The Ordinances - (A) Baptism

Arthur G. Clarke

Part 3 of 14 of the series The Church and the Churches

The Ordinances—(A) Baptism

The Lord Jesus appointed two ordinances only for His Church, viz. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Rome has added five others (Confirmation, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and Matrimony) without the least warrant from Scripture. We observe the last not because it is specifically of the church order but of the creation order, whereas Rome refuses to recognize marriage outside her " church."

1.    Divine Authority. Christ's clear command in the Great Commission, Matt. 28. 19, 20 ; Mark 16. 15. 16. Making disciples, baptizing and teaching, form a composite charge, no part of which must be disregarded.

2. Apostolic Practice. Trace in the Book of Acts the invari­able order following our Lord's mandate ; see especially 2. 41 ; 8. 12, 36-38; 18. 8. (For "making-disciples" see Acts 14. 21). Unbaptized believers are never contemplated in the N.T.

3. Proper Subjects. All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were baptized and no others. In present-day circumstances it is generally advisable to have confirmatory evidence that a person is a true believer before baptizing him.    In many mission-fields this procedure has been proved absolutely necessary. A too-hurried acceptance of a " candidate " may be a definite hindrance to his own spiritual welfare.

4.    Appointed Method. This is clearly manifest from (a) the meaning of the word, and (b) the significance of the rite.

(a)  Meaning of the Word.—a transliteration of the Gk. not a translation—from " bapto," to dip (Lk. 16. 24 ; Jn. 13. 26 ; Rev. If). 13)—" baptizo," an intensive form, to dip thoroughly. These words never mean to sprinkle or to pour—all standard lexicons give meaning indicated—Scripture use confirms (see Acts 8. 38; carefully note procedure, Jn. 3. 23).

(b)  Significance of the rite- -Rom. 6. 4. Burial and resurrec­tion of the believer with Christ is set forth—involving immersion and emersion. Sprinkling a few grains of earth upon a body, cannot by any reason be called a burial I

Question of formula. Matt, 28. 19 in force until " the end of the age " (v. 20). Apostolic practice (Acts) in no case gives the formula— fact recorded that they baptized converts by the command of the Lord Jesus. Where preposition " eis" used it indicates "into association with " (8. 16 ; 19. 5) Christ, and necessarily involves doctrine of Matt. 28. 19, so no discrepancy. Finally, there is but one baptism (Eph. 4. 5) ; neither different modes, nor one for Jew and another for Gentile, recognized in Scripture.

5. Doctrinal Import. Basic teaching—identification with Christ. The believer's standing before God is " in Christ," a new creation (2 Cor. 5. 17). God reckons him therefore to have shared Christ's death, burial and resurrection, appropriately symbolized by water-baptism. The " old man " (Adam nature) with all its deeds has been judged, sentenced and executed in the cross of Christ, buried out of God's sight, and the believer is viewed as a " new man " introduced into the sphere of resurrection—life with Christ, Eph. 2. 5, 6. Me is therefore responsible henceforth to walk in " newness of life," reckoning himself to have died unto sin and to be alive unto God, Rom. 6. 3-11. In submitting to the rite of baptism, the believer publicly confesses his acceptance of God's viewpoint and faith's resolve to live accordingly. For further teaching on the practical side of this truth, see Eph. 4. 2-25 ff; Col. 3. 8-10 ; Rom 13. 14, etc. (In baptism we proclaim our death with Christ;  in the Lord's Supper, Christ's death for us).

6.    Prevalent Malpractices.

(a) Infant Sprinkling. Not only is this not " baptism (4), but it is associated with the destructive heresy of " baptismal regeneration," which teaches that the child thereby becomes " a child of God," " a member of Christ " and an " inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." It leads people to trust in a ceremony instead of Christ for salvation.

(6) Household Baptism. This error inculcates the idea that persons so baptized arc brought into a place of special privilege and blessing. It is compared to the Jewish rite of circumcision, but the true analogy is that as natural birth determined the Jew's nationa­lity and was followed by the distinctive sign in declaration of the fact, just so the new birth determines the believer's heavenly citizenship and baptism is the appointed public sign. In neither case does the rite itself procure the coveted privilege—circumcision does not make a Jew for it was practised by certain other peoples of the East, and baptism does not make a Christian (Acts 8. 13 ; cf. 1 Cor. 10. 1-6). Examples of households baptized. Acts 10. 44-48 ; 16. 14, 15 ; 16. 29-34 ; 18. 8 ; 1 Cor. 1. 16 with 16. 15. That infants are included is a wholly-unjustified assumption, for note Acts 16. 32, 34 and 18. 8. If old enough to " hear the Word." " believe" and " rejoice" in salvation, then old enough for baptism.

(c)  Baptism Ignored. Certain sects teach that water-baptism is wholly unnecessary, and that the Spirit's baptism alone is essential. These surely forget that the Lord specifically enjoined the rite. See also Acts 10. 45-47—reception of the Spirit followed by water-baptism.

(d)  Re-baptising Unnecessary. After conversion if the person has been previously sprinkled or immersed, some hold that re-baptizing is not necessary. See, however, Acts 19. 4, 5—pertinent question " Unto what . . . baptized?" Paul's words supplemented John's incomplete teaching concerning Christ, which could not have included the facts of His death, resurrection and consequent giving of the Holy Spirit. Now believing the full gospel, these men were baptized " into the Name of the Lord Jesus."

7.   Misunderstood Texts.

(a)  Jn. 3. 5. Baptism is never connected with the new birth in the N.T. The Lord is referring to Ezek. 36. 24-27 ; 37. 1-14 ; which Nicodemus as a " teacher of Israel " should immediately have perceived.

(b)  Acts 2. 38. Read with emphasis upon " repentance " not on " baptism," in accord with Luke 24. 47, R.V.m. Repentance prominent in message to these Jews, for they were called upon " to change mind " with regard to Jesus whom they had crucified. In a similar message to Gentiles, prominence is given to faith (Acts 10. 43). Repentance and faith are like the two sides of one coin, Acts 20. 21.

(c)  Acts 22. 16. Water cannot wash away sins. Saul is called upon publicly to repudiate his past life, especially deeds of opposition to Christ. Same word and same idea present, I Cor. 6. 11, see R.V.m.

(«") I Cor. 1. 13-17. In evangelizing the city of Corinth, Paul refrained from several legitimate things on the score that they were not expedient (profitable to hearers) as events proved. It is apparent that the apostle usually left the baptizing to others, lest a party spirit and pride be engendered. The converts were not Paul's but Christ's (cf. Jn. 4. 2).

(«) 1 Cor. 15. 29. One of the concluding arguments in the chapter for the truth of the resurrection—if no resurrection, then the rite of baptism is reduced to sheer absurdity—a ceremony in the interests of a lot of dead people, now dead spiritually and soon to be dead physically, with no hope beyond the grave. This would justify his attitude expressed at end of 32. (In the view of Dr. J. W. Thirtle and one or two other commentators, this verse is to be understood in reference to newly-baptized converts. Such arc looked upon as being like courageous young soldiers eagerly pressing forward to take the place of warriors fallen on the battle-front—■ the martyred believers. They arc baptized in the place of, or in succession to them. If there be no resurrection, such courage is exhibited in vain ; nothing is to be gained by it now or hereafter. This line of argument is thus closely linked with that in the next verse).

(/) 1 Pet. 3. 20. 21. Noah's ark in the O.T. and baptism in the N.T. are corresponding figures of God's way of salvation through faith alone—committing oneself wholly to the Saviour, as Noah committed himself to the ark and so was borne safely through the judgment. Noah and his family were separated from the older creation and stepped out on a new world with new covenant terms.

8.    Other   Baptisms. These   must   be   distinguished   from Christian baptism dealt with above.

(a) Ceremonial Purifications. Another Greek word generally used (" baptismos ") Mk. 7. 4, 8 ; Heb. 6. 2 ; 9. 10 ; but the verb " baptizo " is used in Mk. 7. 4 and Lk. 11. 38.

lb) John's Baptism. This was " unto repentance " and a confessing of sins (Matt. 3. 6, 11) preparatory to the advent of Messiah through whose blood-shedding alone could come remission of sins—a unique commission (Jn. I. 33) and apparently new in history.

(c)  Christ's Own Baptism, Matt. 3. 13-17 ; identified Him as the true Messiah, Jn. 1. 31-34—the Cross finally established His claims, 1 Jn. 5. 6.

(d)  Disciples' Baptism, Jn. 9, 22, 26 with 4. 1, 2. This involved adherence to Jesus as Messiah, but not all these disciples " continued," 6. 66 ;  7. 31 fi.

(e)  Baptism of Suffering, Mk. 10. 38, 39; Lk. 12. 50. Christ's, as being immersed in the deep soul-experience of the Cross, over­whelmed by the billows of divine judgment vicariously endured in behalf of His people—James' and John's not vicariously but as granted the privilege of suffering in fellowship with their Lord.

(/) Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Jn. 1. 33 ; Mk. 1.8; Acts 1. S; 1 Cor. 12. 13—fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2)—believers incorporated into a spiritual entity—a "body " able to make increase of itself until reaching full maturity, Eph. 4. 13, 16.—After initial act at conversion, no such thing as a later or second baptism of the Spirit known in Scripture.

(g) Baptism of Fire, Matt, 3. 11 ; Lk. 3, 16.—Not Pentecost but future judgment, as following verses show.

(Note that («), (/) and (g) exhibit a metaphorical sense of the word " baptism ").

9.    Brief Summary.   Baptism is an

(a)  Act of Submission—obedience to the Lord's command ;

(b)   Act of Confession—owning the Lordship of Christ, Rom. 10. 9. cf. Gal. 3. 27—a public confession, like a soldier who dons the queen's uniform upon enlistment—the uniform does not make him a soldier but it makes his calling evident;

(c)  Act of Identification—-symbolizing death, burial and resurrection with Christ, to walk with and serve the Lord in a new sphere, the " heavenlies " (Eph. 2. 6) ;

(d)  Act of Proclamation, in that it clearly sets forth the gospel message through " eyegate," 1 Cor. 15. 3, 4.