Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 10, 1967
NUMBER 14, PAGE 2b-3a

The Importance Of Baptism

Jesse M. Kelley

Uncounted volumes have been written upon the subject of our caption. Men far more able and learned than this writer have given us the benefit of their knowledge and understanding of the will of God on this matter. But before these, the Son of God, and later his apostles have given in terms too simple to be misunderstood, the mind of God upon the necessity and importance of baptism. On the other hand volumes have been written by theologians on what they call the "unimportance" or "non-essentiality" of baptism. It has been minimized and relegated almost out of any sort of consideration by multitudes of religious people. And there is today a continuing attack upon its validity by countless denominational preachers through religious journals and other media.

Both wisdom and integrity demand that we attach no more importance to a Bible subject than is given it by divine revelation. On the other hand these likewise demand that we both recognize and acknowledge the same degree of importance that the Bible gives a subject. Paul admonished Timothy that he study so that he would be able to rightly divide or handle aright the word of Truth. Certainly one mishandles God's word when he fails or refuses to attach as much importance to a subject as did the Holy Spirit. With this, as with all Bible subjects, we therefore must strive to give to it the degree of prominence and importance that is attached to it in the word of God.

If we could listen to modern theology for authority on the subject of baptism, there would be no further need for discussion. Indeed it would have been settled generations ago. But this is not a topic to be settled by theologians. Baptism is a New Testament theme, and to this sacred volume we must go for our instruction. Faith rests upon the divine testimony of the Word of God (Rom. 10:17); to an honest man therefore, his faith, or lack of it, is determined by the Revelation of God. There he will go and there he will be decided.

Men who truly accept Jesus Christ as our exemplar in all matters religious will not relegate baptism to a place of unimportance. His attitude toward God's will on this subject is seen at the scene of his baptism of John in the river Jordan. He presented himself to John for baptism, but John objected and would have hindered him, saying "I have need to be baptized of thee." Human reason rebelled; and had it been permitted to rule in this matter, our Lord would never have "fulfilled all righteousness." Of course Jesus knew no sin; and since John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4), he assumed that the Son of God was not a subject of this command of heaven. But Jesus could not have remained free from sin had he refused to subject himself to it. It was of God and from heaven, and Jesus, being "In the flesh," was therefore obligated to honor it. No knowledgeable man can permit human reason to prevail in a matter so important and maintain his integrity. None dare minimize the importance of something Jesus himself insisted upon practicing.

Not only was Jesus baptized, but he commanded his disciples to baptize others. The commission recorded in Mark 16, and Matthew 28, shows the importance our Lord attached to this command. It is the difference between life and death, heaven and hell. As the apostles went forth under this commission all who heard them and believed their message were baptized. On Pentecost three thousand were baptized "for the remission of sins." (Acts 2) A short time later five thousand, not counting the women, submitted to this command of God. When Philip went down into Samaria and preached Christ, the Samaritans, both men and women, were baptized. Saul of Tarsus, the Ethiopian, Lydia, the Jailor and his house, Cornelius with his house, and many, many others submitted to the will of God, being baptized for the remission of sins.

All the teaching of the word of God upon this subject shows baptism to be the consummating act that makes one a Christian. Paul states to the Galatians that "Ye are all the children of God by faith." (Gal. 3:26) Then in verse 27 he states why he knows they are children of God by faith. He said, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." He knew they were children of God "by faith," for they had demonstrated that faith by obeying the command of God to be baptized for the remission of sins. They were saved by faith, but it was an obedient faith. Saving faith always motivates one to obey God in this, or any other command inspired of God.

Any man who will minimize the command to be baptized minimizes salvation by faith. While he preaches that we are saved by faith he relegates that which demonstrates faith to a place of unimportance and thus makes invalid the very thing he endeavors to prove. He is either ignorant of the word of God, or he knowingly perverts God's word and thus indicts the veracity of Him who has said that it is impossible for God to lie.

The importance of this act of faith is further seen in that every spiritual blessing God bestows upon His creation comes as a result of obedience thereto. Paul places redemption and forgiveness of sin IN Christ. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:14) In the preceding verse he had pointed out that Christians had been "delivered from the power of darkness," and had been "translated into the kingdom of his dear son." The transition had been made from darkness to light where redemption and forgiveness of sins were enjoyed. The latter position is identified as "in Christ," but one is "baptized into Christ." Thus the transitional act is baptism. "Translated into" and "baptized into" thus become synonymous.

Baptism is therefore identified as the consummating act of obedience that makes one a Christian. If becoming a Christian is important, then baptism is important; counterwise, if it isn't necessary to be a Christian to please God, then it isn't necessary to be baptized. Paul states that, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are IN Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1), and Ephesians 1:3 declares, that every spiritual blessing is IN Christ. The apostle further informs the Corinthians that to be "IN Christ is to be a new creature." (II Cor. 5:17)"Newness of life," therefore is dependent upon baptism. And this is exactly what Paul states to the Romans. "Knew 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." (Rom. 6:3,4) If a new life is necessary to please God, then baptism is important; for one is raised up from that act of obedience to walk "in newness of life."

In every recorded conversion in the word of God, it is specifically stated that those who heard the word and believed, were baptized. Saul of Tarsus was commanded to be baptized and "wash away his sins." (Acts 22:16) Peter declared that "baptism doth also now save us." (I Pet. 3:21)A knowledgeable man therefore can not minimize the command without sacrificing his integrity in the process.