Conversion: Who Should Be Baptized?

By Cecil Willis

After our study last week concerning the different baptisms mentioned in the New Testament (please try to read that article before this), and our conclusion that the baptism in which we must be essentially and vitally interested is the baptism commanded by Christ in the great commission, we are prepared this week to think concerning “Who should be baptized?” Is baptism to be adminstered indiscriminately upon all men, or are there certain prerequisites to being baptized? The Lord made it plain that not just any person is to be baptized, although at the same time, it was revealed that men of every nation have a right to obey the gospel. Christ said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:10), and “Go ye therefore and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15), which teaches us that the requisite to baptism is not nationality. God does not know us by race, for men of every nation, clime and tongue have an equal right to heed the call of Christ. John recorded, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And fie that heareth, let him. say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). But even though all men have a right to obey the gospel, still there are certain moral and mental conditions that must abide within them before they may pleasingly be immersed into Christ, or before they may be baptized.

One Who is Taught

Let us now reflect upon some of these conditions that must exist before one may be baptized, or let us see who can be baptized. Christ said “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you ” (Matt. 28:19,20). One trait that the candidate for baptism must possess is the mentality to be taught. Teaching must precede his baptism, and then after he is baptized he must be further taught the ways of the Christian. life. One who does not have the mind capable of being taught is not a subject of baptism, for one must be taught before he can be scripturally baptized. This requirement ehinainates the mentally deficient, and. infants. There are many denominations that pretend to baptize infants, ordinarily when the child is eight days old. They cannot be recipients of Christ’s baptism, for thev must have the intelligence or mental strength to be taught the gospel. Children, or babies have the potential mentality, but their tender minds have not developed enough to be taught the gospel of Christ, and consequently, babies gre not proper subjects of baptism.

One Who Believes

One must also be a believer befoi,e he can be considered a candidate for New Testament baptism. In Mark’s account of the Great Commission, Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but be that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). In the records of conversions found in the New Testament, but specifically in the book of Acts, one sees that before men and women were baptized, they were believers in Christ. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the Jews were accused. by Peter of having crucified the Lord of glory, and even though it is not definitely said that they became believers, it is certain. that they did. for they cried out, “Men and bretliten what shall we do?” After they had become believers, they were then told to be baptized in the name of Christ. When Philip went down to the city of Samaria. and proclaimed to thern the Christ, the Scripture says, “But when they believed Philip, preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, tbey were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). Before these men and women obeyed the gospel of Christ, they became believers. The next verse of this same chapter records the account of another man’s obedience. “And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed” (Acts 8:13). Before Simon was baptized, be became a believer. Paul, in his evangelistic tours, went to the city of Corinth with the message of eternal truth, and found men and women who responded readily to his preaching by accepting the gospel, but notice when they were baptized: “And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue believed in the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). It is therefore seen that before one was baptized in New Testament times, it was necessary for him, to be of such ability that he could be taught. He might then weigh the evidence presented, believe it, and therefore meet the requisite of faith. Then he is prepared to be baptized., after he has genuinely repented. One could not be baptized until he had believed. This would be admitted by all denominations, theoretically, and yet many of them have practices that transgress their admission.

But, what are the consequences, and what is the significance of the truth that one intist be a believer before he may be baptized? Here it is: There are m.any churches that take little babies, generally when they are eight days old, and claim that they baptize them (even though they usually only sprinkle them). Regardless of the action, regardless whether one sprinkles or immerses a baby, it is impossible to baptize a baby with New Testament sanction. Before one can be baptized be must be a believer. I kindly ask, “Is it possible for an eight day old baby to rationally consider the evidences presented for the truthfulness of the gospel? Can a baby consider the testimonies to Christ’s divinity, and therefore reason to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Can a baby believe in Christ? I dare say, that no thoughtful person will answer any of these questions in the affirmative, but each question is answered with an emphatic, “No!” It is impossible for an eight day old baby to believe the gospel of Christ, or to obey the gospel of Christ. It is unreasonable to say that an eight day old baby can believe Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Yet, if a baby cannot believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, he cannot be scripturally baptized.

Denominational preachers have so keenly felt the impact of New Testament teaching stating that one must be a believer in order to be baptized, and they have become so well aware that their former position that a baby might be baptized without faith was without the approval of divine precept, that now they have modified their teaching, so that now some denominations that practice infant baptism, claim that the babies have a “child-like faith,” and so they are believers. Think just a minute with me please. Isn’t it absurd to argue that a little baby, that cannot even recognize its mother, that knows not the difference between day and night, has the ability to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? A doctrine like this is the height of folly. And yet there are many good people who have not considered the rationality or the scripturalness of this doctrine, and they therefore remain in churches that teach that a baby can be baptized, either without faith, or even more absurd, they are in a church that teaches that an eight day old baby can believe in Christ. Surely when honest men and women realize how utterly foreign to the Scriptures this doctrine is, they will leave these manmade churches, and repudiate the error of their past life. We only ask you to search the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so.

One Who is Penitent

But these are not the whole of the requisites of baptism. One must also be penitent of his sins before he can be baptized into Christ with the sanction of Christ. Once again we refer you to the day of Pentecost in which three thousand Jews heard the word of the gospel preached to them for the first time, believed it, and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” These Jews realized and admitted their guilt, and therefore they wanted to know what they must do in order to be saved. Peter answered their question as to what they were to do, by telling them to “repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Before they could be baptized they were to repent of their sins. This was not a commandment that was necessary in the New Testament era, but is not binding upon men today. it is just as necessary that one repent prior to his baptism now, as it was two thousand years ago when Peter commanded it on the day of Pentecost.

But here is the application of this truth. Before one can repent, the forces that the Bible says produce repentance must operate upon his heart. We studied in a prior lesson how that the goodness of God leads men to repentance (Rom. 2:4); the longsuffering of God is conducive to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9); the fear of judgment should produce repentance (Lk. 13:1-5); godly sorrow produces repentance (2 Cor. 7:10); and finally the desrre to be saved should be a motivation to repentance (Acts 2:38). In relation to infant baptism, this question must be propounded and answered. Can a week old infant be moved to repentance by these forces we have just mentioned that produce repentance? Is it possible for a child of this age to repent of his sins? To ask the question is to answer it. In the first place, an individual unaccountable to God’s law can have no sin. Of course, the denominationalists teach that the reason why it is necessary to baptize these infants is because thoy have inherited Adam’s sin, and are therefore inherently totally depraved, but the child does not bear the iniquity of the father, nor does the father bear the iniquity of the child. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). This child does not have any sin, and if it did have, it would be impossible for him to repent of those sins. Repentance is a change of mind. It is the decision to cease sinning. Can a few day old baby rationally, reasonably, and intelligently consider his sill; consider God’s reaction toward sin; consider the blessings that God has bestowed upon him, and the pupishment that God has in store for the persistently impenitent; and with these considerations resolve to quit sin? Certainly no! But one cannot be baptized until he repents. To place the argument in syllogistic form, it would be stated like this.

One cannot be scripturally baptized until he genuinely repents.

A baby cannot repent.

Therefore, a baby cannot be scripturally baptized,

This is a point that no denominational preacher can answer, and I venture, that they will not even try.

As Philip was sent by the angel of the Lord down to the road that went down from Jerusalem to Gaza, he came upon an Ethiopian eunuch, who had been to Jerusalem to worship. This Ethiopian was returning in his chariot, and as he went on his way, he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. From this scripture he was reading, Philip began and preached unto him Jesus. “And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-38). The chariot was commanded to stand still, and Philip went into the water and baptized him. This man had to confess his faith in Christ before he was baptized. Paul said, “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the moth confession is made unto salvation” (Rorn. 10:9,10). A baby may be baptized if lie has faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, this faith coming by the preaching of the Word, if he sincerely repents of his sins, and if he confesses with his mouth his faith in Christ. All of these are impossibilities, and so is the baptism of a baby.

One Who is Willingly Obedient

Another thing it would be well to think about is the fact that one must Tender obedience to the gospel of Christ willingly (Rom. 22:17). If one does not obey of his own volition, his actions are voided. God is not going to compti one to submift. If man should compel one to do the acts commanded of God, and one does them unwillingly, God is not satisfied. Who makes the decision to have a baby baptized? All of us know that the parents make the decision. They realize that the baby does not have the ability, as yet, to make such a decision, and so, the parents decide to have the baby baptized. Would the Lord be pleased for my parents to decide for me to serve him? Would that help me any? Surely not! One’s parents cannot decide to obey God for him, and this is precisely what is done when the parents of a new-born baby decide to have him baptized. God says that the individual is to make the decision, and not someone else make it for him, and so on another count, the baby cannot be scripturally baptized. Inasmuch as we have had much to say about the impossibility of a baby’s being baptized, one might ask, “What is the condition of a baby?” The truth is, a baby is not lost or saved. He is not lost for he has not reached the age of accountability, and therefore is not respopsible in the sight of God, therefore he could not be lost. On the, other hand, a baby cannot be saved, for it never has been lost. Being saved is predicated upon having been lom. The baby is safe. It is neither lost nor saved, but it is safe. But we will have to further discuss this in our lesson next week, the Lord willing.

Truth Magazine XX: 35, pp. 547-549
September 2, 1976