Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 10, 1949
NUMBER 27, PAGE 6-7a

"Is Water Baptism For This Age?" -- No. 3

Felix W. Tarbet, Colorado Springs, Colorado

There are those who claim that the "baptism in water" commanded by the Baptist, by Christ and the apostles, and practiced throughout the Book of Acts is an Old Testament ordinance, a Jewish ordinance, and, therefore, was done away with when the Jewish age ended.

We are told that since Mark 7:3-8 (in the Greek) uses the word baptize in reference to the Jews bathing themselves after being in the market before eating, that this bathing of themselves (baptizing themselves, Gr.) was an Old Testament ordinance. Then in Hebrews 9:10 we find mentioned meats, drinks, "and divers washings (Greek, baptisms) and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time for reformation." It is freely admitted that the washings (or baptisms) mentioned in these passages were Old Testament ordinances. But there is a great difference between these baptisms and the baptism of John, the baptism commanded by Christ or the baptism practiced by the Book of Acts.

These baptisms are prescribed in Leviticus, Chapters 15, 16, and 17. Also in Numbers 19. For various kinds of uncleanness the Jew was required to bathe himself in addition to bathing beds, pots, pans, etc., and, also, the observance of other statutes. In Leviticus 15 are twelve commandments to the Jews to bathe or baptize themselves for various types of uncleanness. In Leviticus 16 are two such commandments and in the 17th chapter is another. In Numbers 19 are three such commands. Altogether there are (18) commandments to the Jews to bathe, or baptize, themselves in water for these various cleansings. Now, please notice this, —in every one of these Old Testament baptisms mentioned, —the subjects baptized themselves. When John came baptizing he baptized people. They did not baptize themselves. When Jesus baptized, (His disciples baptized the subjects) the people did not baptize themselves. In the great commission Jesus told his apostles to baptize all nations. He did not order that the people should baptize themselves. On the day of Pentecost the people were commanded to "be baptized". They were not told to baptize themselves. Search the Book of Acts and not one time will you read of anyone baptizing himself. These baptisms of the Old Testament, (divers washings), were self-administered. Not so with the water baptism of the New Testament. You can easily see that they are not the same.

John was the first person ever to preach the kind of baptism which he administered. I have divine authority for this statement. Turn with me to Acts 13:24. The spokesman for Jehovah on this occasion was Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, who said: "When John first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel"

In addition to this, Christian baptism practiced after the death of Christ differed from John's baptism. It was water baptism, as was John's, as proven in the record of the baptism of the Ethiopian in Acts 8, but it was not John's baptism as proven by Acts 19 where some had been baptized unto John's baptism were baptized again, this time in the name of the Lord Jesus. By no stretching of the imagination can we say that the "water baptism"

in the New Testament was an Old Testament ordinance.

Another approach made in an effort to prove that the "water baptism" of the New Testament was an Old Testament ordinance is this: "The priests of the Old Testament were ordained at the age of thirty. The high priests, when ordained, were brought to the door of the tabernacle and washed with water. (Exodus 29:1-4), Jesus was thirty years old when baptized by John. (Luke 3:23). Jesus is our high priest. (Hebrews 5:6)." The conclusion drawn is that John (by baptizing Jesus) ordained Him to be a high priest according to the Old Testament law. So, we are told, "the water baptism of the New Testament is an Old Testament ordinance."

There are several things wrong with this theory. In the first place nowhere are we told that the high priests were thirty years old when ordained. In Numbers 4 and I Chronicles 23 we read of some Levites who were between the ages of 30 and 50 when chosen and set apart for their work. But all of these were the sons of Kohath, Gershon and Merari. They were not to be made high priests, but were made to serve in various menial capacities under the direction of the sons of Aaron. The high priests had to come from Aaron's family and nothing is said about how old they were when ordained. The second thing wrong with this theory is that if John had ordained Jesus to be high priest in the manner of his baptizing Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, he himself would have been cursed. We read: "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of the law to do them." (Deut. 27:26; Gal 3:10). Did John take Jesus and a priestly robe, garment, anointing oil, a bullock, two rams and a basket of unleavened bread when he baptized Jesus? Did he gather all the congregation to the door of the tabernacle when he baptized Jesus? Did John put a coat on Christ and girdle Him with a girdle and clothe Him with a priestly robe after baptizing Him? Did John put a mitre or golden plate and a holy crown upon Christ? All of these things and many others John would have had to have done to have ordained Jesus a high priest according to Old Testament law. These laws governing the ordination of high priests are found in Exodus, the 29th chapter. If John had not done all commanded by the law in this connection a curse would have been upon him. Thus, we know that John's baptism of Jesus did not ordain Jesus to be a priest. Furthermore, Jesus could not be a priest according to the law of Moses. He belonged to the wrong tribe. The apostle Paul calls this to our attention in Hebrews 7:14-16. He said, "For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." In pointing out that Jesus is our high priest after the order of Melchizedec, he said, "Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." Christ is our high priest but he was not made our high priest by baptism nor any command that anyone could call carnal So, once more we have come back to the conclusion that water baptism is a New Testament command and is not an Old Testament ordinance.

Another approach made by men to throw water baptism out of the New Testament is to read Hebrews 6:1-2. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal life." We wonder if whoever thought of proving that water baptism does not belong to this age by this passage ever had it to dawn upon him, that, upon that basis, the "doctrine of Christ, repentance, faith toward God, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal life" would also be thrown out and would have no part in the belief and practice of this present age.

The Hebrew writer was simply telling Christians to go on, to build on the foundation which they had already established, he was not telling them that these had no part in the Christian age. Yes, the law, the "handwriting of ordinances" was taken out of the way, nailed to the cross of Jesus. But Christian baptism, baptism in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, was not in the "handwriting of ordinances", and was not nailed to the cross and taken out of the way.

No book more forcefully emphasizes the fact that the Old Testament law was taken out of the way, done away, abolished, vanished, than does the Book of Hebrews. No book of the Bible emphasizes the necessity of the shed blood of Jesus Christ for remission of sins more than does the Book of Hebrews. But after pointing all of these facts out in this wonderful book the Holy Spirit says: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Thus, after showing that the law, its carnal ordinances, its types and shadows, its animal sacrifices, etc., were all done away; after pointing out the "new and living way", Paul includes as one of the requirements of "drawing near", "having our bodies washed with pure water."

Friends, you can readily see that water baptism is for this age!