Vol.IV No.II Pg.3
April 1967

The Purpose Of Baptism

Robert F. Turner

Bro. John W. Hedge suggests this subject: "Who Is Commanded to be Baptized, the Saved or Unsaved?". Someone is certainly commanded (Acts 10:48) and in learning the condition of the scriptural subject, we will learn much about baptism.

Learning the proper subject for baptism will teach us much about its purpose, and lead us closer to valid obedience. For example, although the Corinthians assembled ostensibly to "remember Christ" Paul said, " -- this is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating everyone taketh before other his own supper..." etc. Fleshly appetites and social customs had led them far from the true purpose of the memorial feast.

Many people today cherish certificates of "Baptism" who were never truly baptized. Sometimes they were held, as struggling infants, while a little water was sprinkled on their head. This doesn't even satisfy the meaning of the word "baptize" as used in the N.T. (see Rom.6:4-f) Others, although immersed, submitted to this believing they were already saved from sin, and were "baptized" as a "church ordinance" to gain admission to some denomination. But the N.T. teaches that baptism is for those who have the guilt of their past sins yet upon them, and are baptized "for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38) The American Standard version reads, "unto the remission of your sins."

Because John, the forerunner of Christ, baptized the sinless Jesus many overlook his more typical subjects. "He said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Lu.3:7). Again, in Lu. 7:30, we read "the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." (John)

Christ commanded, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk.16:16) The popular position today is, "He that believeth shall be saved, and can then be baptized." That is man's, not God's, doctrine. The Lord commands the unsaved to be baptized; while man tells the supposedly saved to be baptized.

On Pentecost Peter commanded those who had crucified Christ to be baptized. (Acts 2:36-f). Cornelius, a good moral man, had to heed "words" to be saved (Acts 11:14) and as Peter "began to speak" the H.S. fell on these Gentiles (vs.15). This proof that Gentiles were to be accepted did not lessen their need for obedience. Paul was told, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) If Paul's (Saul's) sins were forgiven prior to this time (a) he was a most unhappy Christian (A.9:9), and (b) Ananias' statement (22:16) is utterly without sense.

If baptism is a "Christian act" why is it not necessary to repeat it?. Prayer, praise, and other acts of the Christian must be repeated; but baptism is the culminating feature of the new birth -- we are born of the water and spirit (Jn.3:5) to become children of God, citizens in His kingdom. This figure is a divine command to the unsaved. (1 Pet. 3:21)