Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1960
NUMBER 10, PAGE 10-11

Christian Baptism

Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tennessee

Christian Baptism

Many people who have been listening to this review, have said "I do not believe some of those doctrines," even though they belong to the body which embraces these nineteen articles of faith. They have said "we just do not believe some of those things."I realize that some of you, as individuals, may not believe some of these articles of faith; but I am sure I have not in any way misrepresented the doctrine affirmed in any of these articles. You may not believe some of these doctrines, yourself; but preachers of this faith believe every one of them and cannot preach contrary to any one of these articles without getting into trouble with higher authority within that body. I urge, therefore, that you investigate every teaching (1 John 4:1) and remember that to bid "God-speed" to a false teacher is to become partaker of his evil deed (2 John 9-10). We study today article number fourteen "Christian Baptism."'

Article No. XIV.

"We believe the scriptures teach that Christians baptism is the immersion in water of a believer in Christ, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem his faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effect, in his death to in and resurrection to a new life; that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation, and to the Lord's Supper."

We infer from what is here said that Christian baptism involves three important things — the mode or action of baptism, the subject to be baptized, and the design or purpose of baptism. With this I heartily agree, for the scriptures place emphasis upon three items in connection with baptism. In other words, scriptural baptism consists in baptizing a proper person, in the proper way, for the proper purpose. Leave out any one of these and you do not have scriptural baptism.

Action Of Baptism

As to the action of baptism, this article says "Christian baptism is . . . . immersion in water," and numerous scriptures, and others, are clear in teaching that baptism scriptures, and others, are clear in teaching that baptism is an immersion in water. If the scriptures so teach, then this matter would be established as truth. John 3:23 tells us that John the baptizer "was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was MUCH WATER there." John also baptized in the Jordan river (Matt. 3:6). It was here that John baptized Jesus (Matt. 3:13), and following his baptism it is said he "went up straightway out of the water" (vs. 16.) In the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, the scriptures plainly declare that both Philip and the eunuch "went down into the water" where the baptism took place and afterwards they "came up out of the water" (Acts 8:38-39). Paul declared in Romans 6:3-4, "Therefore we are BURIED with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was RAISED from the dead by 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." Again, Paul said to the Colossians, "BURIED with him in baptism, wherein also ye are RISEN with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:12). That this action is to be administered in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is evidenced by Matthew 28: 18-20.

These verses should be sufficient to show the proper action of baptism. However, it is well to observe that the word "baptism" itself expresses an action. All scholars of note define the Greek term "baptizo" as meaning "to dip, to immerse, to plunge in water, to submerge," etc. Actually, it is somewhat out of place to talk about the action or mode of baptism, for baptism is an action or mode itself. The practice of sprinkling or pouring as baptism is completely without any scriptural foundation. The best that can be said for this action is that it was invented by the church of Rome and has since been copied by many denominational bodies.

Proper Subject Of Baptism

We come next to consider the proper subject of baptism. The article under consideration declares the proper subject to be a believer in Christ. This will not be denied, provided repentance is understood to be implied in calling one a believer... Since believer of these articles think faith and repentance are inseparable, as taught in article number eight, naturally repentance would be implied when they refer to a believer. The scriptures certainly teach by precept and example that the proper subject for baptism is a penitent believer. Jesus said "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). On the day of Pentecost believers were commanded to "Repent and be baptized." From these verses, we see that those to be baptized are penitent believers. Concerning the people of Samaria it was said "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God....they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12). When the eunuch asked, "What hindereth me to be baptized?" Philip said "if thou believeth, thou mayest." Upon a confession of his faith he was baptized (Acts 8:38-39). Naturally, these verses would exclude infants as proper subjects for baptism because they cannot believe — cannot repent, and have nothing to repent of — if they could. The proper subject for baptism, therefore, is a penitent believer.

Design Of Baptism

The third important thing involved in baptism is the design or the purpose of it. The article of faith under consideration says it is "to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem his faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effect, in his death to sin and resurrection to a new life." In other words, baptism is an emblem, a figure, of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and is a figure or emblem of one's death to sin and resurrection to a new life. It is contended that baptism has nothing to do with one's death to sin and resurrection to a new life, but is a figure of that which has already taken place. It is not denied that baptism is a likeness or figure of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ — that it declares one's faith in these things; but the important question is, is it necessary for one thus to declare his faith? Does complying with this figure or likeness have anything to do with one's salvation — with one's death to sin and resurrection to a new life? Believers of this article of faith declare this is not a necessity — that it does not have anything to do with one's death to sin — with salvation — that it is not for this purpose. But what saith the scriptures?

Paul in Romans 6:2-5, speaks of the Romans and himself as being dead to sin. He then shows that this death took place in baptism, saying "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." Here it is plainly declared that Christians entered into Christ by baptism and that they were raised from baptism to the newness of life.

Jesus said "He that believeth and is raised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). In the first part of this verse the principal sentence is "He shall be saved," but the question arises "who shall be saved?" — just any he or is it a certain "he" that shall be saved? It can be clearly seen from this verse that the "he" to be saved is "he that believeth and is baptized." When salvation is conditioned upon two things, one does not have to disobey both to be condemned. Disobedience to just one condition is sufficient to damn. It was not necessary, therefore, for Jesus to say that he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned. Saving "He that believeth not shall be damned" was sufficient. This verse shows conclusively that the purpose or design of baptism is "to be saved."

Peter, on Pentecost, said "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Here repentance and baptism are said to be for, or the revised version says "unto," the remission of sins. The Greek word (Eis) used here always points forward and never backward. Some try to get around this by saying they were to repent and be baptized "because" of the remission of sins. However, this makes Peter say that repentance is because of the remission of sins, and no one contends that men should repent because their sins are already forgiven. You will notice that repentance and baptism are connected with the conjunction "and"; so whatever one is for, so is the other. Peter says both are for — in order to — the remission of sins.

Ananias said to Saul, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Saul was a believer, and he was penitent when Ananias came to him: however, he still had his sins and was instructed to "arise and be baptized, and wash away the sins." How, friends, can there be any question about the purpose of baptism here?

In 1 Peter 3:21 the Apostle Peter referred to the salvation of Noah and his family by water and said "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us." Now, are we going to accept the Apostle Peter or reject him? It does one no good to look at this verse and say Peter said it was just a figure. No one denies that baptism is a figure, but is the figure important — is it necessary? Here, Peter said it saves us.

It Is But It Isn't

Now, in spite of these scriptures and many others which could be given, we are told on page 20 of the manual containing these articles of faith that "Baptism is not essential to salvation, for our churches utterly repudiate the dogma of baptismal regeneration; but it is essential to obedience, since Christ has commanded it." Here we are informed that baptism is not essential to salvation, but it is essential to obedience. This causes me to ask, is obedience essential to salvation? If obedience is essential to salvation, and baptism is essential to obedience, would not that mean that baptism is essential to salvation? Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us that Christ "became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Is he the author of eternal salvation unto them who do not obey him? If obedience is essential to salvation and baptism is essential to obedience, how can anyone say, "Baptism is not essential to salvation"?

In an effort to show baptism is not necessary, our attention is often called to I Corinthians 1:14, where Paul said, "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius." From this some contend that if baptism is essential to salvation, Paul said he was thankful he had nothing to do with their salvation. Now, why was Paul thankful that he had baptized none of them except Crispus and Gaius? Was it because he did not want anyone to think baptism was essential to salvation? We do not have to draw such a conclusion, for he tells us in the next verse why he was thus thankful — he said "lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name." They were divided at Corinth; some were saying, "I am of Paul;" so he was thankful that he had not administered baptism to them lest he should be accused of baptizing in his own name.

We are next told that baptism is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation, and Acts 2:41 is given as proof. "And there were added to them the same day about three thousand souls." Rather than saying baptism is a prerequisite to a "church relation," it is in line with truth to say baptism is prerequisite to entering the church. Verse 47 tells us the Lord added the saved to the church, not a church; and Paul says in I Corinthians 12:13, "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." This one body is the church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23). It is a grievous error to say people do one thing to get into Christ and still something else to get into the church. Since the church is the body of Christ, whoever enters his body, the church, naturally enters Christ. The three thousand on Pentecost, after their repentance and baptism, were in Christ — had their sins remitted and therefore were added to the church.