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Section 8B ... Controversial Issues

 

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Baptism

Carol Brooks
It does not say much for your conversion if your very first act is disobedience, that is of course, provided you have understood that baptism was commanded by our Lord.

    Also See Martin Luther
    We are told today that the rallying cry of the Reformation was: Sola Scriptura! Sola Gratia! Sola Fide! (Scripture only, Grace only, Faith only). But is this what Luther actually believed and taught? In 1529, Luther published his most popular book, the Small Catechism. By commenting briefly in question and answer form on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, baptism, and the Lord's Supper, the Small Catechism explains the theology of the evangelical reformation. As Luther's theology is presented in the following excerpts from the Small Catechism, ask yourself this question: "If this theology was presented to you anonymously (i.e., without Luther's name on it), what would you think about the so-called saving faith of its author?":

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    ON THIS PAGE

    Introduction
    The Greek Word Baptizo:

    What is Baptism?
    Origins of Baptism in Jewish Ritual
    How is Baptism Carried Out?
    The Baptism of Jesus
    Why Should We  Be Baptized?
    The Meaning And Purpose Of Baptism

    Infant Baptism
    Introduction
    Does Baptism Replace Circumcision?
    Faith of Their Fathers?
    A Dedication Ceremony?
    Baptism of Infants In the New Testament?
    Believe and Be Baptized

    A Requirement For Being Saved?
    Verses That Don't Mention Baptism
    Paul Downplayed Baptism
    Salvation Before Baptism?
    Verses That Seem To Link Baptism And Salvation
    Why Are These Verses Linked At All?
    Negative Implications Of The Doctrine

    Re-Baptism
    Reasons For Re-Baptism
    Two Relevant Questions

     

    Introduction
    While the mysteries of God are very very deep and often beyond our complete understanding, all doctrine pertaining to the salvation of man are relatively simple. God did not cloak salvation issues in incomprehensible jargon, and esoteric nuances, well beyond the average person’s understanding. Man accomplished that one all by himself.. pontificating on and writing tomes about matters that Scripture is both to the point, and very clear about.

    One would imagine that the simple act of dipping another human being into water would escape the controversies of weightier, or more complicated topics in Scripture. But no! Baptism is one of the most controversial subjects in all of Christendom… John Calvin even having a hand in Michael Servetus being burnt at the stake, in part, over his rejection of infant baptism. [See Calvinism]

    So where did the rite of Baptism originate and what does the Bible say about it?
     

    The Greek Word Baptizo: 
    Please note that the Greek word baptizo was never translated into an English word. Instead it was transliterated, meaning that it was merely written in the English alphabet, creating an English word… baptize.

    Baptizo is a derivative of the primary verb bapto, which means to whelm, that is, cover wholly with a fluid. While baptizo is used some 80 times in the New Testament, bapto has been used a mere three times. Two of the three passages show beyond doubt that bapto means "to dip".

      And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. [Luke 16:24]

      Jesus therefore answereth, He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him. So when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. [John 13:26]

      And he is arrayed in a garment dipped with blood: and his name is called The Word of God. [Revelation 19:13]

    (Unfortunately the ASV has, in the last verse above, translated bapto as sprinkled … a completely impossible translation considering the other two uses.


    The Concept of Dyeing:
    However there is another aspect to the word baptizo. The ability of natural dyes to color textiles had been known since ancient times… wool dyeing being established as a craft in Rome as early as 715 BC. Lydia, a woman apparently well ahead of her time, was described as "a seller of purple" in Acts 16:14. The "purple" which she sold was the cloth that had been stained with a dye obtained from a shell fish found in the Mediterranean… expensive, difficult to produce and undoubtedly a prized commodity

    Since most dyeing was done by dipping the material into a liquid dye, the word bapto came to mean "to dye".  The Greek-speaking Hebrews, had to be well aware of this since the Septuagint translators used baptize to translate the Hebrew word tòâbal, translated dipped in 2 Kings 5:14, and dyed in Ezekiel 23:15.

    When cloth is dipped into dye, it actually soaks up the dye, and in the words of Otis Q. Sellers of Seed & Bread Ministries

      “It actually takes on the character of the dye into which it is dipped. There is a merger between the cloth and the dye that is permanent. Ancient dyers understood this and spoke of baptizing cloth in purple, scarlet, or blood. This invested or imbued the cloth with a certain color. Since this process introduced a dye that entered so deeply and so extensively into the very substance of the cloth so that no part was left unaffected, the cloth was no longer called wool, silk, or linen, but was called purple or scarlet by those who dyed it and those who sold it.” [3]

    It is this concept of not only a change in the intrinsic nature of the fabric, but also a merger of the cloth and dye that is likely to be why the New Testament writers used the word baptizo. No English word can properly express the totality of their thinking.

    However there is yet another use of the word baptizo which, in at least two cases in the New Testament, means ‘washing’, since people returning from market, or guests that one had invited to ones home, would not be expected to immerse (baptize) themselves. In those days this baptizo would have involved washing ones hands and face and perhaps the feet as well, since people largely wore sandals and the roads were dusty.

      And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first bathed (baptizo) himself before dinner. [Luke 11:38]

      and when they come from the market-place, except they bathe (baptizo)themselves, they eat not; and many other things there are, which they have received to hold, washings of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels.) [Mark 7:4]


    What is Baptism?

    Origins of Baptism in Jewish Ritual
    The essential concept of cleansing one's spiritual body through immersion in water predates Christianity.  Although the term "baptism" is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the rite of immersion in water originates in the Jewish Mikvah, which is...

      a ritual pool of water, used for the purpose of attaining ritual purity. Immersion in a Mikvah is used in connection with Repentance, to remove the impurity of sin. And in connection with Conversion, “because the convert has taken upon himself or herself to adopt the lifestyle of the Jew, that is based on the recognition of G-d as King of the Universe and on the obligation to perform the commandments of the Torah”. [4]

    Numerous remnants of ritual pools that have been excavated, around the walls of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, that predate the era of Christianity.  The mikvah was used by both men and women to regain ritual purity after various events (such as being defiled by contact with a corpse) according to regulations laid down in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and in classical rabbinical literature. A mikvah was so essential to each community of Jews that, it was understood that if a community or village had only enough money for a synagogue or a mikvah, the mikvah would be built first. And if necessary, a synagogue could be sold to finance its construction.

    The mikvah was also used by the Jewish high priest on Yom Kippur, and by the man who led the goat away. Observant Jews used the mikvah many times during their lives, some even before every Sabbath, while it was essential for Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth.

    However in Christianity, immersion in water is rarely repeated more then once.
     

    How  Baptism is Carried Out
    The person to be baptized either stands or sits in a large enough body of water so that another Christian can lower the person under the water and then bring them back up. This total immersion is not only in common with the Jewish Mikvah, but is the very essences of the Greek word baptizo.

    However not every one follows the procedure outlined above, preferring instead to sprinkle water on people instead of immersing them. Yet others have the candidate stand in water up to the hips or thereabouts, then pour water on the upper half of the body.

    The obvious question arises as to whether or not all these methods are acceptable. Regardless of what one’s opinion is, the chances are that one can find a quote from one of the early church fathers that agrees with that particular point of view. However someone else’s thoughts on the matter can hardly be said to constitute infallible doctrine. The Bible, and only the Bible, must determine what we practice.

    Justin Martyr believed that Jesus was baptized in his role as the ideal example for everyone, which, while it was surely not the only reason He was baptized, does provide us with an excellent blueprint.
     

    The Baptism of Jesus
    Christian baptism has its origin in the baptism of Jesus, in both a direct and historical sense. While we are not told why Jesus was baptized, the verses below indicate that it was this event that, for the first time, revealed Jesus' identity as the Son of God to the general public.

    When John the Baptist began baptizing people in the Jordan river, it was in accordance with the existing Jewish practice. However when Jesus Christ arrived at the Jordan for His own baptism, John the Baptist recognized the difference between his own largely symbolic ritual and the future baptism of all Christians.

      "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. [Matthew 3:11. Also See Mark 1:7-8]

    We derive the total immersion method of baptism from the account in Mark which talks about Jesus’ baptism. In order for Jesus to come up out of the water, He had to have been under, or in it.

      Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; [Mark 1:10]

    The only other description of an actual baptism is found in Acts and also speaks of going down into the water [All Emphasis Added]

      As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 8And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. [Acts 8: 36-38]

    Additionally, we are specifically told that the reason John was baptizing in a particular place was because there was much water there. Immersion is the only method where much water is required. If sprinkling or pouring was adequate for baptisms, then John could have performed baptisms anywhere.

      And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. (John 3:23)

    However please note that God is not standing over us with a big stick, just waiting for one of us to step slightly out of line. There are probably many many situations where baptism by immersion can not be carried out. For example no one would suggest immersing anyone that has recently had surgery and even less a person who has a tracheotomy (an incision in the windpipe made to relieve an obstruction to breathing). Burn victims or those in an iron lung are other examples of people who can not be dunked in water. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that it may not be wise for many of these people to delay being baptized until circumstances are more favourable. To put it bluntly.... we don’t want them to die without being baptized.

    Other difficulties arise apart from heath issues.  There may not be any water to baptize some one in a desert area, and one can not suggest immersing any one living in the regions furtherest north on our planet, unless one has access to heated water. In certain hostile countries baptisms must perforce be done in secret, especially when it comes to prison inmates and others living under the eagle eye of a government unfriendly to Christianity. 

    Under this type of situation the person can and should be sprinkled provided, of course, they fulfill all the other requirements.

    If a situation arises where there is no other Christian around to perform the baptism and for some reason it would not be prudent to defer the baptism, you would not be the first person to baptize themselves. If circumstances improve you an always be re-baptized at a later time.
     

    Why Should We  Be Baptized?
    The short answer is because Jesus commanded it.

    We have no evidence that Jesus Himself baptized people, since John 4:2 states that He did so only through his disciples. Also after His death and resurrection, and before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gathered his disciples together and gave them instructions, which has since come to be known as the Great Commission…

      “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20).

    These specific instructions were the last recorded directions given by Jesus to His disciples, who as  ambassadors of the King of Kings received a precise outline as to what Jesus expected them, and those following them, to do after He was gone. We know these instructions were closely followed by the apostles, since the book of Acts recording that about 3,000 people in Jerusalem, after hearing the Gospel, were baptized in one day on Pentecost, (Acts 2:41).

    However a more complete understanding of why we are baptized lies in having a basic grasp of the covenants in Scripture.
     

    The Meaning And Purpose Of Baptism
    The word Covenant means a contract, alliance, pledge or a commitment, and, in Scripture, principally refers to a number of solemn agreements made between God and individuals such as Abraham and/or the nation of Israel as a whole….the ‘New Covenant’ believed to be the replacement or final fulfillment of the old. Covenants usually involved an alliance between two unequal parties - the stronger one pledging protection and help to the weaker in return for some form of vassal status. Covenants were also made between two individuals.. for example, I Samuel 18:1-4 says “Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself”.

    However several of the Biblical covenants between God and man include signs that visibly represent the covenants. For example the first time the Bible speaks of any covenant is when God told Noah that He (God) would establish a covenant with Noah. God then established the rainbow as a sign of that covenant.

      And God said, This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:9-13).

    God’s covenant with Abraham involved giving Abraham and his descendants the land for an everlasting possession, which was again sealed with the physical sign of circumcision of all males from the age of eight days old. [Genesis 17:8-12]. While circumcision was the initiatory rite into this covenant, it can not be emphasized enough that it did not did not guarantee salvation.

    While I have read a great deal about baptism NOT being an outward sign, the fact remains that immersion in water per se does not accomplish anything other than the removal of some specks of dust. However a Christian’s baptism is only undertaken after the person comes to faith in Christ. It is outward testimony of what has occurred inwardly and conveys spiritual rebirth.. It is a public declaration of one’s faith and illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection..

    Which bring us to the topic of …


    Infant Baptism

    Introduction
    Infant baptism is the sprinkling of infants for purposes that differ from group to group, but almost always implies that the child receives salvation in some sense. Infant baptism is practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Church of the Nazarene, Reformed Church in America, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Presbyterians.

    It is a deeply emotional issue since it concerns the most vulnerable and usually adored members of our family, arousing every ounce of our protectiveness as parents. Many believing that the New Testament silence on the topic is actually a major argument in favor of infant baptism... In other words, since it was taken for granted that babies would be baptized, it was unnecessary to say anything about it.

    Most often than not, infant baptism is rooted in the idea that all infants bear the stain of Original Sin and have to be baptized to free them from this ‘sinful nature’. Certainly it is true that infant baptism might be a necessity if original sin were passed down through the generations. However, as the case is made elsewhere on this site, sin is not a virus or a genetic flaw that can be passed from the parents to their children. It is not a substance and has no physical properties.  So what is sin? The Bible says, "Sin is the transgression of the law." [I John 3:4]. So, without someone actually breaking the law, sin does not even exist. [See Original Sin].

    However Infant Baptism is also seen in other ways… one being the correlation between the Old Testament practice of Circumcision with the New Testament practice of Baptism.


    Does Baptism Replace Circumcision?
    Any one who asks that question, or attempts to answer it, is apparently not familiar with typology in Scripture.

    Baptism does not replace circumcision. In fact nothing in the Old Testament is “replaced” by anything in the New. However the Old Testament was replete with types or shadows of things to come. In Christian theology a type is a representation of one thing by another… a Biblical event or person, which serves as an example or pattern for other events or persons. The subsequent happenings are called the antitype, which usually are more intense and/or more important than the original type. For example, David is the type and the Messiah the antitype… the Messiah being greater than David.  In Romans 5:14 Paul asserts that Adam “is a figure (tupos) of Him (Christ) that was to come”.   [For Details See Prophecy and Typology]

    Baptism, under the New Covenant is the coming of age, or the antitype, of the Jewish rite of circumcision under the Old Covenant and demonstrates the superiority of the New. The Old Covenant applied to Jews alone, the new includes both Jews and Gentiles. Circumcision under the old covenant was reserved for males only, but baptism is for both males and females. This connection was ably demonstrated by Paul in Colossians 2:11-12.

      “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” [Colossians 2:11-12]

    Circumcision, commanded by God, was a physical sign that all sin was to be cut off or renounced, and that he who was circumcised was to be devoted to God and to a holy life. However in the time of Paul, the Jewish teachers were still insisting on the necessity of a literal circumcision to obtain salvation, with Paul endeavoring to show them that faith in Christ was all that was required for salvation. Believers were “buried with Him in baptism” and then “raised up with Him through faith” and that “the circumcision of Christ” was a spiritual one. Both removed a body of flesh, one physically, the other spiritually.

    Remember that Moses said almost the same thing centuries earlier..

       “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” [Deuteronomy 10:16]

    And what is this body of flesh? It is our human or earthly nature apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. Paul clarifies spiritual circumcision in Romans chapters 2… (He also makes the point that we have two competing natures, the flesh and the spirit, in chapters 6-8)

      For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. [Romans 2:28,29]

    Besides which, consider this.. in the very early days of Christianity most of the Jewish men had already been circumcised before becoming Christians, including Paul himself [Philippians 3:5]. After debate, circumcision was deemed unnecessary by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem [Acts 15:1-29], although some were still circumcised. Timothy for example, was circumcised by Paul [See Acts 16:1-3] and there is little doubt that he was already baptized. So, if baptism “replaced” circumcision, how could both rituals be put into practice at the same time, among the same people.
     

    Young Children at the Passover & The Lord's Supper
    This whole unsound belief  that ‘baptism replaces circumcision’ has been instrumental in leading to the practice of infant baptism, with proponents (also called pedobaptists) arguing that since there is a unity between the Old and New Covenants, circumcision in the Old is parallel to baptism in the New. Jewish infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant, therefore, infants of believers should be baptized under the New, both acts outwardly identifying the person as one of the family of Abraham.

    However this argument, not only oblivious to the whole question of typology dealt with above, also fails to go far enough, ignoring the striking differences between the two covenants when it comes to the rituals. For example..

    The Lord's Supper finds a counterpart in the Old Testament Passover, yet there are some significant contrasts. While it is true that the Passover observances arose from a historic event of national deliverance, it also signified personal redemption. Yet, very young children took their place at the Passover table as participants in the ceremony, certainly learning more about the significance of the Feast as they grew older.

    However small children are not admitted to the Lord's Table or supper. I Corinthians 11:23-30 clearly outlines the preconditions necessary for partaking in this ritual. Paul warns that he who “eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (V. 27) and that each person should  "examine himself" and judge himself before partaking (V.28-31). These conditions certainly preclude the inclusion of young children.

    And there is a reason for this.. The New Testament church has come of age. The ritual outward formality has given way to an inward spirituality. While there are outward formalities under the new covenant, such as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they are few in number and consistently draw ones attention to the inward… promoting self-examination and inner righteousness.  It’s inclusive outreach is not the only reason for the superiority of the New Covenant.

    Children should be excluded from baptism for the same reasons they are excluded from the Lord’s Supper.
     

    Faith of Their Fathers?
    It could be argued that the circumcision of infants in the Old Testament was based on the faith of their parents, however there is not a single text that describes circumcision being withheld because a parent had no faith. Even when the prophets denounced the Jews for being uncircumcised in heart as in Leviticus 26:41, they did not suggest that the sons of these faithless Jews not be circumcised.

    Additionally there was at least one time that the issue of faith was all but ignored. When the nation of Israel came out of their 40 years of wandering and finally crossed the river Jordan, God instructed Joshua to circumcise all males in the nations, since none of the sons born during those years time had apparently been circumcised. So if the entire nation was circumcised in a day, there was obviously little regard to personal faith or beliefs, but circumcision was clearly administered as an outward sign of belonging to the elect nation. [See Joshua 5].

    This case has also been made for the baptism of infants in the modern church that it is just …
     

    A Dedication Ceremony?
    It has also been claimed that Baptism of an infant fulfills the same purpose as an infant dedication or blessing. While it does not save, it does identify the infant as a member of a group, proclaiming that this child is a Christian’s child and focuses on the Church as a covenant community and baptism as a rite of initiation. In the words of Rick Beckman…

      “Baptism is a privilege, just as circumcision was. Both acts identify the person outwardly as one of Abraham’s offspring. The emphasis has always been on the inward, certainly — circumcision didn’t make a Jew saved any more than baptism makes an infant saved — but it does identify the infant as a member of a group of others who are living for God. To baptize an infant is to proclaim for all present, “This is a Christian’s child!”

      And in that regard, it is also a pledge, a pledge that the child will be reared in a manner consistent with the Scriptures. “This is a Christian’s child, and he is going to be raised in the ways of the Lord!” Just as circumcision was the first step in an infants’ being raised in light of the Abrahamic Covenant (and subsequently the Mosaic Covenant), so is baptism a first step”. [5]

    However while there seems to be absolutely no harm in a dedication ceremony, to call it a Baptism is running several risks. For example as David Cloud points out infant baptism results in 1) a false security and 2) in churches being peopled by unregenerate members. How? Simply because

      “Multitudes of people baptized as infants grow up thinking they are ready for Heaven even though they have never been born again through personal faith in Christ. They are trusting in their infant baptism and in their church membership. Such are deceived by the teaching of their own churches.

      In some churches the infant becomes a member immediately at the time of the baptismal ceremony. In others, the infant is not yet considered a full member, but is admitted as a member in later years without having to show evidence of regeneration. Either way, infant baptism results in those churches being filled with members who are not truly saved.” [6]


    Baptism of Infants In the New Testament?
    There is not a single Bible verse that commands or even implies infant baptism. On the contrary it is a doctrine by implication, inasmuch as when Scripture mentions that whole “households” received baptism, It is assumed that there must surely have been young children or infants in those households who were baptized along with the adults. The households mentioned are those of Cornelius in Acts 10, Lydia in Acts 16, the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, Crispus in Acts 18, and Stephanas in 1 Corinthians 1:16”.

      The Case of Cornelius. “It is stated in v. 24 of Acts 10, that those gathered with him in the house were his kinsmen and near friends. He sends word that they are ‘all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee [Peter] of God.’ In v. 44 the Holy Spirit fell upon all them which heard the Word. We know from other Scriptures that, in the N.T., the Holy Spirit acts thus only upon those who have believed. Those gathered were capable of hearing the commands of God with a view to believing and obeying” (The Church of God: A Symposium). It is specifically stated in Acts 11:17 that those who were saved and baptized with Cornelius were those “who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Obviously these were not tiny infants.

      Lydia and Her Household (Acts 16:14-15). Nothing is said about infants in this passage, and it is highly unlikely that this busy merchant woman would have had tiny babies. There is no evidence here whatsoever for the practice of infant baptism.

      The Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:30-34). This passage clearly says that Paul spoke the Word of God to the entire household (v. 32) and that the entire household believed (vv. 32-33). This could not be said of infants.

      The household of Crispus (Acts 18:8). Those who were saved and baptized in this family were all believers, for we are told, “Crispus ... believed on the Lord with all his house...” We are not told how old the members of Crispus’ family were, but we are told that each one of them believed on the Lord. Obviously they were not infants.

      The household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). Again nothing is actually said about infants being present or baptized. In 1 Cor. 16:15 we are told that this household addicted themselves to the ministry. This could not be said of infants.” [6]


    Believe and Be Baptized
    Jesus commissioned his disciples with the following words:

      Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Mat 28:18-20).

    The procedure being make disciples first, baptize second. A disciple of Jesus is a Christian who has repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus for salvation (See Acts 20:21; 3:19; 26:20; Gal. 5:24; 2 Pet. 3:9; etc.), so repentance and faith must precede baptism, which is impossible for an infant or young child. The Bible teaches this principles repeatedly, made very clear by the following examples.  [All Emphasis Added]

      “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15)

      “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).

      “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

      “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” (Acts 8:12).

      “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).

      “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47). Cornelius and his friends were not baptized until they had first believed and received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 15:7, Peter said the Cornelius and his friends had believed.

      “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us” (Acts 16:14-15).

      “And brought them out, and said, 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 they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:30-33).

      “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).

    But is Baptism…


    A Requirement For Being Saved?

    Verses That Don't Mention Baptism
    One of the most nagging questions in Christianity is whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation.

    When people discuss whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation, the tendency is to focus on a few passages of Scripture such as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, John 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:21. However, we can not strictly rely on verses of Scripture which seem to agree with our own beliefs, but instead focus has to be on what the totality of Scripture says.  There are literally dozens of passages in Scripture that speak of receiving forgiveness of sins, salvation, eternal life etc through faith in Christ, none of which even mention Baptism. For example Jesus Himself said that whoever believes in Him is not condemned, has crossed over from death to life and has everlasting life, etc. … (The list below is far from comprehensive)

      Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18)

      "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36)

      "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)

      "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40)

      "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)

      "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"" (John 11:25-26)

      "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." (John 6:47)

    Peter echoed this same fact:

      "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:43)

      "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38-39)

    As did Paul. When Paul and Silas were asked by the jailor what must be done in order to receive salvation, they did not mention baptism at all. They specifically said that he must believe in the Lord Jesus and we will be saved.

      ""Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved --you and your household."" (Acts 16:30-31)

    A concept essentially repeated in the following verses…

      "You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus."

      I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)

      "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."" (Romans 1:17)

      "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." (Romans 3:22)


    Paul Downplayed Baptism
    In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said that he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize: Odd words if baptism was necessary for salvation..

      I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel….
       

    Salvation Before Baptism.
    There is at least one clear instance in Scripture of people getting saved and then being baptized. Acts 10:44-46 says,

      "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.

    The circumcised believers who had come with Peter heard the Gentiles speaking in tongues and exalting God and were “amazed” that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles (V.45) . Then Peter said, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" Peter then ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

    These people were saved before they were baptized. The gift of the Holy Spirit does not come on the unsaved.

    So, what about the handful of …
     

    Verses That Seem To Link Baptism And Salvation
    Mark 16:16

      “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”

    This verse is frequently used to prove that baptism is necessary for salvation. However it does no such thing. There are two parts to this verse..  a) He who believes and is baptized will be saved, and b) He who does not believe will be condemned.

    One would have to go beyond what the verse actually says in order to draw the conclusion that baptism is a requirement for salvation. The second part of the verse explicitly says that if we do not believe then we will not be saved, which means we can be absolutely certain that belief is a requirement for salvation.

    However notice the verse says nothing about believers who have not been baptized. We are assuming that the opposite of what has been stated is also true. There is not a single passage in the New Testament which explicitly states that whoever is not baptized will be condemned.

    Mark 16:16 focuses on the issue of belief, not baptism, which is consistent with all countless verses in the Bible that only mention belief or faith in connection with salvation. 

    Additionally it is important to remember that there are some textual issues with Mark chapter 16, verses 9-20. There is some question as to whether these verses were originally part of the Gospel of Mark, or whether they were added later by a scribe. As a result, it is best not to base a key doctrine on anything from Mark 16:9-20, unless it is also supported by other Scriptures.


    Acts 2:38

      "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."

    The same principle of negative inference applies to this verse as well. Peter did not say that believers who have not been baptized can not receive forgiveness of sins, it is we that are assuming that the opposite of what has been stated is also true.

    In Acts 3:19 Peter spoke about repenting and having our sins wiped out, without saying anything about baptism…

      "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord"

    The emphasis is on repentance, without which there is no salvation.


    Acts 22:16

      Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name"

    These words were said to Paul after his encounter on the road to Damascus. The speaker was Ananias, who was a devout Jew by the standard of the Law.

    Remembering that no Bible verse stands alone, one has to examine the context. Acts 22 recounts the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) who was well known for persecuting Christians. While on the road to Damascus to bring those believers to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished, he was blinded by a brilliant light and heard the voice of Christ saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?... Saul then asked 'What shall I do, Lord?', to which he received the reply 'Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.' Saul was blinded by the light, so was led by the hand into Damascus where he met Ananias who restored his sight and then spoke the words quoted above.

    Those who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation will sometimes argue that when Saul asked, "What shall I do, Lord?", he was actually asking, "What shall I do for salvation, Lord?" and when Jesus said, "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do",  He was actually saying, "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do in order to be saved."

    However this is being read into the verses based on preconceived beliefs. Jesus did tell Saul what he must do, but it had nothing to do with Saul's salvation. Jesus was telling Saul what he had to do what he must do in his ministry as an apostle. Note what Ananias told Paul before he even mentioned baptism.. [Emphasis Added]

      "And he said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.

    He then added

       'Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'

    God had already appointed Paul as a witness to Him. And how as this possible? Simply because when Jesus revealed Himself on the road to Damascus, Saul went through an amazing transformation. He not only realized that his former religious views were wrong and his conduct despicable, but went through a radical change of mind and direction at the same time, immediately being converted to the Lordship of Christ and renouncing the authority of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious leaders) whose orders he was in the process of carrying out. This is the very essence of salvation.

    So Jesus was not sending a non-Christian, but a Christian out into ministry and evangelism.

    Not only did Saul receive salvation on the road to Damascus, but he was commissioned as an apostle at that time, emphasized in the parallel passage in Acts 26, when Paul recounted this experience to King Agrippa…

       "'Now get up and stand on your feet. I [Jesus] have appeared to you [Saul] to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you." "I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them"  "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'" Acts 26:16-18:

    Jesus said that He had appeared to Saul in order to appoint him as a servant and as a witness of Christ. Incidentally a number of New Testament passages indicate that one condition for apostleship is having seen Jesus (see for example Acts 1:22 and 1 Corinthians 9:1) which Paul did. [This section on Acts 22 and 26 have been excerpted from Is Baptism Required For Salvation? By Dave Root]


    1 Peter 3:21

      “… baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

    However this is out of context. One has to look at the surrounding verses to see what Peter was talking about. [Emphasis Added]

      For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 3:18-21. NASB]

    The word translated as “corresponding” in the last verse is translated antitype in Youngs Literal Translation, and symbolize in The NIV, both of which mean the same thing…  a representative or a counterpart.

    So the flood was a "type" or a "foreshadowing" of baptism. However, we certainly can not directly compare the actual waters of the flood to the waters of baptism, because those waters were the very thing that Noah and his family were protected from.  If they had stepped into the flood waters, they would drowned just as surely as everyone else. However verse 20 above tells us that a few were saved in the ark. It was the ark that saved them, making the ark a type or a foreshadowing of Christ.

    [For more about the typology of Baptism See Does Baptism Replace Circumcision? Above]

    Besides which Peter goes on to clarify that it is not the removal of dirt from the flesh (water baptism) that saves but “an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

    So if baptism is not necessary for salvation …
     

    Why Are These Verses Linked At All?
    Simply because, without any shadow of doubt, Conversion and Baptism are irrefutably linked. It does not say much for your conversion if your very first act is disobedience, that is of course, provided you have understood that baptism was commanded by our Lord. In the words of James Patrick Holding…

      “We will see that the answer to the question, "Is baptism necessary for salvation?", is that the question is out of order. If there is any question that needs to be asked, it is this: "If you are saved, and you know what baptism means and that it was commanded by Christ, why would you not be baptized?" One does not become baptized to be saved; one is saved and is therefore baptized. Faith that is true inevitably manifests itself in obedience, and being that baptism is the first act declared for the believer by Christ, the true believer will gladly undergo baptism.

      Baptism is just one part of that behavior is inextricably linked to repentance and salvation. Does the lack of the behavior mean one is not saved? No, but one does have to ask why anyone would not produce the validating behavior. Do they understand the command? Are they hydrophobic? Why would they refuse baptism if they knew that Christ had commanded it? Can we picture someone hearing the preaching of Peter and saying, "Peter, that's good news, I'll repent as you say, but I'm definitely not being baptized, even though I know it was commanded by the one I now call Lord." ?

      Baptism, like any validating behavior, is "essential to salvation" only in the sense that if you don't want to go through with it, and there is no barrier to understanding, then it is clear that you do not possess salvation. Thought and action are expected, under the Semitic Totality paradigm, to correspond. The conversion and the baptism are regarded as one process, not because the latter is required for salvation, but because it is expected in light of salvation. (Hence it is off the mark to make much of that Peter commanded the baptism, and thereby conclude that baptism is a "necessity" rather than an inevitable result. A command is often needed simply because the person being commanded has no idea what they should do next … [7]


    Negative Implications Of The Doctrine
    Some very perilous situations can and do arise if indeed, as some people believe, baptism is a requirement for being saved. While the negative implications of this doctrine are not often seen in the Western world (at least not yet), it can prove extremely hazardous to people in other parts of the planet.

    As Dave Root rightly says..

      “We would be saying that salvation is only available to people if there is enough water to perform a baptism and if there is a Christian available to baptize the person and if there is enough time to baptize the person. This means that unsaved people in life-threatening situations cannot receive salvation if there is not enough time to baptize them before their deaths. This means that unsaved people who die all alone cannot receive salvation because there are no Christians available to perform the baptisms. This means that unsaved people in areas with little water cannot receive salvation if there is not enough water for performing the baptisms.” [8]
       

    Re-Baptism

    Reasons For Re-Baptism
    It is not outside of reason to imagine that there are some circumstances in which a person may want to be re-baptized.

    The reasons for a person to have been baptized could be very varied. For example a person could have been baptized at a very young age without a true understanding of the nature of baptism. Some one else could have been baptized as a prerequisite to joining a particular church. It is also entirely possible for someone to have been baptized in a flood of emotion after a particularly moving altar call. Again it is not unheard of for someone to be baptized because everyone else is doing it.

    But none of the above is the function of baptism and constitutes an improper understanding of what baptism is for. Therefore if any of the above are true, or if you simply did not understand what baptism is, then it is possible that you just got wet and might consider being re-baptized. And If you are unsure, then there is nothing in scripture that says you should not be immersed again.

    There is at least one instance in Scripture where people were re-baptized after the circumstances of their first baptism were found to be ‘insufficient’ in some way. In Ephesus Paul encountered twelve men who had already been baptized with the type of baptism into John's baptism. Although even Jesus was baptized by John, Paul realized these men lacked essential understanding and he baptized them again.

      It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.

    This clearly demonstrates that accurate teaching must precede baptism, other wise it is not valid.
     

    Two Relevant Questions
    1) When and how were you baptized and 2) what was your understanding of baptism at the time?

    If you were “baptized” as an infant, it was pretty much a meaningless rite, although it may have meant the world to your parents at the time.  As you had no part in the decision, and both repentance and faith are pre-requisites for baptism (without them one has no reason to be immersed), you should be baptized by immersion.

    If you were baptized as an adult, the most relevant question to be asked is what was your understanding was when you were baptized the first time. While it is not necessary to have perfect knowledge of the Scriptures at the time of baptism, a basic understanding of sin and salvation is. So did you, when you were baptized, believe that you were in sin, felt remorse and self-reproach for those sins and wished to change direction… becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus. And did you believe that your sins would be forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? If you understood the basics, then there is probably no reason to be baptized again. If you are unsure, then there is nothing in scripture that says you should not be immersed again.

    However even if you understood the basics, but were “baptized” by any means other than immersion, then you should be baptized.

     

    EndNotes

    [1] His Ashes Cry Out Against John Calvin. http://www.evangelicaloutreach.org/ashes.htm

    [2] Michael Servetus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Servetus

    [3] http://www.seedandbread.org/seedandbread/SB135BAPTIZOMeaning.pdf

    [4] Judaism 101, A Glossary of Basic Jewish Terms and Concepts. http://www.ou.org/about/judaism/m.htm

    [5] Infant Baptism: Answers to Common Objections. http://rickbeckman.org/infant-baptism-answers-to-common-objections

    [6] Infant Baptism. David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service. http://www.wayoflife.org/database/infantbaptism.html

    [7] James Patrick Holding. Was This Dip Really Necessary?

    [8] Dave Root. Is Baptism Required For Salvation?

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