Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 3, 1969
NUMBER 47, PAGE 5b-6

John's Baptism And The Church

Robert C. Welch

Confusion continues to exist about the condition of those who were baptized with John's baptism in their relationship to the church. Was it necessary that they be baptized under authority of the great commission in order to be added to the church? T. W. Brent's Gospel Plan of Salvation and Gospel Sermons have become more or less standard works which all the young preachers of the gospel study in basic preparation of sermons and other lessons. Perhaps more than any other, he has contributed to the general confusion by presenting the view in his Gospel Sermons that all those who were baptized with John's baptism were prepared for the kingdom, were literally the church before Pentecost though without life before the Holy Spirit came, and were among the 3,000 who were added on that day, but without baptism as commanded by Peter, so that perhaps only a very few were actually baptized on that day. He admits that he considers this a novel argument and that he expects to have some severe criticism of the theory.

With some slight variations this position is taken by J. W. McGarvey in his commentaries on Acts. His proof is the mere assumption that the 120 of Acts 1:15 and the 500 of I Cor. 15:6 did not have to be baptized under the great commission and that they had been baptized under John's commission. Brents uses the same cases as proof. They are not proof, however, but are mere assertions. Neither author gives any evidence to the effect that they were not baptized under the great commission. Neither author gives any evidence that in either case were the persons baptized with John's baptism. In fact, nothing is said in the Scriptures about when and how the persons in these cases came to be numbered with the apostles in the church. Hence, instead of using them as proof of the idea, the authors could only speculate as to how they could fit the doctrine. They commit the common fallacy of arguing in a circle; namely: Those baptized with John's baptism did not have to be baptized under the great commission in order to be in the church because the 120 and the 500 did not have to, and these did not have to because the great commission did not require baptism of those who had already been baptized with John's baptism.

The case of Apollos, Paul and the twelve is not legitimately under consideration. The people of Acts 18:24-19:7 were taught and received the baptism of John after the baptism of the great commission had been instituted. John's commission and baptism were no longer in force when these people were baptized at the preaching of Apollos. The differences between the baptism of John and that of the great commission need not be further discussed in this case. That is sufficient reason for their being baptized in the name of the Lord.

We know that the apostles were present and were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost because the record specifically says so (Acts 2:1-4,14). It is but an assumption that any others were present or were filled with the Spirit on that day. You will not even find it stated that the 120 were there and were thus filled. Jesus had promised his apostles that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8). They were promised that when this power came they would be his witnesses. Also they were promised that when this power came the kingdom would come, in these words; "There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark 9:1). We know that the Spirit came on the twelve; we know that the kingdom came. But it is only an assumption that more than the twelve were baptized in the Spirit on that day and composed the kingdom in its coming or beginning.

We do know that from that occurrence Peter preached that men were to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and that those who received the word and were baptized were added and that the number added was 3,000 (Acts 2:38,41). It is mere assumption that Peter excluded from these commands any besides those who were baptized in the Spirit in the coming of the kingdom. Nothing is said about later preaching to indicate that anyone was excepted from this great commission. The apostle Paul was no exception, though an apostle, and though he was filled with the Spirit. He was not in that number in the coming of the kingdom. Cornelius and his household were not exceptions, though the Spirit fell on them as on the apostles at the beginning. The Spirit did not fall upon Cornelius at the beginning.

Someone objects, along with Brents, that John came to prepare material, men, for the kingdom. That is right. But were not the apostles prepared? And we know that they were in the beginning. What passage can any man read to show that more than the apostles were essential to the composition of the kingdom in its coming or beginning? Chapter and verse is needed before accepting such assertions that there were others besides the apostles who composed the kingdom in its beginning and thus did not have to be baptized under the great commission.

Finally, whether or not there were other disciples of John, under his baptism, who came into the church without the baptism under the great commission has nothing to do with our duty today. None of us lived then, hence none of us could be baptized with John's baptism. The commission which the Lord gave and which Peter and the apostles preached is to all the world and to every creature (Mark 16:15,16). We must obey it.

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