God’s Plan of Salvation

As we continue our study of God’s plan of salvation, today we want to address the subject of baptism. In the denominational world, this is by far one of the most controversial aspects in a discussion of salvation. It is considered one of the “elementary principles of Christ” (Heb. 6:1). That it is important and that one ought to do it is not argued by most – but everything else about it is – it’s purpose, its mode, its authority and its subjects is debated.
It is no secret that as we study the Bible we come to the conclusion that we need to be baptized to be saved. In this lesson, we want to briefly address some of the passages about baptism, noting the results of this act. Then we will notice the four elements of baptism. We will conclude by discussing some arguments against baptism.
I. What is baptism?
a. The English word, “baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word, ßapt???, (baptizo). The word literally means, “to dip in or under” (Kittel) Vine’s defines it as “to dip”
Strong’s Notes[1], “1. To dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk). 2. To cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe. 3. To overwhelm.”
b. NOTE: When looking up this word, we need to use caution. Because of the denominational world’s general rejection of its purpose and importance, AND changes in the mode of baptism, sometimes definitions reflect doctrinal views. For example:
Random House defines the word (baptize)[2] as, “to immerse in water or sprinkle or pour water in the Christian rite of baptism.” NOTE: This is an English dictionary designed to define words the way they are used (so it is a proper English definition, but not scriptural).
Louw & Nida defines the word as, “to employ water in a religious ceremony designed to symbolize purification and initiation on the basis of repentance.” (L&N, 53.41) NOT a wrong definition, but certainly incomplete!
c. Almost every English translation of the Bible uses the transliteration “baptize” instead of defining the word. This began with early English translations which originated AFTER the practices of sprinkling and pouring were being used by some. Rather than properly define the word, they avoided regal problems by simply transliterating the word.
d. Baptism in the Bible is immersion (there are actually 5 different baptisms in the NT - of John, Holy Spirit, Fire, Moses and for salvation). In our study today, we define the word as immersion in water for the forgiveness of one’s sins. We shall show this in this lesson.

II. The Bible and baptism
a. The Great commission – Mark 16:16, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:47 – repentance and remission of sins should be preached.
b. The book of Acts and baptism. The book of Acts records the beginning of the church. There are multiple examples of conversion that include baptism:
i. Acts 2:38 – on the day of Pentecost – repent and be baptized for the remission of sins
ii. Acts 8:12-13 – the Samaritans, including Simon the magician believed and they were baptized.
iii. Acts 8:35-38 – Philip preached, he was told to believe. He confessed and was baptized then he went on his way rejoicing.
iv. Acts 9:18 – Saul (Paul) was baptized by Ananias when the Lord sent him there. Acts 22:16, as Paul recounts his conversion he explains its purpose.
v. Acts 10:47-48, after Peter preached Cornelius was baptized along with his household
vi. Acts 16:15 – Lydia and her household were baptized
vii. Acts 16:33 – after Paul and Silas taught him he believed and was baptized.
viii. Acts 18:9, Crispus and man Corinthians believed and were baptized (note 1Cor. 1:14- Crispus WAS baptized).
ix. Acts 19:5, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. In Ephesus there were 12 men who had only heard of John’s baptism. Paul taught them about Christ and they were baptized (again) in the name of the Lord.
x. In every one of these examples we find baptism. Clearly it was important.
c. Paul’s teaching on baptism –
i. In addition to Paul’s preaching and teaching as recorded in Acts, along with the results, Paul often taught of baptism in his letters.
ii. Romans 6:3-4 – we are buried with Christ in baptism. Raised to walk in newness of life.
iii. Galatians 3:27, as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
iv. Colossians 2:12, Paul speaks of these brethren being circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, putting off the body of sins in the flesh…buried with Him in baptism. It is described as the working of God. Let us CONSIDER this passage in dealing with “works” and baptism. It describes the TYPE of works that saves us – the works of God.
d. Peter teaching about baptism –
i. Acts 2:38 – on the day of Pentecost, Peter is preaching
ii. Acts 10:47-48 – it was Peter who was sent to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. He is clear on the need for baptism. He COMMANDED them to be baptized.
iii. 1 Peter 3:20-21 – just as Noah and his family were saved through water we are told, “Baptism now saves us.”

III. The four elements of baptism
a. Its purpose – in numerous passages we have discussed we have seen what is accomplished in baptism.
i. Acts 2:38 – Remission of sins
ii. 1 Peter 3:20-21 – it saves us (Mark 16:16)
iii. Acts 22:16 – it washes away our sins
iv. Galatians 3:27 – it puts us into Christ
v. Romans 6:3-4 – we are baptized into His death, raised to walk in newness of life.
vi. Matthew 28:19-20 – it makes us disciples
vii. THE PURPOSE of baptism is clear – it is that act of obedience (not a meritorious work) which puts us in a saved condition.

b. Its mode – we have already discussed the word baptism is from a Greek word which means to immerse or dip. While some may engage in other modes (sprinkling or pouring) it is NOT what scriptures teach. Furthermore, history reveals that sprinkling and pouring did not occur until centuries later.
Furthermore passages such as Romans 6:3-4 demonstrate that baptism is a representation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Colossians 2:12 tells us we were buried with Him in baptism.
Acts 8:35-38 describes the Ethiopian Eunuch and Philp went down into the water and came up out of the water.
c. Its authority – we need to understand that Baptism is a command from God.
When John the Baptist taught baptism, “for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 3:11, Luke 3:3)
It was a command from God. Even though Jesus had no sin, He was baptized by him, “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15) – as such Jesus was an example of obedience, and He also demonstrated in that statement that this command was from God (cf. Matthew 21:25).
While we are not to be baptized with the baptism of John (cf. Acts 19:1-5) our baptism is just as much a command of God. Note in that text when these men heard the truth “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Jesus in giving the great commission said to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Also consider Acts 2:38, 10: 48, etc.
NOTE: While the exact wording that is pronounced when one is baptized is not specified, an understanding of who God is, is important. There are some religions that teach God is not triune and command baptism in the name of Jesus only (Pentecostals) thus rejecting Matthew 28:19. Because such a belief rejects fundamental teachings of God, if one is baptized in with that belief, at best it is suspect.
d. Its subjects – penitent believers. There is a reason infant baptism is wrong – it is done to one incapable of believing.
EVERY example of baptism (obeying the gospel) in the New Testament was believers. As we have noted, IN all of the Acts accounts we reviewed we noted baptism. The one other thing specifically demonstrated in EVERY example was hearing the word.
1 Peter 3:21 tells us that baptism now saves us. It is clarified by saying, “Not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The reason there is so much debate on the need for baptism is because of scriptural emphasis on faith. We have abundantly shown the need for faith in our studies. Belief HAS to be present before one is baptized and it is PART of the reason for being baptized.
e. ALL four of these elements are necessary for baptism to be scriptural.
i. IF any one of these elements is absent, then one’s baptism will not accomplish God’s purpose – our salvation.
ii. If one is baptized for a reason other than “for the remission of sins” that is, to have one’s sins removed it is an improper purpose.
If one is baptized by sprinkling or pouring it is the improper mode.
If one is baptized in the name of someone other than God (Christian Scientist which teaches “baptism is a spiritual purification of daily life, not a sacrament”[3], Mormonism which teaches one must be baptized by one “having priesthood authority”[4], etc.) then the authority is wrong.
IF one is baptized as an infant, or for some reason other than because you believe (such as to please parents, peer pressure, etc.) then the subject is wrong.
iii. So WHEN the question of whether one needs to be “re-baptized” comes us, we need to consider these elements. NOTE again Acts 19:1-5. The believers in Ephesus were in error on just ONE of these elements. They were baptized again.
And in reality, they were NOT “re-baptized”, they were baptized properly for the first time.

And there you have a preliminary lesson on the subject of baptism. May we with this learn to teach others the truth on this subject AND may we with confidence know that our baptism is true to God’s word. Think about it.

[1] Strong, J. (2001). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[2] "baptize." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 Aug. 2014. <Dictionary.comhttp://dictionary.reference.com/browse/baptize>.
[3] http://christianity.about.com/od/christianscience/a/christsciencebeliefs.htm
[4] http://www.mormon.org/faq/topic/baptism

By Tommy Thornhill Jr

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