It is of utmost importance that any religious act be exactly as God directs, otherwise it is an empty and vain act. Baptism is one thing that the religious world has been divided over as long as religious denominations have existed. There is absolutely no excuse for men being disturbed over this subject because it is fully taught in the New Testament. A brief study may help us to see the simplicity and completeness of the subject in God’s word.
There are three important questions about baptism that must be answered before we know whether or not it is scriptural. For a thing to be scriptural it must be taught in the scriptures. These questions are: “What is the action of baptism?” “Who should be baptized?” and “Why should one be baptized?”
Scriptural ACTION means what is done. Not everything called baptism is scriptural. We are not interested here in telling of all the unscriptural practices, but only what is taught in the word of God. The word “buried” is a definite action. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death ...” (Rom. 6:4). “Buried with him in baptism ...” (Col. 2:12). This is a scriptural action and nobody will deny it. It is also true that any substitute action is unscriptural (untaught in the New Testament).
The word “baptize” comes from a Greek term which has a definite action. It means to dip or plunge, and when water is the element, as the great commission indicates, the subject is “dipped” or “buried” in the water. Besides this the circumstances surrounding all cases of baptism in the New Testament show that the action was a burial. In Acts 8:38 Philip and the eunuch “went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” Both going into the water to baptize one man would be foolish unless the action was a burial. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (Matt. 3:16). There would have been no point in Jesus coming “up out of the water” unless He “went down into the water” to be baptized. It is all clear if we understand the action to be a burial. This is the only action that is scriptural.
It makes a difference WHO is baptized. The person must be a believer (Gal. 3:26, 27; Heb. 11:6). In the commission as recorded by Mark the Lord said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” If one does not believe, he cannot be scripturally baptized. This eliminates infants and untaught persons. Infants are not lost and do not need to be saved. They are SAFE. Sin is what separates us from God, and infants have not sinned. In Romans 6:17 we read, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart” and Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” This obedience must be “from the heart” or by faith. The next verse shows the results of this obedience by faith “Being then made free from sin ...
The scriptural subject for baptism is a believer who has repented of his past sins and has confessed Christ to be the Son of God (Rom. 10:9, 10; Acts 2:38). No one else can be scripturally baptized.
It also makes a difference WHY one is baptized. The act has a definite purpose. When Peter and the apostles had preached the first gospel sermon on Pentecost, the hearers were pricked in their hearts and cried out: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The statement that they were “pricked in their heart” simply shows that the preaching had convinced them or made them believers. Now to these believers Peter said: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS ...” (Acts 2:38). Romans 6:17 says that they must obey “from the heart that form of doctrine” the death, burial and resurrection of Christ “which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17, 18). This is baptism. The purpose in being made free from sin is to become the servant of righteousness, to walk in newness of life (2 Cor. 5:17). We must be in Christ to be a new creature, and we arise to walk in the new life when we are scripturally baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26, 27). There is absolutely no way to get into Christ except by being scripturally baptized into him.
We must have the right ACTION, PERSON, AND PURPOSE to be scripturally baptized. We must be scripturally baptized to be saved. Christ said so in Mark 16:16. We must be saved if we hope to escape the everlasting punishment from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:9). It is important!