By Larry Ray Hafley
Five essential items constitute scriptural baptism. They are: (1) Element; (2) Agent; (3) Action; (4) Subject; (5) Design. We shall consider these properties as they are described and defined in the New Testament. We are not concerned with the doctrines or opinions of any man. We shall not seek to set forth any partisan or denominational view of the issues involved. Examine the material in light of the Bible and compare it with your own belief or that of the religious body with which you are identified.
The Five Parts
(1) Element. One may be baptized in any number of things. In the Bible, we learn that baptism is in water. “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water . . . . and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36, 38) “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized” (Acts 110:47)? John’s baptism was in water (Matt. 3:13-16; Jn. 3:23) The New Testament reveals that baptism is in water in passages such as Ephesians 5:25, 1 Peter 3:20, 21, and others, but, perhaps, there is little dispute of this point. Observe, please, that we are agreed on this fact because of our mutual acceptance of the text of Scripture.
(2) Agent. Who is the agent, the administrator, the baptizer? In Holy Spirit baptism, Jesus is the baptizer (Matt. 3:11). However, in water baptism, men are the agents employed. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them” (Matt. 28:19). Men are to teach and men are to do the baptizing. “They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38). John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples baptized people (Jn. 3:23; 4:1, 2). The apostle Paul baptized people (1 Cor. 1: 14-16). Again, there is little dispute of this conclusion. Men, mankind, are the ones who perform water baptism. Why do we agree to this conclusion? We acknowledge the simple statements of the word of God; thus, we stand united in and on the truth. Can we not follow this procedure regarding the final three aspects of our study?
(3) Action. At this juncture, we may entertain the first hint of controversy. However, we shall overcome potential disagreement by adhering to the plain witness and evidence of the Bible. What is the action of baptism? Is baptism an immersion, a burial, or is it sprinkling or pouring? “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there” On. 3:23). Would one baptize in a place “because there was much water there” if he were sprinkling or pouring water on the people? “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matt. 3:16). Does this imply sprinkling, pouring or immersion? “They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water. . . ” (Acts 8:38, 39). What action is best described by the verses above, sprinkling, pouring or immersion? Paul said that “we are buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Baptism is likened unto a planting, a burial, and a resurrection (Rom. 6:5). If you had no preconceived ideas regarding the action of baptism, what would you most likely conclude from the verses cited? Surely, then, we can agree, as we did on the first two sections, on the action of baptism. The Scriptures, as they did before, should determine our view of the action of baptism.
(4) Subject. Who should be baptized? When is one a candidate for baptism? What qualifies one to be baptized? First, one must be a sinner. Those baptized in the New Testament were people who had sins that needed to be forgiven (Acts 2~23, 36-38; 22:16). Where baptism and salvation or its equivalent are mentioned, baptism always precedes salvation (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Obviously, before one can be saved, he has to be lost in sin. So, one must be a sinner before he can be scripturally baptized. Second, one must be taught the truth before he is baptized. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them” (Matt. 28:19). In every case of New Testament baptism, the people were first taught, then baptized (Acts 2:37, 38; 8:5, 12; 8:35-39; 16:14, 15, 30-34; 18:8; 19:1-5). Third, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Rom. 10:9, 10). “When they believed … they were baptized” (Acts 8:12, 36, 37). “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Fourth, one must repent before baptism – “Repent, and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The jailer in Philippi and Saul of Tarsus manifested their repentance before they were baptized (Acts 16:30-33; 9:9, 11; 22:16). Fifth, one must confess with his mouth that Christ is Lord (Rom. 10:9, 10). “And the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God … and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38). One must meet these terms before he is a suitable object and subject of New Testament baptism.
(5) Design. What is the aim, the object, the purpose of New Testament baptism? Remember, we shall answer the question by appealing to the word of God. There are numerous, diverse responses from the creeds and churches of men, but we are going to be guided by the I Mile. But, first, why was Christ’s blood shed? Jesus said it was “shed … for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Now, if you were asked for the design, the purpose, for the shedding of the blood of Jesus, you could correctly say that it was shed “for the remission of sins.” In Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter said that one is baptized “for the remission of sins. , , Would you deny that the precious blood of our Lord was shed “for the remission of sins”? No! By the same token, then, you will admit that baptism is “for the remission of sins.” Suppose I said that the Lord shed His blood because we are already saved; or, suppose I said He poured out His blood to show that we were saved before His death on the cross? You would not like it if I advocated that. Well, baptism, like the shedding of the blood of Christ, is “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38). Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Ananias, a preacher sent of God, told Saul to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). On two occasions, Paul said that we are “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Peter said that “baptism doth also now save us” (I Pet. 3:21). What do you say?
These are the five components of New Testament baptism. Does your belief, teaching, practice and experience correspond to these essential ingredients?
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 18, pp. 561-562
September 15, 1983