THE BIBLE IS BY NO MEANS SILENT about the
subject of baptism. The words "baptism", "baptize",
or "baptized" occur ninety-three times in the New Testament, this not
including the many inferences to the subject that are found in other
scriptures. There are many conflicting doctrines about this subject in
the religious world today. Every denomination or religious group has an
opinion or practice about baptism that is different from the others; and so
different have been the views on the subject that it has even been the source
of debate among and between religious bodies. Perhaps the problem lies in
a failure to understand what baptism is and its spiritual significance to
Christianity. As with any subject dealing with spiritual matters, the
Bible must be our primary source of reference, whether it be by direct command
or by necessary inference. With the subject of baptism, there is little
doubt about its importance to the doctrine of Christ, as baptism is a command
given by the Savior himself in the great commission. What about baptism?
How does it relate to the Christian and salvation? Is baptism
essential for one to be saved?
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
To understand the importance of baptism to the Christian life, it is
necessary to fully understand what it is and what it involves. The word
"baptism" originates from the Greek work "baptisma" which
describes the "process of immersion, submersion, and emergence" (W.E.
Vine). The act of baptism is described by the Greek word
"baptisma" meaning to dip or immerse.
The Greek words are of special importance in any Bible study because the
English language Bible that we have today was taken from the original and early
manuscripts of the New Testament, which were written in Greek. Thus, to
truly understand the meaning of a word or phrase in the modern Bible, it is
necessary to go back to the Greek text to comprehend its original meaning.
There can be little doubt that the Greek words dealing with baptism in
the New Testament describe it as being an act or process by which a person is
"dipped, immersed, or submerged" (Vine). Even this
characteristic of baptism has been lost in the modern world. Many
denominations today do not require immersion, but merely "sprinkling"
or "pouring" water upon one's head. But this cannot be the
original intent of the scriptures, because of the very meaning of the word
"baptism" itself. Besides this, there are other scriptures
dealing with the symbolism of baptism that also discount the practices of many
Few can deny that baptism is an essential part of Christianity and the
doctrine of Christ. This is one command that the Savior himself gave to
his disciples. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus, in the announcing of the great
commission, said: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father, Son, and of the Holy Ghost." This same
command is echoed in the words of Jesus in the account of Mark in Mark 16:15-16
where he says: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every
creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that
believeth not shall be damned." Also, by inference, Jesus clearly
speaks of the connection between baptism and entering the kingdom of God.
In John 3:5 Jesus says: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a
man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of
God." It is quite clear that as Jesus commanded his disciples to
"go and teach" that an essential part of this doctrine required that
all who believed their words concerning Jesus were to be baptized. Part
of "preaching the gospel to every creature" was not only teaching the
existence and divinity of the Savior, but also, on that belief, they were to be
PEOPLE ON PENTECOST
The Bible records that his disciples did indeed preach and do as the Lord
had commanded. We find that Peter, shortly after the Lord's ascension,
preached to the crowds on the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem. In Acts
2:37-38 it is recorded: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in
their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and
brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized,
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..."
Very clearly, Peter was echoing the words of Jesus in the great
commission message: to go forth and preach and baptize those who believe.
Peter was later teaching, and in Acts 10:48 says concerning Peter's
words: "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the
PHILIP IS CONVERTED
In the story of Philip preaching in Acts chapter 8, we find that evidently
Philip also preached baptism. In verse 12 we find: "But when they
believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name
of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Philip
also preached to the Eunuch later in the same chapter. By the Eunuch's
response, it is evident that he preached baptism to him as well. Acts
8:35-365 records: "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same
scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way,
they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what
doth hinder me to be baptized?" Then in verse 38 it is recorded:
"And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into
the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
SAUL, OF TARSUS
In the famous story of the conversion of Saul in Acts 9, we find that the
Lord appeared to him along the Damascus road, and records Saul (Paul) as saying
in verse 6: "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou
have me do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and
it shall be told thee what thou must do." What happened then?
Paul went on to Damascus, and met a man named Ananias, who had been
chosen by the Lord to talk to Saul, and Ananias told him what he needed to do.
Verse 18 says: "And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had
been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was
baptized." It is evident that Paul did not just spontaneously
suggest baptism, but it must have been a part of the Lord's instructions to
Ananias. Obviously, Ananias taught Saul the necessity of baptism.
To not have done so would have been a denial of one of the basic
teachings of Jesus Christ. However, we know that Ananias did teach
baptism. In Paul's account of the event in Acts 22, Paul spoke of Ananias and
his words, beginning in verse 12. In verse 16 Paul quoted Ananias as
saying: "And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized and wash away
thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." After Paul's conversion,
he also taught the necessity of baptism.
LYDIA AND HER FAMILY
In Acts 16 beginning at verse 14, he preached to a woman named Lydia and her
family. There it is recorded: "And a certain woman named Lydia, a
seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose
heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by
Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us,
saying, If ye have judged me faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and
abide there." By this account, it is quite evident that Paul taught
the necessity of baptism, as this woman and her entire family followed his
teachings by being baptized.
Later in that same chapter, the story is told about the jailer who was
guarding Paul and Silas in prison. In Acts 16:30 the jailer asks them,
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And he took
them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he
and all his, straightway." We find that Paul must have taught
baptism, because when the jailer and his family believed their words, they were
baptized that same hour. They didn't wait on some church council to
convene and vote on their membership, nor did they give them a grace period to
test their faith, but immediately after the jailer and his house affirmed their
belief in Jesus Christ, they were baptized. Wouldn't it be nice if church
membership were as simple today as it was back then! It is, when it is
done the Bible way! It is very evident that the necessity of baptism is
taught by the scriptures, both by the explicit commands of the Lord himself,
and by his very apostles who worked and preached in the years after the cross.
7429 Oceanline Dr.
Indianapolis, IN 46214
[One of the remarkable facts that becomes quite clear from this study is that
in every conversion the person or persons were baptized. Even though it
must have taken much time and effort to accomplish it, three thousand converts
were baptized on the day of Pentecost. And as our brother points out the
Lord made them members of the church that very day (Acts 2:47). We hope
to carry brother Brockett's "The Purposes of
Baptism" next time, Lord