That’s A Good Question

By Larry Ray Hafley


From Wisconsin: “Were the apostles baptized in water? During a recent rather lively Bible class, we all seemed to agree that what the Apostles did has no direct affect on our salvation. However, one non-Christian has challenged a member to prove that the Apostles were baptized in water, if water baptism is all that important.

“But back to the question, the class ended with two mutually exclusive positions on the Apostles. One, that they were set in the church miraculously and did not need to be baptized in water; and, two, that the only way anyone can receive the forgiveness of sins is after water baptism, including the Apostles. Your comments would be appreciated.”


This is a controversial question. It has, however, no bearing on the importance of baptism. The challenge raised by this “non-Christian” is similar in design and intent to the old question, “But what about the thief on the cross?” Suppose none of the apostles were baptized. How does that alter Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned?” The answer to whether or not the apostles were baptized does not prove anything relative to the significance of water baptism for penitent believers today.

“Set In The Church”

Many believe the apostles were “set in the church miraculously and did not need to be baptized in water.” Their proof text is 1 Cor. 12:28. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings helps, governments, diversities of tongues. ” If this proves the apostles were “set in the church miraculously,” it proves the same for prophets and teachers. The text says they were “set in the church” as certainly as the apostles. Were they, too, “set in” without the need “to be baptized in water?”

Further, in 1 Cor. 12:18, Paul said, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” If verse 28 proved the apostles were “set in the church miraculously and did not need to be baptized in water,” why does not this verse prove that all members are “set in the church” before and without water baptism?

1 Cor. 12:18,28 do not deal with the method or the “how” of gaining entrance into the church. Verse 13 does this. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” All members of the body were indeed “set” by the Lord, but it is verse 13 that tells us how they were “set in” the body, the church. Verses 18 and 28 refer to God’s arrangement of the functions in the body as the entire context clearly reveals. The duties are prescribed of God. Some have one place in the body while others have another. It is the ranking or ordering of the Lord who sets or arranges them ” as it hath pleased him” (1 Cor. 12:11,18,28).

“Were The Apostles Baptized In Water?”

Peter and Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist (Jn. 1:35). As such, they had been baptized in water. Jesus also made and baptized disciples (Jn. 4:1,2). The apostles were disciples. “He called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Lk. 6:13). Those who refused John’s baptism “rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (Lk. 7:30-NASB). So, surely, the apostles. were baptized in water. This answers the question so far as it goes, but the implications are more extensive.

The real issue here is, “Were the apostles baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38)? One of them was. Paul was told to, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). “And he . . . arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9:18). But what of those baptized of John or Jesus before the cross? Were they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins? This is the knotty, controversial portion of this query. There are at least two views.

1) Those baptized by John before the cross did not need to be baptized as per Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16, If this outlook be correct, it does not negate or mitigate against the importance of baptism. This view states that John’s preaching of repentance and baptism were prepatory to entrance into the kingdom. John baptized “for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4), and those thus immersed were inducted into the kingdom on the day of Pentecost.

2) Those baptized by John before the cross also were baptized under the “great commission ” of Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16.

None should be overly dogmatic about either view.

“But What About Acts 19?”

The disciples in Acts 19:1-5 knew only the baptism of John. They were likely disciples taught by Apollos (Acts 18:2426). It appears they were baptized “unto John’s baptism” after the Pentecost of Acts 2. Hence, the need to be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 119:5). If it is granted they received John’s baptism postPentecost, this text is not germane to the issue before us. Our question involves only those legitimately baptized under John’s baptism. However, it is noteworthy that Paul said John urged that his disciples should believe on Christ which should come after him (John). Does not belief on Christ include obedience to His gospel?

Questions For Study

“Some questions may serve to get before you what we mean: (1) Did the baptism of John constitute the new birth? (2) Did John’s disciples enter the kingdom without the nlew birth? (3) Did John’s baptism make Christians? (4) Did it put men into Christ? (5) Was it in the name of the crucified and risen Lord? Paul settles this question in Acts 19, rather Luke settles it, in these words: ‘When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ If John’s baptism had been ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus,’ it would have hardly been necessary to say that.

“John’s baptism was temporary and provisional. It lasted until the baptism of the Great Commission, and there it ended, just as definitely and certainly as has the law of Moses.

“Whatever relationships existed under the law of Moses ended with the abrogation of the law. Would not the same hold true in respect to those blessings brought about by the baptism of John? The baptism of the Great Commission is for the remission of sins, but it also establishes us in a relationship where we may continue to receive pardon for sins committed after baptism. John also baptized for remission of sins. Did that baptism put them into a relationship through which they could continue to receive forgiveness of sins after the new covenant began? and after the baptism of John had ceased?” (Luther Blackmon, Gospel Advocate, “The Baptism of John,” April 22, 1948, p. 389). I think not.

This question may never be settled to the satisfaction of everyone. It is a moot question. It has no bearing on our salvation. Let no one be unduly disturbed about it. Surely, Christians will not be alienated by pushing it to the point of strife, contention and division. Regardless of one’s view, he must continue to press and preach the necessity of baptism for sinners today (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Truth Magazine XX: 45, pp. 716-717
November 11, 1976