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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


The Four Conditions for Scriptural Baptism

 Dean Robinson


Baptism! The history of Baptists reveal that down through the centuries they were the hated people of their day. Their preachers and people were put in prison and many untold numbers were put to death. The world has never seen anything to compare with the suffering, the persecutions heaped upon Baptists. All this was because of their stand on the doctrine of scriptural baptism! We believe in the Bible there is a pattern for scriptural baptism.


The Scripture shows clearly that Jesus delivered the ordinance of baptism to a specific body, His Church, to be a administered to a specific class, disciples, in a specific act, immersion, to symbolize certain specific gospel truths, a death, burial, and resurrection. It takes four things to constitute a scriptural baptism: scriptural authority, a scriptural subject, a scriptural method and a scriptural purpose. Scriptural baptism is the bastion of separation today. When a church lets up on one of these four points, it will eventually become ecumenical. When ones decides he can eliminate this element, or that element of baptism and still have all that is necessary for baptism, one soon decides that none of it is necessary. Just this thing is happening to many churches today.


If it makes no difference about the authority, it makes no difference about the subject, it makes no difference about the act, and if it makes no difference about the act, it makes no difference about the design.


Scriptural Subject


Let's first consider a scriptural subject. In Matt. 3:1-6, the Word of God tells us that John the Baptist preached a message of repentance "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." As a result, those in Jerusalem, in all Judea and all the region round about Jordan came out to meet John in the wilderness to be baptized of him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins. Those who were baptized first repented and confessed their sins. So only a child of god, one that is saved, born again, can be scripturally baptized.


As a example of a baptism where we can find all four conditions for a scriptural baptism, we can look at the baptism of Jesus in Matt 3:13-17. Jesus was never lost, therefore He did not need to be saved. But He came to John in accord with the divine purpose of God through the ages to "fulfil all righteousness," and to set an example for all who would become His disciples. This is a case of believer's baptism. According to Mk.16:16 one he must first believe, put his faith and trust in Christ, and then be baptized. In Acts 2:41 those who received the Word were baptized. Acts 8:12 says that people who believed on the things that Philip preached were baptized. Also the Ethiopian eunuch had to first believe and then be baptized (Acts 8:35-37).


According to Acts 10:43-48 as Peter was preaching, believing in Christ was the prerequisite and then baptism followed. In Acts 16:13-15 Lydia, the seller of purple, heard the Word of the Lord; then her heart was opened; then she "attended", believed the things she heard and last of all, she was baptized. Then in Acts 16:30-34 the Philippian jailer was told to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house." That same night after he was saved, he was baptized. So we can firmly conclude from the Scriptures that baptism is for believers only! As Dr. J. R. Graves stated: "We put the blood in every case before water. We do not teach that baptism is essential to salvation, but that salvation is essential to baptism." All others teach through the water to the blood. Baptist teach through the blood to the water.


Scriptural Method


Now for the scriptural method. Immersion in water can be the only correct method. As an example our Lord Jesus, according to Matt. 3:16, "went up straightway out of the water." That should be sufficient proof for anyone to want to follow Jesus in the correct method of baptism. But yet there is more. In Jn. 3:22-23, John was baptizing in Aenon because there was "much water" there. The word "baptism" comes from a Greek word "baptizo" meaning to dip, immerse, plunge. In Rom.6:4 it says we are "buried with him by baptism" (see also Col. 2:12). When one is dead, he is buried and placed under the ground. So it is with baptism. It pictures our death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, one must be completely immersed. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:39 "came up out of the water." Before one can come up and out he must first go in and under!


Scriptural Purpose


Next, let's consider the scriptural purpose. Here, if nowhere else, Baptists stand absolutely alone. The foot of no other denomination in Christendom rests on this plank. "Blood before the water - the altar before the laver." This principle eliminates not only all infant baptism and membership, but locates the adult's remission of sins in the fountain of blood instead of the fountain of water. It is not possible that the water of baptism should take away sins. There is no intrinsic merit in the water. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, alone can cleanse us from sin!


Why was Christ baptized? To show forth in all its fullness the righteousness of God. So it is with every baptism. There is a purpose, and that purpose is to show forth a certain body of truth which not only the property of the believer, but the property also of the body into which the believer is baptized. J.R. Graves said, "Christian baptism is a specific act to be administered by a specific body to persons professing specific qualifications for the profession of specific truths." One that is baptized not only is required to have faith, but is baptized into a faith, into the church. Baptism puts people into the New Testament Church. "And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). And so the baptism was not so much to show forth the faith of the believer as to show forth the doctrines, beliefs, and practices of the body performing the baptism.


Baptism is a picture, type, figure and symbol of our salvation. I Pet. 3:21, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." It is a picture showing forth the gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and signifies that the one baptized is dead to the old life of sin and risen to a new life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:4). "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Cor. 5:17). When Jesus was baptized, God the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. Therefore He left us an example to follow. When we follow that example we please the heavenly Father. Scriptural baptism is obedience to the Scriptures, "Then they that gladly received the Word were baptized.."(Acts 2:41).


Scriptural baptism please the Lord, because it recognizes the authority of the church. Baptism can only be administered on the authority of a New Testament Church, and that authority comes directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. God had given John the Baptist the authority to baptize. Therefore when Jesus was baptized by him, He showed Himself submitting to that authority. In Matt. 28:18 we're told to teach all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things. This authority was given to the Church, not to an individual. Also this verse declares the truth of the Trinity: "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."


So in summary, Scriptural baptism pictures and proclaims the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; pictures and proclaims the death of our old life to sin, the burial therein, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life; pictures and proclaims our faith in the Triune God; and it pictures and proclaims our putting on of Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). Baptists do not bury the living sinner to kill him to sin. But they bury those already dead to sin. For devotion to this principle, i.e., baptizing with a scriptural purpose, you may trace our people back by their track of blood illumined by their fires of martyrdom.


Scriptural Administrator


Last, but certainly not the least, we should consider the scriptural administrator. John 3:22 reads:"After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea and there he tarried with them and baptized." John 4:2 reads, "Jesus Himself baptized not, but his disciples." These two passages emphasize how Jesus committed the ordinances of baptism to His disciples, giving them the authority to baptize. The very fact that He gave this authority to His disciples, infers that those who were not His disciples did not have the authority, and if they did not have the authority of Christ, how could they baptize?


The whole question of scriptural baptism is a question of authority. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find a single place where anyone was baptized by anyone who did not have his authority from Christ Himself, or the church which He built. Scriptural baptism must not only be administered by one who has divine authority, but unless that authority has been specially given, as in the case of John the Baptist, that authority must reside in a scriptural church.


According to John 1:6, John the Baptist was a man sent from God and he at the time had the authority from God to baptize: "...but he that sent me to baptize with water.." (John 1:33). Since John the Baptist got his authority from God and his baptism was heaven-sent and heaven-ordained, Jesus Christ walked 60 miles from Galilee to Jordan to get to John to be baptized. Again Jesus emphasized the importance of a scriptural administrator when He asked the chief priests and elders the question, "The baptism of John whence was it, from heaven, or from men?" According to Acts 1:21-22, Jesus and all the 12 disciples were baptized by John. In Matt. 28:19, the Great Commission was given to the church which He had built and they were given the command and authority to baptize.


In Acts 6:5, Philip was one of the seven men chosen to help the disciples in Jerusalem. Again we see him in Acts 8:12 where he preached in Samaria and baptized the converts. Also he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38. Did he have the authority to do so? In Acts 21:8 he was called an evangelist, so we can say he was definitely a preacher. Also he was a member of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 8:26,29, he had orders, authority from the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. In Acts 8:4 he was one of those that were scattered abroad preaching the Word. So Philip did have the proper authority from a scriptural church to baptize.


Again we have another example in Acts 10. Here we see where Peter baptized Cornelius. Did he have the proper authority? Yes he did because he was one of the apostles that had their authority directly from Jesus to baptize. He also was a member of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:12 we see that Peter was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and he also had with him 6 brethren from the church at Jerusalem. Peter asked these same men in Acts 10:47 if anything should hinder him from baptizing Cornelius and his household. So if he had been wrong in doing this, these 6 men would have spoken up and disapproved of such a thing. But the point is that Peter had the proper authority from the church. According to Paul, the authority to baptize was given to the church. In I Cor. 11:2 Paul tells the church at Corinth, "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you."


We affirm that this question of authority must be settled before we can have a clear definition of scriptural baptism. Baptism must be administered by the proper authority before it is baptism. All the facts of Scripture show, and these facts are attested by the facts of history, that Christ set up a visible church, committed to it the ordinances; that this church has come down through the ages and that it was a Baptist church. Scriptural baptism stands as an impassable barrier and an unbridgeable gap between sound Baptist churches and the Ecumenical movement. Baptism does not hinge upon whether the person is satisfied with it, but the question is, is the Lord satisfied with it? Does it meet the teaching of the Scriptures? May God help us to do as Jude 3 says,"...ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."