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Requirements for Scriptural Baptism

Prior to His ascension back into heaven the resurrected Christ gave to His apostles the Great Commission:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16).

Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47).

We are fortunate not only to have the Lord's instructions, but also in the book of Acts, the "book of conversions," we have so many examples of men and women, Jews and Gentiles, people from various walks of life, who were obedient to those commands.

Jesus' instructions included baptism. In summary, scriptural baptism has three requirements pertaining to the person, action, and purpose.

1. There Must Be a Scriptural Person. Before one may be scripturally baptized, he must be taught the Gospel. The religion of Christ is a "taught" religion (John 6:44-45). This is how faith comes about: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). God has provided abundant evidence in His word for believing that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the divine Son of God (John 20:30-31). There are basic facts of Bible doctrine that must be believed. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It is necessary to believe that Jesus died according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). One must come to a point of understanding that he has sinned against God, and that sin separates one from God, and that Jesus' blood is the only solution. If one does not believe these things, he cannot be scripturally baptized.

Not only must one be taught the Gospel, and be a believer, but all men everywhere are commanded to repent (Acts 17:30). Those on the Day of Pentecost who asked, "What shall we do?" were told, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Repentance is the result of godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Further, one must unashamedly confess his faith in Jesus. ". . . [I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9, 10). When the treasurer of Ethiopia asked Philip the evangelist, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Philip responded, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." The officer answered, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:36-37). On that basis Philip proceeded to baptize him (v. 38).

We must conclude that if one is either unable or unwilling to comply with these requirements, he cannot be scripturally baptized. For example, this would rule out infants, and those who have not yet reached an age of accountability. It would also exclude those who do not believe or refuse to repent.

2. There Must Be the Scriptural Action. Bible baptism is always immersion. There are no exceptions. The word baptize itself means to immerse, and is a transliteration, not a translation, of the Greek word. I remember a teaching opportunity years ago in Czechoslovakia where a young lady said, "I was christened as a baby. Do I need to be baptized?" Among other passages, we read Romans 6:3-4: "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (emphasis mine, LM). Just by reading this and other related texts, she rightly concluded that biblical baptism is a burial in water, from which one is raised to walk in newness of life. She said, "I can see that I have not been baptized with the baptism we read about in the Bible. I want to be baptized as the Bible teaches." She continues to be faithful to this day.

3. There Must Be the Scriptural Purpose. Many of our friends agree that baptism is immersion, and that it is for believers, but believe that salvation is at the point of faith, or when praying the sinner's prayer, and that baptism is but a public declaration that one is saved, that one is a child of God. But the purpose of baptism is "for remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). One is baptized to be "saved" (Mark 16:16). It is at that point and not before that one enters Christ (Romans 6:3, 4; Galatians 3:26-27). It is done that one's sins be "washed away" (Acts 22:16). Baptism "now saves us" (1 Peter 3:21).

Sometimes we are erroneously charged with teaching that the water saves. It is the blood of Christ that saves. Baptism is not the what, it is the when. When does the blood of Christ wash away sins? It is when one is scripturally baptized.

Conclusion. If one has failed to comply with God's will on any of these three requirements, I would encourage him without delay to "make his calling and election sure." Even if you have submitted to some form of baptism, but it differs from what the Bible teaches, I would encourage you to be scripturally baptized.

by Leon Mauldin

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