Lesson Three What About Baptism? Bill Brown


Lesson Three
What About Baptism?
Bill Brown,
Carmichael Baptist Church
Lesson Text: Acts 8:35-38
Lesson Objective: To help us understand what the Bible definition of baptism is; the prerequisites of baptism; the purpose of baptism; and authority involved in baptism.
Introduction: Down through history you will find that Baptists have been rejected, persecuted, and even put to death concerning this subject. Many times it has taken place at the hands of other „Christian” denominations. Baptists, on the other hand, have always taught toleration of other opinions and ideas, as well as theologies. While we may tolerate them we do not sanction them as true. The Bible is our final rule of faith and practice. Whatever the bible teaches on a subject is what we want to teach. There may be a hundred opinions among men as to what constitutes proper baptism but there is only one opinion that counts; God’s opinion. Baptism has been a dividing line for many. It should be, as we will see through our study of God’s word. It is an important study because we want to please God in all that we do. God has placed a pattern before us to follow and to teach.
It is interesting to note that Baptists are the only churches that, when teaching on baptism, begin with John the Baptist. There is no difference between the baptism administered by John and the baptism administered by our Lord and his disciples. We will cover this subject in more detail when we come to the area of baptism and authority. Every major denomination has a name that distinguishes it from others and that name portrays an important emphasis of it’s teachings. Methodists were so named because of their strict adherence to methods, or manners, of living. Presbyterians we so named because of their manner of rule within their church structure. Baptists have been called by many names, but because of their strict adherence and teaching on baptism and their claim to a succession back to John the Baptist, they have been so named. Let’s look first at the proper subject for baptism.
The Proper Subject For Baptism
Who can be or should be baptized? In Acts chapter two and verse forty-one and forty-two we find it was those who „gladly received his word were baptized;” What word was it they received? Who were these people who received it? Our lesson text, along with many other passages of scripture, gives us more insight into the proper or scriptural subjects for baptism and the answers to those questions. Philip was a deacon of the early church in Jerusalem. When he saw the Eunuch riding along in a chariot, reading the scriptures, he asked him if he understood what he was reading. The man told him no. Philip then began to preach Jesus unto him. He preached the gospel or good news. He showed him that Jesus was the promised Messiah who had come to this earth, died for our sins, and rose again from the dead after the third day. He then must have taught him about the personal ministry of Christ, His actual coming and calling out disciples, and about baptism. This is clear from the portion of our text which says „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?” He knew there was a need to be baptized. Philip knew there was a prerequisite to an individual being baptized so he asked a question of the Eunuch. He asked him if he believed. If you were to search through the entire New Testament you will only find believers who are baptized. The proper subject for baptism is one who gives evidence or testimony of a personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and as their personal Savior.
This is exactly what God commanded His church to do in the Great Commission. We can find this commission in; Matthew 28:19 „Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” Mark 16:15-16 „And he said unto 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.” Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21 and in Acts 1:7-8. In these passages we find the proper pattern God has laid out for us. We are to preach the gospel and then baptize those who hear it and make a public profession of their faith in the gospel. The scriptural order is to believe and then be baptized. What was the word those folks in Acts 2:41-42 received? It was the gospel Peter preached to them about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. He told them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah God had promised. He told them that this same Jesus whom they had crucified, God had now made both Lord and Christ. Unless a person believes this, baptism will be of no value to them. Who where these people? They were people who heard, understood, and believed. This excludes baptizing babies or anyone who does not, or cannot profess a personal belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The proper subject for baptism is one who has been born again or saved. The proper subject is someone who stands justified, or righteous, before God. Baptism performed upon any one else would make that baptism null and void.
The Proper Design Of Baptism
The proper design of baptism deals with the motive or that, which prompts, urges, or causes one to be baptized. J.R. Graves wrote that: „Christian baptism is a specific act to be administered by a specific body to persons professing specific qualifications for the profession of specific truths.” We have just looked briefly at the „persons professing specific qualifications.” We now will consider the „profession of specific truths.” There are many denominations, which make baptism a sacrament. They baptize in order to wash away sin; to unite one to Christ; to regenerate; or to remit sins. Baptists believe no such thing. Baptists do not believe the word of God teaches that baptism is a means of grace. We believe it has nothing to do with the means of our salvation. It is, very simply put, a picture of the gospel we have already believed. It is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It signifies, or pictures that we have died with Christ to our old life of sin and have been raised to walk in newness of life. We do not believe the Bible teaches that the waters of baptism wash our sins away. We believe that is done by the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Baptism is our act of obedience to the command of God. In I Peter 3:21 We read: „The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” Some will try to use this verse to teach baptism washes away sin. In fact, this verse shows that baptism is symbolic, and is a public profession of what has already taken place in our hearts toward God. It is what has taken place in our hearts and our willingness to make it public that gives answer of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is a symbolic picture of the resurrection of Christ and our own spiritual renewal. „Jesus was figuratively buried and raised in baptism that we who follow him are planted in the likeness of his death and also raised in the likeness of his resurrection.”
Another reason we should be baptized, and why people were baptized in the New Testament, is to be added to a church. This is an additional design of baptism. In the Bible you will find no one added to the church who was not saved or unbaptized. Going back to Acts chapter two and verses forty-one and forty-two, we can see the biblical order. They were saved, baptized, and then added to the church. Afterwards we find teaching, fellowship, and then the Lord’s supper. This is God’s order and should be followed.
The Proper Method Of Baptism
There are many churches today who sprinkle or pour water upon the head for baptism. Others simply dip their fingers into a glass of water or font and sprinkle it or wipe it on the head. Baptists have always immersed or dipped the entire individual into a pool, stream, river, or body of water. The actual word from our English Bible, „baptize,” is a transliterated word. That simply means it is a Greek word that the translators Anglicized. The Greek word is „baptizo.” In every study of the Greek language all scholars admit that „baptizo” means to dip, immerse, or sink into water. The reason John the Baptist baptized at Aenon was because there was „much water there.” Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch went down into the water. Baptism cannot be to sprinkle or pour. Look at Matthew 3:6 „And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” A believer cannot be poured or sprinkled into the Jordan river. On the other hand, a believer can be immersed or dipped in the Jordan. To baptize any other way than described in the Bible is to render God’s directives as worthless and invalid. To baptize by any other method than immersion would be to ruin the symbolism of our baptism. Baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. When one dies we do not sprinkle them with water but bury them within the ground. With sprinkling there is no picture of rising from the dead at all.
Sprinkling or pouring as a means of baptism came about because the design of baptism was ruined some time in the third century. Some began to teach that baptism was necessary to salvation. They began to teach it washed away sin. They began to teach that since it was a ceremony (and not personal faith in the blood of Christ) that washed away man’s sins, then we should baptize infants to wash away their sin. It further evolved because objections were raised concerning the dipping, or immersing of babies into the water. Soon pouring became okay, then sprinkling, until finally a little water on the finger, which was wiped upon a child’s head. Once error sets in there seems to be no limit to which it can reach. Even today we have some heretical groups teaching that the living can be baptized for the dead in order to help them gain entrance into God’s presence. We need to learn early on that God means what He says and says what He means. Take God at His word, believe it and obey it.
The Proper Administrator Of Baptism
We now come to the final area concerning the scriptural teaching about baptism. God defines the proper subject, the proper design, the proper method, He also defines the proper authority. When it came time for Christ to be baptized he walked sixty miles to be baptized by the proper authority; John the Baptist. In reading John 1:6 We find „There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” The proper authority we will find within the New Testament, after John the Baptist, will be the church the Lord Jesus Christ established during His personal ministry on Earth. We will learn in a later lesson about what makes a church. We will learn that a church is an assembly of called out, baptized, believers. Christ called out and assembled baptized believers immediately after His own baptism. He commissioned them to preach and to baptize almost immediately. As He left for heaven after His resurrection He gave the commission to preach the gospel, to teach, and to baptize to His church. It is a true New Testament Baptist church that has the legal authority to baptize. Since an entire church cannot physically baptize, the church authorizes a representative to baptize on her behalf. The authority does not rest in an individual, but in the local church.
We seem to have no difficulty in understanding this when it comes to other institutions and their authority. The government of the United States of America is the only legal authority by which a citizen of another country may become a citizen of the United States. Our government has authorized certain members of it’s judicial force to declare someone a citizen of the U.S.A., or to reject them. I may know exactly what is required. I could give you the proper tests and oath. If I am not an official recognized by our government, the actions I may take will not be acceptable and rejected legally. The sincerity of my heart or of the heart of the recipient will not matter. It will not make that person a legal citizen of the United States of America. The same is true with baptism. The official baptizing may be saved and sincere. The individual being baptized may be saved and sincere. Unless the authority is scriptural the act of baptism is null and void. Unless a person begins with the baptism of John, as Jesus did, the baptism is not scriptural. The desire of our heart should be to please and obey God in all that we do. There is no better way to begin than with submitting to scriptural baptism immediately after we have been born again by the grace of God.
Study Questions
1. When Baptists begin to teach about baptism they usually begin with whom?
2. What is the first qualification of some one who wishes to be baptized?
3. What did Philip ask the Ethiopian Eunuch before he would baptize him?
4. Can you find one verse that teaches or even implies an infant should be baptized?
5. Why should we be baptized?
6. Does baptism wash away our sins?
7. Can we be a member of a Baptist church without being baptized?
8. What are some of the methods used by churches today to baptize?
9. What is the only method we find in the New Testament?
10. What Greek word means „to immerse or to dip?”
11. What made Aenon a good place to baptize? (See John 3:23)
12. Do you think it is okay to sprinkle for baptism?
13. Who baptized John the Baptist?
14. Who Baptized Jesus?
15. Who Baptized the Apostle Paul?
16. Who has the authority to baptize?
17. Do you think as long as you are sincere that God will accept any baptism?

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