| Jesus' Instruction an Example
Baptism did not begin with Peter after the death of Christ. Christian baptism was prefigured by the Israelites when they passed through the Red Sea (I Corinthians 10:1-2). Jesus Himself taught
baptism. He instructed His disciples, "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).
Did Jesus require the mere verbal expression of faith in order to receive eternal life? No. He required physical action - baptism - in order to be saved from ETERNAL DAMNATION.
Should it surprise us that Jesus taught baptism? It shouldn't when we realize that Jesus Himself was baptized! Even though Jesus lived a perfect life and was totally without sin (I Peter 2:22), He knew
the importance of setting an example for us to follow. ". . . Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps" (I Peter 2:21). For this reason, Jesus was baptized and
thereby demonstrated the vital importance of this act (Matthew 3:16).
What Method of Baptism?
"But there are many methods of baptism in the world's churches," it is often pointed out. "How does one know which method of baptism to use?"
Many of the large, fundamentalist churches utilize sprinkling, or pouring of water for baptism. However, in doing so, they ignorantly admit their sole authority for this completely unbiblical, unauthorized
form of "baptism" is teaching handed down from the Roman Catholic Church; teaching inherited by many Protestants from the time of the reformation.
The primary Catholic authority, the Catholic Encyclopedia, admits, ". . . The most ancient form (of baptism) usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is not only evident from the writings of
the fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental Churches, but it can also be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul, who speaks of baptism as a bath (Ephes. v, 26; Rom. vi, 4; Tit. iii, 5). In
the Latin Church (the church at Rome, as distinct from that at Constantinople and elsewhere), immersion seems to have prevailed until the twelfth century. After that time it is found in some places even as
late as the sixteenth century. Infusion and aspersion (pouring and sprinkling), however, were growing common in the thirteenth century, and gradually prevailed in the Western Church." (Art. "Baptism,"
Cath. Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, pp. 261, 262, emphasis mine).
Thus it is admitted that the Bible teaches immersion; that the practice of immersing, baptizing believers into the water prevailed for more than twelve long centuries until it was "gradually" altered from
the biblical form to the present-day Catholic sacrament.
But the Catholic Church recognizes the "traditions of the 'fathers' " as being equal with scripture. Most Protestant churches reject such traditions.
How strange, then, that with the exceptions of the Baptist Church and some others, many large professing "Christian" churches follow Catholic tradition in their form of 'baptism" instead of the plain
words of Scripture - the commands of the Saviour, Christ Himself!
Modern "churchianity" is deeply divided on the subject. Anciently, controversy raged over various practices such as infant baptism, re-baptizing (which led to the name "Anabaptists," attached to those
practicing re-baptism by their enemies) and baptizing surrogate candidates for the dead.
But did Jesus Christ leave it up to the churches to "decide" which mode of baptism they would like to use?
He certainly did not!
Obviously, according to the plain statements of Christ; according to Peter's command on the Day of Pentecost; according to the whole meaning and purpose of baptism (study Romans, the 6th chapter),
one should be baptized only after repentance.
"REPENT!" Jesus cried.
And what does it mean to repent?
It means to be deeply convicted of sin - to be emotionally shocked into deep remorse; shameful penitence; contrition, sorrow!
And what IS SIN?
"Sin is the transgression of LAW!'' (I John 3:4). Sin is the breaking of any one of the ten cardinal points of God's Ten Commandments as they are magnified, made spiritually binding, by Jesus' whole
life and teaching, particularly His famous "Sermon on the Mount." (If you have not yet read my book "The Ten Commandments," please write immediately for your free copy!)
Almighty God has not left it to mankind to decide what is sin. He has, rather, left it up to us to decide WHETHER to sin, or obey God's holy, righteous and perfect LAW!
When Paul repented, he came to the realization that his life was forfeit! He knew the penalty for sin! "For the wages of sin is death: but the GIFT of God (Notice it is God's gift - not something with
which we were born; it is not something inherent within us!) is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23).
Paul wrote, "For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin . . . 0 wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:14-25).
When Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9) he was shocked into REPENTANCE! When Ananias placed his hands on him (Acts 9:17) Paul was immediately baptized. Notice; "And
immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized" (Acts 9:18).
Here is a classic example of what Christ meant by His command to repent, and be baptized!
Isn't it then obvious to any thinking person that baptism is NOT FOR INFANTS? Can a baby "sin"? Can a tiny babe in arms become convicted of having broken God's law? Can a baby of months be
brought to full knowledge of God's plan of redemption; of His Holy Law; to the conviction of sin and repentance?
Nonsense! Yet, many great and vaunted churches practice infant "baptism" (which is a misnomer, for they do not really "baptize," but sprinkle, or pour a bit of water on the startled infant's head!).
Does God authorize carnal, human churchmen to devise any method of so-called "baptism" that appeals to them?
By no means! The Bible lays down a definite method of baptism, which we shall see plainly. This is not a frivolous matter.
We cannot take this matter lightly. We must again go to the Scriptures to see how the actual act of baptism is supposed to be performed. In order to fully understand this matter, it must be pointed out
that the New Testament was not written in King James English. It was written in the Greek language. Today we have many English translations - the most popular being the King James version which was
first published in 1611.
When the apostles wrote the New Testament in Greek, they used the following words:
(I) cheo meaning "to pour"
(2) rantidzo meaning "to sprinkle"
(3) baptizo meaning "to immerse" or "to dip."
If pouring or sprinkling were acceptable forms of baptism, the apostles would have used the words cheo or rantidzo. But they did not. They used the word baptizo whenever referring to the act required
for salvation. Proper baptism requires immersion - not sprinkling or pouring.
During his ministry John the Baptist went to Aenon " . . . because there was much water there" (John 3:23). If sprinkling or pouring were proper forms of baptism, John could have used a few gallons of
water to baptize hundreds. But he needed "much water" because he practiced complete immersion.
Notice that when Jesus was baptized He was in water. "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the spirit like a dove descending upon him" (Mark 1:10). John the
Baptist did not take Jesus to a well and pour water on His head out of a dipper. Jesus was immersed.
Another example of water baptism is found in Acts 8. Here we see Philip teaching Christianity to the Ethiopian eunuch. When the eunuch asked to be baptized, he and Philip " . . . went down both into
the water" (v.38) for baptism. And when they were finished ". . . they were come up out of the water" (v. 39). The Ethiopian eunuch was completely immersed in water.
Meaning of Baptism
"Why is complete immersion required?" is commonly asked. "What is so wrong with pouring or sprinkling?" God tells us not to follow the ways of men, but to obey His Commandments and to follow
the example of Jesus Christ.
As you will see from a careful, thorough reading of Romans 6, baptism pictures, among other things, the complete burial of the old self.
Complete submergence in water is necessary because it is symbolic of burial. Can you imagine the local undertaker standing a dead corpse against a tree, shoveling a small amount of dirt on its head,
and declaring the body "buried"? That is how ludicrous the practice of "sprinkling" or "pouring" must appear to Almighty God, who set His method of baptism down in scripture!
Baptism is an important symbolic act. It has a special threefold meaning for us. It pictures WASHING, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION.
First, baptism cleanses us of our sins and gives us a fresh start with God. Both the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism wash away our sins (Revelation 1:5; Acts 22:16).
Second, baptism symbolizes the death of our old, sinful selves. To be baptized is to bury one's carnal self in a watery grave (Colossians 2:12).
And, third, baptism gives us new life. It symbolizes the resurrection which we are promised if we obey God and accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
"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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection"
What could be more beautiful? Baptism pictures being buried with Christ (by being covered with water) and being resurrected with Him (by being raised out of the water)! The symbolism of burial and
resurrection cannot be portrayed by sprinkling or pouring.
This important ceremony was practiced by the New Testament ministers and has continued to this day. Jesus Christ has never given any man or group of men the authority to modify the method of
baptism which He preached and which the disciples practiced.
Over the years many have asked God's ministers, "Aren't there any circumstances where God could give salvation to a person who was not baptized?" It is not up to men, even ministers of Jesus
Christ, to dictate to God or to limit what He can do. The important point is that any person who desires eternal life and is able to be baptized should do so.
If there are special circumstances (and this would be rare, indeed), Almighty God knows, and understands. There are some. for instance, who have a very real disease - hydrophobia. In its worst form
the disease literally causes fear of swallowing. Though rare among humans, it results in an unreasoning fear of water. Commonly, though it is called rabies among animals. If someone knows the truth of
God: knows what sin is; is convicted, broken-hearted in repentance of sin; wishes to beg God's forgiveness for those sins; wishes salvation from God, but has an unusual fear of water, then God would
surely understand. The decision would have to remain that of the individual, not of the minister, or other counselor.
Sometimes, handicapped persons have wondered if it were possible to be baptized. I have known of cases where some few were actually baptized while lying on a stretcher, because of incapacitating
handicap, or weakness.
To satisfy some of the more curious questions, let's suppose the following scenario. Suppose a couple were marooned on the desert - more than a hundred miles from the nearest water of any kind.
Suppose, as they knew they were near death, they read the Bible together, realized they were sinners - desired to be forgiven of God. Suppose it was physically impossible for them to be immersed in water
(their most earnest prayer, surely!). Would God reject them because they were unable?
By the same token, suppose our fictitious couple were on an island in the ocean. They repented, wanted to call out to God for forgiveness, and for His Holy Spirit. Suppose they solemnly baptized each
other in the sea? Would God honor such a practice? I sincerely doubt that either of the above scenarios have obtained, but surely, God would not reject such people, for He is far more concerned about
what happens in the human heart than the physical, mechanical aspects of things.
The Bible does give us an example of a repentant person who was not baptized but was promised that he would he with Christ in the Kingdom of God. It took place during Jesus' crucifixion. Two thieves
were also being crucified at that time. One expressed his belief in Christ and asked if Jesus would remember him when He came into His Kingdom. Jesus replied that the man would see Him in Paradise.
Unfortunately, this scripture is used by many churches to imply the thief went immediately to heaven. Yet, Christ said, clearly, that He (Christ) would be dead for "three days and three nights" (Matt.
12:40), buried in the "heart of the earth."
Following His resurrection, He warned the women, "touch me NOT, for I not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, 'I ascend unto my Father and to your Father; and to
my God, and your God.' " (John 20:17).
Christ was alone. The thief was not with Him. Christ had NOT "gone to heaven" immediately upon death, but, exactly as He said (Matt. 12:40) was buried! Many do not believe Christ was truly dead
for those three days and three nights. But if Christ did not die, then we have no Saviour! (Write immediately for my free brochure, "Can God Die?")
Remember, man placed the commas and periods in the Bible. There were no punctuation marks in the Greek. If a husband turned to a wife, while driving the car along a country lane and said, "What's
that up in the road, ahead?" The wife, hearing the pause after the word 'road,' might misunderstand. She might think the husband was saying there was a head in the road!
But if he said "What's that - up in the road ahead?" She would understand.
So it is that, by misplacing the comma, men have totally perverted the meaning of Jesus' statement to the "thief on the cross."
What Jesus really said was, "Truly, I'm telling you today -YOU SHALL BE (in the future - after the resurrection!) with me in paradise!" (Luke 23:43, paraphrased).
But what about the thief? Christ obviously promised salvation to him, because the thief was repentant; because he recognized Christ!
This was a situation in which the man obviously was not physically able to be baptized. Sometimes a minister of God will counsel an inmate in prison who cannot to be baptized because the officials of his
penal institution will not allow it. One inmate who still had eleven years to serve for robbery said, "I've repented of my sins and do not bemoan the fact that I won't be released for several more years. I
know I must pay for my crime. But I can't be baptized for eleven more years! What if I die before I am released? Will I then suffer eternal damnation?"
The principle of "the thief on the cross" would seem to fit in this instance. This inmate is simply unable to comply with the Bible command to be baptized. But if he is truly repentant and accepts Jesus
Christ as his Lord and Saviour, he too will be with Christ in Paradise.
Sometimes a person who has requested baptism lives in an area where we cannot get a minister to him for some time. Invariably the person expresses concern about having to wait. One man refused to
drive his car for fear he might be involved in a fatal automobile accident before he could be baptized. A similar situation is that of a hospitalized person who is so ill or injured that hospital paraphernalia
such as a body cast, intravenous feeding tubes, or a breathing machine will not allow immersion in water. Once again, no concern is necessary in such situations because of the "thief on the cross" principle.
In What Name?
Many have been confused by Matthew 28:19 where Jesus talked about baptizing in His name and in the Father's name. Some are also confused by the mention of the "Holy Ghost."
Since this scripture is often used during the baptism ceremony, it would be worthwhile for the reader to understand two points.
First, the King James Bible uses words that have different meanings today than they had over 350 years ago. The translators in 1611 used the word "ghost" for the Greek word pneuma. God does not
have a ghost (there is no such thing as a ghost as portrayed in fictional movies on the supernatural), but God does have a Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a personage in the God Family. The God Family is
presently composed of the Father and the Son - it is not a trinity.
The word "trinity" is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, and the only scripture which implies it is a deliberate insertion by copyists after the invention of printing. The spurious verse is found in I John 5:7,
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one." Not one word of that passage is found in the Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, or
Alexandrinus, nor in any manuscripts until after the time of the comparatively modern invention of printing. For full information on this vital subject, ask for a re-print article on the subject of "The Trinity."
Remember! Christ prayed to the Father. Even the Roman Catholic Church recognized the Father as the supreme member of the Godhead; the One to whom Christ returned; the One to whom Christ
credited all His works!
Yet, when the angel announced the conception of Christ, he said, ". . . for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Sprit." (Matt. 1:20). Mary was told, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the
POWER OF THE HIGHEST shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God!" (Luke 1:35).
Obviously, not one of the vaunted churches of this world claims the "Holy Ghost" is the FATHER of Jesus Christ, yet the Bible says again and again that the agency used by God in bringing about this
stupendous miracle was the Holy Spirit! Write for the "trinity" article for a complete, irrefutable Bible study on this important issue.
Back to our discussion. Remember, the first point was that the word "Ghost" is an error. It should be rendered "Spirit."
Second, the word "in" in this scripture was translated from the Greek word eis. A better translation would he "into."
A more accurate rendering of Matthew 28:19 would be, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Baptism puts us into the divine God Family. At baptism we become begotten sons of God and earn the right to call Him "Father."
Notice from this scripture that we are baptized into Jesus Christ, not into any church denomination. Oftentimes ministers of this world's churches will baptize a person only if the new person is willing to
be baptized into that minister's church denomination. This is wrong! Any person who wishes to receive salvation should refuse such a requirement. He should only be baptized into the name of the Father
and of the Son. Loyalty to any man or group of men should also be refused because it is not a requirement for baptism.
A proper procedure for baptism should follow this form very closely: Before the actual baptism, the repentant person should be asked if he has repented of his sins and accepted Jesus Christ as
personal Lord and Saviour. Then, the person doing the immersing should say, "And now, (the persons' full name) as a result of your repentance of your sins; the transgression of God's holy law, I now
baptize you into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 'in the name of' meaning 'by the authority of' Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." The repentant person is then totally
immersed in water.
Some church denominations believe baptism should he performed only in running water such as a river or stream. But there is no scriptural basis for this. A baptism may he performed in a swimming
pool, a lake, the ocean, or any body of water which is large enough to accommodate complete immersion.
When Should You Be Baptized?
Some ministers tell repentant persons, "It is not for you to decide when you are ready for baptism. As a minister, I have the discernment to determine whether or not you are bearing good fruit."
This high-handed attitude is not scriptural. Philip did not require the Ethiopian eunuch to demonstrate several months of good works to "prove" he was "worthy" of baptism. Nor did the disciples
require "proof" from the thousands that they baptized on the day of Pentecost. The Philippian jailer and his household repented and were baptized by Paul and Silas in the same night (Acts 16:33).
As soon as a person realizes that he is a sinner, that he needs to be washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, that he accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, and that he wants to become an
obedient begotten son of God, HE SHOULD BE BAPTIZED! If it is not possible for him to he baptized immediately, he should he baptized as soon as possible.
On one hand, baptism should not he taken lightly. It should not be undertaken without counting the costs. On the other hand, like all important steps one takes in life, it should not be put off!
And because of the vital importance of baptism, it is not a step to be taken by children. The Scriptures speak only of "men and women" being baptized (Acts 8:12). There is no New Testament reference
to children being baptized.
It is impossible to draw an arbitrary line as to what the minimum age for baptism should be. No one can say, "Twenty years old is the earliest anyone can he baptized." Some young people, though not
many, are ready for repentance at age seventeen. Even more uncommon is the sixteen year old who truly understands the significance of such a step.
Many a child is convinced in his own mind that he has come to true repentance and may even convince others of it, only to come to the realization later that it was just a passing interest replaced by a
new infatuation with another person, a rock group, or a car.
Who Should Perform Baptism?
It is a commonly held belief that only an ordained minister may baptize. This is not true. When the disciples first baptized, they were not yet ordained. They were not even converted! Remember,
however, Jesus Christ had appointed them directly! They were His students, His disciples. Though unconverted, they were His bona fide representatives. Not just anyone - surely not spiritual novices; not
those who are unacquainted with the scriptures, should perform baptisms.
In Acts 2:37-41 we learn that three thousand people were baptized on the Pentecost following Jesus' crucifixion. Did the twelve apostles baptize this vast number? Probably not. No doubt nonordained
members also baptized.
In Acts 8 we see the example of Philip who, although a deacon, was apparently not an ordained minister as yet. Even so, he baptized many Samarians (v. 12) and later the Ethiopian eunuch (v.38).
So the Scriptures are plain that ministers are not the only persons qualified to baptize. The person who baptizes you is only human anyway. One woman was baptized by a minister who was later
discovered to be a thief. Did the minister's sins invalidate her baptism? Absolutely not! Because it is actually Christ who baptizes us. He uses imperfect men as His instruments to do His will.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect baptism at the hands of a man who is free from sin. When you are baptized, you do not look to
the human being who puts you under the water. You look to Jesus Christ, the One who actually washes away your sins. But in the process of seeking baptism, it is wise to look for someone who can help
you with questions and provide you with spiritual guidance. Jesus Christ set up His true Church with ministers who are specially called for this purpose. All biblical examples show that baptisms were
performed by representatives of the true Church of God. In all cases these representatives were either ministers of the Church of God or they were men selected by the ministry to represent the Church.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
The ceremony of baptism completely cleanses the repentant person of all past sins. At that moment, he stands before God as a holy vessel. It is then that the baptizing person places his hands on him
and asks God to put the Holy Spirit in that person. This is known as "the laying on of hands."
Actually, the laying on of hands is a second baptism. Paul called it the baptism of the Holy Spirit. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we he
bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:13).
As mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit is the divine power from God which guides and directs the Christian. The person is still a free moral agent - free to do whatever he wants. But he now has God's
Spirit within him, showing him the way as he submits his life to God.
This power within us was promised by Christ. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost [Spirit] is come upon you" (Acts 1:8). The power of the Holy Spirit is the essence of the mind of
God. It is that Spirit which God uses to put His laws into our minds and write them in our hearts (Hebrews 10:16).
When the Christian gives his whole life to God and places his trust in Him, he receives the blessings of a peaceful mind. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,
goodness, faith, meekness, temperance . . ." (Galatians 5:22-23).
Is it possible to he baptized and not receive the Holy Spirit? Yes! In the New Testament we read of a dynamic preacher named Apollos who was taught by John the Baptist. Apollos baptized people but
did not perform the laying on of hands. Later Paul met some of these converts and was shocked that not only was the Holy Spirit absent from their lives, they had never even heard of it! (Acts 18:24, 19:16.)
There are many Christians today who are in the same condition. They have been baptized but do not have God's Holy Spirit in them. The solution to this problem is the one administered by Paul. He
rebaptized them and laid hands on them so that they could receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:5- "May God Bless all who reads these words, Amen" (Pastor) Dr.Charles M.Eskridge PhD.