22. Christian Baptism


Jesus said, ‘What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’ Matthew 16:26.

Any subject that relates to the salvation of our most important possession – the soul – needs our careful study. Since Jesus also said, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,’ Mark 16:16, baptism in water is such a subject.

In this lesson our aim is to determine the place that baptism filled in New Testament times rather than to examine its modern usage. We will try to answer these questions.

1. What method (immersion, sprinkling, or pouring) was employed?

2. What was the purpose of baptism?

3. Who were baptised?

4. In whose name were they baptised?

First, however, note that water baptism should not be confused with Holy Spirit baptism to be examined in another lesson. Except for the six times that Holy Spirit baptism is mentioned, almost every scripture using the words ‘baptise’ and ‘baptism’ applies to baptism in water.


A vital question is whether immersion, sprinkling, pouring, or all three are authorised in the Scriptures. Almost all Greek scholars agree that the word baptise as used in the New Testament means to dip, submerge or immerse. Whether they are correct can be determined by uses of the word in the New Testament.

The first person to baptise in New Testament times was John the Baptiser, John 3:23. We are certain that John immersed since neither pouring nor sprinkling requires much water. However, immersion does, Matthew 3:16 / Mark 1:10. Had Jesus not gone into the water He could not have come up out of it.

Furthermore, He would have been foolish to have walked into the river Jordan up to His waist only to have John sprinkle some water on Him when such could have been done on the shore. Every indication is that Jesus was immersed.

We are told of the conversion of the Ethiopian, ‘And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him, Acts 8:38-39. This clearly shows that the eunuch was immersed.

Paul calls water baptism a burial, Romans 6:4 / Colossians 2:12. Only immersion can truly be called a burial. But were sprinkling and pouring ever used in apostolic days?

A careful study of the New Testament reveals not a single passage mentioning either sprinkling or pouring of water. We must conclude that neither was employed or authorised by the apostles.


Those baptised in apostolic times were immersed for the remission or forgiveness of sin, Acts 2:38 / Acts 22:16. Since we cannot be saved without forgiveness it follows that baptism is necessary for salvation, Mark 16:16 / 1 Peter 3:21.

But why does baptism save? It saves because it puts us into Christ where we may obtain forgiveness through His blood, Romans 3:24 / Galatians 3:27 / Romans 6:3. Therefore we cannot be saved unless we are in Christ where we reach His redeeming blood, and we cannot get into Christ without being baptised.

We must also conclude that forgiveness never precedes baptism, but is a direct result of it. Never is baptism called ‘an outward sign of an inward grace.’ It never expresses the idea that one is already a child of God, but it is the act by which one becomes a Christian.


It is sometimes asked whether the Bible teaches infant or adult baptism. Actually, neither is taught. What is taught is believers’ baptism, Mark 16:16 / Acts 18:8. We have no command to baptise those incapable of believing.

Furthermore, those to be baptised must be teachable, Matthew 28:19 / Acts 2:38. The one who has not sinned has nothing of which to repent and is not told to be baptised.

An infant which cannot believe, be taught, nor repent is not a subject of baptism. Furthermore, it has no need to be baptised ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ because it has no sins to be remitted.

There is not a command or example in the Scriptures that even hints at infant baptism. Advocates of infant baptism cite Matthew 19:14 as authority. But Jesus was not here discussing baptism.

Furthermore, those mentioned were able to ‘come’ to Him. He certainly does not say, ‘Bring little children to me to be baptised.’ The little child who has not sinned is as sure of heaven as any adult until he becomes old enough to sin.


In the Great Commission Jesus says, ‘Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ Matthew 28:19. Since these are the words of the Saviour, we cannot go wrong when we baptise into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded baptism ‘in the name of Jesus Christ.’ The expression ‘in the name of …’ often means ‘by the authority of …’

A policeman who shouts to a fleeing criminal, ‘Stop, in the name of the law!’ means, ‘Stop by the authority of the law!’ When one is baptised into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he is baptised in the name of Jesus or by His authority since Jesus gave the command Himself.

When changes are made on such subjects as baptism it is extremely dangerous. If we wish to reach the heavenly home, we will find it is much safer to comply with the Lord’s command on baptism than to risk our eternal salvation by altering it in some way.

Have you been scripturally baptized? If you haven’t and wish our assistance, we will be happy to help you.


Please proceed and fill in the evaluation sheet below with your answers.  Thank you and God bless your studies.

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