Controversy Over Baptism

by Richard Nichols

Originally published in
The Christian Informer

THERE ARE A NUMBER of topics which are controversial in the world, but there is more controversy over religion than any other matter. This is sad, and it should not be so, for most of the controversy grows out of a disregard for what the word of God says. The vast majority of differences in the so-called "Christian World" do not stem from an inability to understand what the Scriptures say, but rather from an unwillingness to accept what they say. One clear example is found in the controversy over baptism.

There are a great many people who accept sprinkling water, or pouring water on a person for baptism. This is not because they are unable to understand that baptism is a burial and resurrection; the problem is that some are unwilling to accept that. Romans 6:3-4 teaches, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." The word of God says further, "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12).

The Scriptures do not even hint of two ways of administering the baptism of the Great Commission. Jesus sent his apostles out, telling them, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15,16). Baptism is the same everywhere in the world, and to everybody. The word of God says, "There is one baptism" (Epheseans 4:5). Since there is "one baptism," if an act is done which is not a burial in water, from which a person is raised to walk in newness of life, it is not baptism at all! When all people are willing to accept what the Scriptures say about it, there will be no controversy over it. Students of the word of God admit that all the requirements of baptism are met in immersion; and since they are, the requirements of baptism cannot be met in anything else. It is either a burial in water, or it is not baptism.

The word of God is just as clear on the purpose of baptism as it is on what act is baptism. The Scriptures say it puts a person into Christ where that person now has remission of sins, and is said to be saved. The Word tells us twice that we are "baptized into Christ," (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27); and it tells us twice that this is where we have forgiveness of sins, (Ephesians 1:7; Colosians 1:14).

Then we read that baptism is "for the remission of sins," (Acts 2:38), and Jesus promises that when a person who believe the Gospel, submits to baptism, they "shall be saved" (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Yet, despite all of this, a controversy rages over the purpose of baptism.

These passages about the purpose of baptism are not difficult to understand. People in elementry school can understand them. Although they know what the Scriptures teach--it is sad to say, but--many refuse to accept this teaching. Friend, remember, opposition to these passages is not opposition to some church, for no church gave them. Opposition to them is open rebellion to God who did give them. When we are all willing to accept what the word of God teaches, the controversy will end, and obedience will begin--the obedience by which we shall be saved. "...He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb 5:9).