618-619
October 15, 1992