Scriptures

Who Can Baptise Another Person?

Introduction

Some may wonder why I’m addressing the question, ‘who can baptise another person?’ but the truth is, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of times this question comes up, especially if a visitor comes into our assemblies and tell us that have been baptised.

When we read through the New Testament, we are struck by how much the 27 books have to say about water Baptism, full immersion. When the Jews on the Day of Pentecost asked Peter what they needed to do to be right with God, Peter told them to

‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38

After Saul of Tarsus had spent three days praying and fasting, Ananias came to him and said,

‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’. Acts 22:16

Paul, in the Book of Romans, explained that in the waters of baptism we come in contact with the death of Christ Romans 6:3, and it’s through that contact that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, Ephesians 1:7. That’s why Paul could write in Galatians,

‘for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’ Galatians 3:27

The importance of baptism in God’s plan of salvation is repeatedly stressed in the New Testament.

But who can baptise another person?

When we turn to the New Testament, we learn several things about the person doing the baptising. The main lesson learned is that the personal characteristics of the individual doing the baptising have ‘no bearing’ on the effectiveness of the baptism.

In other words, it doesn’t matter who does the baptising, as long as the baptism is complete immersion in water, Romans 6:4 / Acts 8:38, in the proper name, Matthew 28:19 / Acts 19:1-7, and for the proper reason, Acts 2:38.

In the Book of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to a group of Christians that were dividing themselves into groups based on their favourite preachers. Some were saying they were of Paul, others of Cephas, others of Apollos, and others of Christ. Paul told them off for claiming allegiance to any person other than Christ, and he stated,

‘I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.’ 1 Corinthians 1:14-17

Paul wasn’t minimising the importance of baptism in this text, he was minimising the importance of the person who does the baptising. He wasn’t saying that baptism isn’t a part of God’s plan of salvation, he was saying that the person who does the baptising doesn’t make a difference.

The effectiveness of the Corinthians’ baptism wasn’t based on the characteristics of the person who baptised them but was based on their baptism as it related to God’s overall plan of salvation.

In a similar passage in John’s Gospel, we read that

‘the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.’ John 4:1

The next verse of the text states,

‘though Jesus Himself did not baptise, but His disciples.’ John 4:2

If the characteristics of the one doing the baptising were important, then Jesus would certainly have been involved in the actual baptising process due to His perfect, sinless life. Yet what we see in these verses is that the effectiveness of the baptism of those in John 4 wasn’t lessened or diminished because the apostles did the baptising instead of Jesus.

Some have looked into the New Testament and concluded that every instance of baptism in the New Testament is one in which a Christian man does the baptising. Thus, they have concluded, that in order to be properly baptised, a person must be baptised by a man who is a Christian.

The principle of following Biblical examples and precedents is often an important key to determining Biblical authority for certain actions, when explicit commands and other information hasn’t been given. In this case, however, there are at least two major problems with this approach.

1. If the baptiser must be a Christian, then how was the first person to become a Christian baptized?

At some point, the very first person to be a Christian had to have been baptized. We cannot say that Jesus was the one Who did the first baptising, because He Himself was baptized by John, and we have no New Testament record that Jesus ever baptised a single person, John 4:1-2.

2. What if a person claimed to be a Christian, but wasn’t, and baptised people while claiming to be a Christian? Would the fact that he was not a Christian deny the validity of the baptisms that he performed?

Think through that scenario. Suppose a person was baptised by this impostor. That person then went out and baptised 100 people who each baptised 100 people, who each baptized 100, etc. If the original person who was baptised by the fraudulent ‘Christian’ later found out that the man was not a Christian, would that negate the baptism of all those who were subsequently baptized? Certainly not.

Furthermore, how ‘faithful’ would a person need to be in order to be eligible to baptise people?

It is most likely the case that many people were baptised by Judas Iscariot in John 4:1-2 when Jesus’ disciples were doing the baptising. Did all those who were baptised by the ‘son of perdition’ need to be re-baptized based on the traitorous character of Judas? No!

The truth of the matter is, it would be virtually, if not actually, impossible to verify the ‘saved’ status of all those across the globe who have baptized or will baptise people. Fortunately, the characteristics of the one doing the baptising has no bearing on the legitimacy of the baptism.

‘While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So, Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.’ Acts 19:1-7

When Paul instructed the 12 men to be rebaptized, he didn’t ask them who baptized them, or what were the characteristics of the person who baptized them. He asked them about their baptism, not their baptiser!

‘Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.’ 1 Corinthians 1:13-17

This clearly tells us that the person doing the baptism is simply just a tool, used by God, they are just the dipper, the person performing the baptism isn’t important.

In addition, some have gone so far as to say that the person who baptises another person must have some type of ‘official’ status in the church as a ‘pastor’ or ‘ordained’ minister or as some think, baptism must be done by a ‘church of Christ minister’ only. When we look into the New Testament, however, we don’t see any such stipulation.

If we really want an to answer the questions, who can baptise someone? The Scriptures clearly tell us Who is actually baptising them.

‘For we were all baptized BY ONE SPIRIT so as to form one body.’ 1 Corinthians 12:13

‘Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith IN THE WORKING OF GOD, who raised Him from the dead.’ Colossians 2:12

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Hebrews 4:12

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