Water Baptism


Why baptism? What is baptism?

Baptism is a command for believers Acts 10:48. An act done in the name of Jesus. Acts 8:36-38 / Acts 10:48. Described in the Scriptures as a burial. Romans 6:3-4.

Defined by Bible dictionaries as ‘plunging, dipping, immersing, submerging.’ An action that always involved going to a place where there was enough water, not bringing a small amount of water to the candidate; archaeology shows early baptisteries as pools of water.

Baptism is not a sprinkling of water on your head but a burial, Romans 6:4. It’s not a way of joining the church because God is the One who adds you to the church. Acts 2:41 / Acts 2:47.

Who is to be baptised?

The Bible doesn’t teach about sprinkling with water for baptism nor does it teach about adult baptism, it teaches about a believer’s baptism. A person must have the capability to believe and obey because it is those who believe the Word, Mark 16:16 / Acts 18:8 and those who obey the Word, Mark 16:15-16 / Acts 2:41 and those who are capable of repenting of their sins.

Acts 2:38 are the people for whom baptism is for. Baptism is for those who have the capability to believe, obey and repent, this would exclude children and anyone who else hasn’t got the mental capability to believe, obey or repent!

Why be baptised?

To become a Christian, Matthew 28:19-20 and to be saved, Mark 16:16. To have your sins forgiven, washed away, Acts 2:38 / Acts 22:16. To receive the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38.

To get into Christ, to be in His body, the church, Galatians 3:27 / 1 Corinthians 12:13. To unite in Christ’s death and life, Romans 6:3-4.

There are four reasons as to why we must be baptised

First, we must be baptised if we want to be saved. Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21.

Second, we must be baptised to have our sins forgiven. Acts 2:38.

Third, we must be baptised if we want to be ‘in Christ’ which means to be a Christian. Galatians 3:27.

Finally, we must be baptised if we want to become a part of the body of Christ, His church, Ephesians 1:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 12:13.

What happens when I sin after I’ve been baptised?

There are two ways to confess our sins, first, we are to confess our sins to one another James 5:16. This is not very easy for a person to say they have sinned yet the Bible commands it.

Why to each other?

Well, we confess to each other in order to have other pray for us. Christians should always be interested in helping other Christians, by confessing our sins to each other we help each other overcome those sins and move forward.

If we understand that baptism is the first law of forgiveness Acts 2:38 then we should take comfort in the second law of forgiveness which is found in 1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins to God, He will forgive us, what a great promise this is!

What then? After I become a Christian, what?

Upon your baptism, you are added to Christ’s church, the total of all people who have obeyed Him, Acts 2:37-47. Christ and His church are inseparable. He gave Himself for the church, Acts 20:28 and is the head and Saviour of His church, Ephesians 1:22-23 / Colossians 1:18.

Christ is Lord of everything, including daily work responsibilities and relationships, Ephesians 5:21-6:9.

The church, the body of believers, shares the Lord’s Supper (communion) as a memorial to Christ’s death on the first day of each week, Acts 20:7 / 1 Corinthians 11:17-32, sings hymns of praise, Ephesians 5:18-20, prays, Acts 2:42 / 1 Thessalonians 5:17, receives God’s Word in teaching, Acts 2:42, and encourages each other, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Christ’s followers show the presence of Christ in their lives by both their words and their deeds, Colossians 3:17.

Who can baptize another person?

When we read through the New Testament, we are struck by how much the 27 books have to say about water baptism. 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 let every one of you be baptized…for the remission of sins” 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 is through that contact that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ Ephesians 1:7.

That is 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 primary lesson learned is that the personal characteristics of the individual doing the baptizing have no bearing on the effectiveness of the baptism.

In other words, it doesn’t matter who does the baptizing, as long as the baptism is complete immersion in water Romans 6:4 / Acts 8:38, in the proper name Matthew 28:19 / Acts 19:1-9, 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 baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name…. For Christ, did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” 1 Corinthians 1:14-17

Paul was not minimizing the importance of baptism in this text, he was minimizing the importance of the person who does the baptizing.

He wasn’t saying that baptism is not 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 was not 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 4:1-3, we read that “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.” The next verse of the text states, “though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples.”

If the characteristics of the one doing the baptising were important, then Jesus would certainly have been involved in the actual baptizing 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 was not 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 have not been given.

In this case, however, there are at least two major problems with this approach

First, 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 baptizing, 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.

Second, 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 4:1-3 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 baptize people. Fortunately, the characteristics of the one doing the baptizing have no bearing on the legitimacy of the baptism.

When Paul instructed the 12 men in Acts 19:1-9 to be re-baptized, he did not 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!

1 Corinthians 1:13-17 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 do not see any such stipulation.

How much does a person need to know before they are baptised?

Acts 19:18-28 tells us about Apollos who was preaching Jesus but knew he nothing about Jesus baptism. Notice it doesn’t say anything about Apollos being baptised again. John’s baptism was right for its time Mark 1:4. How much did the Eunuch know before he was immersed? Acts 8:32.

Do people need to know all the doctrine of the church before being baptised?

No! Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-20 to first, make disciples. How do we make disciples? By teaching the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

Secondly, we baptise them and thirdly, we teach them all things, in other words the doctrine.

The gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38

All too often we hear people only quoting half of Acts 2:38 and sometimes we put all the emphasis on the forgiveness of our sins, we forget about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The verse referred to here is unquestionably one with which every member in the church of Christ is familiar, having frequently heard it quoted when the Gospel has been preached.

It is, however, a pity that in our anxiety to convince people of their need to obey the Gospel by being baptised in obedience to the Lord’s command, Matthew 28:18-20, very often only the first part of the verse of Acts 2:38 is emphasised, ‘be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins’, whilst the latter part, ‘and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’, is hurried over, with sometimes scarcely a mention.

The consequence has been that many members of the church are not as familiar as they ought to be with what the New Testament teaches concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and people in other religious bodies have even been known to accuse us of not really believing in the Holy Spirit. There are, also, other circumstances that have a bearing on this situation.

Let us notice, therefore, that Peter spoke of the ‘gift’ not ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38 the word ‘gift’ is the word ‘dorea’, which is accurately defined as ‘free gift’. One translation renders it rather expressively as, ‘the plus of the Holy Spirit’.

The word describes the Holy Spirit Himself as the extra gift provided by God, for those who obey the Gospel. Thus, Acts 2:38 doesn’t refer to some sort of miraculous or spiritual gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit.

It tells us that the Holy Spirit Himself is the Heavenly Father’s own gift to His obedient people, given to enable them to live a successful and satisfied Christian life.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about ‘spiritual gifts’, he was dealing with a very different subject. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the nine gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit are described as ‘charisma’, or ‘grace gifts’, and it is important to distinguish between the Holy Spirit as God’s own gift, and the miraculous gifts which, in the New Testament age, the Spirit Himself bestowed.

Please notice the following:

1. The ‘charismata’ were various miraculous abilities or endowments, which the Holy Spirit Himself gave to individual believers, according to His own will. 1 Corinthians 12:11.

2. Believers did not all receive the same gift(s). 1 Corinthians 12:29-30.

3. Nor were these gifts intended to last. 1 Corinthians 13:8.

4. In contrast, the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ is the gift of God Himself, offered to every obedient believer. Acts 5:32.

5. All are offered the same gift, the indwelling presence of the His Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19 / Romans 8:9.

6. And, along with salvation, the gift of the Spirit’s presence will continue to be offered until the end of the Christian Age. Acts 2:39.

The purpose of the gift in Acts 2:38

What will this ‘gift’ do for us?

This is a question worthy of a separate study, but think about just two aspects of His ministry.

a. The Holy Spirit is described as the ‘Comforter’. John 14:26. That English word comes to us from the Latin, ‘con fortis’, which literally means, ‘with strength’. Thus, the Holy Spirit strengthens us. We need to learn to lean on Him.

b. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray, taking our faltering, stumbling petitions and presenting them to the Father, as our intercessor. We should make use of His intercession.

If you have obeyed the Gospel and accepted God’s gift of forgiveness, the question is, have you also accepted His ‘extra’ gift?

In the Name of Jesus Christ or in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Matthew says “baptizing them into (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19 (see footnote of your Bible).

Luke uses such phrases as “baptized in (epi) the name of Jesus Christ” Acts 2:38. “baptized into (eis) the name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 8:16. “baptized in (en) the name of Jesus Christ” Acts 10:48 or “baptized into (eis) the name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 19:5.

‘In the name of Jesus Christ’ is simply by the authority of Jesus, we are immersed by His authority, Acts 2:38 but ‘baptizing them ‘in’ the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19 means something else.

Look at the footnote of your Bible for Matthew 28:19, the word ‘in’ can also mean ‘into’. What difference does that make?

Well, we’re baptised in the name of Jesus but at the same time were baptised ‘into’ a relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:27 / Romans 6:1-4.

Who makes the decision as to who is saved?

There are way too many ‘church doormen’ who try to make the decision as who is a Christian and who isn’t but God is the only One who makes the decision. John 3 tells us that the Spirit goes here and there but we do not know.

There are times when someone walks into our assemblies and the very first question some people ask them is, are you baptised Christian?

You would think this question would come up, as time went on, after we have built up some kind of relationship with them. How sad! Is there such a thing as an unbaptised Christian? The Bible doesn’t teach such a thing!

Are the churches of Christ, the ONLY ones who baptise for the forgiveness of sins?

Some would say ‘yes’ but those of us who’ve been around for a while and have studied other religious doctrine, know that this is not the case, there are other groups who practice full emersion baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The last I heard, even some in the Baptist church are going back to baptising for the forgiveness of sins.

I’m sure we all know the scenario well, someone walks into our assembly and wants to be a part of the church, they tell us they have been immersed for the forgiveness of their sins but we know that the group they came form doesn’t practice baptism for that reason. What do we do?

I personally think it’s nonsensical to debate with a person who tells us that they were baptised into the Lord Jesus as the New Testament teaches. We could just as easily argue that we hadn’t truly repented. The point is, they KNOW they have repented in the same way they KNOW they were baptised into life in union with Jesus.

I know of a Christian was immersed by another group and when I informed her that the group she belongs to doesn’t practice baptism for the forgiveness of their sins, she told me, ‘I don’t care what they practice and teach, I understood why I needed to be baptised, because she had been studying baptism with someone else’.

So, what do we do in scenarios like this?

I studied with her some more and we discussed baptism in detail but she still insisted that she was baptised for the ‘right reasons’ and in ‘the right way’.

I went on to explain to her, that if at any time, she feels different about her baptism, she should feel free to talk to me about again. I wasn’t at her baptism but she was and if anyone should know why they were baptised and how they were baptised it is her.

I believe there are times when we must leave things for God to judge. Genesis 18:25.

Is it possible that God added her to His church but she became a member of a wrong church? Remember, Acts 2:41 the Lord added them to the universal church because there was no local church at this time.

In scenarios like this, if they were added to His church but find themselves in a church which teaches the wrong doctrine, they then have the responsibility of teaching that church the truth or leaving and finding the church which does practice New Testament Christianity.



"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."