by Micky Galloway
The apostle Paul wrote, “(There is) one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Just the use of word “baptism” generates questions and controversy. The problem isn’t that the Bible has little to say on the subject or that the Scriptures are unclear. The real cause for the difficulty is that many have preconceived ideas drawn from their own feelings without consulting the Bible to see what it says.
Most “religious” people agree that baptism is commanded. Clearly, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved …” (Mark 16:16). The apostle Peter taught, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins …” (Acts 2:38). However, there are vast differences when we consider the mode of baptism (immersion, pouring, or sprinkling); the subjects of baptism (infants or those old enough to repent); or the purpose of baptism (to be saved, or to show that one is already among the saved). The Bible teaches that there is “one Lord,” “one faith.” Likewise there is only “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). One may be considering being baptized, or one may have previously been baptized in some manner, but the question remains: Was it the “one baptism” commanded by the Lord and taught by the apostles? Might one need to be re-baptized (or rather, scripturally baptized for the first time)? What do the Scriptures teach?
Paul found “certain disciples” in Ephesus. He asked them, “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they (said) unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was (given).” Paul immediately asked them, “Into what then were ye baptized?” They responded, “Into John's baptism.” It was necessary for Paul to explain the difference in John’s baptism and the “one baptism” commanded by the Lord and taught by the apostles. “And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus.” John’s baptism was to prepare for the coming of Christ. “And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5). Note that, “John … came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). Yet, here were some who had been baptized, but their baptism was lacking in some essential element.
Baptism is an immersion in water. The word itself baptízœ means “to dip. Immerse, submerge” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary). It is “… used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another …” (Vine). “The NT uses báptœ only in the literal sense, e.g., ‘to dip’ (Luke 16:24, The rich man cried unto Abraham, ‘have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip [báptœ, mg] the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame’)” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). Baptism is described in the Scriptures as a burial. “Having been buried with him in baptism …” (Colossians 2:12; cf. Romans 6:4). Baptism therefore, is not a sprinkling or pouring.
Baptism is for those who are taught. Jesus told the disciples, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of (teach, KJV) all the nations, baptizing them (i.e. those who are taught, mg) into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Teaching was to precede baptism. Each case of conversion in the book Acts illustrates that the persons were taught before they were baptized (cf. Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, 16).
Baptism is for those who are believers. As Philip was teaching the eunuch, “… they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, (here is) water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? (And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God)” (Acts 8:36-37). The eunuch confessed his faith and was baptized. Jesus placed believing before baptism “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved …” (Mark 16:16). Baptism therefore, is not for infants, those too young to be taught, or for those incapable of comprehending the word preached.
Baptism is for those who have repented. Paul said, “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance involves three elements. 1) A change of mind. 2) This change of mind produces a change or reformation of life. 3) This change of mind is motivated by godly sorrow. Paul wrote, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, (a repentance) which bringeth no regret” (II Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow begins with the understanding that all sin is against God. He above all others is insulted by our misconduct. Until we realize what sin is and that our sin is an offense to God who gave us His Son, we have not begun to repent! Genuine repentance comes from the recognition that the law of God has been broken and must occur before one is baptized. Peter commanded the Jews, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto (for KJV) the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Baptism is “for remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Many believe that one is saved first, then baptized as a symbol or sign of his salvation, but please read carefully the following passages and take note of the order. Note where baptism is placed in relationship to the blessing that is promised in each passage. Mark 16:16 - Baptized, then saved. Acts 2:38 - Baptized, then remission of sins. Acts 22:16 - Baptized, then washing away of sins. In fact, in every passage where baptism and a corresponding word to forgiveness appears, baptism always comes first, never after it. Baptism is not for saved people!
Baptism is in the name of Jesus Christ, i.e. by His authority. Those in Acts 19 who were baptized “into John’s baptism,” were then “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5). Though these had previously been baptized, there was something woefully lacking. They had not submitted to the authority of Christ.
Friend, there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). If you were baptized because that’s what your friends were doing, or because of a spouse, fiancé, parents or grandparents, perhaps your baptism was lacking a necessary element. It is not the purpose of this article to cast doubt, but to cause us to examine ourselves (cf. II Corinthians 13:5) and make our calling and election sure (cf. II Peter 1:10).