What Baptists Believe About Baptism

By Larry Ray Hafley

The Baptist World, a Landmark Missionary Baptist publication, has a monthly feature entitled, “What Baptists Believe.” In the December, 1971, issue, baptism is discussed under the subheading, “What Is Scriptural Baptism?” The article states that “Four Things Are Essential for Scriptural Baptism.” We reviewed two of the four essentials in previous installments and will review the last one in this study. We shall not note point number two which correctly views baptism as immersion.

Essential Number Four

“4. The fourth essential to scriptural baptism is the proper authority for baptism which is the New Testament church Jesus instituted and placed in the world. This church had only one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). The church was commissioned to baptize (Matt. 28:18-20). Though there were only a few members of the church at the time, Jesus made it very emphatic that the church was to do His baptizing for Him (John 4:2).

“Baptism is not the door to the church, but is the prerequisite to membership in the church. The door is the vote. The church votes to receive one into the church after baptism. For this reason, Peter asked a group of brethren who accompanied him from the church in Joppa to Caesarea if any of them could forbid (object to baptism) water when Cornelius and his household were saved (Acts 10:23; 11:12). He was asking church authority for the ordinance.

“Jesus gave the church their commission just before His ascension. Reminding His apostles that He had all authority in heaven and earth, he commanded them (the church) to go to teach (evangelize), to baptize, and teach all things He had instructed them. It is evident He gave the authority to the church, not the apostles for though the apostles all died, Jesus said, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ He was speaking to his church.

“Because only the New Testament Church, the one the Lord instituted during His personal ministry and which has existed throughout the ages since that time has the authority to baptize, Missionary Baptists consider baptism by any other group or denomination as ‘alien’ and do not accept theirs as scriptural.”


(1) That Matthew 28:18-20 gives authority to baptize is based upon the assumption that the church was in existence at that time. The assumption is asserted; it is not proven. The “New Testament Church” could not have been established “during His (Christ’s) personal ministry” as is claimed. The New Testament was not in force, in effect, until after the death of Jesus (Heb. 9:15-17). So, if the church was established “during His personal ministry” it was under the Old Testament (Mt. 23:2, 3), not the New (Col. 2:14).

“Missionary Baptists consider baptism by any other group or denomination as `alien’ and do not accept theirs as scriptural.” But if Mt. 28:18-20 was given to them and if all baptism other than theirs is unscriptural, then the same would hold true regarding teaching or doctrine. The same passage authorizes teaching. Do Missionary Baptists reject all other teaching “by any other group or denomination as ,alien”‘? To be consistent, they must say that all other churches teach “alien” doctrine as well as practice “alien” baptism, thus, all men taught by all others are aliens. If the passage gives them exclusive authority to baptize, it gives them exclusive authority to teach. Smells like Rome! To be sure, Baptists deny this end of it, but in so doing they must deny their baptismal authority. They stand or fall together.

(2) “The church votes to receive one into the (Missionary Baptist) church after baptism.” Well, that proves the Missionary Baptist Church is not the New Testament church. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. ’12:13). One is not in the Missionary Baptist Church when he is baptized, but it is baptism that puts one into the one body or church of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:4).

Peter’s question in Acts 10:47 was rhetorical. It answers itself. He was not “asking church authority for the ordinance” but was showing that it could not be refused. It was not a question of “can we refuse” but “how can we refuse” is the emphasis of his question. It is strange that the Baptist author says a “(Missionary Baptist) church votes … after baptism” and then refers to a passage which according to him has the church voting before the baptism (Acts 10:47, 48). Even if he is right, he is wrong! If Acts 10:47, 48 is the authority for voting, Baptists ought not to reverse the procedure. (For a more thorough review of voting, see Truth Magazine, “Baptist Church Vote,” Sept. 16, 1971.)

(3) But what of the, poor Ethiopian eunuch? He was accepted by Philip and by the Lord (Mk. 16:16), but Missionary Baptists must consider his baptism as “alien” and unscriptural. Philip was not a Missionary Baptist preacher, for he did not ask for “church authority,” and the eunuch was not a Missionary Baptist because no Missionary Baptist Church voted to receive him.

Truth Magazine, XVIII:3, p. 6
November 15, 1973